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Sometimes, when I’m feeling blue, I remind myself that Jupiter is out there in the dark, and it’s full of amazing and endless storms and it’s beautiful, and I feel better.

This is not to say it’s always that easy! The weekend, without question, sucked. I made a bad judgment call at work and had to clean up a mess, but once that mess was sorted? Monday was a revelation. I guess this thing had been hanging over my head — I knew it was coming, I could just feel it, and once it DID come, and was handled, and passed… Whew. It was like a long exhale. (Hey, waiting to exhale — such a thing.)

And now, we’re back on track, I’ve got awesome people who’re eager to work on this project, and it’s going to be amazing. We’re doing good work. And I’ll know better next time. It’s important to know who can you depend on, who is going to buckle down and do the work.

The flip side of that is, being delighted when someone you trusted to do the work really hits it out of the park. So if I was disappointed on the one hand, I was happily astonished on the other. I love working with good and talented people.

Progress continues on the next book, Anubis #6. I’m working in small chunks for a few reasons, I think.

First, it’s the last planned book and well, approaching the end of a thing is kinda crappy. I’ll be sad to say goodbye, even if I later return to this universe. It’s also terrifying, right, because that means the next book is totally new and different and filled with people we don’t know as well as we know these people and maybe it’s the book that helps me finally (finally dear god) land an agent and maybe it’s the book that finally (finally) does something and breaks out and is not everything I’ve written up to this point which has vanished in a lukewarm bog of shrugs.

HEY. Wow, that’s some uncertainty and pressure there. Ha ha Next Book, you gotta do it ALL. And the next book runs away in terror, see.

But that uncertainty sits there while I contemplate this next book and it chatters and yeah. I’m not where I wanted to be at this point in my “writing career.” I work hard, really hard, and maybe it will turn out I’m not a novelist and I’ll be sad about that, and… Yeah, not sure what comes after that “and,” really.

Jordan Peele talked about writing Get Out:

“I stopped writing this movie about 20 times because I thought it was impossible. I thought it wasn’t going to work. I thought no one would ever make this movie. But I kept coming back to it because I knew if someone let me make this movie, that people would hear it and people would see it.”

We talk about perseverance a lot, but I’m not sure if we know exactly what that looks like. We come to the desk, or the table, or the notebook, or the Sunken Place every day, we sit down, we do the work. Over and over and over and over and sometimes, we still don’t make it. And so we try again. And again? It’s the journey not the destination?

Someone once told me my most valuable trait was that I kept showing up. I am always here, doing the work. The work doesn’t always pay off. But I’m still here.

Just like Jupiter.

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Dissolved Girl

Massive Attack is playing, see, low and dreamy and then gone. Last night I got the news that another friend died, and sometimes it feels like that’s all this world is. People leaving.

The tulips are forcing their way out of their bulbs though, and this is supposed to be a great metaphor, isn’t it — proof that despite winter (was there ever such a thing), life goes on.

However. The past two years, the tulips have come early, and have lacked blooms. They are empty stems, crushed under the inevitable spring ice storm that will come. They should bloom pink.

The garden should riot from pink tulips into purple vinca and back into pink peonies. But these years, it’s a smudge of green and then a mash of brown because the ice carries the color away. There was purple the year Prince died — it felt like the vinca bloomed solely for him.

I’m reading A Journal of Solitude by May Sarton; it is a journal she kept over the course of a year, detailing the challenges and pleasures of solitude, of gardening and animals and yes, grief.

In the last section I read, a friend of hers had died; he’d been old and fading for a while. My friend was not so fading; her death was unexpected. When I heard of it, I wanted to cry, wanted to feel something more than the soft “oh” that came from me.

It feels like —

There’s nothing, really, I guess? It happens so regularly now — they say this is how it goes, one day you wake up and everyone is dying, everyone has discovered exactly how borrowed all this time is, everyone must be off, even if (especially if) unexpectedly. You can’t help but think if only the people who needed to die would die.

And does that feel like anything?

Last week, I found unexpected common ground with a friend and it felt like exhaling. That is the last thing I clearly remember feeling. Then work packed itself back in and it was just time to get stuff done.

