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?

Woke up in Mordor

I went to bed in the Shire, woke up in Mordor,
Exchanged comfort for horror
And complacency for fear.

But the world that I woke in
Is the same some folks walk in,
And it’s not their fault
This map isn’t mine.

I’ve just been lucky,
Protected by borders,
And locks on the doors.
Didn’t know that orcs had their orders,
Didn’t know the choice wasn’t mine.

Went to bed in the Shire, woke up in Mordor,
Not sure how I got here,
It’s kind of familiar, kind of a nightmare.

Don’t climb the towers
Keep low to the shadows
Don’t raise your head up
Watch out for spiders.

Maybe the Shire was always in Mordor,
Maybe Mordor was always in us.
Hold up the palantir and look at your peril,
Don’t look away til you’ve seen what you must.

Went to bed in the Shire, woke up in Mordor,
Exchanged comfort for horror
And complacency for fear.

Not sure what I’ve got here, neighbors or strangers,
Not sure of the danger, not sure of the fear.
Always thought orcs deserved what they got there,
Beginning to wonder if that’s out of order.

Don’t climb the towers
Keep low to the shadows
Don’t raise your head up
Watch out for spiders.

Fell asleep in the Shire, woke up in Mordor,
Maybe the Shire was always in Mordor,
Maybe Mordor was always in us.

Writing Goals 2017

My 2017 Writing Goals (and maybe they can help you too):

Write even when– no, especially when– I’m tired or not feeling it, or think don’t have time.

Commit to the story. I have too many novels and stories that have languished. The worst story ever completed is a thousand times better than the best fragment or chapter.

Commit to the language. I used to say good writing should disappear in service to the story, but I’ve softened on this; good writing is a joy that serves the story, knows when to call attention to itself, and when to let the plot take center stage. Talented and accomplished author Jessica Reisman and I have argued on this in the past, and she will be happy to know that I’ve come round toward her point of view.

Take joy in writing but also remember that writing can be a hard slog. Remember, writing is easy for everyone except writers. Since it’s so hard, might as well do it right.


Bugs Bunny and the Election of Donald Trump

bugsbunnyWhat’s up, Doc? The carrot-smacking, trouble-making, cross-dressing, opera-loving rabbit, the bane of Elmer Fudd’s existence, encapsulates the American psyche. He’s a trickster, a rogue, a mischief-maker — in an earlier incarnation he was Brer Rabbit, and in still earlier forms he was another species entirely — Anansi the spider or Coyote, or any of the many animal avatars of the trickster god.

It was the spirit of Bugs Bunny that had a lot to do with the election of Donald Trump.

Somewhere along the way, we infantilized the stories of the Trickster God, smoothing out all the evil and nastiness and turning them into stories for children. All those stories of Coyote’s adventures where he gets his comeuppance gloss over the parts where Coyote is truly a harmful entity — chaotic neutral at best or chaotic evil. There are plenty of Native American stories about Coyote that are warnings about him, but all everyone remembers are the funny stories.

lokiSame thing happened to Loki. In Norse mythology he causes trouble just for the sake of it, and causes Baldur’s death. But now he’s played by Tom Hiddleston, and he’s gone from chaotic evil to chaotic rowrr! And no, I didn’t bring this up just so I could find a picture of Tom Hiddleston as Loki. Okay. Maybe a little.

I think everyone feels like they have a little bit of Bugs Bunny in them. That’s why the impulse to overturn the applecart was strong enough in overwhelming numbers of people. The same spirit that animated a great many Bernie Sanders supporters could be found in their political opposites, Trump supporters. And everyone thinks the Trickster spirit is mischievous and roguish. You know, Han Solo. (Totally shallow, I admit it straight up.)hansolo

Because we equate the Trickster with Bugs Bunny or Coyote with a bandanna, or Tom Hiddleston, we forget the actual, real, true power of shaking things up just for the sake of shaking things up. We think it’s not going to be that bad. We just want to shake the gameboard a bit. And because we’ve stopped telling the real, true dangerous myths about Coyote, we didn’t know what we just wrought.

An entire country turned Trickster on itself.

Now, the destructive spirit is a necessary spirit. The rule of law without the trickster is authoritarianism, fascism. But the rule of the trickster without law is anarchy. With the incoming leadership, we get the worst of both worlds — the authoritarianism we’ve just seen, with the images of racist white nationalists saluting Donald Trump with a Nazi salute, combined with the expedient nature of Trump’s platform. The people in power are a brutal combination of authoritarianism and anarchy — they stand for nothing except their own profit, so everything is fair game. Come January 21, we will actually have a power vacuum.

Don’t take the trickster for granted. The trickster god isn’t Bugs. He’s not adorable Coyote, making mischief and getting his comeuppance. The US played with dangerous forces in this last election. Mythology is not to be taken lightly. Even if we don’t know the true stories, we’re still at their mercy. When the gods come out to play, mortals are the ones who get hurt.

*All images copyright their respective creators.