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Dear Mr. Abrams


Princess Leia in Hoth gear

Dear Mr. Abrams,

I’ve followed your work for a long time now — Alias most especially, but I even remember Forever Young (and my mom loved Felicity) — but am not sure I know you well enough to call you J.J.

In any case, I was excited when I heard you’d be heading up the new Star Wars film, because I genuinely love the Star Trek reboot and all you’ve done there. And I could probably talk about Super 8 at length, but that’s just a detour toward the thing I actually want to tell you about.

Star Wars is one of the first films I can remember seeing, and it was certainly one of the first films to impact me and the way I viewed the world. Specifically, it was Princess Leia who opened my eyes to so many things, we’d probably be here a week as I listed them all.

The idea that a woman could be powerful. The idea that a princess in a pretty white dress could be a hero for the revolution. The idea that she could carry a gun just like the boys did — the notion that she was stronger than some of those very boys, willing to stalk after her beliefs, no matter what dark corridor (or trash compactor) they took her into.

Star Wars was the first franchise that stole my heart. It was the first franchise I cosplayed and the first franchise I bought toys from. My neighbor friend Patrick and I wished for huge winter snows, and when we got huge winter snows, we built a maze of tunnels to run our action figures through, because Hoth. We spent countless days buried in the snow, oblivious of the cold, because the AT-ATs were attacking our base and Princess Leia had negotiated a treaty with the wampa so we were about to win for always.

When I see you saying “Star Wars was always a boy’s thing,” I find it beyond ridiculous. You can’t erase half of a fandom. I was as invested as any boy — and I was and am very much a girl. A girl who grew into a woman, shaped by what Star Wars and a princess showed her was possible. Star Wars is a people-thing, see. It’s not, and never was, a boys-only playground. Don’t make that into a thing.


November Books

17332243I kind of hit a wall at the end of October, where I wanted to slow down — so much writing! So much reading!

I wanted a big, slow (for me) read, something I could sink into and stay with for a while. Turns out, Hild by Nicola Griffith is that book.

It’s beautifully written, and set in 7th century Britain, takes me juuust far enough outside anything I know, turning it into a true adventure. Lots has been written about this book, and I’m not sure how much I have to add to any conversation — especially given that I’m still reading it — but it’s a treat.

Hild is based on the life of Hilda of Whitby. It’s often a novel of politics, but the things I like best are seeing women in every day life. The making of butter, the weaving of cloth. The book has a very real quality to it, that the clothing worn and the food eaten have histories and costs attached them, neither of which we, as modern readers, probably consider enough.

Hild is something of a darling, but she’s finally taking steps to be something more than that, and I’m encouraged I will like her quite a lot as this part of her adventure closes (it’s the first in a trilogy).

And look at that cover. The trees, the sky, the birds, and she’s kind of part of the trees, or they’re running into her…ah, it’s lovely.


The second story I’ve been wrapped up in this month is…erm, Fallout 4. I know what you’re thinking. Elise, that’s a video game, and you are not wrong! But Fallout 4 contains a pretty interesting story, too. Minor spoilers follow.

Once upon a time, you were happy and married and living in the burbs, see; spouse, baby, a really great house and a really snarky robot. Then, as happens, the world blew itself up. You invested in a slot in the fallout shelter, of course you did — but from there, things go even further downhill, as you later witness the apparent death of your spouse and the abduction of your child. (I say apparent because I don’t know; the story is still playing out. Who knows what I saw when I came out of cryosleep!) You emerge into a world that’s completely changed — seemingly two hundred years later. Oh your swell house is still there, but it’s a wreck, and the neighborhood has really gone to hell.

There’s a learning curve here, how to survive in this new landscape, how to interact with people and animals you encounter. How to find clean water and safe food, and rebuild — or not. I’m also taking this story slow, enjoying the exploration of a nearly empty world. It’s waking up the writerly part of my mind, too, as the best books do.

I’ve also got a bookmark in The Clockwork Dagger by Beth Cato, but proper words on that adventure will have to wait until next month!


Just One


It’s the time of the season, when we’re supposed to shout to the rooftops about the splendid fictions we have published this past year. When we’re supposed to vault ourselves into your hearts and into the ballot box for Major Awards (yes, I would love a leg lamp, thank you), be they fragile or otherwise.

