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Beneath Ceaseless Skies

bcs-year5In 2009, I made my first submission to Beneath Ceaseless Skies. I had to take a deep breath as I clicked SEND, because I had been reading BCS for about a year, and loved both the fiction they published and their overall aesthetic.

They ran fiction from authors I already loved (Marie Brennan), and authors I was only just getting to know (Erin Cashier). There were Big Names in BCS, and the idea that the editors would ever consider a story of mine was folly.

And then in 2010, it suddenly wasn’t, when I sold them a story about ghosts and true love and pirates.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies has since become home to many of my traveling circus stories, with Scott being the first editor who usually sees them when they’re newly finished. He has a good sense of what works, what doesn’t, and has taken a chance on a few ideas I thought might’ve been too dark for BCS’s pages.

From the start, working with editor Scott H. Andrews has been a tremendous joy. He isn’t just interested in acquiring good fiction–he wants it to be the best it can absolutely be. Every story, down to its very commas, has been carefully considered and digested. Sometimes what one wrote on the page isn’t how it was read on the page; Scott has a keen eye for making writer intent and reader interaction align perfectly.

bcs199Even rejections from him are instructive and helpful; Scott is someone who is invested in good fiction, but also the speculative fiction community itself. There would be a vast hole in our community if BCS ceased to be. But now, here they are at issue #200! An extraordinary feat and one that I hope repeats.

They’re having a subscription drive–where more subscribers = more benefits. If you don’t already subscribe, consider supporting this tremendous publication.

Congrats Scott and the entire BCS team. Here’s to the next two hundred issues!

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Cloud Dweller

artist, Duy Huynh

artist, Duy Huynh

When it comes to my traveling circus, I don’t include a lot of “normal” circus tropes. My circus doesn’t have an elephant, for example. But there are a few tropes I want to play with, because I think they’ll fit well.

I also like writing about my home state, so when I realized I was going to write about a tightrope walker, I started wondering where in Colorado this person could walk. The Royal Gorge seemed daunting and perfect.

My ridiculous muse is largely responsible for what came next. I couldn’t get a handle on this character — I knew he was tall and thin and strange, but he refused to tell me where he’d come from. “He’s a Russian Jew,” my muse said, “running from the pogroms that destroyed all he knew and loved.” My muse can be painfully insightful.

And then, everything clicked.

Of course you would walk tightropes — you always had, though not as literally. Always running, never looking back, never looking down because down was doom. But what if you walked into something very strange, into a world of ghosts that only you could see?

I spent a lot of time reading about wire walkers, in circuses and out. I spent a lot of time with Philippe Petit and his charming story about walking between NYC’s twin towers while they were still under construction. I read about the Royal Gorge and its bridge, and how humanity thinks they can fill all empty spaces, even though some should possibly stay empty as a reminder of what was once there.

This story was born in those spaces, but doesn’t strive to fill them. It seeks, rather, to cross them and keep going. To walk the sky like Vasily does.

Read Cloud Dweller in Issue #199 of Beneath Ceaseless Skies

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F&M #5

I’ve started outlining Folley & Mallory #5, which does not have a working title. Here’s a peek…

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All the Things

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Writing, as we have said, is both the best and the worst at the same time; it is, perhaps, the Schrodinger’s cat of the arts. You can slog away for a long, long time, and see no results. You can think oh my god this is the actual worst I’m doing all this work and it is not paying off in any way and this wasteland is never going to end. But then! You find yourself handling multiple releases and schedules and Kickstarters and you realize oh, look I did do all this work and now it’s about to be vomited into the world where it can be ignored hooray!

Wait.

Maybe not that last part. Here’s what’s on tap!

800px-krakenThe Kraken Sea

The Kraken Sea is coming from Apex Book Company this June (the 21st). The Kraken Sea tells the story of a strange boy named Jackson, who takes an orphan train across the country and into an entirely new life. This is a story set in my traveling circus world, yes! Hooray!

Right now, you can:

Stay tuned for more tentacletastic goodies — including a Goodreads giveaway coming in May.

If you are a reviewer and would like a review copy, please let me know!

I also have a new circus short story coming out this May or June. “Cloud Dweller” will be in Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

No Shit There I Was

noshitNo Shit There I Was is a new anthology of improbable fiction from editor Rachael Acks and Alliteration Ink. We are currently fundraising through Kickstarter, and would love it if you can contribute.

My story, “Blush Response,” will appear alongside fellow authors Matt Dovey and Stewart Baker, William Ledbetter, James Beamon, Rachael K Jones, Wren Wallis, Heather Morris, Tyler Hayes, Darcie Little Badger, Jo Robson, Premee Mohamed, R. K. Duncan, Sarah Tchernev, Linda Tyler, Anne M. Gibson, Andrew Barton, Sunil Patel, David Jón Fuller, William Wood, Devyani Borade, Adrian Simmons, Frances Rowat, Lou J Berger, and Alanna McFall.