Black is the color of my true love’s hair comes on the playlist next — oh, tiny knife in the heart. Is that when I stopped feeling anything? When he left not once but three times. (But then, I do feel a thing, a secret thing that I cannot say, and they say this is how it goes too, that you can’t own up to the truth, because doing that often means devastation. How vague and coy you are, walking around the thing you want to say.)

Today, I hope to return to the novel. The novel is the place where all things can be said, because it’s not me saying them. It’s someone else entirely. It’s a shape-shifting jackal who has this conflict and absolutely not me.

The tulips are pushing their way into the world. They will get half way there, and the ice will come.

They say this is how it goes.

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Annihilation

I fell in hard love with the Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer. I loved the first book (Annihilation), and didn’t really make plans to read the others, because I thought for sure one would be enough. As it turns out, I was entirely wrong (so wrong, so wrong, oh golly), and after watching the film Annihilation, I find myself wanting more of this weird world, Area X. Like, a coloring book would be amazing.

This isn’t going to be a real movie review — whatever “real” means, but I wanted to jabber some about the journey this film takes and the journey it took me on. I was surprised to find myself having to remember to breathe over the course of the film. Even when something terrifying isn’t happening, your bones still vibrate in your skin like it’s about to happen, and you’re holding your breath so the terrors don’t find you. Though of course they do. Find you. (The score is monstrous in its own right, looming.)

Terrors? Is it horror? I mean, in a way. A woman’s personal horror. A woman’s story. The story of the women who accompany her into The Shimmer (heh, hey, is it full of badgers /in joke). This movie is unique in that we journey with five women into the weirdness. It’s women’s hands and eyes doing the work. It’s women working together to discover what the fuck is happening in Area X. It’s women. It’s rare.

The book and movie differ, of course. I guess some folks are upset or annoyed by this. I used to be upset when movies differed from books I loved, before I was a writer. When I became a writer, I realized you could do different things with a page and with a screen. They don’t always match up. In my wanderings to read more about this film, someone said it was like having a dream of the book, and that’s so right on.

It’s intense. It doesn’t let up, not even at the end. It doesn’t allow you to breathe, or scream — hey, how about that scream? You know the one. I’m still thinking about it days later.

I guess Paramount totally punted on this film, not advertising it and booting foreign release to Netflix. It’s a shame. Wait, no, it’s stupid. Before the film in the theater I went to, there was a piece about “cerebral scifi,” which this film totally is — but it mentioned films like Under the Skin, and Arrival, and Ex Machina. Is this film too smart for a wide release? Is this film too female for a wide release? I don’t know what Paramount is thinking, but I’m reminded of The Shape of Water and how it also got a pretty quiet launch.

The more I think about this film, the more I like it. There’s a lot going on. Are there book-things that I missed? Sure. But guess what? Those things remain in the book. The awesome thing about this world is, we can have both versions. We can have the book and we can have the movie, which is a dream of the book.

Do I need to say how great Natalie Portman is? Probably not, so let us praise Tessa Thompson and Gina Rodriguez and Tuva Novotny. Jennifer Jason Leigh, also great, but unnerving! Ahhhh! (And okay, yes, Oscar Isaac. Let us praise the way the light of Annihilation moves across that face of his. Gasp, Elise, reducing the male lead to his looks? Yeah.)

This film stole my breath; there’s one scene in particular that left me staring and kind of holding myself, and I don’t know if it’s because of the horrors, or if it’s because of the women — women going where men have only gone, women exploring, women knowing. That’s a hell of a thing.

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Kindness

I’m taking a break from Twitter, because it feels like a good time to do it. I’m allowing myself to read some Twitter over lunch, and then I close it up. I’m not posting, and it’s a strange thing.

Still, today at lunch I saw that Marshall Ryan Maresca started a thread about the kind people in SFF, since of late it seems the way to make your name in SFF is to be a hulking jackass. So, here are the people who were kind to me when I was beginning this journey.

The first place I really admitted I wanted to be a writer was ConJose. I signed up for the writer’s workshop was was positively terrified. Another writer and I were assigned to three pros, and they would demolish and improve the stories we had submitted for the workshop.

The evening prior to the workshop, there was a little get together for the writers. I was told I couldn’t bring my convention partner, since it was just for writers who had signed up for the workshop and some other pros who might drop in. I knew literally no one, so did the thing where you come in and hover near a wall that desperately needs holding up.