I’ve published fourteen stories so far this year, but I’m only going to tell you about one. It’s a novelette set in my traveling circus universe. It’s called “Blow the Moon Out,” and was published by Giganotosaurus in August 2015.

Lois Tilton says it’s “a girls’ coming-of-age dark fantasy that reminds me a bit of Stephen King, except rather more weird.”

Rather more weird than Stephen King? Awesome.

It’s about girls and women discovering their freedom. Discovering the world of men seems to have but one use for them. It’s about freedom of choice, and freedom of doing. It’s about fear of Russians, of men, of bodies, of life. It’s about jumping off cliffs and finding yourself in the stars.

And I hope if you haven’t read it, you will do so now.




You Probably Haven’t Read: Patricia Anthony

557477The first book of Patricia Anthony’s I came across was Eating Memories — a collection of her short speculative fiction. I found it when I was just getting serious about this “writing thing,” as my dad called it, and was reading short stories by the ton.

From the first story to the last, I was captivated. So captivated that “Dear Froggy” inspired one of my earliest stories. I thought “I’ve got more to add to this conversation,” so arrogantly did. (Now that I think on it, Anthony is responsible for inspiring two stories from me.)

From there, I sought out her novels. They’re each deliciously different — and I say that even as I haven’t even read them all. I was pacing myself, because they’re such treats.

And then in 2013, Patricia Anthony died.

Her stack of books on my shelf will not grow — though in the writing of this piece, I was delighted to see that Wildside Press is publishing her last book next year, eeeep! I’d heard talk about a found manuscript, so perhaps this is it.

Still, pace is important, when one’s supply is finite. (I’ve done the same thing with other authors who are less prolific, like Laura Kinsale, whom we should also probably discuss sometime.)

Anthony’s Brother Termite has been optioned for a movie — but nothing’s ever come of it. An alien in the White House. A literal alien, I mean, as the president’s chief of staff. It is glorious. It talks about men and women and the roles each play, and mashes Washington politics with alien politics, love what you kill!, and I want to read it all over again.

Cold Allies ponders climate change — that’s right, you heard me, climate change is a thing. In this novel, nations fight for land where food may yet be grown, only to have aliens show up and complicate an already complicated situation.

557468And the heartbreaking Flanders. My heart clenches up even as I start to type about it. It’s a story of war, and of the places between war — the places between life and death; what we find there, what we don’t.

Happy Policeman calls to mind Ray Bradbury (and would make a super film, too!) — whereas Anthony’s work on a whole also makes me think of the work of Connie Willis. There is something inherently charming, even as Anthony is taking you down dark and darker paths.

I was so saddened by her death, yet heartened by the idea, as I always am with writers, that the work remains, and is there for people yet to discover. Go discover it. Go on.



Edward Robert Hughes (1851-1914), The Weary Moon

Edward Robert Hughes (1851-1914), The Weary Moon

I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year. The reasons are many.

  • I’m finishing up Folley & Mallory #4, which is turning out so great;
  • I’m starting work on a new project, which is either Folley #1 (ahahaa whoops things I never planned on) or Fates, or some combination thereof;
  • I’ve, dare I say it, outgrown NaNoWriMo.

I think NaNo can be great for beginning writers. I took part in it for many years — in fact, I first drafted Rings of Anubis during a NaNo November. Watermark also came from a NaNo November! I think what the month does best for writers is get them accustomed to sitting down and doing the work.

Eventually, you learn this. It becomes a part of you. You learn the best way you work — I don’t write every day but when I am writing, I am consistently putting down 1500-2000 words in a session. Did NaNo teach me this? I don’t know.

If you write long enough — and are lucky enough to sell some books — your life is basically novel-writing month. You’re always working on something, even if you’re researching/building the foundation. My brain is never not making something, so there’s no need to set aside an entire month.

If you are taking part in NaNo, I hope you write your ass off. Don’t worry about hitting 50k — I’m serious. Have fun, make some words, learn something about your process. Don’t stress if you don’t write every day.

dividerThis weekend, I finished reading Waking the Moon (Elizabeth Hand). It was glorious, but Beth and I both had some questions about the ending. And something Beth said made me remember a book I wrote way back when I was a brand new writer.