There are so many great rewards with this one. My personal crit on a story is already taken, but you can still grab story critiques and books and ebooks and tuckerizations, and more. I hope you will come by!

Folley & Mallory

300-honey_fullThe Honey Mummy is the newest release — and book three for those counting.You can grab your copy from Amazon, in paper or digital; it’s also part of Kindle Unlimited if you’d rather! (It’s also a matchbook — if you buy the print, you get the ebook free!)

If you’re into Pinterest, you can also come check the pinboard for the book!

So when’s book four?! The Clockwork Tomb will appear this October, and sees our intrepid adventurers exploring a tomb at long last! But it’s like no tomb they’ve ever seen, filled with peril and skeletons, and…was that a sphinx in the shadows up there? Riddles and more await!

And, I think you’re caught up.

Unless you’d like me to talk about the Minecraft 1.9 update. I could do that, but in short: it’s swell.

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Going Away

octomoon

who made this, it’s brilliant

This past month (or forty days, who’s counting), I’ve been away. I took a break from bullshit and annoyances, which meant going quiet in a couple realms where I usually participate, reading less on social media, and doing something altogether new in regard to the book of face.

Sometimes, I once wrote to a dear friend, you have to go away so you can come back.

Sometimes, you have to shut out the things the people who are annoying you, so you can listen to yourself, and remember what it was to trust that internal voice.

Sometimes, you have to change from a moon into an octopus.

I think I’m at the midway point of that process — not quite a moon, not quite an octopus, but I have these emerging tentacles and arms and they are beautiful and fascinating and I can’t wait to see what they do.

This break involved stepping back from a long-time friend, to figure out where I stood with that relationship now — twenty-six years on. I mean, doing the math was staggering enough. That’s a long time to know someone, to allow them into your life and all its mess. It’s not easy to walk away from something like that. But sometimes, you have to go away.

This break involved stopping the cycle of “likes” on Facebook, and instead posting comments, in order to see how that changed my feed — and it did. It pulled up posts from friends I hadn’t heard from in a while, and it was great to see what they were up to. I also broke off with a lot of people there, and stopped saying yes to friend requests from people I’ve never interacted with before — sure, we have mutual friends, but that doesn’t really tell me anything else, does it?

This break involved stepping back from a writing project that has its hooks in me, to figure out where I stood with the ideas and characters now. This is a project that will not quite let me go, and yet I have not moved forward with it. It’s time to shut the fuck up and either write this project or let it go, and move on to the next thing.

This break involved stepping back from my long-time writing group, a place where I no longer seem to fit as well as I once did. I’ve been there a long time, too — but can still remember how nervous I was when it came to time to apply. Did I have the chops? I did and still do, but my voice feels irrelevant there most days — I no longer feel like “fellow writer,” but rather “editor they want to sell to,” which changes the dynamic.

Not quite an octopus, not quite a moon.

This break was good and I’m ready to shut the fuck up and get on with things. I need to write a letter, and I need to write a book, and I have hopes that, despite this week’s twenty-four inches of snow (!), it’s going to be a beautiful spring.

I had to go away so that I could come back.

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Stargazer

stargazer

When I was a Girl Scout Brownie (I still have my beret and dress and vest, with all my patches and pins and accomplishments), we spent what felt like forever but was probably only a long weekend at a local mountain camp. I wish I remembered more clearly where.

I hated most of the activities, because the summer mountains were buggy and I wasn’t terribly enamored with the rest of my group and, you know, I was generally a cranky young lady who didn’t want to be in the sunshine, thanks.

But lo, one evening we got to ride horses, and got to ride them up this gently sloping trail to the top of a mountain, where, oh good gracious, telescopes had been set up. I thought they were having us on. Were we really going to get to hang out after dark and look at the sky? Oh yes. The cranky young lady who didn’t want to be in the sunshine exhaled and looked up.

It was the first time I saw Saturn.

divider

In high school, I took a class called Wilderness Survival, and it’s precisely what it sounds like. We learned about surviving the wilderness, this class being capped off by a long weekend actually spent…oh hey, surviving the wilderness.

We went into the very snowy Rocky Mountains with our instructor, our backpacks, and our cross country skis. We had to sky into the back-country, to reach our tiny camp. We spent a lot of time skiing, in fact, and there was one flat trail that was safe enough to take at night.

