Category Archives: Stories of mine

2016 in Retrospect

Cover by Sam Wolfe

Lesbian Gothic Horror novelette out January 4, 2017 at Tor.com. Cover by Sam Wolfe

2016 was a terrific year for me, filled with travel, excitement, and personal and professional triumph. 2016 has another face, of course, and it’s not pretty. However, I won’t rail against its injustices here. I’m just going to focus on the personal stuff.

Let’s count in fives: In 2016 I had stories in five year’s bests and was a finalist for five awards. Five by five. To keep up the pattern, my plan for 2017 is to write five 5000-word stories. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s run it down:

Five Year’s Bests

Three of my stories were reprinted in year’s best anthologies edited by Jonathan Strahan, Gardner Dozois, Paula Guran, Neil Clarke, and Alan Kaster. The copies make a nice tall tower on my dresser. I’m extremely proud so many editors thought well of my work and can only hope to have such a successful year again.

Five Award Nominations

I was nominated for the Nebula Award, the Aurora Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, the Sunburst Award, and the World Fantasy Award. I want to give a few details about these awards because nobody ever says much about what it’s like to be an award finalist. Superstition, perhaps? I can understand that, but people want to know how I found out, what I felt, what happened. So here are my impressions.

Nebula Award

  • How I found out: SFWA Director of Operations Kate Baker, who is a total doll, phoned me to ask if I would accept the nomination. This was delicious because I got to squeal at her and get virtual hugs over the phone. So if you think you might get a nomination, pick up all phone calls from mysterious numbers in February.
  • What the award ceremony was like: Total glam-fest multi-day celebration. The SFWA Nebula Conference is a glorious event and SFWA makes you feel like a star.
  • Finalist swag: Nebula nominee pin and certificate, also ribbon for conference badge.
  • How I felt when the results hit: About 15 seconds of disappointment for myself, and slightly longer disappointment that my friends didn’t win either. But I was live-tweeting the results so I was more concerned that I spelled winner Nnedi Okorafor’s name right. She’s an amazing writer and if you haven’t read her Nebula-winning BINTI, you should.

Aurora Award

  • How I found out: Alyx and I were on vacation in London when we got the emails from the award committee. Very excited that we were both nominated!
  • What the award ceremony was like: We didn’t get to go, but it was in Calgary my brother went in our place and had a great time.
  • Finalist swag: As with the Nebula, nominees get lovely pins.
  • How I felt when the results hit: Alyx and I found out we both won via Twitter, in quick succession, and then shortly after, via text and photos from my brother. We were really sad we couldn’t have attended in person especially since so many friends were at the ceremony.
  • Our twin trophies are proudly displayed in our living room. So pretty!

Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award

  • How I found out: Kij Johnson sent a lovely email with congratulations, checking to see if I would accept the nomination, which of course I did.
  • How I felt when the results hit: I ran into friend and fellow finalist E.J. Fischer before the event. When I congratulated him, he said, “Oh, didn’t you know? Kelly Link won.” Apparently this info was printed on the event posters. That was a bit of a let down, especially since Alyx and I had been traveling all day to get to the event.
  • Kelly Link winning is hardly unexpected because she is a goddess. However, it turned out during the ceremony that E.J. was runner-up, so that was a surprise and very nice because he’s wonderful and so is his work. I love it when my friends are rewarded for their genius!

Sunburst Award

  • How I found out: The committee posted the long list on their site, and then the short list a few months later.
  • How I felt when the results hit: About 20 seconds of disappointment. I was hoping for this one, especially since it brings actual award money. Maybe another year, if I’m lucky.

World Fantasy Award

  • How I found out: I looked at Twitter and had a zillion notifications. Unexpected and a fun way to find out!
  • What the award ceremony was like: Unfortunately I couldn’t go to WFC. We’d planned to go but had to change our plans to make a trip to visit family instead.
  • How I felt when the results hit: About 2 minutes of disappointment. I was rooting for Usman Malik and really thought he would win.

I can say with a great deal of confidence that being an award finalist is pretty darn nice. Part of the excitement and fun is juggling the social media with congratulations flowing in from all directions. It’s a true adrenaline hit!

What could have been…

Apparently without puppy business, I might have had been Campbell finalist, too. That would have been nice but I can live without it.

What have you done for me lately?