It started as a short story, the one I workshopped at Con Jose, where everyone basically said “this is a novel.” I felt like a failure — I meant to write a short story, damn it! But. I wrote that novel, didn’t I. I wrote it, and didn’t do much with it. I slid it away, and then yesterday I thought about it, and and and

It’s absolutely me. It’s weird and creepy; four generations of women come into their own, working to rid their family of a long-present evil, and omg. I didn’t know what I was writing back then. I might have a better idea now. And it’s exciting.

I almost can’t even.

But I’m going to.


Octobler Books

Octobler is coming to a close, gracious sakes. It’s probably tied with July for my favorite month, really. November is also pretty great, and I’ve got some spooky things yet to read in that month — but let’s see what I conquered in Octobler:

23719270Picking up where I ended in September, I stayed with westerns, and dug into Vengeance Road, by Erin Bowman. Very related to Rae Carson’s To Walk the Earth a Stranger, but VR is not speculative fiction — it’s a straight up western, which was a fun change of pace. As a kid, I loved Louis L’Amour books and this took me back. Heroine Kate disguises herself as a boy (I will never tire of this trope, I think), to right some serious wrongs; a revenge story, a love story, a story that ties into actual history, with the Lost Dutchman mine. Great stuff. I really loved everything about this book, including the wonderful Liluye. I wish Kate and her bunch had been kinder to her, but recognize that’s a tricky point, because whites of that time were probably not half so gracious to Native Americans. We always want our heroines to be perfect and I can allow that Kate is not and it makes for a great book. And that cover–did we mention that cover? Holy cats.

25667918The next book I grabbed was Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor. This is an entry in the Tor novella program, and it’s an excessively short novella indeed. That’s my main complaint with it; I like my novellas to feel a bit deeper than this, so even though Binti was an amazing character, and this world equally so, I wanted more. (Gluttony is probably my favorite sin, yes.) In Binti, we get a school set in outer space, and Our Heroine is the first of her people to attend this school. I want to call it Harry Potter in Space, but this world feels somehow bigger than even that, despite its short length. Binti has an amazing adventure that will change her life — and pretty much the lives of everyone she comes in contact with.

Speaking of amazing adventures…

26874617I heard about the gender-flipped version of Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, and thought hey, maybe that’s how I’ll finally read Twilight — because I tried when it first came out and nope, couldn’t do. When I peeked at Life and Death, I had the same initial reaction, and then Beth sent me a copy of it, and well. WELL.

Reading this book was like time travel. It was like kissing PW for the first time in the falling snow outside school and feeling like my spine had been struck by lightning because whoa do French people really kiss like this let’s be French forever. Meyer has the ability to perfectly capture what first love is; what teen love is; what it’s like when you can’t omg be with that person every second. And in that way, this book is a huge success. It’s packaged with the original, which I may yet visit. I can’t speak to how well the gender flip works, or doesn’t — but on its own, Life and Death is a great vehicle in which to remember being young and in love. It’s no wonder teens love it so.

Thanks to my library, I got a copy of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. This was a strange reading experience for me, because I used to be that girl; fanfic is where I got my start, I know what it’s like to have readers demanding more of a well-beloved piece of fiction when your heart starts to go out of it. In some ways, this book was a little too meta for me — too on the nose, maybe, especially with the excerpts of books and fanfics included. (When I learned about Carry On, I absolutely groaned and probably won’t read it — it’s the novelization of the fandom that Cath writes about in Fangirl. And if that’s not too meta…I’m not sure what is.) As with Twilight, it’s no wonder Rowell has a solid audience; I think in my 20s (when I was still That Girl), I would have been over the moon for this.

23281612There are strange gaps in my reading knowledge and history — as is the case with Angela Carter. If you had asked me two months ago if I’d read her, I would have said yes without hesitation. But upon actually reading her, I realized nope, Angela Carter was always confused in my head with Shirley Jackson. The Bloody Chamber serves as my introduction to Ms. Carter, and I’m as shocked about it as you are!