When I summoned the courage to say hello to someone I had shared anthology space with, I was gently brushed to the side, so crossed the room, and took up a new post, where I continued to watch. And then someone said hello.

It was Devon Monk. She sat with me, and made me feel less alone. She asked me about my writing and I have no idea what I said, because guys, Devon Monk had a story in the new Realms of Fantasy and my socks were blown OFF. The idea that she would sit and chat me up was miraculous. Never underestimate what a single hello can do for a person.

Ann Chamberlin was the one pro at the workshop the next day who didn’t thoroughly decimate the story I submitted. She kindly told me the story was actually a novel, which gave me the notion I could write a novel — and which I then did — and though it’s a mess, and still unpublishable to this day, I learned so much, and think I am approaching knowing how to make the book work. (This book is the one that sits in the back of your head forever, whispering until you do something about it.)

Two editors who were kind would be Ellen Datlow and Don Muchow.

Don ran the magazine Would That It Were, which was highly up my alley, being a magazine of historical science fiction and fantasy. Finding that place was like finding my people. Don was always kind and encouraging, even when a story didn’t work for him.

Three years after ConJose, it was Ellen Datlow who bought my first circus story, for SciFiction. It was Ellen who took the time to tell me what a unique voice the story had and encouraged me to write more in that world.

Every genre will have its jackasses, but I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve found more lovely people than not along the way. Writers and editors who showed me how it was done. I hope I can pay it forward, too.

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2017 Books

I read a lot, but this year I deliberately read less, because at some point in 2016, I felt like reading had become an obligation. When you’re writer and an editor, I suppose it happens. Reading is actually part of your work, and I think I’d forgotten how to read for pleasure. So in 2017, I got back to that.

I made what I felt were modest goals, 52 books, and ended up reading 55. Not too shabby — though it’s super easy for me to say “Yeah but in year X you read 80 books! In year Y, you did 120!” We’re just not going to do that, okay? Okay!

My other goal was to step up my not-American authors reading, and my authors of color reading. I improved on these fronts, but there is more work to be done!

I read things I’ve always wanted to read (Dawn, Octavia Butler) and things I’d been a little skittish to read (The Fifth Season, NK Jemisin). I read novellas and non-fiction and romance and short stories and memoir and well, a little bit of everything.

Did I have favorites? Of course I did.

It’s weird when a friend’s book is a favorite? Or maybe it’s not — but both Wendy N. Wagner and Alex Wells had knock out books from Angry Robot this year. And I felt very lucky to read an ARC of Wells’ upcoming sequel, Blood Binds the Pack. That’s coming in February, go get it. It stole my heart.

I also surprised myself by falling in love with Uprooted by Naomi Novik, and I had no idea how infatuated I would get with the Expanse series from James S.A. Corey.

Did I have books I hated? Oh yes. Hated bigly and badly, but we’ll keep those a secret, right, because they might be someone else’s jam. You might love them!

That’s what I love about books — there’s literally something for everyone.

I’m starting 2018 midway through Anne of Green Gables, which I’ve never read before. It’s one of those years where I hope to tuck a bunch of classics into my reading because I finally want to. Reading something because I want to is still the goal!

 

 

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The Last Leia

Leia was dead: to begin with.

I feel like that’s where Episode IX begins, because how can it not? I came out of The Last Jedi wondering how on earth they meant to go on, without Carrie Fisher, without giving us the Leia film that so clearly should be Episode IX.

If you haven’t seen The Last Jedi, there are going to be some spoilers here, hey.

I’m not going to talk about most of the film. Mostly, I’m going to talk about Leia, because that’s what I do. If you’re new here, you can catch up here, here, and here.

Mostly, I want to sit with her story and think how it has come to an unnatural end, given the death of Carrie Fisher last year at this time.

Mostly, I want to think about the princess I met in the depths of a ship as she fled from Stormtroopers. I want to think about her and R2, about garbage chutes, and flyboys.

Mostly, I want to consider how she lifted everyone up when her whole planet had been decimated. How she never really had time to mourn because the resistance didn’t need that from her. She put a poncho around Luke and she carried on though everything she had known was now debris.