It looks like I’ve been slacking because 2016 publications are thin on the ground. I’ve been hard at it, though. Here’s what I did in 2016:

  • Extensive revisions to my lesbian gothic horror novelette “A Human Stain,” which appears at Tor.com on January 4, 2017.  Ellen Datlow put me through five rewrites for this one! Not complaining. The story needed it. (See, though, the continuing pattern of fives?)
  • Ellen Kushner asked me to write a Tremontaine tie-in story and I was thrilled to do it. “The Eye of the Swan” appeared on Tor.com in October 2016.
  • The editors of Nasty – Fetish Erotica for a Good Cause, invited me to contribute a short-short. I chose public nudity for my fetish. The story is called called “The Desperate Flesh.” 
  • I wrote two essays for the Another Word column at Clarkesworld. “On Being a Late Bloomer” appeared in September 2016 and “Dystopias are Not Enough” will appear in January 2017.
  • I wrote a column about the Netflix series Stranger Things for the Omni Magazine reboot. Writing for Omni was a childhood dream come true, let me tell you.
  • And finally, I finished the long novella (39,700 words) that I’ve been working on since summer 2015. It’s a time travel story tentatively titled “Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach.” I’m hoping it’ll find a home soon.

And in 2017?

After spending more than a year writing my time travel novella, I’m desperate to work on shorter pieces. My plan for 2017 is to write five 5000-word stories. I’ve got them all planned out.

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2015, the year all my dreams came true

enkiinanna

I’m at Boskone for the weekend. I’m not on the programming, but just here to hang out and have fun. I’ll see some delicious friends and mentors.

Though I haven’t updated this blog in a while, I haven’t been idle. I’ve been running hard to finish a time travel novella. It’s going long. Will probably end up around 40K words. Yikes.

Some people can write a story in a weekend but I certainly can’t. This particular story has been a lengthy process even though I’ve had the concept beginning-middle-end from the start. I never write a story without knowing where it’s going, but it’s the bits in between that are difficult. I want it to feel authentic, so I’m being very careful. If I go too fast, I’ll only create problems that will be difficult to fix in revision. I can only hope that in the end it’ll be worth the effort. Whether it’ll be marketable or not, I leave that up to the gods. In this case, the ancient Sumerian gods Enki and Inanna.

Last year was such an amazing year — in 2015 all my dreams came true. My first publication at Clarkesworld in February, closely followed by an anthology, then Asimov’s, then Tor.com, then another anthology. My work has enjoyed an enthusiastic reception, with three stories appearing on the Locus Recommended Reading list and five stories chosen for year’s best anthologies. I’m eager to get more stories out into the world, but that simply can’t be rushed.

I do have one story out to market right now and I’m hoping to hear a yea or nay soon from the editor who has it in hand. I don’t know if it’s exactly the right story to follow up this amazing year for a few reasons — not the least because I’d rather follow up 2015 with a story that knocks people’s hats off. Not sure this little horror story has that quality. I wrote myself into some difficult corners with it (probably because I tried to rush the first draft) and have been working with the editor on revisions. It’s been a good learning process. Now I know that for me, forcing a draft to completion just causes intractable story problems.

So back to the novella for me! Onward, forward, and ahead! All that matters are the words!

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TOC for Gardner Dozois’ Year’s Best Science Fiction, 33rd Annual Collection

Gardner Dozois' Year's Best SF 33

Art by Jim Burns

A few days ago on his Facebook page, Gardner Dozois posted the Table of Contents for his upcoming Year’s Best Science Fiction, Thirty-third Annual Collection. The anthology will be available next July, and is already available for pre-order on Amazon.

The TOC includes a story of mine. I’d be thrilled about this under any circumstances, but it turns out the story he chose is my very first published story, The Three Resurrections of Jessica Churchill, which appeared in Clarkesworld this past February. Hitting Gardner’s Year’s Best with a first published story feels — well, there are no words. Peter Watts reminded me a few days ago, however, that it’s all downhill from here. I could only laugh and agree with him. Peter is the happiest cynic I know.

Here are the stories appearing in the anthology. The list is in no particular order. I’m definitely the most junior writer in the bunch, though by no means the youngest. And look: Aliette de Bodard has two stories here. Nice!