One night, I went out with two classmates, and in the middle of the trail, we simply stopped skiing and threw ourselves to the snowy ground. We looked up. We saw forever, I’m pretty sure. That far from city lights, forever goes on a very long way.

divider

It’s always been the stars for me and when I realized I wasn’t going to be an astronaut (this brain just never got the hang of the math — and let’s not linger on how I got a little queasy on the Star Trek Experience rides in Vegas, uh…), writing about the stars was second best. And now?

This summer, I’m going to the Launchpad Astronomy Workshop, which is an amazing workshop given to writers and editors to increase science literacy. I’m going to learn a lot of things, and look through big telescopes, and ahhhhhhh.

ASTRONOMY CAMP.

I might burst with joy.

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The Honey Mummy Goodreads Giveaway

What’s better than a new book? How about a new book that’s free!

honey_promo

Apokrupha is giving away three trade paperback copies of The Honey Mummy to US readers. (I know, international reading peeps, that is lousy for you.)

How do you enter?

All you have to do is click right here!

The giveaway will be open until March 17th. When it closes, Goodreads will send me the names of the winners and I’ll let everyone know who gets the books!

Easy, peasy, mummy times!

 

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The Honey Mummy, Release Day

honey_promo

by Ravven

Callooh! Callay! It’s The Honey Mummy release day!

If you preordered the ebook, it should be in your device whispering “open, open, open!” Isn’t the future amazing?

If you waited for the paper version, scamper over to Amazon and get yourself a copy! (As of this post, waiting for mothership Amazon to update, c’mon mothership…) Aren’t paper books gorgeous? My thanks to Jacob Haddon and Ravven for making this one so impossibly pretty.

And if you haven’t started the adventures yet (this is adventure number three), it’s never too late to start.

jackal_trio

The working title of this book was Moon & Meteor. I knew I wanted to work with meteorites, and stars, and space (the final frontier, or is it?) and then in the course of my research discovered there was a lunar eclipse on December 22, 1889. Given that The Glass Falcon ended in November 1889, the gears in my brain did turn.

In the third Folley & Mallory adventure, I wanted a few specific things to happen: Eleanor had to be tempted by rings (zut alors!), Virgil had to be kidnapped (mon Dieu!), and we had to explore the tension between Cleo and Auberon (mais bien sûr). Why was Auberon so surprised and fussy when he crossed paths with Cleo in Rings of Anubis? I knew why. Now you get to know why, too!

I also knew Anubis would return, wearing the rings Eleanor reclaimed for him in RoA. What would he think about Eleanor encountering another set of rings? What would she think? She believed her journey was over — she had solved the riddle of her mother’s disappearance, hadn’t she? — and she’s mistaken, in more than one way.

I wanted to deepen friendships and increase the stakes — even if our beloved adventurers weren’t entirely aware they were increasing… Dun, dun, dun!

jackal_trio

Last week, Fran Wilde had me over to Book Bites, where I talked a little about honey, and share a recipe that might surprise you, because it’s savory and not sweet!

Add the book to your Goodreads lists — and take note: March 3-17, you can sign up for The Honey Mummy giveaway. We’re giving away three trade paperback copies of the book to US readers!

Dean E. S. Richard has some kind words about the book on Nerds of a Feather.

And all the cool kids are doing playlists, right, so here’s The Honey Mummy playlist, songs that kept me going over the course of the manuscript! Who doesn’t love a little Cat Power, really.

 

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In Praise of Friendships

girls

One of the best aspects of the Folley & Mallory books is friendship. While there are absolutely romances in these books, there are also friendships, which can be no less complicated than romantic love. Virgil and Auberon are partners in their work, and have slowly become friends, after the loss of Virgil’s prior partner, Joel. Over the course of the books, those two are more like brothers; they sure do give each other hell.

Eleanor Folley and Cleo Barclay also come to be friends, which seems more rare to me — we don’t often see ladies as straight-up friends, because so often women, when placed together, cannot be side by side, but must be in competition with one another, be it over a job, a man, or a bridal bouquet. I didn’t want Eleanor and Cleo to be that way; I wanted each to be confident in themselves and share that confidence with a solid friend, someone they could count on when the going got tough — which it did right off for Eleanor. (And heck, when confidence dips in one, have the other come in to support.)

In Rings of Anubis, Cleo is one of the agents who has kept the mummy known as The Lady safe all these years, so she’s the one Eleanor must deal with if Eleanor wants access to The Lady, which Eleanor very much does. Eleanor respects Cleo’s work, just as Cleo respects what Eleanor believes about the mummy; Cleo is just as fascinated by the ancient body and eager to finally have the opportunity, albeit covert, to explore it and determine exactly what’s going on with it.

In The Honey Mummy, we see that the friendship of Eleanor and Cleo has deepened; with Eleanor stationed in Paris and Cleo in Cairo, they share a correspondence, which leads to Eleanor gifting Cleo with something special when they are once again reunited. The Honey Mummy turns the tables on Cleo Barclay — as she helped Eleanor with a personal matter in RoA, now Eleanor helps her with something equally personal. Cleo is asked to open her private life the way Eleanor was, which in turn leads to Eleanor revealing something new and dangerous to Cleo.

