Category Archives: My Fiction

New poem! “Survival in Six Easy Steps”

asdfsdfsI have a new poem out in Strange Horizons! It’s called “Survival in Six Easy Steps” and it’s very different from most of the poems I’ve written before. For one thing: it doesn’t have a love story.

I wrote it at the start of 2018, when all the political things that are currently going on in the world were just starting to happen, and I thought about how many of my friends felt like they needed a vacation, an escape, just to be able to deal with it all, and I thought of how often stress is literally a killer for marginalized people who speak up and dedicate their lives to activism, especially in the wake of a traumatic event. And so, I wrote this poem, about survival and the wilderness and not being able to escape the real world and how we keep living anyway.

You need to go into the wilderness, but there’s no one to take you.
There are women living under your bed,
in the refrigerator,
on every tree branch
on your way to work.

Their eyes are all different—
angry, hopeful, surprised, afraid—
but their hands are all the same. Cold,
bloodless, pulling your lids
up when you’re falling
asleep. Watching you brush
your teeth in the mirror, hiding
your good underwear in the back
of the drawer, forcing you to reach
down. Some days you roll your eyes
at them. Petty, like children.

Read the full poem at Strange Horizons: Survival in Six Easy Steps.

Awards Eligibility Post (aka SF/F works in 2017)

I’ve never done one of these before, but I’ve always wanted to and I guess I’m finally getting it done. I’m still not sure how a lot of SF/F awards work (in terms of categories and schedules, there’s just a lot of them out there for a newcomer to figure out!) but here’s an awkward “a thing I wrote you might want to nominate/vote for if you’re into that sort of thing” first time post anyway.

 

NOVELLA

In 2017 I wrote a novella, Three Keys in the Desert (39,000 words).

In a sentence: it’s science fiction about kids and staff at a military boarding school on a remote planet.

I’m also eligible for the Campbell Award this year.

 

NON-FICTION

 

 

 

 

 

New poem: “Only the Trees”

ARSENIKAJPGI’m very excited to announce that I have a new poem in the latest issue of Arsenika!

(I’ll always remember the publication history of this poem, because I nearly missed the acceptance notice for it /o\ It had gone to my junk folder and I saw it a week late, and might never have responded to it if I hadn’t accidentally checked the status on Arsenika’s website itself. KIDS, ALWAYS CHECK YOUR SPAM FOLDER.)

“Only the Trees” is kind of difficult to sum up, but I will say it’s one of my most explicitly romantic poems.

 

A storm blew down
the tree your bones
nourished, through the
roots. They cleaned
you from the dirt and
tore you away from
where I left you, lying
peaceful, reborn an
older creature, my
heart with you, a
piece of tissue and
blood, keeping you
warm.

Read the rest of “Only the Trees” >>

 

On Names and Where They Come From

Hello friends, and welcome to the post that will probably interest you if (1) you’ve read my scifi novella Three Keys in the Desert, or (2) you like reading meta about how writers come up with names for their characters.

If you’re part of group #1, I should tell you this post won’t expand the universe of the novella itself. What it will do is give you more background into who I am as an author and where my creative choices come from. (I’m not always into learning about the behind-the-scenes of the stories I like, so I just thought I’d disclose that up front.)

On the meaning of names

So, because Three Keys in the Desert was the first long work I wrote as an adult (the first draft of it, in 2007, was about 24,000 words) it was not only uncomfortably autobiographical but was also an amalgamation of all the things I loved and had always wanted to put into stories. Especially where names were concerned.

For this reason, a lot of the names I used in the novella meant something to me and had a whole backstory behind them. I made sure the names were always a reflection of the character’s identity, but often they also had personal significance to me, like my own secret little in-joke.

So, now I’m going to share some of those personal meanings, in no particular order.

1. Sol

As a kid I grew up watching the show “Chiquititas”, an Argentinian telenovela for kids. The storyline concerned an orphanage for girls in Argentina where everyone wore uniforms and sang songs every episode. If you’ve read the novella you can already see how the setting of that show is reminiscent of its setting 🙂

Sol was a character on “Chiquititas”, but in the first seasons (which are the ones I remember the most) she wasn’t actually part of the orphanage. She was the youngest girl on the show, maybe 10 years old, and lived in an apartment with a few of the supporting characters. I remember learning as a kid that “sol” was Spanish for “sun”.

