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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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Apparently I’ve published nine stories with Clarkesworld now. If you’d told me this would happen three years ago, I would have scoffed. I’ve read Clarkesworld for a long time and dreamed of selling them a story — from my records it looks like I first submitted to them in 2009. Nine rejections followed over the next four years before my first sale. I’ve sent them 33 stories in all, so this is where the never give up, never surrender line goes.

The real important question is, how do these nine stories line up with the cast of Firefly, which perished (coughs) fifteen years ago holy shit. Let’s do this. In the order that I sold ’em:

#1: You Were She Who Abode is clearly Zoe Washburne. It focuses on a war vet coming home from the wars, her memory torn apart, with a good portion of it back on the battlefield.

#2: (To See Each Other Whole) Against the Sky is Book, because it is about faith in the blackness of space, that although we are alone, things we love still exist even when we cannot see them.

#3:  (R+D)/I=M is possibly River. This story is a little crazy, and since it’s an equation, you know that from initial craziness comes brilliance.

#4: Migratory Patterns of Underground Birds would have to be Wash, wouldn’t it, because he’s all about exploring strange new– Wait, wrong show. Still, Wash flies into the unknown, as does our heroine here.

#5: Pithing Needle is Jayne, because it’s a little fucking scary and like this needle that bores into your body and brain, Jayne is somewhat ceaseless, and sometimes needs to be in his bunk.

#6: Somewhere I Have Never Traveled (Third Sound Remix) is Mal– which surprises even me, Reader. But as our heroine in this story, Mal seems to hear something that no one else can, and follows it without reason, to the ends of the universe.

#7: The Abduction of Europa is probably Simon, given he’s spent so much of his life looking for River, taken and held where he does not know. The abduction and transformation of one ordered life into another.

#8: .identity must then be Kaylee, for it is a retelling of Snow White, in deepest darkest space. Yet, our heroine here is an embodied AI, capable of sussing out damage to the ship and its people, both of whom she cares for in extraordinary fashion.

#9: Baroness then becomes Inara, and I can see this — a regal lady who gets into places others don’t, a lady who will take no fuss or nonsense from anyone before putting them back in their place. Sometimes, she allows them into her own, too.

I wonder what #10 will be. (Maybe we could argue #10 is “The Cumulative Effects of Light Over Time,” which appeared in Neil’s Upgraded anthology — but that isn’t Clarkesworld now, is it? Still, I bet that story is Badger. For reasons.)

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Old Things

If you are acquainted with my writing, you know I like old things. My stories and novels gravitate toward history — albeit sometimes history we haven’t written down yet.

Boris Karloff as The Mummy

There are two universes I like to play in: one is rooted in ancient Egypt, the other in the timeless fields of carnivals. My new Apex story, “The Three-tongued Mummy,” melds these together, into one gooey sandwich. If you aren’t acquainted with my writing, this story is a very good place to begin!

I have always wanted the circus to have a mummy (of course they should have a mummy!), and I knew it would be no ordinary mummy, but what would this mummy do? Who were they in history? It wasn’t enough to know that Jackson acquired the mummy and now possessed it; how did he learn about it? What year was it really?

Mostly, this story is me playing with two things I love dearly. It’s no ordinary mummy that Jackson possesses, nor does he have it for ordinary reasons. What would you pay to learn the secret of your death? What wouldn’t you pay to step backward in time?

In this story, I also pay tribute to two of my favorite writers. Mummy hunters Grey and Doyle might be familiar to you, reader — they exist in our world as Orrin Grey and Aidan Doyle, but I know for a fact that they are immortal, that they have always existed, that they have been hunting mummies down through the ages, though in this age they tell you stories about other monsters.

And sometimes bears.

And other times skeletons.

Go meet the three-tongued mummy already!

 

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Baroness

This unprocessed image of Saturn’s moon Titan was captured by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft during its final close flyby of the hazy, planet-sized moon on April 21, 2017. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

I love space.

I also love our solar system. It’s never not fascinating. New Horizons going to Pluto? Curiosity going to Mars? Cassini studying Saturn? Juno peeping at Jupiter?