The volume is a collection of retold fairy tales and I’m hard-pressed to pick a favorite because they’re all fairly wonderful. Carter has an amazing way with words — it’s so lush it feels like poetry at times, which means it’s terribly inspiring for me, since poetry helps unlock a certain part of my writerly brain. I’m mad for this edition, too — it has French flaps and a deckled edge and oh my god, it’s gorgeous.

Molly Tanzer’s The Pleasure Merchant is out in November, have you pre-ordered it yet? Tanzer continually impresses me with her work, because it doesn’t seem to matter WHAT genre the girl is writing in, she gets it done. She has this way of a pulling a reader in and not letting them go. Everything, no matter how fantastic, is believable, because she crafts her worlds so perfectly. Wild West? No problem. 18th century London? ON IT.

26811562The Pleasure Merchant involves Tom, who wants only to make some beautiful wigs. It’s his calling! He wants his own shop and wants to be married, so of course his life takes a tragic turn. His most amazing creation to date is used against him and Tom finds himself outcast and unemployed, and has no good idea what to do. Thank goodness for libertines, am I right? Tom isn’t very likable, but the prose sure is, so the story carries you surely along, because that’s what Tanzer does. She won’t let you go, even if you aren’t feeling very warm to the main character; you probably love the narrator and it’s their voice that carries you along and then bam it’s over and you’re weeping and laughing and well. You should buy this book, like right now. Wait — one more review here, then go.

17309937Last month, we sank back into our Elizabeth Hand addiction; this month, we tackled Waking the Moon. Holy shit, people! This book.

“The reign of men has ended!” the description proclaims, and well, it’s not entirely wrong, but it’s a little purple for my liking. This certainly is, however, a book about women coming into their own power. It’s witchy, it’s Gothic, it’s haunting. If you wished Wylding Hall was a little more blood-soaked, this is the book for you. As it also involves archaeology, I am uh — over the moon for Waking the Moon.

Hand’s writing has a kind of poetry to it. I take it in small chunks, like it’s loose tea — a pot at a time, to get warm, and comforted (by blood?! Well, yeah.), and inspired. I’m about 75% through this one — I bet I finish it this weekend (Halloween weekend — as is only proper).

My contributor copies of She Walks in Shadows also arrived, and they’re beautiful. Would you like to win a copy of the ebook (epub or mobi)? Leave a comment here. I’ll pick a winner next week, as a thank you for you coming by and reading this far. Thank you, thank you.



You Probably Haven’t Read: Kerry Greenwood


Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012-2015) are presently a super hot property, thank you Australian television! I am absolutely and utterly addicted, so much so that after finishing all the episodes I could get my hands on (three seasons, there must be more, though there is talk of a film!), I turned to the books. Did you know there were books?

Kerry Greenwood started publishing them in 1987. When I think of 1980s mysteries, I don’t exactly think “forward-looking, feminist, revolutionary,” especially for books about 1920s Australia. BUT that is exactly what you get.

83927The first novel, Cocaine Blues, was a curious journey for me. I only knew Miss Phryne Fisher from the screen, so meeting her on the page was an entirely different experience. I thought she was obnoxious.


Which is crazy, because I love her on-screen. So I wondered, which character did I love, Phryne or Essie Davis’s portrayal of Phryne? By the time I finished the novel, it turns out I liked both of them quite fine, but in meeting Our Heroine on the page, she’s annoying, because she doesn’t fail at anything. Perhaps that’s part of the on-screen charm; Phryne does fail, she gets in trouble, and she’s scared of something Very Mundane (which Jack never lets her forget).

Still, I’m impressed with how the show runners have translated the book into a series. It’s rather amazing, given that much of what happens on the show doesn’t happen on the screen. Take for instance our description of Detective-Inspector Jack Robinson from Cocaine Blues:

“Your names, please,” he said in a carefully unmodulated voice. The man was colorless, with mid-brown hair, mid-brown eyes, and nothing noticeable about him at all.

JACK? I thought as I read. That cannot be, because — well. Look:


Nothing noticeable?!

Look at his face.


Look again.

