I have an announcement…

Today is September 22nd, which happens to be the birthday of Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, give or take. And while this day is perfect for gorging on cheese and mushrooms, taking walks in the park among the trees, and starting adventures, it’s also a good one for announcements (or so I’d like to think).

No. I am not disappearing. I have no magic rings, and even if I did own one, I’d probably have lost it by now or else left you entirely. I’m far too much of a Took to let a ring sit in an envelope for years.

The announcement is this: I have sold my first book! And no, it’s not that one. And not that one, either. But it is Pilgrim of the Sky, and it will be finding a home at Candlemark & Gleam, with a release date (tentatively) of August 2011!

I got the news shortly after I got out of surgery, and after talking back and forth (as lucidly as I could manage) with Kate Sullivan, one of the editors, I decided that Candlemark & Gleam was really the best home for Pilgrim of the Sky. I wrote the book with independent, small presses in mind, and after it received one very perplexing rejection almost a year ago, I’d been waiting for a place I felt fit the vibe of the book. When I saw a Tweet announcing submissions for this new, ambitious, small press, I figured there was nothing to lose. Plus, I really like their approach.

Even cooler? I feel like they really get the book. Which is no easy task. Pilgrim of the Sky is genre-smooshing, incorporating science fiction, fantasy, time-travel, multiverse theory, metal corsets, steampunk, romance, Romantic poetry (especially Wordsworth), and a little bit of religion and a heap of art history. (And floating mansions. And did I mention a talking raven and a guy that turns into a horse? Can you see why I didn’t query this one to agents?)

Still, as strange as the book may be in its genre, it’s still rooted in reality, being the only book I’ve ever written to take place in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts, where I grew up. A lot of what I have to say in that book comes from the 18 years I lived there, and my experiences in that unforgiving climate. For that reason it’s surprisingly personal. The settings in many cases come straight from what I’ve seen–going from Northampton and the First Churches and Nini’s Pizza to Sunderland and the great, 18th century Colonial homes, then along the Masspike to Boston. (As I said in an old post just as I’d started the book: There’s something odd about that part of the world that you can’t quite put your finger on… it’s no coincidence that Lovecraft wrote about New England, let’s just say.)

I will keep you posted in the future, as I’m going to be heading into edits, soon. I’m one of those curious people for whom the editing process is enjoyable, so I’m actually thrilled to be revisiting Maddie, Randall, and everyone else–especially knowing that in less than a year I’ll be able to share their story with readers!

Weird Tales Uncanny Beauty Issue

Picture via Jeff VanderMeer's Flickr stream

I’ve been waiting to talk about this until it was official but, hey, look: official! And awesome. I had the privilege of coming up with a project together with Brigid Ashwood, a brilliant artist and fellow lover of speculative fiction. The piece in the upcoming issue is entitled “The Wakened Image” and it’s a look at some of the “made” women in mythology, taken from the Mabinogion and Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Brigid helped me brainstorm the subject, and then I wrote a three-part poem in blank verse; Brigid provided some astonishingly beautiful pictures to accompany the text.

The issue isn’t available yet, but soon. I’ll keep you posted. I am so excited to share this piece, and definitely squeed a little seeing my name on the front of Weird Tales. Who wouldn’t? :)

The State of Things: Bull Spec Magazine

Today I had the pleasure of being on The State of Things, a show hosted by Frank Stasio on WUNC, along with Samuel Montgomery-Blinn (the editor of Bull Spec), John Kessel, Richard Dansky, and Paul Celmer. We talked a great deal about speculative fiction (with leanings toward science-fiction) and touched on steampunk, technology, the line between reality and fiction, women writing in the genre, and how the genre is changing. You can even hear a version of my short flash piece, “Sand” that was put together especially for the episode.

You can find the whole transcript here! Ah, the magic of the internet.

It was quite the experience–even though I’ve spent a lot of time behind a microphone, it was certainly a bit nerve-wracking. I’ve never been on live radio to speak about anything, let alone one of the things I’m most passionate about in the world (okay, wait, technically I was on the radio in high school to promote our production of Guys & Dolls, but I don’t consider that as, you know, a part of the whole writing career).

