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?

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

The final, glorious journey of Poussey Washington

During the searing last two episodes of Season Four of Orange is the New Black, the prison explodes in violence. By the end, an inmate is dead, and the one person we want to be the hero, to save everyone including himself, fails with such spectacular impact that it’s almost as beautiful as it is destructive.

Poussey, her gamine, whimsical, beautiful, lovely romantic self, lies dead, after gasping, “I can’t breathe.”

And fucking Warden Caputo lets everyone down. Again. And again. And again.

If Game of Thrones fans say of the violence depicted on that show that’s how things were, back in “those days,” OITNB takes an unflinching look at how real violence in “these days” impacts real people. How the myth of the good guy is so powerful that good guys believe it. How words have power to incite race hatred, even if they are accidental words.

But what OITNB has the courage to acknowledge that GoT does not, is that violence is not spectacle, even when we watch it from the comfort from our living rooms, and that should break our hearts.

Caputo fails because he believes he’s one of the good guys, even though he keeps Sophia Burset in solitary, lying to her and her wife and her allies, even though he takes the photo that gets her out, even though he once again tries to serve two masters, his self image and MCC, even though he leaves Poussey’s body lying in the cafeteria, even though he only at the last minute calls her father to tell her she is dead. Caputo never once lives up to his own laser-like focus on his own goodness, even when he holds the press conference absolving the guard who killed Poussey, thinking he is taking a bold stand against his corporate overlords. Caputo’s words incite the riot that ends the season, with sweet inmate Daya holding a gun on a rotten, evil guard.

Sam Healy, of all characters, has the only singular moment of self-realization, when he calls his Russian wife and says, “I am not very good at my job.”

It is hilarious because it’s true. He’s got a power-tripping white savior complex, and in that moment, when he realizes just how bad he is at his job, like the worst prison social worker ever in the history of the field, all anyone can do is laugh til tears come, and not the cathartic ones.

So, Poussey. The show is known for its structural flashbacks that tell us how the inmates and the guards got to prison. So the last we see of Poussey, we think we are seeing that flashback. She’s traveling in Brooklyn and she’s trying to meet up with her friends.

Only gradually does the truth come clear. This is Poussey’s final voyage. She never finds her friends, and her entire journey is one of missed connections. She literally goes underground on the subway. She has lost her way, her phone is stolen, she meets strange and wondrous creatures, and has shared moments of companionship and bonding. At the very end, she is transported on the handlebars of a bicycle pedaled by a fake monk, to the ends of the earth, or at least the waters of the Hudson River.

There, Poussey turns to face the camera and smiles. I’ve taken you as far as I can, she seems to say. Here I go on alone. You can go no farther.

poussey (640x360)





“Reflection” out now in Gingerbread House Literary Magazine

My short story, Reflection, is out now in Gingerbread House Literary Magazine. This is a lovely magazine, focusing on fairytale-inspired stories, with stunning art and a lovely sensibility. Please visit and check out some gorgeous art and wonderfully evocative stories.

Reflection was written in one fell swoop at Cherrywood Coffee House in Austin, Texas. I was sitting opposite my writing buddy, Rebecca Schwarz, and the story poured out of me. It has changed somewhat since that first explosion of words, but it remains essentially the same. It was originally titled The Cinderella Gaze, but I think Reflection suits it better.

Is narcissism a drug? And if it is, are we infecting our young people? This makes me sound like such a grumpy curmudgeon, but I can’t help but wonder — we spend so much time, energy, and focus on external appearance, especially of our young women, we are sapping their energy for anything else.