In the first novel, our Detective-Inspector is fairly absent, and certainly has no fireworks with Miss Fisher (which I understand is an ongoing lack). So I applaud the show’s writers and Nathan Page and Essie Davis for the actual FIRE that jumps out of my television screen every time Jack occupies it, and every time Jack and Phryne try to deny the lust that is rampaging between them. It’s a wonderful addition and startling, because it’s not in the first book at all.

The other thing that translates well is Phryne’s wardrobe. The book places a focus there, and the show carries it splendidly forward. If you’ve watched the show, you’ll recognize her clothing as you read about it. The time period is all lovingly rendered, and Phryne becomes less obnoxious as the book goes on — or maybe I just got used to her paper self…

If you’re a fan of the show, pick up the first book at the very least, to see how Miss Fisher began. Dot’s in there, Bert and Cec too, but there’s no sign of Hugh as of yet. (There’s also a policewoman! Extraordinary.)




I wish I remember where I first heard about this movie, but it went straight into my Netflix queue, and then I discovered Amazon Prime also had it, so! When I posted about the wonder of this film on Twitter, there wasn’t a single reply — thus, this idea for this post was born  — and so too the idea that I may make it an occasional series, covering movies and books that aren’t exactly popular or well known, but awesome even so.

I shall endeavor to write without spoilers.

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (2014) tells the story of Kumiko. She works as a secretary in Tokyo, has a vile boss, and an adorable rabbit named Bunzo. Her mother (and her boss) are concerned because she’s twenty-nine and not married. Kumiko couldn’t give a fuck. Girl, I feel you. She spends her days struggling through work, and her off time hunting for treasure. In a flooded cave, Kumiko discovers something amazing indeed, and it sends her on a journey far from Tokyo — to Minnesota, where people don’t entirely understand her, which makes it not altogether unlike her home.

Kumiko is played by Rinko Kikuchi, and I’d bet money you know her from her work on Pacific Rim. She is splendid in this role, both tragic and uplifting — as is the story at hand. This film also has a great sense of humor and commentary, as when a white man, in an effort to find someone who speaks Kumiko’s language, takes her to a Chinese restaurant.

This film speaks to the magic of fiction. I’m trying my best not to spoil you, but Kumiko’s journey happens because of fiction, and when she is told what she seeks is fictional, she about loses her mind. In that way, I suppose it’s also about faith; about going forward when everyone tells you it’s too far, it’s too frozen, it’s impossible. It’s fiction, they say. It’s real, Kumiko says.

Watch this film.


Jumping Off Cliffs

1872: De Lome's Airship

1872: De Lome’s Airship

This week, we’re getting back to the drafting of Folley & Mallory #4. It has a working title, but I’m not entirely thrilled with it, so we’re giving it a number here and calling it good.

But where’s #3, you may wonder — and that’s part of the thing. Most people aren’t wondering. Folley and Mallory have a few devoted readers, but no one is exactly clamoring for more adventures. Rings of Anubis has gotten all of 36 reviews in the year it’s been out, and well, that’s not swell. We don’t talk about failure much, do we?

It’s certainly put a crimp in my desire to write it — which is funny, because I love writing Folley and Mallory. I open up the file and everything just clicks. These two have always been a kind of magic for me, and I know that’s a blessing. Plenty of things are harder for me to write — like the next book that isn’t Folley and Mallory, oi! We curse a lot at that book.

But, I think we writers like to know our words are going to be read. That they’re going to be enjoyed and discovered again and again. Rings never took off. I was very lucky I had a publisher friend say “hey, I dig this, how can I help,” and so the adventures can continue. Book #3, The Honey Mummy, will be out this winter, so you three who are waiting for it, rest assured.

In going forward, even though Folley and Mallory aren’t hard to write, they’re hard to write. The idea that no one is waiting of the work is a challenge all its own. And likely the reverse is true — if there were hordes of people waiting, that would be another kind of challenge.

What’s a writer to do?

I guess we fucking write.

What would I do if I didn’t write?

. . .

I mean, it’s what I’m good at. It’s what I know. It’s what I love. So it’s what I do.

Opening the file was DAUNTING.

No one wants this, the brain bats whispered.

Shut it, Folley said as she leveled her pistol at the beasts.

The bats scattered.

As of today, I’m 40% through the drafting — and it’s a good, exciting, rollicking adventure. I believe in my heart you’re going to love it.

