Book Review: The Drowned Country

The Drowned Country, by Emily Tesh, is the sequel to Silver in the Wood and as such, I cannot properly review it without revealing spoilers regarding Silver, so please, be warned.

The Drowned Country opens upon a bereft and sulking Henry Silver, his grand house a shambles, his mood dark, and Bramble furious with him. Silver is the Green Man now and Tobias has left, called to aide Henry’s mother in her magical work, and their brief romance ended in anger. Heartbroken and still struggling with the new weight of an immortality he’s ill-equipped to handle, Silver is ruled by multiple waves of deep grief.

Then his mother appears, engaging his assistance in the rescue of a girl from a vampire, and he agrees for the chance to see Tobias again. Upon their reunion, Tobias’ stoic exterior plays further tricks on Henry’s tortured mind. When they find the girl, her situation not quite what they expected, Henry catches a glimpse of the Drowned Country, a remnant of fairy land lost, and a sharp spark of hope ignites in his woebegone heart that leads the three of them deep into a world hidden by a dark sea and full of unexpected danger.

I’ll stop there. I enjoyed this novella, missing Tobias myself as much as Henry Silver, but the tone shift from Tobias’ stoic, gentle focus on nature to the twisted torture of Henry’s grief was hard for me, living in Pandemica as we are. It works to get us empathizing with Silver, but I would have given anything to slip into the sweet soothing mind of Tobias for a moment. I begrudgingly took a star off for this, leaving the book with a more than respectable 4 out of 5 stars.

I like the way the story ends, it feels cozy, and there is a reveal and a kindness that pleased my storied heart. Sorry, no spoilers, but this is an easy read in a few short hours to get at that ending on your own. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

Book Review: The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson

Before we get started, I’d like to put out a content warning about partner abuse in this book. The abuse isn’t gratuitous, it’s pivotal to the plot, and you can’t skip over it. Please protect yourself.

The Space Between Worlds follows the story of Cara, a woman who travels between worlds, quite literally, thanks to a technology that allows her to travel through the multiverse. The caveat to this travel is that should a version of yourself already exist on the world travelled to, you will not survive the initial arrival. Because of this, people who have endured high-risk lives, such as Cara’s impoverished upbringing and life in Ashtown, a town exposed to the harsh elements of a heavily polluted Earth. Cara has died enough times that she is able to traverse to over 300 worlds safely, offering her the appearance of safety in the rich, environmentally-protected city of Wiley. But that protection pivots on the Eldridge company’s need for her particular skills and a secret she must keep at all costs.

In every parallel Earth Cara travels to, she meets different versions of her loved ones. Her mother ranges from loving prostitute to a disapproving zealot, her sister from innocent to cunning. Her once and former lover, Nik Nik, is always cruel, always abusive, and always the Mad Max-like emperor of Ashtown when she finds him. Sometimes he knows her, sometimes he doesn’t, but her Ashtown family remains under threat beneath his rule and their history. When she finds a version of Nik Nik that is not, everything in the all the worlds she thought she knew begins to unravel and Cara discovers that she’s not the only one at Eldridge with secrets.

Johnson’s novel makes for excellent commentary about privilege. The disparity of life between the rich Wileyites and the Ashtowners holds no secrets: we see the trauma of Cara’s lives, the terror of the Runners as a child, the rare kindness she found in the safety of her mother’s brothel. We see the obliviousness of the Wileyites, who have little idea what life is like outside their protected bubble.

I found the abusive sections difficult to read but the ending of this book, oh the ending. It is a breath of beauty, an ending so perfect I had to close my eyes and hug my e-reader for a moment. No, I’m not going to spoil it, but as a writer? This is the kind of ending I aspire to, an ending that takes into account everything that has come before, the story it is telling, and the world that has been built. I give the book 4 out of 5 stars, but the ending gets 6 out of 5.

Book Review: A Song for a New Day

TW for discussion of the pandemic

The weirdest thing about Sarah Pinkser’s book A Song for a New Day is that it was written last year but reads like it’s about this year. The plot follows two paths and characters, beginning with musician Luce Cannon. Let’s have a moment of appreciation for that name. I love it. Luce is a musician about to play her first big stadium gig when terrorism shuts the world down. She still plays, earning her the dubious honour of being the last known musician to play a live show in the future that follows.

Next, we meet Rosemary Laws, years into the digital future, and from her we understand a scarring pox virus hits soon after the bombs, and life changes drastically. The world goes into lockdown and everyone isolates. School goes digital, dating goes virtual, concerts become a virtual, online event, usually through the StageHolo venue, a link in the monster Superwally conglomerate which monopolizes the future. Packages are delivered by drones and thanks to virtual reality tech, life goes on from isolation.


This section of the book was enormously comforting to read from my own lockdown and isolation. Many of us are worried about how life is going to look post-pandemic and here is an easily believable future already imagined for us. We survive, and it isn’t that bad at all.



