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?

ConDFW here I come

I will be at ConDFW this weekend. Looks to be a good one. Since I despise the drive from Austin to Dallas, I’m taking the bus, and actually I’m looking forward to it. I can get some reading done, and maybe even some writing. That would be nice.

I’m going to be on the following panels:
Saturday, 11am: Return of the Lone Western
Panelists: Sabine Starr (M), Scott A. Cupp, Tex Thompson, Linda Donahue, Patrice Sarath, Bill Crider
Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight brought signature Western back to the cinemas this past month. Is it a sign the Western is back?  Or is it just a fanboy’s dream?  Our panelists talk about cinematic Westerns and their effect on writing Westerns in today’s world.
Saturday, 3pm: The Slippery Slope Between Mystery and Horror
Panelists: Patrice Sarath (M), Scott A. Cupp, Lillian Stewart Carl, Carole Nelson Douglas, Teresa Patterson, Bill Crider
When does a murder mystery become horror?  In “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie, all 10 people who go to the island mansion die, one by one, in increasingly disturbed ways.  Is it still a mystery by the end?  Or is it a horror novel?  Our panelists explore the boundary between mystery and horror and how to use it to its full potential.
Saturday, 5pm: Where do Heroes Go to Die?
Panelists: Tracy S. Morris (M), Barbara Ann Wright, Patrice Sarath, Gloria Oliver, Michelle Muenzler
Last year we heard that Arnold Schwarzenegger is doing Legend of Conan (eventually?  Maybe?  Now it looks like November 2016) as a direct sequel to the first Conan, where it ended with him being King, old and grizzled.  As a concept, the idea is neat, and is something that Howard dealt with in his original stories as well.  Just how do you write old heroes?  Our writers of sword and sorcery discuss these topics
and more.

Sunday, 11am: KM Tolan, Patrice Sarath

Looking forward to 2016

After a pretty decent 2015, stirring things are in the air for 2016. Lots to look forward to, to keep up the momentum. Here’s where I’ve been:

The astronaut on the cover is the main character in my story, Murder on the Hohmann.
The astronaut on the cover is the main character in my story, Murder on the Hohmann.
  • In 2015 I sold one short story “Murder on the Hohman,” forthcoming in the anthology Futuristica)
  • I sold a nonfiction article for the SFWA Bulletin, forthcoming in February, on writing with a day job
  • I wrote The End on one novel and finished revisions on another one (inasmuch as revisions are ever really finished)
  • I wrote four short stories, two of which are out on submission, one sold, and one is waiting to get critiqued by my writers group
  • I wrote spec chapters for an epic fantasy that I will not abandon  — it’s on suspended animation for now
  • I am in process of writing a science fiction screenplay for an idea I’ve been noodling around with for a while — also in suspended animation but not abandoned
  • I signed with Agent Jennie of Red Sofa Literary

Here’s where I’m going:

  • I plan to finish revisions on Book 1 of the Tales of Port Saint Frey and send to my agent (mid-January)
  • I plan to start revisions on Book 2 of the Tales of Port Saint Frey and send to my agent (Feb-March)
  • I plan to start Book 3 of the Tales of Port Saint Frey and finish by November or December
  • I plan to unsuspend the pending works and make headway on those as well
  • And I plan to write the short stories that make themselves known to me as wanting to be written.

So it’s a big year ahead. And it’s not just writing. I’ve started taking voice lessons and I’m thinking of adding piano lessons to that. I’m going to get back into the saddle in 2016 as well; I am ready to challenge myself again and be a rider (though I’m going to be reasonable about it.) I’m going to watch movies and hear music and be with my friends and work hard at the day job and the writing job, and try as much as possible to be happy.

There. Resolutions unlocked. Let’s do 2016.

Sickly hell — a Christmas Carol

Sickly hell, or strep throat takes Christmas

Fevered faces, red-hot faces,
Chills and high temps are here,
Penicillin attacking
the germs.
Hours passing, nothing happening
I’ve got so much to do.
And every moment you’ll hear me:

Sickly hell, sickly hell,
This isn’t time for strep throat.
Trim the tree, buy last gifts,
Soon it will be Christmas Day.

People rushing, my nose gushing,
Everyone’s getting shit done.
Me, I’ve got lists and nothing
to show.
Taking medicine, happy medicine,
Wanting it to kick in.
And every moment you’ll hear me:

Sickly hell, sickly hell,
This isn’t time for strep throat.
Trim the tree, buy last gifts,
Soon it will be Christmas Day.