Category Archives: Reviews

Things I wrote in 2018

New year 2019At the start of 2018 I had a few writing goals: spend the first six months of the year writing short stories (hopefully about one a month) and the last six months working on my novel draft. I hoped I’d have half of my first draft done by 2019, but I knew these were very optimistic plans.

 

Poems

I had two poems published! Which turned out to be my two publications for the year. I’m still enormously happy (and a little surprised, frankly) that every poem I’ve submitted to editors so far has been accepted for publication somewhere.

In February Only the Trees came out in Arsenika. I really love this indulgent love poem, because most of the poetry I’ve ever written was love poetry, unlike my fiction which has had a lot less romantic content. I’m so happy it found a home and people seemed to enjoy it.

In September Strange Horizons published Survival in Six Easy Steps, probably my most political poem so far and the one I’m still the most proud of. It’s hard to talk about, for me, because it just feels like the articulation of a truth that’s been with me and will stay with me for a long while if not the rest of my life.

Nonfiction

I told myself I was going to take it easy on the nonfiction this year and focus more on fiction, but of course ended up writing the same amount of articles as last year. /o\

The full list:

I do consider it the epitome of my ~personal brand~ that I wrote an article on how to worldbuild your fictional military correctly and an article on how Romance should be taken more seriously as SF/F within months of each other. It doesn’t get more me than that.

But I got to write for four different outlets this year! Three of them entirely new for me! It has been a struggle though, to sit on my hands and NOT pitch articles about things like “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”, or “Titans” or “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power” because I Do Not Have Time To Write More Articles.

Short Stories

I ended up writing three short stories in the first half of 2018, about 50% of my most optimistic estimate. One was accepted for publication and will be out next year, one is still making the rounds among various magazines, one is still unfinished.

In general, writing short stories is a really long, arduous process for me, something I kind of knew going into 2018, but was hoping to somehow improve at. No joke, a short story can take me about 8 months from conception to finished product, when a full edit of my nearly-novel-length novella took me two months.

At the end of September I was lucky enough to meet Ann Leckie, one of my favorite writers, at an SF/F con and even luckier to find myself sitting next to her at a dinner table. There were a few other writers present, and I shared my experience of short stories absolute torture for me, they took so long and I felt like producing publishable stuff was an endless process. And then Ann Leckie told me I should just forget about short stories and focus on my book instead.

For some reason having that affirmation from a writer I so deeply admire gave me some kind of mental push to just say, forget about short stories for a while, focus on the novel. Whenever my brain tries to tell me I’ll never amount to anything if I can’t even produce decent short stories I can tell it to shut up because Ann Leckie told me I was allowed to focus on other things, haha.

The Novel

Oh hey, I can update about this now! Me writing a novel is a real thing, not something that exists solely in my head! The working title is Empress of Ashes.

I spent November writing 50,000 words of my first draft (all of it will be scrapped for the second draft, but that was a given), ended up doing other things entirely in December, and am now going to get back to writing that last 30k in January! Every day we get ever closer to the magical moment when I can experience resounding rejection from agents and publishers about my very own novel!

What’s next?

What’s my writing wishlist for 2019?

If I’m very, very fortunate, I hope to have the second draft of the novel done by the end of the year, and maybe even be in the process of a third draft (out of, hopefully, no more than five, but who knows). I hope I can take time in between drafts to write at least one short story (plus finish the one I started this year).

It’s a lot of grunt work. I suspect I’ll have even fewer publication credits next year, compared to this year. But I knew this time had to come if I wanted any hope of publishing a book. So, here we go.

New article! Magic, history and queer romance

KJCharles-booksHello friends! I’ve found that I usually write up to 4 non-fiction articles a year these days, that’s a number that seems to balance well with my fiction writing, but in 2018 I got to write 5! I pitched this article right before basically being away from my computer for a month, heard back from the (wonderful) editor while I was traveling in China, had to postpone writing it because of, among other things, a death in the family, and eventually ended up writing it in the middle of (successfully!) doing NaNoWriMo for the first time. So, it’s been eventful around these parts!