Mostly, I want to think about the woman we see in The Last Jedi and how she has lost everyone — and still goes on. We didn’t need to see her use the Force to know how strong she is (but it was kind of cool, wasn’t it?). Stronger than her brother? Stronger than her father. Stronger than her son.

(It upset me that she was so willing to believe her son was lost — had she lost so much that she cannot conceive of anyone surviving the Dark?)

(Also, I cannot wait to read Leia by Claudia Gray, because Bloodlines was spectacular.)

Mostly, I want to think about Leia sitting beside Rey in a crowded ship and telling her “we have everything we need,” and reminding us all that no matter who has left our lives, they’re never really gone.

Mostly, I want to think about Leia and Luke sitting almost-together, touching hands across light-years. “I changed my hair,” she says. (And you know who wrote that line, you just know.)

Carrie, you came into my life when I was six, and you will stay with me for always. You showed me that women could be strong, especially in expected ways — we can be writers, we can be addicts, we can be recovering, we can be confessing — and we keep going. We keep fighting. We have everything we need.

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The Year That Was

I have not written as much as I hoped this year (so say we all), but I did start work on a project that promises to be terrifying and horrible, so that is exciting and ahhhh writing. Dear god, it’s that time of year again, awards awards awards awards awards awards–

Here’s what I published in 2017:

January saw the reprint of “A Wisdom That Is Woe, a Woe That Is Madness” in The Dark. It originally appeared in A Mythos Grimmly, and is a retelling of Rapunzel though a Lovecraftian lens. It is one of my favorite things to have written. A prince searches for a captive princess, having no idea the thing he seeks is older than the world itself.

February brought “Blush Response” to the No Shit There I Was anthology, edited by Alex Acks. This story was a challenge; it is set in a world that is literally black and white and all shades of gray. Within this world, there are women who can channel color, color which is used to mark those guilty of crimes. But the color also brings with it a painful high and our heroine is looking for her next fix, even if she has to kidnap the woman who can give it to her.

February also marked my appearance in Gamut with “Figure 8.” This story is about the eighth woman in a line of clones. Built to be a killer, she knows she’s the best, and is on the trail of the seven who came before her.

In March, I dabbled in a little smut with “Virtually Yours” for Great Jones Street. I used to write more smut than I presently do, but that may change in 2018.

I broke into IGMS for the first time in April with “Murmuration.” This story is set in my Distances universe, but each story stands wholly on its own. In “Murmuration,” our heroine finds a strange bone on the surface of Mars, and its existence touches on one deeper, something strange within herself.

In May, I got to bring my circus universe to Apex Magazine, with “The Three-tongued Mummy.” This story also allowed me to marry my true loves, Egypt and the carnival. Wouldn’t you just know Jackson had bought a mummy from a dealer in Cairo? And wouldn’t you just know that mummy ain’t quite right…

May also marked my ninth story at Clarkesworld, “Baroness.” This is also set in my Distances universe, and concerns the crew on Saturn’s moon Titan. Methane miners find something horribly weird in Kraken Mare. This story was an attempt to talk about refugees and workers and how we use bodies when they are not our own.

Early summer, “But For the Pieces He Left Behind” appeared in the Clockwork Cairo anthology. Yay Egypt! This story is another about my dwarfess heroine, Muriel. While attending the opera in Cairo, Things Go Weird and Strange, and lead Muriel on an adventure toward a ghost she thought she laid to rest in the Antarctic.

The Thing in the Ice is unlike anything else I’ve written; it appeared in June, as part of the Kaiju Revised novella series from Apokrupha. Monster stories told by and about women. I set this one on Ceres, where ice miners accidently (?!) release something from the water ice on the asteroid. Space dragons, bisexuals, a thousand hidden Easter eggs, McDonalds in Space, and true love. You know, the usual.

“Mix Tapes from Dead Boys” marked my second Lightspeed appearance in July. Once again in my Distances universe, this story is about Hadley, who is stationed in Neptune’s orbit. Things are weird this far in the system, and Neptune’s got some explaining to do: why’s it so hot? Hadley’s searching for an answer she may not like.

“Salt in Her Hollows” came to the Strange California anthology in August. I always wanted to write a story about a surfer chasing after something that calls her, and I wrote this one before Strange California was even a thing. When the anthology was announced, I hoped the story would find its place there. So thankful it did.