  • “The Falls: A Luna Story,” by Ian McDonald
  • “Three Cups of Grief, By Starlight,” by Aliette de Bodard
  • “Ruins,” by Eleanor Arnason
  • “Gypsy,” by Carter Scholz
  • “Emergence,” by Gwyneth Jones
  • “Calved,” by Sam J. Miller
  • “Meshed,” by Rich Larson
  • “Bannerless,” by Carrie Vaughn
  • “The Astrakhan, the Homberg, and the Red Red Coat,” by Chaz Brenchley
  • “Another Word for World,” by Ann Leckie
  • “City of Ash,” by Paolo Bacigalupi
  • “The Muses of Shuyedan-18,” by Indrapramit Das
  • “The Audience,” by Sean McMullen
  • “Consolation,” by John Kessel
  • “Botanica Veneris,” by Ian McDonald
  • “Rates of Change,” by James S.A. Corey
  • “The Children of Gal,” by Allen M. Steele
  • “Today I Am Paul,” by Martin L. Shoemaker
  • “Trapping the Pleistecene,” by James Sarafin
  • “Machine Learning,” by Nancy Kress
  • “Silence Like Diamonds,” by John Barnes
  • “Inhuman Garbage,” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  • “Planet of Fear,” by Paul McAuley
  • “It Takes More Than Muscles to Frown,” by Ned Beauman
  • “The Daughters of John Demetrius,” by Joe Pitkin
  • “Hello, Hello,” by Seanan McGuire
  • “Capitalism in the 22nd Century,” by Geoff Ryman
  • “Ice,” by Rich Larson
  • “The Three Resurrections of Jessica Churchill,” by Kelly Robson
  • “In Panic Town, on the Backward Moon,” by Michael F. Flynn
  • “The First Gate of Logic,” by Benjamin Rosenbaum
  • “Billy Tumult,” by Nick Harkaway
  • “No Placeholder for You, My Love,” by Nick Wolven
  • “The Game of Smash and Recovery,” by Kelly Link
  • “A Stopped Clock,” by Madeline Ashby
  • “Citadel of Weeping Pearls,” by Aliette de Bodard

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Readercon, Asimov’s, and review roundup!

Me and my first Asimov's!

Me and my first Asimov’s!

It’s been an eventful month! My novella Waters of Versailles came out at Tor.com and as an ebook on June 10th. The August Asimov’s with my story Two-Year Man hit in ebook format on July 1, with the hard copy magazine released to newsstands just yesterday. And tomorrow Alyx and I leave for Readercon!

Readercon!

When Alyx and I moved to Toronto two years ago, one of the changes that most excited us was the easy access to the big East Coast SF conventions. This will be the first time we’ve taken advantage of our new location. I hear so many good things about Readercon, and can’t wait to discover it for myself.

After the con, we’re taking a couple of vacation days in Boston. There’s nothing we like better than exploring a new city. Many photos will be taken.

Asimov’s!

Yesterday I got my hands on an actual physical copy of the August 2015 issue of Asimov’s with my story Two-Year Man. I’ve read Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine religiously since I was 16 years old. The magazine is utterly responsible for the current state of my adult brain, and I can’t quite believe a story I wrote is actually in it.

Also — excitingly — James Patrick Kelly (whom I’ve been reading and enjoying for years) interviewed me and several other first-time Asimov’s authors in this issue. The article is also posted online.

Review Roundup!

Waters of Versailles has received several nods from reviewers. I couldn’t be more thrilled.

A.C. Wise has kindly included me in the July 2015 edition of her terrific Women to Read: Where to Start  column at SF Signal. It’s such a compliment to be included!

Tansy Rayner Roberts says lovely things in episode 122 of the Galactic Suburbia podcast (appears around 1:51 in the podcast). She says:

“Very funny, witty, dark, kind of sexy story…
Wonderful, beautifully written, very funny, some great smutty scenes as well, and lovely social detail…
Gorgeous complicated novella, so nice to read. Highly recommended.”

In the podcast, Tansy also mentions that she fell in love with the art Kathleen Jennings created for the novella, and hadn’t actually realized it was cover art. When Kathleen made the piece available at Redbubble, Tansy bought several items and then was surprised to come across the art at Tor.com. She probably wouldn’t have read the story otherwise, so I’m double grateful for the wonderful cover Kathleen created.

Charles Payseur at Quick Sip Reviews, says it’s:

“…definitely a story worth spending some time with figuring out and having some fun with. Did I mention there is a monkey? And toilets? I really cannot undersell the toilets. Go read it!”

