book review: Do Not Go Quietly

Apex Publication’s Do Not Quietly anthology of short stories is an emotional tour-de-force that will snatch you out of your seat and leave you cheering. 5/5 stars. Every story in this book is worth the read, but there are a handful that stood out or shook me to the core, and their review follows

Do Not Quietly opens with Brooke Bolander’s Kindle, the story of a little girl caught in a reincarnation cycle until she gets it right. The story that starts with a familiar match-girl, abused in the cold selling her matches. Frozen, she strikes a match, and pictures the flames devouring her abusers. It goes out. Another match and this time her lost matriarch whispers to her that the blood of warrior queens runs in her veins and she must take back what was taken from her. You know what happens next, she freezes there, on the ground, a dead girl with matches spent. In the next life she dreams of saving her friend, a dream version where the sulphur of the match factory hasn’t taken the girl’s teeth. There comes a few more cycles until she sets the flame to buildings, to factories, a palace, until she reclaims her own story. I held my breath for entire sections of this story, it absolutely blew me away with its simmering rage and stunning protagonist.

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Rachael K. Jones’ Oil Under Her Tongue introduces us to Erin, a youth growing up in a strict Christian cult. It is modern day but her only future is that of wife and baby-maker. For now, she’s not yet 18 and working with Carlos in a gas station. He’s just bought a junker car for $50 and Erin’s spinning psalms into magic spells. They’re in this car when Hailey, an android imprinted on an owner who has died and left her heartbroken, finds them. As the pair try to help the android overcome her programming, a loosely veiled metaphor for Erin’s own programming, the relationship between Carlos and Erin deepens and the certainty that they need to fight for their future clarifies. This story punched me in the gut. Erin’s early life ran a little too similar to my own, making this both hard to read and a story I will always keep close to read again and again.

I’ve never reviewed a poem before and I’m not sure where to start, but I’ll say this: I wish every little girl could read If the Fairy Godmother Comes by Mary Soon Lee. I copied it out and hung it up where my daughters will see every day.

April Teeth, by Eugenia Traintafyllou, is another one that haunts you after reading. In the story’s world teeth are pulled and given to a goddess-like Tooth Fairy on faith they will regrow. The devout will lose their teeth naturally, while others will have to them pulled. It’s a story about how power pivots on acceptance and faith in that power,  and the “invisible thread that goes taut every time you overstep the boundaries… set for you.”

If this sounds interesting to you, I encourage you to check out the Kickstarter the same publisher has going on for their next anthology, containing many of the same authors, Invisible Threads. In some of the rewards,  you can support them simply by ordering copies of Do Not Quietly and Invisible Threads. You can also get story crits from some of the best in the biz (gasp!) which I happily admit I’m drooling over. If it funds, they’ll also be opening to submissions (cough cough pay attention writers). Check it out by clicking here and please consider helping them reach their goal before time runs out.

Stay safe everybody. Wash your hands.

 

Book Review: Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire

This week I’m reviewing Seanan McGuire’s Come Tumbling Down (2020, Tor), the fifth in the Wayward Children series which began with the award-winning Every Heart A Doorway. I am a huge fan of this series and I look forward to each new installment every January on tenterhooks.

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In Come Tumbling Down, we return to the lives of the Wolcott twins: scientist Jack and vampire-in-training Jill. We first met the twins in Every Heart a Doorway and visited their Moors world in Down Among the Sticks and Bones (book 2 in the series). All of the books in this series revolve around the students and teachers of Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, a sanctuary for youth who once entered a portal into a magical world but were not allowed to stay. They are safe to suffer their broken-hearted longing for their magical worlds at the Home, and to spend their time searching for the Door that will take them to their worlds again.

After Jack’s girlfriend Alexis arrives at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children with a Wolcott in her arms, we learn that Jill has exacted a terrible revenge upon Jack. Because Jack had murdered and resurrected her (Book 1), Jill is no longer able to become a vampire as her precious “father” intended to make her. To circumvent her dashed dreams, she has switched bodies with germaphobic Jack via Moor science. Jack, now trapped in Jill’s vampire-nibbled body, has arrived at the Home for Wayward Children to seek help. She must regain her old body before Jill is reborn as a vampire and Jack is trapped in Jill’s body forever. With Jack’s severe cleanliness issues, she knows her mind will break within months. Wild and sugary Sumi, mermaid Cora, skeleton Christopher, and stoic Kade follow Jack and Alexis into the monstrous Moors.

