Best short stories of 2015

This time, folks, I’m doing it right. I’m going to  keep a running tally of stories that I really liked so that when review season comes around, I won’t be scratching my head going, what did I read again? Feel free to ping me with the stories that you have read so I can read them!

Beautiful Boys, by Theodora Goss. First published in Lightspeed in January 2015.

Chocolate Chip Cookies for the Apocalypse, by Claire Spaulding. First published in Daily Science Fiction in February 2015.

Labyrinth, by Amelia Grey. First published in The New Yorker, February 16, 2015.

The Other Side of Pain, by Haley Isleib, First published in Daily Science Fiction in March 2015.

This is the Story that Devours Itself, by Michelle Muenzler, Daily Science Fiction in March 2015.

“The Prospectors” by Karen Russell, The New Yorker June 8, 2015.

The One Mission, by Patricia Russo, Daily Science Fiction, June 26, 2015.

“The Seeker: A Poison in the Blood,” Victor Milán, The Change: Tales of Downfall and Rebirth, June 2015

“The Soul Remembers Uncouth Noises,” John Barnes, The Change: Tales of Downfall and Rebirth, June 2015

“The Hermit and the Jackalopes,” Jane Lindskold, The Change: Tales of Downfall and Rebirth, June 2015

“The Quest You Have Chosen Defies Your Fate,” Beth Cato, Daily Science Fiction, August 2015

“Little Man,” Michael Cunningham, The New Yorker, August 10, 2015.

The Demon of Russet Street, by Jessica Reisman, Three-lobed Burning Eye #27, September 2015.

Black Friday, by Rebecca Schwarz, Devilfish Review.

Who Will Greet You At Home, by Lesley Nneka Arimah, The New Yorker, October 26, 2015.

Novella Category:

Waters of Versailles, by Kelly Robson,, June 2015.

In the novel category:

Medicine for the Dead, by Arianne “Tex” Thompson. Solaris



What readers want

A book is like a faerie door -- enter at your own peril.
A book is like a faerie door — enter at your own peril.

Announcing a new blog series, and I’m looking for your input. What Readers Want asks readers of all genres what they are looking for in a good book (or not so good book, we don’t judge). This isn’t market research per se; no one is going to run out and write a book based on elements people post here. But it’s a fair way to get at the mystery of what makes a good book.

So readers: Are there things you miss in books? Things you love? Things you are so over, you wish the genre would move on already?

Tell us all about the characters, plots, and settings that make your heart sing or the opposite — the ones that disappointed. I want to hear from you!

What Readers Want:

What do you like in a good book?
What ruins a book for you?
I want a protagonist who…
I want an antagonist who…
I long for settings and plot that…
I like series that…
I will read anything that has…

Answer in the comments or ping me with an e-mail on the contact form.



YA vs NA

What’s the difference between YA and NA (New Adult)?

Depends on who you talk to. For some agents and editors, NA specifically means sexytimes, and NA is therefore shelved with women’s fiction. For other agents and editors, NA may have adult themes and older protagonists, but it doesn’t have to have adult sexual content.

With so many adult readers reading YA, it was inevitable that novels aimed at the 18-25 year old bracket would make it onto the shelves. I myself believe that it directly comes out of the fanfic and slash fandom communities. I think NA can be a fantastic addition to books for adult readers. Some YA is middle grade and younger, and while it’s great stuff, it doesn’t have the sophistication (perhaps) that can be enjoyed by older readers. Also, many 16 year olds may not want to be seen reading stuff for younger kids.

Ace fantasy book Red Gold BridgeBut does that mean that YA for older (say 16-18 year olds) is going to give way? Will there be a market for books for older teens that explores adult themes but doesn’t necessarily include adult content? Are we narrowbanding the genre and constricting it so much that we lose some of the upper-age group for this genre?

In my own books, the Gordath Wood series, they are definitely not YA, though the character of Kate Mossland is just barely 16 in the first book, and is only 17 by the third — and by then she has not only grown up, she has changed the very course of the history of her adopted country, and is embarking on a relationship with an older man. Although there is frank talk of sexuality, especially birth control, there is very little sexual content.

crow-gods-girl-front-smcrowYA or NA? I’m not sure.