It’s great to have had this opportunity, and amusing to me that “Dr. Adderson’s Lens”–the story I talked a little about, and was reprinted in Bull Spec #1–has such legs! It was the first story I’d ever had accepted for publication, back the first time around, but it keeps cropping up. These things really do have lives of their own.

For the curious, I’m putting the text of “Sand” below.


Sand on rocks. Wind blowing. Sand sifting, swirling, making rivers of dust across the flat, red, rocks. Those smooth, hot rocks I made.

The wind, that’s Cass. Right now, she’s mad with me for making so many rocks. But it’s what I do. It’s all I do. I can’t help it.

So Cass makes wind; wind like daggers and chisels, wind that breaks down my rocks, hollows them out—turns the stone to sand.

Sometimes we make lovely things. Sculptures, rock-faces. But we always end up angry at each other, when one part doesn’t come out right, and we tear it down.

I don’t tell Cass this, but every time one of our sculptures fall, I love it. I love it like I love her. Just the same way, I think.

I can’t break her, though, even if I tried. I’m the builder, and she’s the breaker.

It’s what we do. It’s all we do. We can’t help it.

Trying to shoot a clockwork wolf.

I’ve been taking a break from writing. Not a huge long one, but a small one, intended to give my hands a rest and help to jog my brain into allowing me a peek into the last half of the book I’m writing. I’ve been sitting on the same scene for days, and though I wrote about 300 words yesterday, I’m still at a standstill. There’s a wolf in the distance, and the protagonist is trying to stop it from being shot. Which might mean he has to shoot his lover. Did I mention he’s in one of the hells? Right. Um. Sure. It’s the least trippy of the hell narrative bits, but at the same time it’s a highly emotional scene–because it’s so close to reality, I think. He’s basically reliving a very vivid memory, but this time changing it.

Anyway. “Shooting a wolf” is slowly becoming my catch phrase around here. I still haven’t shot it yet. But it needs to be done. I hope to inform the world of the scene (and chapter’s) conclusion in the next day or so, and that way I can move on to a chase scene followed by a surprising moment of intimacy between characters who up until this point have hated each other entirely.

And then there’s the matter of Dinah. She’s been lurking in the dark corners of this book, waiting and watching, and it’s becoming apparent that she wants her own POV. At least a few times. If you’ve read Castledeck and the Arabella, then she’s familiar to you. What you might not know is how she’s connected to both stories. She’s a lot more than she seems from that bit in the short story–essentially she’s a spy and reformed (sort of) courtesan. I think she’s the spice needed to add some flavor to the womens’ POV in Dustman, a contrast to her cousin Marna and a foil for Ash…

Not that you particularly care, but there it is. Thinking aloud and all that crap.

But! Progress is being done, and in light of my own keeping up with stuff. I am, in fact, approaching that halfway point rather steadily… Here’s to small victories!

Cats, hands, and words

We’ve been looking for a new furry friend for the family since our beloved Minerva (the cat) passed away. We went back and forth between wanting to get a dog and a cat, and after every attempt to get a dog was foiled, we opted for the feline variety instead. I love dogs, and I love cats. But I know dogs are much more work. Our Calliope is a wonderful, special, marvelous dog. But she was a ton of work. I trained her from a puppy and it was exhausting–it was also before I had a puppy of my own (i.e. my son)! I just don’t think we’re up for that again right now.

So, we went to the SPCA of Wake County (which is a fabulous facility) today, after meeting some delightful kitties yesterday, with a few in mind. We ended up best matched to a medium hair orange tabby with the curious name of Grasshopper. We’ll be changing that, but she’s going to come home with us in just a few days. They have a potential ringworm issue in her particular room (the rooms for the cats are fantastic little kitty condos–quite a sight to see) but she should be clear soon, hopefully without a lye bath. But we’ll take her even if she’s stinky. I’ve missed having a kitty; every kitty needs a writer, after all. Once she’s here I’ll be sure to post pictures!

Today was also Mother’s Day, so that’s kind of special. My husband made marvelous filet mignon. My son was sick, and generally a little meanie head (he does not deal well with being sick, and takes it out on the world… at three that means a great deal of flailing and screaming bloody murder: tonight, when we were getting him in bed, he kept screaming at us, “This is not my favorite! This is not my favorite!” Yeah, buddy. We know.).