In this story, McGuire reveals more of the Moors, the gods and monsters of the sea, and offers hints of the creatures who live beyond the dark valley. She gives us more of the mythology behind the vampire-scientist duology, though admittedly it didn’t play out the way I expected with the twins. Yet.

This book, unlike the first four in the series, doesn’t open with the rich storyteller voice I’ve come to associate with the series. It works for the story as a small hint that we will be deviating from the usual rules, but I will say that I dearly missed the opening feast of words I found in the other books. I give it 4/5 stars and eagerly await book six.

book review: Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh

When I picked up Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh (Tor, 2019) I warned myself, “don’t get too excited, it might not be as good as it sounds.” It was, though. I finished it the day I started and happily give it 4.5/5 stars.

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This magical novella follows the story of a Green Man (of pagan lore), happy in his woodland home with his dryad friends, who befriends his flirtatious new landowner, the handsome Silver. Silver is a folklorist fascinated by Green Hallow’s history whose giddiness over his subject matter is both familiar and endearing. Our 400-year-old Green Man can no more resist the nerdy sweetness of Silver than he can act upon the lad’s flirtations. Our pagan friend, it turns out, has something of a curse upon himself and his past is about to threaten his new love interest. I’ll stop there before I spoil it for you.

I’m a sucker for the Old Ways and Tesh writes about the woods like someone who’s spent a childhood or two under trees. That’s rare. But they also bring in Silver’s mother and manage to make her one of the more intriguing characters in the story. That’s doubly rare. I am delighted by to see the overbearing, demonized mother trope flipped on it’s proverbial head. Now let’s kick into a Nixie’s pond and leave it there forever, hmm?

If you’re looking for a passionate love story, this slow burn Victorian affection isn’t it, but if you’d like a story that leaves you as refreshed and bright as a walk in the woods, choose this one. It’s lovely.

In Darker Corners of Your Favorite Band, Which Cannot Save You.

I’m trying to write more book reviews, the reason being that I’ve never been comfortable writing them. Imposter syndrome and all that. But I’m never going to get comfortable writing reviews if I don’t write more of them. Towards that end, here are two books I enjoyed this week.

In Darker Corners

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5/5 Stars – Indie

I was excited to receive my copy of Peter Gillet’s second collection of short works, In Darker Corners,  as I enjoyed his first, Mind Full of Prose. This collection has a blend of narrative nonfiction, album reviews, and dark fantasy stories.

Finding a sequel to the Beards and Bearability story, Tests and Testimonies, deep into the book was a delight. Fans of the original will not disappointed. Marked by Death, an essay about a tombstone that fell on the author as a child gave me the best kind of chills. No wonder Gillet’s horror works well, in particular the creepy Dimensions of Mediocrity and Viral. In Darker Corners is a wonderful collection to dip into for a story before falling asleep.

Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You

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4/5 stars – Tor Books

Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You by Scotto Moore follows a music blogger who comes across a transcendent new band that quickly becomes an obsession. The music starts controlling people’s emotions and soon sacrifices some listeners to open interdimensional portals. Alien monsters tumble into Earth. The protagonist denies all evidence in front of him and keeps plunging deeper into the music-caused danger like a hapless teenager in a horror movie, pulling the reader along for the ride.

Moore perfectly captures the annoying aloof quality of your music snob friend and then blows it into another dimension. This book is like the movie Almost Famous collided with the crack in Amelia Pond’s wall (Doctor Who) during a Sharknado and Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You climbed out of the wreckage fully formed. It’s a fun, campy read and I can honestly say I’ve never read anything like it. I’m hopeful for a sequel. Let’s take this ride off-world.

 

Submit Your Stories Sunday: witches in the city

Notice: due to the death of a friend, I am taking a small hiatus. Posts will resume on Wednesday, March 6th. The next Submit Your Stories Sunday will be posted on March 10th. Thank you for understanding.

Welcome to this week’s edition of Submit Your Stories Sunday! Every week I bring you a unique call for submissions to help you find a home for your stories or inspire a new one. Each call will contain a speculative element and will offer payment upon acceptance. Next, I’ll recommend a story to help inspire your submission and finish off with a list of writing news and articles I came across this week.

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Speculative City: Occult

Eligibility: original stories, essays, and poems set in a city, written to the theme of occult and under 5500 words.

Take Note: the editors define “occult” in the call for submissions, so be sure to click through and make sure you’re on track.

Payment: $20-$75 depending on length

Submit by: March 25, 2019

Click here to go to the original call for details.