If you haven’t met Folley and Mallory yet, you can do that here.

And here.

And here.

Let’s do this.

(Aaaaaiiieeeee it’s fulla bats down here!)

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Hand Pies

Last week, honeycrisp apples were cheap and I knew I’d come away with more apples than any one human should try to consume. What in the world could I do with all of them? My friend Jen said “oh hey, hand pies,” which led to terrifying search results — including a gorgeous monstrosity called slab pie and wow, I didn’t need that much pie (this time), so hand pies it was!


My apron got a little floured.

When I’m making pie, step one for me is always the crust that has never failed me, Smitten Kitchen’s All Butter, Really Flaky Pie Dough. I use this dough for sweet and savory pies both. It is gorgeous and perfect. If you’ve never made your own dough, I encourage you to try this recipe, as it was my first, and held my hand every step of the way.

I pretty much improvised with these hand pies, taking what I knew of big-pie and making it smaller. The only step I went out onto a ledge with is when it came to freezing half the pies I made. I’m certain they’ll be fine, but time shall tell! (This recipe made 16 pies, but I had both pastry and apples leftover — I think I could have gotten 20, had I taken the time to re-roll my dough. By that point, reader, I was tired of rolling.)

You will need:

1 recipe of Smitten Kitchen’s all-butter crust
4 good sized apples, about 4 cups diced
1 lemon
1 tsp. all spice
1 tsp. nutmeg
sprinkle of cloves
sprinkle of salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp. flour
1 egg


Preheat your oven to 400.

Step one, peel and core your apples. I have a hand-crank that will core, peel, and slice all in one go, but I didn’t want to haul it out. Make sure your apples are all about the same size, so they’ll all cook the same. (Also, based on Jen’s advice, I tossed my peels and cores into a one part water, one part sugar mix and let them bubble over low heat while I worked — apple simple syrup. We’ll return to this idea later.)

Add the lemon juice to your sliced apples and stir. Add sugar and spices, and stir again. As I reflect on this recipe now, I might also add the zest of the lemon; and if you want even more lemon punch, take the time to mix the zest in with your sugar only. Mix them together with your fingers until the sugar is positively lemontastic, then add to apples and spices.



Once your apples are spiced up, take one of your dough rounds from the fridge. Even if you’re using store-bought, get that dough out! Roll on a floured board until it’s about 1/4 of an inch thick. Then, cut circles! You can do this with a biscuit cutter if you have one — I don’t. I used a glass, and it worked just fine. I got four, and I bundled up my scraps to get another four.


Then, you’re going to take each circle and roll it out, into a tiny round!

The lighting in my kitchen is so poor, my gracious!

The lighting in my kitchen is so poor, my gracious.

Try to keep those circles even; turn your dough often! Once you have a round done, it’s time to fill and crimp. Be mindful of your filling — too much and your pie will burst.


Next step: fold the dough over toward you so you have a half moon shape. You can absolutely seal the dough with egg wash (or water) if you want, but I did not and it worked fine, because I pressed the edges together with a fork. I do like a pretty pie. You do not need to cut vents into them, but you can if you like.



I would recommend parchment paper on your sheet pan, or a silicon mat, to prevent sticking. I have the latter, so that’s what I used.

When your pies are filled, crimped, and all lain out, it’s time for egg wash! Crack your egg and whisk it up with a smidgen of water. Alternate plan: you could also wash these with the lovely apple simple syrup that should be nearly done…yes. Syrup is going to brown differently than egg, though, so you might want to give them an extra peek during cooking if you go that route. If you go with egg wash, you can sprinkle the tops with granulated sugar (or cinnamon sugar) if you want a little extra treat.


I baked these at 400, for 25 minutes (I checked them at 20, and they weren’t browned enough for my liking). Out of the oven, they’re going to be super hot, so if you dive in (the way I did), remember you’ve got hot apples and sugar there.


Easy additions: nuts and more fruit. These would be wonderful with pecans or cranberries. You could probably also replace your lemon juice with a little booze if you wanted. These would be delightful with a scoop of ice cream, or a drizzle of salted caramel. A squiggle of Nutella? There are tons of ways to dress them up.

Or, eat them naked. Whichever.