The hands have been okay. Not fabulous, but okay. I’ve had two great writing days; Friday night I had to stop because I was too tired to type any longer, and tonight I had to stop because my hands were starting to hurt. Still: good progress. The story is still moving well, and I am pleased. I only wish I could keep up. I will be patient. Sometimes steroids take a few days to really work.

Technically I wrote three chapters this weekend, which is the best in a long time. So maybe the hands are doing better than I give them credit for. Story wise there was some really odd stuff with the clockwork wolf, the introduction of a new diety, and a very uncomfortable scene with a character who looks like Jabba the Hut, except in human form. A bit of banter (in further Star Wars mode, Marna and Ash are starting to remind me of Leia and Han… which ain’t a bad thing in my book), and some cool exploration in Underally. Tension, tension building… next, a terrifying ride on the Clacker and a surprise ambush.

Now, to bed wi’ me. If it’s anything like this morning, the child will be up in seven hours. Ah, motherhood.

Progressy progress, and knee deep in weird…

Oddly enough, Paul Jessup is having a conversation at his blog right now about the (re)emergence of weird, and I happen to be knee deep in it. It wasn’t expected. At its heart, Dustman is certainly Neo-Victorian, with occasional splashes of steampunk–but more and more I’m seeing how much weird it has to offer. Granted, there’s room for it, as one of the main POVs is journeying seven hells for reasons yet unknown to him (but known to me… oh muah ha ha ha ah). So far he’s encountered coffins made out of blood, blood sucking sand, and visions of his ex-love as a teenager.

Yesterday things got even weirder. I entered a sex scene. I hadn’t planned it, but there it was. Let’s just say it’s the most curious thing I’ve ever written. I can’t even write it down and try to explain it without sounding like some crazy person, but I promise in the context of the story it totally makes sense (subsequently I’d love to see Jung and Freud’s takes on it!). There’s a tunnel involved, as well as thousands of horrifying creatures in pursuit, plus copious use of the word membrane. Then there’s a huge journey and a half-clockwork wolf of magnificent proportion who happens to have a very nice library and impeccable aesthetic tastes. And he may or may not be a god. Although, I should point out, the wolf has nothing to do with the sex…

There is something exceptionally freeing about letting the weird in. Sure, my character is hopped up on essences half this time, and we’re not even sure if his journey is real, or spiritual, or hallucination. But it allows me to stretch the fabric of my own imagination, to poke holes in it, to twist it and wring out all the oddities and then ink them out on the page.

At any rate. The chapter is almost done. Weird is win. One of my favorite bits:

Behind him, Dev could hear the shambling of a hundred limbs, heavy with rot and time. Grasping fingers, the detritus of gods forgotten in the forge of life, machine and flesh. Cogs turned, bones creaked, all creeping closer to him here, in the underbelly of the world.

Status report: Not a huge word haul, but this was one crazy chapter to get through. Slow going is sometimes better going.

Rock ‘n’ Roll

At least, that’s what writing has felt like lately. A story, moving along at a good pace, surprises left and right. I’m working on Dustman (working title) right now, which is a peripheral novel in the Aldersgate Cycle; that is, it takes place in the same world, and has a few cameos from some familiar characters, but isn’t part of the main bulk. The story is much more intimate, in a way, as it has to do with three characters only, who switch POVs throughout the story. The Aldersgate had a much bigger scope–you know, kingdoms at stake and all of that. In this case, though war is raging, it’s the personal stories that are really center of this book.

With the hands in better shape than they’ve been in months, and spring blooming all around me, it’s been quite exhilarating. I’m having those novel moments where I’m just bombarded with scenes and dialogue in the middle of completely mundane tasks. It’s like having a foot in each world, and I love it. It’s been quite some time since this has happened, mostly due to life’s unforeseen complications.

But, starting anew. It’s good. It’s refreshing.

It’s a relief.

Fiddling in short form.

Last night I finally wrote* a synopsis of The Aldersgate. I’m not sure why I hadn’t done this before, since I’d queried it and submitted it to a publisher–but somehow, there it was, un-synopsized (which, I’m aware, is not a word). Normally I kind of dig doing synopses–I did three of them in one weekend a few months ago, and it was almost refreshing. But, those three novels were not multi POV.