A story to ignite your creativity:

This story came onto my radar after it received a Nebula nomination earlier this week (you can find a link to that below in the writerly links of the week) and I’m glad it did. A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies by Alix E. Harrow tucks witchcraft into a library, and makes witches of librarians. It’s a delightful read for a bibliophile or anyone who has ever found solace in a library.

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Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

What I like about this story is how Harrow takes an ordinary profession and makes us see the mundane in a magical light. The power of the story doesn’t come from shock and awe, but from its heart. This heart cannot be divorced from its occult leanings, yet it is vastly different from the usual paranormal tropes. A Witch’s Guide is an outlier, a unique way of seeing and using magic, and it has been my experience that there is a sweet spot of inspiration out there among the outliers. The trick is standing on the outlier’s shoulders, glancing back at the usual tropes from where you’ve come, and noticing what’s taking form beside you.

Good luck, writers.

Writerly links of the week:

The romance world was rocked by a plagiarism scandal on an unprecedented scale that just got worse as the day went on.

Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, a pro speculative fiction magazine, has permanently closed to submissions. The last issue will be June/July 2019.

Writer Beware posted about a new scam writers should be watching for: publishers who claim copyright on edits. Yikes. Click here to go read up on that one.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom this week, for the SFWA has released the Nebula nominations for 2018, no doubt making several author’s dreams come true. Click here to go see them now. Congratulations to the writers (squee!).

Happy writing!

Submit Your Stories Sunday: outsiders

Welcome to this week’s edition of Submit Your Stories Sunday! Every week I bring you a unique call for submissions to help you find a home for your stories or inspire a new one. Each call will contain a speculative element and will offer payment upon acceptance. Next, I’ll recommend a book to help inspire your story submission and finish off with a list of the best writing-related articles I came across this week.

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Songs for the Elephant Man

Eligibility: Writers can submit two stories about outsiders, preferably with a tinge of weird, from 1000 to 7000 words. Reprints welcome.

Take Note: the call specifically mentions how outsiders often prove more sympathetic protagonists than the gatekeepers to the ‘inside,’ suggesting this is an important element to the editors.

Payment: 1p per word to a maximum of 50 Euros per story

Submit by: March 18th, 2019

Click here to go to the original call for details.

A Book to Inspire You:

The ‘Elephant Man’ the anthology is named after was a cruel nickname given to Joseph Merrick. Merrick was a scholarly, sensitive man who was exhibited in a circus show as a monster because of his physical deformities when he was young. His sad life continues to capture hearts in books, movies, and history.

Another creature deemed monstrous who has long captured the imagination of humanity is Frankenstein’s monster. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is the first ‘classic’ I read as a youth that I didn’t have to struggle through. I picked it up one wintry afternoon and didn’t put it down until I was finished. I followed Dr. Frankenstein’s descent into mad science as he dug up bodies, collected amniotic fluid from birthing mothers, and set up his lightning rods to capture lightning. Dr. Frankenstein may have been the protagonist of the story, but he was the stuff of nightmares.

The monster, on the other hand, I loved. I wept for him, bled for him, and I steeled myself when he made his first kill. I wanted to get inside the book and undo that scene, rewrite it, change it, do something to save the monster from himself. That’s where Shelley’s genius shone.

Of course, I couldn’t crawl inside the book and save the monster, or protect any of the innocents from what was coming next in the story’s terrible climax. In case you haven’t read Frankenstein yet, I won’t spoil it. It is a classic worth the title, and a thrill ride of its own merit. More importantly to our topic, Frankenstein hits on the elements mentioned in the anthology’s call – wherein the outsider garners more sympathy from the reader than the gatekeeper, in this case, Dr. Frankenstein himself. Another element worth studying is how the Doctor’s motivations are equally strong in opposition to the monster’s.

Writerly Links of the Week

Mythcreants posted an article arguing against ‘Cheap Descriptions of Bullying’ which may offer a few suggestions to anyone writing for the above call too.

The New Yorker posted a head-shaking exposee of best-selling author Dan Mallory/A. J. Finn early last week that has every layperson suddenly interested in the high-stakes, deceptive world of… publishing?

Submit Your Stories Sunday: roaring for kidlit

Welcome to this week’s edition of Submit Your Stories Sunday! Every week I bring you a unique call for submissions to help you find a home for your stories or inspire a new one. Each call will contain a speculative element and will offer payment upon acceptance. Next, I’ll recommend a book to help inspire your story submission and finish off with a list of the best writing-related articles I came across this week.