What do you think of the new NA genre?

Rain down on me with words

Weather’s gift in August is gratefully accepted,
When a breeze scatters leaves and the sun is veiled.
Thunderclouds tower and darkly sail.
Rain, we say, rain! This time of year! So unexpected!

The other night silent lightning illuminated the sky,
A pulsing white aurora — we saw this movie, we joke,
Nervously, waiting for the rain to soak.
While stars shone in the rest of the sky.

Today the clouds pull together in herds.
Foaming white, in squalls their waters break.
The cracked earth its thirst to slake.
I wish they would rain down on me with words.

ArmadilloCon wrap up

One of the best ArmadilloCons ever. Everyone said it. Everyone remarked on the programming, the energy, the panels, the guests, and the fans. The workshop was a blast, and the stories I got to read and the students in my group, were all eager and smart and funny. We all learned some good stuff — it was like a creative writing seminar. And I was so grateful to be part of it.

A shout out to my coteacher Urania Fung — she is so smart and insightful about writing. Everyone should take her class at Tarrant County Community College.

I conducted a writing exercise that went very well. Every time I present this exercise, I never know what to expect. It’s simple — I provide two writing excerpts. One is from mainstream literature, the other a spec-fic selection. The prompt is to rewrite each section, the mainstream, as genre, and the genre as mainstream. The goal is to get at the telling detail, the emotion, the character development, while building a world in service to those aspects. The point is that worldbuilding supports your character and plot; it’s not the point of it. And if you can take a mainstream excerpt and skiff-ify it while keeping the emotional truth, then that’s what you bring in to a speculative story. We’re telling stories, not travelogues (although that can be pretty cool too).

So, every time I teach this, it goes differently. Sometimes students get it, sometimes they don’t, but always there’s some gem that comes out of it. A few students and some of the other workshop teachers told me they enjoyed the exercise.

We tried something different with the Reversa-Panel, which was having audience members talk about what books they enjoyed and why, what they looked for in a good book, and what made they reread if they were rereaders. I’m a big rereader. I love rereading. There are books and authors who are comfort reads for me, there are books that I reread because the writing is like a master class and I want to see how it’s done, and there are books I reread, like mysteries, because even though I know how they end, I loved the journey so much I want to take it again.

It was a blast to be on the law enforcement panel with Myke Cole (tough dude!) and Joe McKinney (Toastmaster!), Jaime Lee Moyer (soft-spoken historical fiction author!) and Rob Rogers (good dad award!), and the late night science panel was surprisingly crowded.

But hey, science girls — please come to science panels. We had me, Amy Sisson, and in the audience JJ Litke. I know that science doesn’t interest everyone, and believe me, my chemistry and physics grades in high school were pretty typical of a fantasy loving English major type, but — and maybe this is too prescriptive — we need more interest in science, and we need more atypical perspectives in science. Maybe now more than ever.

There. Enough preaching. I read from the new novella which is out on submission, and because it’s a prequel to my story Murder on the Hohmann, I even sold a few volumes of the Futuristica anthology.

Great con. Great people. Great parties. Lots of wonderful discussion. Let’s do it all again next year!

My ArmadilloCon schedule

Here’s my schedule for ArmadilloCon, July 29 through July 31.


Writers Workshop. In addition to the critiquing sessions, I am conducting a writing exercise that I call The Telling Detail; Creating a fantasy world using the right details, the importance of tone, and emotional atmosphere to bring SFF worlds to life.


Noon-1:00 PM
Cole, Dimond, Fischer, Rogers, Sarath*, White
Readers tell writers what they like and want to read!

Portrayal of Law Enforcement in SFF
1:00 PM-2:00 PM
Cole*, Maresca, McKinney, Moyer, Rogers, Sarath
Do people get it right? What does getting it right look like?

5:30 PM-6:00 PM

Where Has All the Science Gone?
9:00 PM-10:00 PM Landon*, Ledbetter, Moore, Sarath, Scarber, Sisson