Nerds of a Feather included the story in their June Monthly Round – A Taster’s Guide to Speculative Short Fiction. They say it’s:

“… well worth the time to see it all the way through to its satisfying conclusion. Like champagne, the story rewards sticking around for the long haul…”

 

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How I raised a nixie for fun & profit

Cover art for Waters of Versailles by Kathleen Jennings

Cover art for Waters of Versailles by Kathleen Jennings

An essay about the genesis of my sexy Historical Fantasy novella Waters of Versailles, edited by the legendary Ellen Datlow for Tor.com. It’s also available as an ebook at Amazon, OmniLit, Chapters Indigo, Barnes and Noble, and Apple iBooks.

When something bad happens, people who are otherwise reasonable and kind humans will say terrible things like, “In the end it’ll all be for the best,” “This will turn out to be a great opportunity,” or “When one door closes another door opens.”

It’s really quite unforgivable, isn’t it?

Too bad it’s often quite true.

It was April 1, 2013. I had been working for an architectural firm, doing great work, putting my heart and soul into my dream job. I had no idea that the axe was overhead until they called me into the boardroom. I was laid off along with about a half dozen of my co-workers. (Architects shed staff like fleas, by the way. Don’t work for architects unless you know this.)

I was devastated. Of course I was. And on April Fools Day, too.

I was also scared. You see, I’m the major breadwinner in our family. My darling Alyx has a couple part time gigs in addition to writing but I’m the bacon-bringer, the meat in the sandwich, the mortgage-payer. Without my paycheck, we’re utterly screwed.

So, yes, scared. Shitless.

What did I do? I cried a lot, then picked it all up and started looking for work. And I also started redrafting, from scratch, a story that had been emphatically not working. I pulled out a great piece of advice from the brilliant Steven Barnes (which I’ve blogged about here), put it down on the table, and started again.

Six weeks later, Alyx and I had sold our Vancouver condo and moved to Toronto. I got a new job, new city, new horizons to explore. And I was drafting a story that was, bit-by-bit and slowly-so-slowly, teaching me how to write. Finally, after years of desperately trying to learn to write while everything was comfortable and stable, at a time of great personal stress and upheaval I was able to figure out some of the skills I knew I’d been missing.

So this is how getting laid off — which probably ranks as #5  on the list of worst things that have happened to me in my adult life — gave me Sylvain, and the little fish, Annette,  Gérard, a parrot, and a monkey, and a colorful Versailles that still leaps off the page into my mind. It gave me my first big-time professional sale, to the best-paying, most prestigious market in the SF field, to an editor I’ve admired since the 1980s, Ellen Datlow.

I’m not the kind to forgive and forget. I’m not that easy-going. But the memory of getting laid off doesn’t hurt anymore. In fact, I might actually be grateful for it.

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NSFW Excerpt – Waters of Versailles coming from Tor.com on Wednesday

Cover art for Waters of Versailles by Kathleen Jennings

Cover art for Waters of Versailles by Kathleen Jennings

My Historical Fantasy novella Waters of Versailles — a story of sex, magic, and plumbing — will be out this Wednesday, June 10 at Tor.com. It’s now available for pre-order at Amazon, OmniLit, Chapters Indigo, Barnes and Noble, and Apple iBooks. And, hey, BTW, wonderful artist Kathleen Jennings has made the cover art available at Redbubble. (Support artists!)

Read the story that makes legendary editor Ellen Datlow cry every time she reads it! Read the story that Tor Associate Editor Irene Gallo had to stop reading on the subway because it was too darn steamy!

The following is the novella’s first scene. It starts with a bang (ha ha, sorry, couldn’t resist), so depending on how much steam you can take, you may want to avoid reading it on the subway, or at work.

Waters of Versailles – Excerpt

-1-

Sylvain had just pulled up Annette’s skirts when the drips started. The first one landed on her wig, displacing a puff of rose-pink powder. Sylvain ignored it and leaned Annette back on the sofa. Her breath sharpened to gasps that blew more powder from her wig. Her thighs were cool and slightly damp—perhaps her arousal wasn’t feigned after all, Sylvain thought, and reapplied himself to nuzzling her throat.

After two winters at Versailles, Sylvain was well acquainted with the general passion for powder. Every courtier had bowls and bins of the stuff in every color and scent. In addition to the pink hair powder, Annette had golden powder on her face and lavender at her throat and cleavage. There would be more varieties lower down. He would investigate that in time.

The second drip landed on the tip of her nose. Sylvain flicked it away with his tongue.

Annette giggled. “Your pipes are weeping, monsieur.”