The Dark had me back in October with “Ghostling,” possibly my most misunderstood story. Every person who reviewed the story misgendered the main character–perhaps because of the first line. “Welch fucks the ghosts in the orchard.” Welch is intentionally not gendered in the story, in an attempt to speak to the ways nonbinary and others of our world walk through ghostly spaces the gendered cannot wholly understand unless they (we) get quiet and listen to their experiences.

The Clockwork Tomb also published this year, the fourth installment of my Folley & Mallory Adventures. In this novella, Mallory gifts Eleanor with a tomb to explore, a tomb that her own father one researched. Is it connected to her missing mother and the ancient Egyptian pharaoh she served? Of course it is. Volume five, The Quartered Heart, should appear in 2018.

And that’s probably all I will publish this year, given how the rejections have been stacking up like snow as the weeks wind down. I feel like I didn’t do a lot this year, and that’s ridiculous.

 

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Tomb Raider

Patience is hard. Especially as a writer, maybe, because we have so many lovely things we want to show you.

When I started writing the Folley and Mallory adventures, I knew that eventually they would have to explore a tomb, because a) it’s Egypt so duh and b) I’ve loved exploring tombs for a long time. Lara Croft, Indiana Jones, I learned from the best.

Folley & Mallory #4 takes us into the heart of a very strange tomb that opens into a world neither Eleanor nor Virgil expect. The Clockwork Tomb will be available July 4 (next week!), in paperback and digital formats. Once again, we’ve got the lovely Ravven handling the cover art — are you ready for a peek?

Peek!

 


A river at the bottom of the world.
A tomb filled with death and peril.
A journey through hell itself.

At the turning of the year, Yule presents Virgil Mallory with the opportunity to gift Eleanor Folley with a journal kept by her father, a journal that leads them to a mysterious tomb near Hapshetsut’s temple in Egypt. 

It is no ordinary tomb, perhaps the first ever carved in the valley, known to Napoleon and others, but never entirely plundered. Why would such treasures stand untouched? Had anyone breached its darknesses?

Together, Folley and Mallory will enter the tomb, though what they find inside will change everything they have believed of Anubis and the strange shapeshifting world they find themselves a part of.

I hope you enjoy this adventure as much as I did!

If you’d like to join my Folley & Mallory newsletter, I’ll enter you in a chance to win the first three books (in digital or paperback, your choice!) of the series. You can do that here! More ways to win the entire series thus far are coming up next week, so stay tuned!
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Ice Ice Baby

2016 was hard. And 2017, well. WELL.

I feel like we all need a little extra fun now and then, right? We need to be able to put the real world on pause, while we explore the depths of a world that isn’t poised to lose so much of what it has built up these past years.

To that end, I’m here to share with you the cover of my upcoming novella from Apokrupha, The Thing in the Ice, which is precisely the story you’re looking for. (How about a tiny excerpt too? Okay!) A heroine fighting corruption and mercenaries on an asteroid? Check! A lovable alien sidekick? Check! A plague of space dragons? Check! A tribute to a lot of wonderful things I love about science-fiction? Check!

The Thing in the Ice will be available in print and ebook, and it’s the the fourth volume in the Kaiju Revisited series! Women writers, women heroes, big monsters! Artwork by Chris Enterline!

 

In the vast, black emptiness between Mars and Jupiter, Ceres was melting
Buried within the asteroid’s core, Ceres Station provides water-ice for an ever-growing system of corporations and explorers, each intent on carving their names into the future of the galaxy. But no one anticipates the secret Ceres harbors.
 
Ice cutter Flit Navarro knows how to haul ice from asteroids and that Scrabble boards only have six Rs. She’s never confronted mercenaries intent on claiming Ceres Station for themselves. She’s never plummeted to the lowest levels of the station to confront a secret waking from the ice, a monster of ice and instinct.
 
But she’s about to.

…twenty-three years later , in the vast, black emptiness between Mars and Jupiter, Ceres was melting.

“Sublimating,” Flit said, leaning against the door frame leading to the Icebox’s sickbay. “Perfectly normal, sublimation.” Above her, the electrical system crackled and a shower of orange sparks spewed from a convex hole in the ceiling onto the crosshatched walkway. One by one, the sparks winked out like stars.