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Roar Kid’s Magazine

Eligibility: original stories for children aged 3 to 9-years-old up to 500 words.

Take Note: the first issue of this magazine has not been published yet so be sure to read your contract carefully and understand what rights you are selling

What makes this call stand out: this is a lucrative new market in a tiny pool of paying children’s fiction

Payment: $0.25 per word

Submit by: no deadlines on submissions at this time

Click here to go to the original call for details.

A Book to Inspire Your Submission:

I could go on about my favorite children’s books for tens of thousands of words, but since you’ve got a submission to brainstorm, I’ll keep it short. My favorite children’s author is William Joyce. Of his books, The Sandman is my favorite. The Sandman follows The Man in the Moon in the Guardians of Childhood series (you may have seen the animated movie Rise of the Guardians with these characters).

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from The Sandman: Sanderson Mansnoozie in his shooting star ship

The Sandman, Sanderson Mansnoozie, begins his story as the pilot of a shooting star who is attacked by the Nightmare King and his terrible band of Dream Pirates. Sanderson’s star crashes to Earth, where the wishes of children wishing on his star help him dream himself to safety. His ship crashes into the ocean and becomes an island of dream sand. The Sandman sleeps for many years, watched over by mermaids, until the Man in the Moon wakes him to ask for his help watching over the children of Earth.

This is a magical story. I love reading The Sandman to my girls at bedtime, despite it being longer than most picture books. The artwork is exquisite and the story fanciful enough to be a dream of its own, the perfect thing to fill their little minds before falling into their own dreams. This is the kind of wonder-filled story I’m always trying to find for them (and write for them!).

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Writerly links worth sharing this week:

Well-Storied published an excellent post on critical reading you can read by clicking here.

The Dream Foundry is starting a promising Media Exploration Club to help writers learn to navigate mediums new to them.

Canadian writers are asking for help in ensuring they are properly compensated for copies of their work. You can help us by clicking here to read more about these issues . If it sounds reasonable to you, please consider sending the email embedded into the site.

If you happen to live on the East Coast of Canada (like me!), the award-winning science fiction writer Julian Mortimer Smith is offering the workshop Tiny Universes: Writing and Publishing Science Fiction Stories in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, on March 2nd. You can read his work in Daily Science Fiction and Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016.

Happy writing!

 

Submit Your Stories Sunday: Creatures


Welcome to this week’s edition of Submit Your Stories Sunday! Every week I bring you a unique call for submissions to help you find a home for your stories or inspire a new one. Each call will contain a speculative element and will offer payment upon acceptance. Next, I’ll recommend a book to help inspire your story submission and finish off with a list of the best writing-related articles I came across this week.

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Tell-Tale Press: Creatures

Eligibility: Original or reprint speculative fiction tales from 500 to 5 000 words on the theme of creatures. They also seek novelettes from 7 000 to 10 000 words.

Take Note: Under represented creatures will be favored over the usual vampires, werewolves, etc.

Payment: this is a bit complicated, bear with me. Fiction from 500 -1K words will be paid $5. 1K to 3K will be paid $10. 3K to 5K is $25. Novelettes are offered $50.

Submit by: March 4th, 2019

Click here to go to the original call for details.

A Book to Inspire Your Submission:

The Resurrectionist by E. B. Hudspeth is a fictional history and art book in one. The first half of this volume is the biography of a mad scientist, Dr. Spencer Black. The second half offers the Doctor’s masterpiece: an anatomy book of mythological beasts, drawn in the classic form.

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The Resurrectionist reads as a dark history book. Spencer the boy is forced into grave-robbing with his physician father, stealing corpses for cadaver research. When he is grown, Spencer also enters medicine, specializing in anatomy and gaining surgical experience with deformities and mutations. Soon Spencer develops his own theoretical evolution, supposing that humans were once closer to mythological beasts before we evolved out of our (possibly) best selves.

To further his studies, Black turns to traveling carnivals and cabinets of curiosities. His reputation in the medical community disintegrates as he attempts to publish his theories. Black then becomes a carnival showman, creating his own little oddities to delight the public. When the excitement of those creations wanes, Black begins experimenting with animals, creating living mythological franken-beasts. Inevitably, humans are next as his traveling show descends deeper into macabre and twisted wonder.

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An illustration from The Resurrectionist, by E. B. Hudspeth

Reading about how Dr. Spencer Black creates his mythological creatures, while deeply unsettling, provides a fascinating wonderscape for tales of creatures to grow from. If nothing else, flipping through the anatomy drawings are sure to spark your imagination with a creature tale or two.