The problems with writing multi POV synopses is that clarity cracks. You have so many details, intertwined–and if you forget a minor detail, you have to back if that minor detail turns into a major plot point. Plus, there’s all the back and forth! Lots of “meanwhiles” and “back ins”. Lots of jumping from head to head, which works considerably better in chapter rather than paragraph format.

But I did it!

As it stands, it’s a little longer than I’d have liked. In general, I’m pretty satisfied with it. I do realize that it’s supposed to make sense to me; whether or not readers will understand it is an entirely different question. The long synopsis also made me realize that the hook I had for the novel wasn’t accurate. It described the whole projected series, but not the book itself. It was very exciting to retool that, in a weird way. It’s frustrating, absolutely–but when you get something that works better in the end, even though it’s just a sentence long, it feels quite triumphant.

We writers complain a great deal about synopses and hooks and all that. But the truth is, it’s an essential part of novel writing. If you can’t boil down your story to some basics–if you can’t write a sentence to wrap around the whole thing–something’s amiss. If you’re like me, writing a novel is never the hard part. Thinking big is easy. The challenge comes with thinking small, with pulling back to the micro level. But, as I learned in poetry classes in college, thinking small and perfecting that approach can only enhance the long form.

At any rate, that’s what’s going on right now. I’m also working on a peripheral Aldersgate Cycle novel, which takes place toward the end of the first book, but in Ardesia. It’s about secret societies, corrupt guilds, madmen, magic, and love. Having a fun time with it so far!

That’s the news from here!

*Well, look. I’m typing. I’ve been typing. I typed a whole ton last night. My hands aren’t perfect, but I was able to do it (almost 4,000 words, I should add). I think the strength training is really doing the trick, as well as just losing a few pounds in general. Yay for me!

“Dead’s End to Middleton”

My short story, “Dead’s End to Middleton” is available at Crossed Genres–as of yesterday, in their Steampunk themed issue. It’s got steampunk technology, and guns, and aliens, and explosions. Should be entertaining, anyway! With the moving and whatnot, I’m a little delayed, I’m afraid! Ah, well. There’s some great stories in the issue, and Crossed Genres is well worth taking a look. Exciting to finally see this story go live, that’s for sure.

Friendship is a sheltering tree.

Things have been a little toward the crappy side lately, and while I’m not going to get into the details, one of the most pressing and irritating issues is that I’ve got some pretty severe carpal tunnel going on. I’ve had to resort to using dorky looking braces, taking lots of Aleve, and not typing. The not typing thing is particularly maddening since, well, writing’s what I do (not to mention what I get paid for). To add insult to injury (literally!) since I’ve been stressed out a bit lately, my brain’s first response is to be all OMG HERE’S 20 IDEAS FOR NOVELS YOU MUST WRITE THEM DOWN NOW. (One, I have conceded to. It’s the first story based on mostly actual events that I’ve ever undertaken, and very close to me… and definitely treads the line into magic realism/literary fiction but we’ll see what becomes of that. Once I can actually, you know, type again, I’ll keep you posted. Working title: Glassmere.)

Since things suck I’ve been trying to look on the brighter side and really revel in good news. So: to share some good news! My short story “Dead’s End to Middleton” will be in Crossed Genre’s upcoming steampunk-themed issue. I can’t tell you how thrilled this makes me. The editors, Kay and Bart, are really good people (in every sense) and I love the concept behind their magazine. The issue will be out March 1 and I will post more details as I’m able. (Teaser: the story includes some heavy duty steampunk artillery, seven gun-toting sisters, screeching aliens, and… some science!)

In the meantime I’m working slowly on a project which I’m not yet at leisure to share (one of two… oh, secrets, secrets!) – however, the good part is that it’s in poetry rather than prose, so far fewer words to type. But I am very, very excited about it. Let’s just hope the fingers hold out.

And I can’t type much more or else I’m going to regret it. Rest, rest, rest… I’m not good at that. But I guess I have Season Three of The Tudors to watch… oh, you Early Moderns always get me, even if some of the actors irritate me. There’s always costume ogling, after all.

So, I started with a Coleridge quote and I will finish with Elizabeth I: The past cannot be cured. Hopefully my fingers can, though…