Little Sol was truly a ray of sunshine. She smiled the most, she was the youngest and most adorable, and her life wasn’t as tragic as the lives of the orphan girls (at least at first). I knew very early on, when plotting Three Keys in the Desert, that my Sol would be none of those things.

Or rather, that she would be like an echo, or a memory, of that little girl.

 

2. Ebie

Growing up I loved a lot of what I call “old school HBO” shows. Most of them were historical fiction (for example, the amazing “Rome”), they had a huge budget, and they were doing things with historical narratives that I’d never really seen before.

I think the last show of this kind I watched before writing the novella was “Deadwood”. It was about a small 19th century settlement in the U.S. that transforms into a town, and the costs and benefits of civilization.

One of the characters on Deadwood was named E.B. Farnum. He owned a lodging house and over time became the town’s mayor. I doubt he was most people’s favorite character – he was cowardly, greedy, selfish, abusive to his employees, opportunistic. He had no backbone and no principles and not even good looks, or youth, or humor or wit to “redeem” him to the viewers.

Nevertheless, he was on “Deadwood” for as long as it ran, and he got a lot of attention and character development. If “Deadwood” was a show about human nature, then E.B. Farnum was a mirror of the worst parts of us ordinary folk. Arrogant, petty, a coward and often a fool. Nothing about him was attractive or interesting except his inherent humanity.

I remember thinking that of all the characters on “Deadwood” – the stalwart hero, the foul-mouthed brothel owner, the silly journalist, the compassionate doctor – E.B. Farnum was almost impossible to imagine being played by a woman.

I couldn’t find a single example of when a woman was allowed to play this sort of role, and remain on the side of “good”, and have significant character development over the course of multiple seasons. What would a woman playing the most cowardly, most wretched, most petty and mean and arrogant human who was still somehow perfectly average even look like? I couldn’t imagine a TV audience rooting for a woman who was all of these things, the way I was meant to be rooting for E.B. Farnum.

So, Ebie is named after him.

Of course, there’s almost nothing in common between Ebie and E.B. In fact Ebie is probably Farnum’s polar opposite. But when I created Ebie I thought of all her faults, and I thought to myself how far this flawed character was from the profound, “unattractive” flaws of E.B. Farnum, and I named her as a reminder to myself. As an aspiration.

Write more women who are flawed and “unsympathetic” and inherently, deeply, movingly human. Write about the ugliest parts of yourself. Women should be allowed to have their own stories, even when they’re only in it for themselves. Even when they’re not there to take care of anyone. Even when nothing about them is admirable.

 

3. Vrei

Vrei’s name, like a lot of the kids’ names (including “Ebie”) is meant to sound like it was meant to be a real name but didn’t quite get there. I wanted to create a sense for the reader that the kids in Three Keys in the Desert had fundamentally different names than the adults. I wanted them to be less obviously gendered, less obviously derived from a recognizable language.

Vrei was named after the French word “vrai”, which means “truth”. There’s an extra note of appropriateness, I guess, since Vrei spends most of the story looking for the truth about a certain incident.

As far as I’m aware, “vrai” isn’t a given name among French speakers anywhere. So, I wanted Vrei to create a sense of “huh, your name is kind of like a real word, except it isn’t”. It fit with how the system saw the kids in the story – they were almost like real people, but not quite.

 

4. Claudia

If Vrei and Ebie were meant to sound like names that were not-quite-names, I chose Claudia because it was a name that sounded ordinary and “normal” in so many languages. Spanish, Greek, French, Italian, English. I don’t have to change a single letter, and Claudia and is still Claudia. (If you’re wondering, I usually pronounce her name the Spanish way in my head.)

As an immigrant myself, I wanted the “permanence” of Claudia’s name to be an indication of her privilege. If the kids in Three Keys in the Desert have identities that are sort of blurry, as far as the system is concerned, Claudia is someone everyone sees very clearly.

