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?

The ritual cleaning of the office in between manuscripts

That floor is a thing of beauty.
That floor is a thing of beauty.

I believe that humans are creatures of ritual — renewal and rebirth, migration and return. We are dependent on the ebb and flow of tides and the circle of the seasons. Even now, when we are largely creatures removed from the need to hunt and forage, when we are no longer dependent upon growing seasons, we crave that sense of marking time. It’s no longer the first and last frosts, or the equinox or the solstice, or the tide and the phases of the moon. When we don’t have that instinct that it’s time to move on to the next hunting ground or to follow the sun south, we make our own rhythms and our own cycles.

Y’all, I just cleaned out my office. The manuscript is complete — well, that was done a while ago, but now, the second draft edits are done. I didn’t take a before picture because I couldn’t even stand to go into the room. It was a landfill. Paper everywhere, books everywhere,  music all over the place — it was horrendous. I couldn’t find anything, and there was stuff falling out of shelves and cabinets. But behold! A clear floor. The ritual cleaning of the office is complete. The old project is put to bed, and I have cleared space emotionally, physically, and mentally.

So you all know what this means, righ?

Time to start a new novel.


Catching up: Eating Authors, SXSW, other news

Lawrence Schoen, novelist, anthologist, short story writer, and Klingon speaker, has a feature in which he has authors describe their most memorable meal.

LMS: Welcome, Patrice. Please tell me about your most memorable meal.

PS: There have been a handful of meals in my life that have been the best food I’ve ever eaten, and all of them could have been the “right” answer to your question. Sure, the meal at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago was fabulous, every bite a revelation in gastronomy. I have never eaten such elegantly prepared, gorgeously presented, originally conceived food in my life. Read more.

After a lovely chat in New York with Agent Goloboy, I am excited about my new series going out on submission. I am in good hands. And this is going to be an exciting year. And I just know good things are in store.

My article, Writing and the Day Job, came out in the SFWA Bulletin in February. My short story, Murder on the Hohmann, comes out in Futuristica Vol. I in June. I hope to have more story news later this year.
Gfire SXSW 2016

And just to keep up my cool, slick persona, which you all know and envy, here is a photo from SXSW: rocker Gfire. She set up a singer-songwriter lineup of women who rock and it included performers from Austin, Ireland, and France. Gfire is my voice instructor and my inspiration. And she is one of the hardest-working musicians I know and braver than anything. After all, she is trying to teach me how to sing.

Two letters to the convention community

Dear Convention organizers and volunteers,

You are the beating heart and wise soul of the science fiction convention circuit. Your involvement, planning, enthusiasm, and just plain super-hero energy are what makes the con world go ’round. I can’t even run my own life — I don’t think I could run a con. And you guys do it every year. You have to deal with hotels that forget to tell you they have a 110-decibel Christian rock praise service at the same time you are running panels, and you have to organize guests, fans, meeting rooms, con suites, and logistics that would make any mortal a gibbering idiot.

I salute you.

But. And you knew there would be a but. Because I’m a butt. But I digress.

Here are a few ideas to keep in mind for programming.

Not every panel idea is a good idea. If the programming committee can’t think of three good areas of discussion for a panel topic, it’s probably not a good panel topic.  Don’t necessarily rely on the guests or the moderator to salvage a vague panel thesis. If there’s no clear idea of what the panel is about, it’s probably not going to be an interesting panel. Floundering Panelists may be a good name for a band, but it makes for a lousy panel.

Know your guests. We all fill out the questionnaires, but they don’t go that in depth. However, at a regional convention, we all know the usual suspects. So for example in Texas, for outrageous enthusiasm, you have the Four Redheads of the Apocalypse. For the curmudgeonly contrarian, there’s A. Lee Martinez. For Strong Opinions on Feminism, there’s Stina Leicht. Etc. Use your superpowers for good, and put the opinionated people on the opinionated panels. If you are running a con in Texas, you know who is likely to be there, and what their strengths are. Play to those strengths and even, dare I say it, reach out to these people outside of the questionnaire.

And that brings me to:

Don’t play it safe. Safe panel topics are boring. Con panels should be thought provoking and even provocative. They should be loud, with lots of debate. Maybe even raucous. After all, we — panelists, guests, fans — go to cons to have these conversations. We want to get into meaty discussions.

There’s a lot of competition now from media cons. I happen to believe cross-pollination is a great thing, but it means that traditional cons have to bring their A game. ConDFW was faced with a difficult situation this year as Dallas ComiCon was programmed against it. One way to get fans excited about traditional conventions is to have stellar programming. We have, what, a 75-year history or more of science fiction conventions? Let’s bring back the excitement for fans.

Dear Authors, Editors, Artists, and other Panelists,

Come on, guys. Being a pro means working a bit harder on panels. Yes, many of us have done this for a while, and it’s hard to gin up excitement about some panel ideas. But being a creator isn’t a right, it’s a privilege, and going to cons is how we give back to the community. So please, a little more enthusiasm. Engage with the audience. Be a performer. Yes, we are all a bunch of introverts, yeah yeah. In your heart of hearts, though, you know you want to steal the show.

Have you been tapped to moderate? Well, come up with questions about the panel topic and try to make them provocative and challenging. Don’t know some of the people on the panel? Look them up. Tailor questions. Make it interesting for everyone.

Panelists, remember the first part of this letter? There’s excitement, and then there’s hogging the airtime. Don’t be that panelist. Let everyone have a turn in the spotlight. We are all guilty of this one, but it’s just basic courtesy.

Have you ever been assigned to a panel that isn’t your area or you find dull as dirt? Tell the programming committee. Don’t suffer through a panel you aren’t interested in, because you sure won’t be an interesting panelist.

We’re all in this together. The pressure from media cons and the aging of fandom means that cons are threatened as never before. We need to bring in the anime fans, the cosplayers, and the media fans and show them that they can have as much fun here — and for far less money — than at a big ComiCon or Comicpalooza. For most of us, we were fans first. Let’s remember the excitement of our first cons and try to recreate that. It’s not always easy, and I will be the first to admit I didn’t exactly bring my game this weekend. But let’s try to get our mojo back, hmm?

Because the alternative is not that much fun — boring conventions with a dwindling fan base.