It had been a long time since she’d seen the sky.

Her comm filled with static, then Danse’s baritone. “Flit? You there?”

She stared at the blood leaking from the hole in the left leg of her suit. At first, she’d thought it was just a tear, the suit’s lining the same blood red. Partly, that was the point, the flash of bright red allowing a cutter to know when they’d torn their suit, or had suffered an injury they might not otherwise feel. She felt this wound, the insistent thrum of the bullet’s passage through her thigh, but didn’t really feel it. Not in any place that mattered.

Her helmet clattered to the floor and she staggered into the room, sickbay’s flickering lights in the hazy air nauseating her as she pushed toward the myriad drawers that lined the far wall. Her left foot squelched a little in her boot, proving the blood had run there too, in silent, crimson rivers.

“Flit?”

Flit didn’t answer, but neither did she silence her comm. She forced herself to cross sickbay, to not slump against the closest bed and take the pressure off her thigh. Only when she reached the drawers did she allow herself to lean against their support. She opened one, and then another, and then another. A flutter of paper scraps bearing single letters; gauze, tape, scissors, all very useful items she was sure, cascaded from every drawer as she swept through them until at last her fingers closed around what she sought.

She pulled the chocolate-coated protein bar from the fourth drawer with a triumphant grin, noting three others amid the medical debris. The aqua blue wrapper crinkled as she tore it between her teeth, as with gloved hands she shoved half of it into her starving mouth. Manage Your Hunger the BOSS Way! the wrapper screamed in fuchsia print.

“Flit!”

“Danse,” she said around the mouthful of sugary shit. “You can’t expect me to take these mercs on an empty stomach…” She didn’t mention the gunshot wound to her thigh—that would just take the conversation to a place she didn’t want to go. She pictured the mining shaft, the debris, the tangled wreck of Danse’s rig… Nope, she didn’t want to go back there.

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Hooked

Last Thursday, I did something I’d been thinking about for a while; I picked up a crochet hook and started crocheting. I found a video on YouTube and away I went, hooking yarn as if I’d done it all my life, spinning out hats and cowls and arm warmers and–

Oh wait, no.

It wasn’t quite that easy at all.

I’ve always had this notion in my head that I’d take up crochet, this mostly based around the Lone Crochet Hook that was always floating about the house. Of course when I decided I actually wanted to learn, that hook was nowhere to be found, so I bought a set. I did find a video on YouTube, and then I proceeded to make the tightest starting row of chains ever, because wow, I was gripping everything too hard, like I’d never crafted a thing in my life.

How do I–

Wait, go back.

How does that work–

Wait, go back.

How do I make my hands work together, I can’t even hold and yarn over and whoa I have to flip my work and–

Wait, go back.

There was a lot of this, my friend Jen talking me off the ledge in chat while I worked. She said something very illuminating though — that I hadn’t known how to write when I started making stories either; did I just expect to pick up crochet and know it immediately?

Some part of me said OH YES.

Which is strange and foolish, because exactly like writing, crochet has steps to learn. You don’t sit down and immediately vomit out a best-seller (in fact, some writers never break out at all, so). So why I thought I’d sit down and immediately get crochet was somewhat beyond me. I had to learn how to cast on — I had to learn the foundation before I could start building up the rows to follow. I had to learn how to hold my yarn and my hook. I had to learn how to relax my fucking hands because if I didn’t, the entire work would suffer.

Crochet has a lot in common with writing.

“What’re you making?” my mom asked when she saw my horribly uneven square.

“Practice,” I said.

I haven’t “made” anything yet; I’m just practicing. I know chains and single crochets, and next up is half crochets, double crochets, and oh my stars, triple crochets. I would like to make a cowl, and arm warmers would be great, too. Mostly, I’m enjoying learning how to do a new thing; I think it’s good for the brain.

I think the first needlecraft I picked up was embroidery, then I did sewing in Home Ec, and learned needlepoint from my mom, and then cross stitch from my BFF (who is no longer, but the craft remains). And so now it’s crochet, and it’s super fun, and I wonder if I might yet conquer knitting, though the first time I tried that, I rather felt like I was using alien chopsticks, because my hands wouldn’t work together at all. Maybe with crochet under my belt, they will.

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