I greatly enjoy writing this friendship. While Cleo and Eleanor do talk about the gentlemen in their lives, they have a relationship that reaches beyond them, that exists outside of them. It is a friendship rooted in respect, trust, and science.

When I think of these two ladies, I think of other great friendships between women: Kate and Lanie (Castle), Anne and Diana (Anne of Green Gables), Mary and Rhoda (The Mary Tyler Moore Show), Lucy and Ethel (I Love Lucy), CeeCee and Bertie (Beaches, shut up), the Golden Girls (!), Thelma and Louise, Celie and Sofia (The Color Purple), Lorelai and Sookie and Rory and Lane (Gilmore Girls), Ruth and Idgie (Fried Green Tomatoes), Enid and Rebecca (Ghost World), Claire and Geillis (Outlander), Harley and Poison Ivy (but are they dating?!), Hermione and Harry (what), Phryne and Mac, Little Women Little Women Little Women, and…I could probably be here all day.

What are some of your favorites?

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My Genre

solo-eleanor-banner

The more I write and the more I read, the more it seems I gravitate toward the genre of Historical Ladies Kicking Butt.

Eleanor Folley, whose third adventure arrives next week, certainly fits into that category. The loss of her mother as a child spurred her toward a life that ended up mirroring her mother’s in many ways — and yet, not, for where her mother seemingly stumbled, Eleanor succeeded. As an operative for the mysterious Mistral agency, Eleanor explores (and sometimes transcends) history itself.

So where the heck did Eleanor come from? What inspired me as I built the series? Here are a few historical ladies I dearly love from television:

miss-fisher-s-murder-mysteries

Essie Davis as the Honorable Phryne Fisher, Lady Detective

1920’s Australia: Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries had three seasons on television, and rumor is there will be a movie. Miss Fisher also has a much more extensive book life (written by Kerry Greenwood), which I’ve only just begun to explore. Miss Fisher is outspoken and rarely timid (though she rather doesn’t like spiders). She’s an independent lady who knows marriage is not for her, but birth control and lovers are; she has a rocky relationship with her parents, and a super friendship with Elizabeth MacMillian (who is also fabulous in her own right, a doctor and a lesbian!). And good gracious, those clothes!

peggycarter

Hayley Atwell as Margaret “Peggy” Carter, Lady Badass

1940’s America: Peggy Carter is why I got into The Avengers at all. I heard talk about an Agent Carter series — and given it contained a) a leading heroine and b) historical time frame, I figured I’d better start with the Captain America movies so I’d know who she was. I really didn’t expect to fall in love. Peggy isn’t a waif and she’s not a secretary; she’s more than competent at her job, often showing the men up and surprising them in the process. She has friendships with women — and I’d be remiss if I didn’t discuss her growing friendship with Ana Jarvis (played by Lotte Verbeek from Outlander — I literally squealed when I saw it was her), who teaches Peggy how to store a gun in her garter!

vanessaives

Eva Green as Vanessa Ives, Lady Scorpion

19th century London: As I watched the first few episodes of Penny Dreadful, I was shocked that no one (not a one!) had told me there was an awesomely historical lady investigating a dead body that appeared to have an Egyptian vampire inside of it. WHAT. Vanessa Ives is…splendid. Another no nonsense lady who takes absolutely no shit, even from the devil himself. Another lady who has a strong friendship with another woman — a lengthy correspondence with her dear childhood friend, Mina; not to mention the mentorship she had with the Cut Wife! Vanessa has something very literal inside of her, and her struggle is a joy to watch.

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Caitronia Balfe as Claire Randall Fraser, Lady Time Traveler

18th century Scotland: I first met Claire in the Outlander books; I was nervous when it was announced Outlander was to be a TV series, because oh beloved books. But it’s been wonderful seeing that world brought to life. Balfe’s Claire is as I picture her on the page; she’s out of her element and yet not. Claire’s story starts in 1940s England, at the end of the war, and whisks her across time, to Scotland of 1743. Claire often knows too much for her own good and it gets her in a sound amount of trouble. Who doesn’t love a troublemaker, anyhow? Claire has a wonderful friendship with Geillis Duncan (Lotte Verbeek! Squee!) and later, Jenny Fraser. Both are drawn with care and consideration and I appreciate both.

Historical ladies kicking butt!

You will have no doubt noticed, as I did in making this list, that it’s awfully white! While I’ve limited myself to television, if you have recommendations for more diverse historical heroines and settings, be they on TV or in books, please leave a comment!

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