It turns out that the Superwally’s of the world were making a little too much money off of this new status quo, so much so that they developed a vested interest in keeping people isolated and using their gear. Twenty or so years on, there are congregation laws that dictate people aren’t allowed to meet up in any numbers but there hasn’t been any outbreaks or terrorism in a long time. Luce is heavy into an underground scene of speak-easy like illegal concerts where people attend to experience live music, elements of which never quite translated to the virtual space. The artists chafe against StageHolo’s monopoly of the music industry.

Meanwhile, Rosemary has been hired by StageHolo as a talent scout and is venturing outside her family bubble and meeting people in the real world for the first time, which both terrifies and exhilarates her. She’s about to find out that her safe digital world might be an economic prison fabricated with methods she doesn’t agree with.

This book is a good read, especially from a mid-pandemic perspective. I like that it gave me hope and rang true while also projecting a few cautionary elements that are based in corporate nature. I thought a lot about my musician friends, especially the ones who have been hosting facebook live concerts since March, while I read this book, but I also thought about my own situation.

As a writer, I can handle a degree of isolation without my art suffering for it (unlike Luce). As a mother of young children living in eastern Canada, I’m largely left out of the wider social world of writing conventions, so when conventions went online, I felt like a kid in a candy store. Some aspects of this digital world have far-reaching benefits and I’m not in a place to accept their downsides without a fight. Therefore, the second half of this book made me as grumpy as the first half comforted me. People in similar situations, or people who have disabilities that keep them isolated, may feel the same.

Ultimately, the story wins over my own moodiness. If your mental health is in a place where you can read about a pandemic, do yourself a favor and grab this book. 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Book Review: The Medusa Effect by J.S. Pailly

I seem to be overcoming my anxiety-related reader’s block. It’s also possible that the compounding anxiety has just cancelled the old anxiety out, welp. All told, it’s good news, because I’m excited about the Medusa Effect: A Tomorrow News Network Novella by J. S. Pailly.


I finished this one the same day it came out: it’s that triple-threat of a great premise, easy to read writing, and excellent pacing.

The story’s teenage protagonist, Milo, is something of a screw-up. He lives with his family on a lithium mining colony on a far-flung planet. He has no memories of Earth and struggles with his grades and agriculture duties. When not overwhelmed by the science of the mines, Milo spends his time with his girlfriend Lianna, watching Talie Tappler and the Tomorrow News Network online as they travel through time and space recording the great tragedies, disasters, and events throughout the universe.

When he sees Talie and her cameraman, a cyborg addicted to illegal emotions named Cygnus, at his colony, he knows something terrible is about happen. I’ll stop here before I spoil the story.

Something that stood out to me with Pailly’s writing is the hard science embedded into the story that can easily confuse readers who may be unfamiliar with the more complicated concepts. Pailly glides the reader through these tricky bit with easy to understand explanations and admirable clarity. I suppose this is to be expected from a writer who also publishes a science blog.Click here if you’d like to visit that blog for yourself (I recommend it). Pailly is also a wonderful artist, as demonstrated on his blog and his cover artwork (did I already mention triple-threat? Yeah? Okay, I won’t say it again, then).

The Medusa Effect ends all too soon but there is a also a bonus short story at the end that introduces a rival time-travelling network (!!) and hints of more Tomorrow News Network stories to come. I’ll be first in line for those. I give this one 5/5 stars.

The Medusa Effect: A Tomorrow News Network Novella is currently available as an ebook for kindle. Click here to go check it out.


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.


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.


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.

Submit Your Stories Sunday: Darkness and Chillers

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. I’ll follow it up with a book to inspire your writing and a small collection of writerly articles to fuel your craft.


Curse the Darkness: an Anthology of Dark Fiction

Eligibility: Original, speculative stories written on the theme of darkness from 3 000 to 10 000 words. Think Doctor Who‘s Vashta Nerada.

Take Note: the editors specifically request stories that will make them “afraid to turn off the lights.”

What makes this call stand out: this is Unlit Press’ inaugural anthology and they are offering writers good rates from the start. This suggests they are confident that their marketing strategy will put this book, and potentially your story, in the hands of a large audience. Offering writers a print copy further suggests they are not relying on selling copies to said writers to offset their costs.

Payment: 75 Euros and one print copy of the anthology

Submit by: December 31, 2018

Click here to go to the original call for details.

A Book to Inspire You:

Chillers From the Rock is an anthology of twenty-five creepy tales written by Atlantic Canadians and published by Newfoundland’s Engen Books. For readers outside of Canada, the province of Newfoundland is often referred to as ‘The Rock.’

sorry ’bout the raindrops, but they do beat snow

I must admit a few of these stories made me hesitate to turn off my lights. Eryn Heidel’s mysterious, foggy adversary in The Pursuit made me put off going to bed entirely. Do not read it on a foggy autumn night like I did.  Samuel Bauer’s tense take on the Scottish legend of the Nuckelavee made me sink deeper into the safety of my couch cushions. Peter Foote’s wonderful A Friend in Shadow made me pull out my flashlight against the darkness threatening in the corners of my room. The flashlight’s name is Scorch-Bite now. Kelley Power’s oddly hopeful tale Treatment is a horror/fairy tale for the helpless. Depending on which side of the spectrum of evil you may fall on, you’ll either sleep tight or not at all. Read at your own risk.