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!

We live in an amazing age for this stuff. I eat it up!

My new Clarkesworld story, “Baroness,” is set on Saturn’s moon, Titan. We got some good pictures of Titan recently as Cassini makes its final loops closer and closer to the planet where it will poof forever (this September).

But Titan! Titan is awesome. It has a dense atmosphere and lakes of liquid methane! Infrared rainbows! How could a science fiction writer not play with that? I started with some classic tropes as I worked my way to the heart of this story: aliens, UFOs, abduction stories, and oh the mysteries of the galaxy. I asked the Launchpad Astronomy Workshop alumni mailing list a billion questions — so if the science is wrong, that’s on ME.

No story is really proper until I’ve gotten into the heart of one character. Whose story is this? Who is hurt? Who changes? In this piece, it’s two characters occupying that space, one vaguely human and one vaguely alien.

This TOC…lovely, lovely.

Vaguely human. She once was, but now she’s something more — she and the rest of the crew she leads. They’re a group of oligotrophs, people who have been modified to endure and indeed thrive in hostile environments. They can breathe methane and don’t need much to eat; they love darkness, and don’t mind the cold. They’ve been engineered to work in places that no one else really wants to go. They’re also refugees.

The rich and white don’t want to do the dirty work of the world; who better to send into all the awful places than the unwanted, the unwashed, the huddled masses Liberty once lifted her lamp for? Refugees are sent into all the terrifying places, to mine methane, hydrogen, to pull planets and moons apart so shiny rockets can plunge deeper than ever into the universe. But everything has a cost, even space.

“Your life will change,” Bishop whispered. “They tell you. And they aren’t wrong. But they also aren’t . . . specific.”

Go read, then let me know what you thought! I can’t wait for you to meet Baroness…

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Murmuration

You probably know about the face on Mars, the mesa imaged by Viking I in 1976. It looks like a mask, a face, something that could only exist because Martians built it. But, it turns out, it’s just a rock (a really beautiful rock), only looking like a face when the shadows fall just right.

Small part of the Cydonia region, taken by the Viking 1 orbiter and released by NASA/JPL on July 25, 1976

Mars is also home to a woman made of dust, something that looks like a Terminator hand, a floating spoon. Mars has bones and squirrels and sometimes Tusken Raiders. But they’re only there when the light is just right, when we look at them in a certain way.

What if they were there for a reason? What if someone or something were trying to tell us something? Would we listen? We’re humans and we’re ridiculous, often unable to listen over the sound of our own yelling. We are often too focused inward to listen to anything that challenges us.

My first story in IGMS is “Murmuration,” and it’s set on beloved Mars; Tangent noted that it has a Bradbury flavor and I couldn’t be happier about that. I grew up reading The Martian Chronicles and still dream about Martians.

For this story, I wanted bones discovered on Mars — of course these bones would be strange and unexpected. What kind of bones might one find in an ancient lake bed? Fish? Turtles? Whales?

I read a lot about Pompeii for this story; how victims left hollows in the debris. How, when plaster is poured in, one can recreate the body that was once there. This idea was haunting — still is, really. What kind of hollows might exist on other worlds? What will we find when we explore them?

The heroine of this story is also a hollow; there’s something growing inside her, something that will eventually fill all the space she has vacated.

Just as something will eventually fill all the spaces we currently do…

…it’s a cheery story.

Promise.

A lady in the dust

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Upright Infinity

Figure 8, Luke Spooner (Gamut)

Many of my story ideas come from random conversations with the muse. (By this time, perhaps you know I call him that ironically, or perhaps you don’t. Now you do.)

In one such conversation, he said “whatever happened to the Ripleys?” And while further conversation revealed he meant the kick-ass girls who go out into the world and Do, I found myself picturing Ellen Ripley in Alien Resurrection, discovering that room of clones — the endless horrors she had been made into after her death in the iron works.

We know what happened to those Ripleys, of course. She killed them. But what if there were more to it than that? This is where “Figure 8” began.