“It’s nothing,” he said, nipping at her throat. The drips were just condensation. An annoyance, but unavoidable when cold pipes hung above overheated rooms.

The sofa squeaked as he leaned in with his full weight. It was a delicate fantasy of gilt and satin, hardly large enough for the two of them, and he was prepared to give it a beating.

Annette moaned as he bore down on her. She was far more entertaining than he had expected, supple and slick. Her gasps were genuine now, there was no doubt, and she yanked at his shirt with surprising strength.

A drip splashed on the back of his neck, and another a few moments later. He had Annette abandoned now, making little animal noises in the back of her throat as he drove into her. Another drip rolled off his wig, down his cheek, over his nose. He glanced overhead and a battery of drips hit his cheek, each bigger than the last.

This was a problem. The pipes above were part of the new run supporting connections to the suites of two influential men and at least a dozen rich ones. His workmen had installed the pipes just after Christmas. Even if they had done a poor job, leaks weren’t possible. He had made sure of it.

He gathered Annette in his arms and shoved her farther down the sofa, leaving the drips to land on the upholstery instead of his head. He craned his neck, trying to get a view of the ceiling. Annette groaned in protest and clutched his hips.

The drips fell from a join, quick as tears. Something was wrong in the cisterns. He would have to speak with Leblanc immediately.

“Sylvain?” Annette’s voice was strained.

It could wait. He had a reputation to maintain, and performing well here was as critical to his fortunes as all the water flowing through Versailles.

He dove back into her, moving up to a galloping pace as drips pattered on his neck. He had been waiting months for this. He ought to have been losing himself in Annette’s flounced and beribboned flesh, the rouged nipples peeking from her bodice, her flushed pout and helplessly bucking hips, but instead his mind wandered the palace. Were there floods under every join?

Instead of dampening his performance, the growing distraction lengthened it. When he was finally done with her, Annette was completely disheveled, powder blotched, rouge smeared, wig askew, face flushed as a dairy maid’s.

Annette squeezed a lock of his wig and caressed his cheek with a water-slick palm.

“You are undone, I think, monsieur.”

He stood and quickly ordered his clothes. The wig was wet, yes, even soaked. So was his collar and back of his coat. A quick glance in a gilded mirror confirmed he looked greasy as a peasant, as if he’d been toiling at harvest instead of concluding a long-planned and skillful seduction—a seduction that required a graceful exit, not a mad dash out the door to search the palace for floods.

Annette was pleased—more than pleased despite the mess he’d made of her. She looked like a cat cleaning cream off its whiskers as she dabbed her neck with a powder puff, ignoring the drips pattering beside her. The soaked sofa leached dye onto the cream carpet. Annette dragged the toe of her silk slipper through the stained puddle.

“If this is not the only drip, monsieur, you may have a problem or two.”

“It is possible,” Sylvain agreed, dredging up a smile. He leaned in and kissed the tips of her fingers one at a time until she waved him away.

He would have to clean up before searching for Leblanc, and he would look like a fool all the way up to his apartment.

At least the gossips listening at the door would have an enduring tale to tell.

End of scene 1.
The rest of the story is coming first thing Wednesday!

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New story coming in License Expired: The Unauthorized James Bond

jamesbondI’m thrilled that editors David Nickle​ and Madeline Ashby​ have accepted my novelette The Gladiator Lie for the upcoming ChiZine Publications​ anthology License Expired: The Unauthorized James Bond. Actually, I’m double-thrilled, because my darling Alyx’s story has also been accepted. This will be the first time we’re sharing a TOC. Ain’t that romantic?

My story is an alternate ending to From Russia with Love, focusing on Tatiana Romanova and Rosa Klebb. Though the title is from Lord Byron and the story starts with a quote from Childe Harold, let me assure you this is no highbrow contemplation of Bond’s inner manpain. It could properly be subtitled James Bond and the Lesbian Dwarves.

The story is deviant as hell. Why deviant? Well, it explores a few things I believe with all my heart:

1. Women are not inherently nicer or kinder than men. With the right opportunities, women are capable of committing every possible crime and indecency.

2. Just because a woman is gorgeous and charming doesn’t mean she’s nice (I’m looking at you, Tatiana Romanova).

3. Beautiful romances can happen between unbeautiful people (I’m looking at you, Rosa Klebb and [redacted]).

I love this deviant freakshow of a story with all my heart and can’t wait for the antho to come out in November.

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