It was also important for me to give her (and the other adults) a name with several syllables, contrary to the names of the children. There’s something very “indulgent” in a name that long. In a way, the kids had to have short names because they were moved so frequently. The shorter the name, the easier it is for new people to pronounce and remember. Which is a dynamic that’s never applied to people like Claudia.

 

5. Bo

The reason I chose this name is probably the simplest one yet. In the early outlines of the novella, Bo’s character was referred to simply as “boy”. He was Sol’s boy, the boy Kim befriends, the boy no one takes seriously. And so eventually I just settled on calling him “Bo”, for short.

The point of his character, in many ways, was that the things that happen to him are completely random. Nothing – from Sol choosing him, to the later events of the novella – is really due to his initiative or actions. In my head, he played a role that girls often play in these sorts of narratives, where they just react to things older and more powerful people do around them and to them. So, he was just “boy”.

 

So, these were some of my personal reasons for naming the characters as I did. I mean, you can tell this story took over a decade to finish because I have paragraphs of things to say about the names alone, haha. Anyway, if by some chance you haven’t read Three Keys in the Desert yet, the ebook is on sale for $0.99 until tomorrow, so now’s probably your best chance to get it for cheap.

If you’d like to get an email next time I publish something (probably in uh… a pretty long time), you can subscribe to my New Release Mailing List.

Thanks for reading, and have a great day.

 

 

Three Keys in the Desert – on sale!

So, a few days ago I finished posting Three Keys in the Desert, my little military SF novella featuring a cast of mostly women. As I’ve said before – I wrote this story over a decade ago, and wasn’t sure it would really find an audience or be interesting enough to be read by anyone.

I’ve been really overwhelmed by the reactions to it, quite honestly. Thank you so much to everyone who bought the book, who read along with the posts, who retweeted or shared my daily updates, who left a review and who tweeted and emailed me to say how much they enjoyed the story.

All of that means more to me than you can ever know. ❤

So, what now, you might ask?

Well, for the next week, the novella will be on sale! Which means if you haven’t gotten it yet, now’s your chance to get the ebook for $0.99! 

Barnes & Noble | Amazon | iTunes | Kobo

After July 7th the price will rise to the princely sum of $2.99.

What if I already bought the book?

Well, first of all, you’re my personal hero. But also, in the coming weeks I’m hoping to do some behind-the-scenes and bonus material type posts, so I hope you’re done reading the full story in time for that!

Anyway, thank you, again, to everyone who’s been part of this adventure so far.

Three Keys in the Desert: the map!

Hello friends!

So, we’re past the middle of June, and past the middle of Thee Keys in the Desert! Yesterday part 20 went live, which means there are only 7 parts left, meaning 7 days and we’re done.

So, I thought today might be a good time to take a break and post some bonus material. A few people have asked me about how the world of the novella is arranged, what districts are next to what, how the space works, etc. To answer all (or at least some) of those questions, I’m happy to share with you this map!

(All credit for making it pretty, instead of an ugly, crooked drawing on a piece of printer paper, goes to the amazing Dana.)

 

map600

>> click for full size map <<

Here you can see where all the districts are, and their size relative to each other, and where the food happens, and where the Fluff Palace is.

If you have any questions about it I’m always happy to answer!

I hope you’ve been enjoying Three Keys in the Desert, and I promise we’re going back to our regular posting schedule tomorrow.

 

Three Keys in the Desert

On a remote planet, a military boarding school is about to get a new headmistress. Her charges will include Ebie, a girl desperately trying to keep a secret, Kim, a boy desperately trying to keep his friends from dying, and Vrei, a girl who just wants to make it to the end of the day. Will any of them get what they want? With only a week until Transfer Day, the biggest and most important event of the year, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

The novella is available as an ebook and also as a free read on my website, posted in chapters.

Buy the ebook:

iTunes | KoboAmazon | Barnes & Noble

 Bonus materials:

Map of where the story takes place

Behind-the-scenes of naming choices in the story

 Read the story online:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

Part 12

Part 13

Part 14

Part 15

Part 16

Part 17

Part 18

Part 19

Part 20

Part 21

Part 22

Part 23

Part 24

Part 25

Part 26

For updates about future stories sign up for the New Release Mailing List.

Save