Writerly links worth sharing this week:

The SFWA has announced it will be raising what is considered a professional rate from $0.06 per word to $0.08 per word effective September 1st, 2019.

Happy writing!

Submit Your Stories Sunday: Apex

Welcome to this week’s edition of Submit Your Stories Sunday! Every week I bring you a unique call for submissions to help you find a home for your stories or inspire a new one. Each call will contain a speculative element and will offer payment upon acceptance. Next, I’ll recommend a book to help inspire your story submission and finish off with a list of the best writing-related articles I came across this week.

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Apex Magazine

Eligibility: original, speculative fiction stories up to 7 500 words. This includes science fiction, fantasy, horror, and any mix of these three.

Take Note: stories previously published on patreon are considered reprints for this market.

What makes this call stand out: Apex offers professional rates and is an SFWA-qualifying market.

Payment: $0.06 per word for print and e-publishing,  $0.01 per word for podcasted stories

Submit by: rotating submission dates, please check Apex’s website

Click here to go to the original call for details.

A book to inspire your writing:

A. Merc Rustad has published multiple stories in Apex magazine. Aside from checking out copies of the magazine itself (e-published in the usual places) I recommend reading Merc’s short story collection So You Want to be a Robot. A. Merc Rustad is consistently on the year’s “best of” collection and awards ballots for a reason. Their stories bend your mind and explode your imagination past borders you didn’t know it had.

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So You Want to be a Robot begins with Merc’s Nebula-nominated This is Not a Wardrobe Door. This is a quintessential Merc story, taking your usual portal story and subverting every trope, juggling it while standing on their head, and giving you the ending you didn’t realize your soul was yearning for. This story has been published in Fireside, Cicada, and Podcastle. In fact, you can follow this link to Podcastle and hear the podcasted version right now.

This collection of Merc’s work includes science fiction and fantasy tales. Gender is a fluid concept here, and Merc’s protagonists’ beautiful way of seeing the world is both familiar yet fresh with each character. I give this book six and a half out of five stars.

Writerly links worth sharing this week:

Lightspeed magazine is offering a free anthology on their website. What better way to familiarize yourself with what they like to publish than downloading a copy and reading it for yourself?

The author list is up for the Unlocking the Magic anthology, which includes me and my story The Night Janitor and features the wonderful authors A. Merc Rustad, Ferrett Steinmetz, and Cat Rambo. Editor Vivian Caethe created up this anthology as a response to negative mental illness tropes often seen in fantasy fiction. Our stories were vetted by a psychologist before acceptance to ensure they wouldn’t contribute to any negative tropes. I urge you to check it out if this intrigues you. The book is on pre-order now and should be available this spring.

 

Submit Your Stories Sunday: Fireside and Fragile Things

Welcome to this week’s edition of Submit Your Stories Sunday! Every week I bring you a unique call for submissions to help you find a home for your stories or inspire a new one. Each call will contain a speculative element and will offer payment upon acceptance. Next, I’ll recommend a book to help inspire your story submission and finish off with a list of the best writing-related articles I came across this week.

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Fireside Fiction

Eligibility: original, unpublished, genre stories up to 4 000 words.

Take Note: content warnings should be noted in the cover letter

What makes this call stand out: this is a SFWA-qualifying market, they pay pro + rates

Payment: 12.5 cents per word

Submit by: the current call runs from yesterday (December 15th) to December 31st. Keep checking back on their website for future openings.

Click here to go to the original call for details.

A Book to Inspire Your Writing:

Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders by Neil Gaiman is, as described, a collection of short stories. I often think Neil’s short stories are best read twice to fully absorb, and this collection is no different. 20181215_132531.jpg

While all of these stories are worth reading, there is one story in this tome which every writer should read. It’s a short gem, a few thousand words, in a place where time is fluid. Other People is a masterpiece. You read it, absorbed, hanging on every word. What’s happening is awful, but the protagonist has earned his fate. Then the ending comes, and no matter how many times I read this story, that ending grabs me. There’s nothing to do but flip back to the beginning and read it again, with what you know now. This story is the old ‘song that never ends’, and if you’re not careful you could get trapped in this circular story forever.

Writerly links worth sharing this week:

This guide to fantasy subgenres wowed me with its detail. I learned more than I’d like to admit.

This week’s newsletter from the UK’s Writer’s HQ is NSFW but strangely uplifting in our troubled times, and especially with all the stress of December holidays looming large. Be the duck.