Anyway, I’ve wanted to write about KJ Charles’ work for a long time for an SFF publication, because I’m tired of there being a brick wall between “SFF” and most “Romance”, especially when it comes to queer romance (which is also not exactly embraced by the mainstream Romance industry).

So, if you already know and love KJ Charles’ books I hope you enjoy my take on them, and if you’ve never heard of her before, I hope this serves as a good introduction!

In my experience, people who’ve read at least two of Charles’ books (she’s published about twenty of them) have a tendency to then read extensive swaths of her backlist. Her novels provide something rare in the literary market even today, in 2018: well-researched historical, fantastical fiction that features love stories between queer people.

Genres are flawed, porous constructs, and many stories live in between the established categories or straddle several of them, which doesn’t make a bookseller’s job very easy. The reason we recommend a book by saying “it’s X genre” is that it’s a shortcut to saying: “it’s the sort of thing you like.”

Read History, Queer Romance, and Fantasy Combine in the Work of KJ Charles on Tor.com.

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

 

 

 

 

 

Review: The OA

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It’s difficult to categorize The OA as fantasy or science fiction or horror. A series that deals with angels, the science of immortality, and friendly-looking scientists who kidnap people to experiment on them in basements, The OA offers some fresh takes—as well as moments of muddled, cliché philosophical “insights.”

The series’ greatest strength is arguably the aspect that I’ve so far seen discussed least. Brit Marling plays a young woman who disappears for seven years and then returns, able to see where before she was blind, and recounts the story of her abduction to a group of misfits at her small town in the US. Adopted at a young age by a couple in their fifties, who named her Prairie, Marling’s character was abducted after she ran away from her parents and tried to make a living playing her violin in the New York City subway. A well dressed, kind, and friendly academic by the name of Hap (Jason Isaacs) takes her out to dinner after apparently falling in love with the way she plays, then convinces her to accompany him to his house, takes her downstairs to what’s supposed to be his guest bedroom, only for Prairie (blind, at this stage) to discover he’s locked her in a glass box in his basement.

Read the full review on Strange Horizons >>

 

Review of the first season of “Jessica Jones”

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Fashionably late, here’s my review of the first season of “Jessica Jones”! I actually wrote this the week the show came out, but for various reasons it took a while to get it it ready for publication.

Jessica Jones is without doubt the best TV show Marvel has produced to date, and possibly the most original main character they’ve brought to the screen since introducing the world to Tony Stark as Iron Man. The show is not without flaws, but everything about it feels fresh, unusual, exciting. Partly it’s because a show about a female superhero, especially one who drinks whiskey and crushes cockroaches with her bare hands without flinching, is tragically rare amid a sea of morally gray superpowered men. But partly it’s because Jessica Jones genuinely has an engaging yet disturbing story to offer.”

Read the full review at Strange Horizons >>

Review of “Sorcerer to the Crown” by Zen Cho

25855734I recently wrote a review of Zen Cho’s excellent debut novel “Sorcerer to the Crown”, for Strange Horizons.

“Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown is set in nineteenth-century London, where magical resources are scarce and only men of a certain standing are encouraged to practice sorcery. It tells the story of Zacharias Whyte, protégé of England’s premier magician, and Prunella Gentleman, the prodigy who can restore English magic to its former glory. Both essentially orphaned as babies, Zacharias and Prunella have grown up as outsiders in their home culture, and have had to navigate a social landscape that doesn’t quite know what to do with them. Zacharias was born to enslaved parents and purchased as an infant by the wealthy Englishman who would raise him as his son, and Prunella is the daughter of a British officer who came back from India with a daughter of mixed heritage and a bag of mysterious magical objects.”

Read the rest of the review at Strange Horizons >>

Review of “What Makes This Book So Great” by Jo Walton

9780765331939_p0_v1_s260x420Jo Walton’s What Makes This Book So Great is a collection of essays, originally published as blog posts on Tor.com. Familiar with Walton’s fiction, I was drawn to review her collection of non-fiction essays partially because of what I’d heard of Walton’s reading habits and what she herself reveals at the beginning of the book—Walton chooses what books to read the way some people choose which ingredients to cook with, relying on a mix of old, trusted favorites and exciting, untested novelties.

Read the full review on Strange Horizons >>