There were seven before you. You’re number eight, perfect in every way, because they rooted out each imperfection across the seven who came before.

But they left you, your makers. They left you without a hint as to where they’d gone. You were old enough, smart enough, built well enough to withstand anything that might come, so they left you, and you — you hunt.  If you’re perfection, the others cannot stand.

This is a story unlike any I’ve written before — and I seem to find myself saying that a lot, which is maybe good? We want our craft to develop, and this craft is certainly…something else at this point.

I don’t write horror, an editor told me, so what are these stories? We do not know, but they exist even so. What is horror? Is slaughtering the reflection of your own face (you alone are perfection) something other than horror? How is hunting yourself to extinction not horror?

There is a kind of beauty in it, the circular nature of a figure eight, made in ice, traced on paper, the way the line curls and comes back to itself. Figure eight is upright infinity.

In the metallic night air that blows up from the tracks, Number Five smells like leather. You probably smell like bubble bath and blood but you don’t linger on it. You follow Number Five off the train amid a jostle of other bodies.

She is an assassin, set on killing herself. Every iteration, until she alone remains, because she was made perfect, she was made last. But how do you kill yourself over and over without it leaving a mark on your own body? What is nature and what is nurtured?

Let’s find out.

You can read “Figure 8” in Gamut Issue #2 (two is my favorite number — coincidence, or no?). Subscriptions are buy one get one in February!

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The Princess

“We’re going to play war. You stay here, and wait to be rescued.”

“We’re going to play monsters — you stay here and wait to be rescued.”

“Stay here until we come with the army to save you.”

“You can’t have a gun, you’re a girl.”

“You don’t get a uniform, you’re not in the army.”

“You can’t jump out of the tower window or climb down, we have to come get you. That’s the rule.”

“We’re going to play Star Wars and–“

Hey. The princess carries a blaster.

I grew up surrounded by boys. I briefly had step-brothers, and do have a brother, and my best neighbor friend at the time was also a boy. Thus, when there needed to be a damsel in distress, it generally fell to me. While the boys played, I sat around and awaited rescue, which usually meant I was telling myself stories in my head. What else did girls in towers do?

I didn’t know, not until I saw Star Wars. Not until I watched Princess Leia shooting a blaster and confronting the bad guys. She seemed to have better aim than the boys even — they didn’t like that when I pointed it out.

“But she needed rescuing!” the boys told me. “Go sit and wait for Luke to show up.” (I had a fitted sheet for a gown, tied with a clumsy canvas belt.)

Well, okay.

But you know what happened after that, right?

I couldn’t believe what happened after that, the first time I saw it. She took his blaster! She fired it! She got them into the trash compactor and out of the line of fire!

And after that? She wasn’t just sitting around, no sir, she was like “you really should have had a plan, jackasses,” because what’s her life been about — resistance and plans, man!

Kidlet me couldn’t believe it. A princess had stolen the secret plans to the Death Star?! Girls did that?!

Yesterday, I saw a lot of posts that were critical about how others were choosing to remember Carrie Fisher. “She was more than Princess Leia!” they cried. Of course she was. None of us are ever only one thing.

For many of us, Princess Leia is how we first met Carrie Fisher. Princess Leia was our gateway drug. (Though I also saw Under the Rainbow at a very early age, and talk about drugs…)

Leia was the first heroine who made me sit up straight, who made me realize girls were more than their clothing or hairstyles. It did not matter if she was in a robe when she was shooting those stormtroopers. It did not matter if she was in a gold bikini when she strangled Jabba. Do the work — your clothes don’t matter. Do the work — the bad hair day doesn’t matter. And yet, those clothes also changed my young mind — when I realized Leia had not chosen to wear that bikini, but had been put into it.

Carrie Fisher wasn’t just a princess, no, but she taught a young girl that being a princess wasn’t a terrible thing. Who had the plans? The princess. Who got them out of the line of fire? The princess. Who killed one of the creepiest dudes in the galaxy? The princess. Who became a general and the head of the resistance? The princess.

I love you, Carrie Fisher. You changed my life. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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