There are tales here from mildly creepy to full-on supernatural horror, with a handful of paranormal beasts and gore thrown in. The quality of the stories, however, is consistent across the genres. I’ll be reading this one again.

Writerly Links Worth Reading this Week:

I’m still deep in NaNoWriMo and most articles aren’t making it through the writing fog, but the Suicide Bomber Sits in the Library drama certainly did. Facing a strong backlash for the possibly well-intentioned but extremely harmful stereotypes in the graphic novel and the violence it could inspire against Muslim individuals in an environment of seething white supremacy, Abrams decided to pull the book. I think the biggest take-away from this situation is the need to consider what damage can be caused when writers play fast and loose with their imagined perspectives of marginalized people.

Submit Your Stories Sunday: Supernatural Tales

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 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.


Vampires, Zombies, and Ghosts

Eligibility: stories from 1200-6000 words in any genre containing supernatural beings

Take Note: despite the tentative title, Smoking Press is looking for stories of supernatural beings outside of vampires, zombies, and ghosts as well .

Payment: $20 USD plus two complimentary paperback for writers in Canada and the U.S., and/or $20 USD plus one complimentary paperback for writers outside of Canada and the U.S.

Submit by: December 15th, 2018

Click here to go to the original call for details.

A book to inspire your writing:

For purposes of supernatural inspiration, I recommend you pick up one of Hugo and Nebula award winning  author Seanan McGuire’s October Daye books. The twelfth book in this series came out last August (Night and Silence) and another is scheduled for 2019 release. The first book is entitled Rosemary and Rue and you can probably find it at your local library or on their overdrive app. This is urban fantasy at its finest and McGuire never fails to deliver the intricate and unexpected.

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The series follows Toby, or October, Daye, a fairy changeling working as a private investigator. Her cases focus on the collision of fairy and human in a world with such depth I’ve often wondered if I’ll feel I’ve wandered through it all. Wonder and tension, magic and murder, cityscapes and fairyland are layered upon the page in stories you’ll wish your imagination had come up with.

Toby’s own history and personal flaws make her readable and identifiable. She’s only half-fae, standing on the outside, though not quite as outside as a mundane reader, which makes her the perfect interpreter of the fairy world. This isn’t Tinkerbell or teeny tiny angelic insects, this is the fae of Celtic mythology and you’d better be on guard for tricksters.

Though the series began in 2009, the early books still have a freshness to them that sucks you in with thoughts of “ooooh, I haven’t read THIS before.”

To the library!

Writerly links worth sharing this week:

This article in Gizmodo tackles the idea of utopias and why humanity may benefit from a break from all of this dystopia.

Happy writing!

Submit Your Stories Sunday: Neon Druids, Tolkien, and C. S. Lewis

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. I’ll follow it up with my best read from the week to inspire your writing and a small collection of writerly articles to fuel your craft.


Neon Druid: An Anthology of Urban Celtic Fantasy

Eligibility: Original fantasy stories from 100 to 10 000 words that contain characters from Celtic mythology and are set in an urban environment. Writers can submit one short story or two flash pieces.

Take Note: this anthology isn’t paying great rates, but that can mean a better chance of acceptance for newer writers looking to get more experience and publishing credits. Use your judgement.

What makes this call stand out: Celtic mythology contains a huge range of lesser-known fairies, goddesses, and monsters to work from. The possibilities are staggering.

Payment: $10 USD for short stories, $5 for flash fiction, which they list as up to 1 000 words

Submit by: December 10th, 2018

Click here to go to the original call for details.

What I’m Reading:

I picked up a copy of Bandersnatch: C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings by Diana Pavlac Glyer at my local library. It was an impulse loan which ended up being a fascinating read.

The Inklings is a critique group in Oxford that included Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and many others. The writers met twice weekly, once for chatting and uproar, and once to read aloud their work and subject it to the criticism of their peers. Bandersnatch gives the reader a chance to be a fly on the wall of that group, to hear Lewis argue hobbits with Tolkien and Tolkien’s opinions of Narnia.

If you’re still on the fence of what a critique group can do for you, you should read this book. If you already have a critique group, you’ll find yourself nodding your head and commiserating with your heroes. My heroes, anyway. It might take the sting out of some of those harsher critiques when you see the greats suffered the same.

As a fan of Tolkien, I found myself thrilled with this book. As a writer, I felt inspired. While I read a library copy for this review, I’ve ordered a paper copy to keep on my writing desk to dip into when I need the inspiration.

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Writerly links worth sharing this week:

This article about a writer who won a prestigious writing award from the university that employs her as a janitor is nothing short of inspiring. I can’t stop smiling over how excited she is. She also makes an excellent point about choosing a stress-free job to keep one’s priority on writing.

Chuck Wendig was put in twitter jail this week, and he uses that experience to give an important warning for creative people on social media. NSFW: Chuck employs colorful language to make his point. The fallout from Wendig’s twittering, which you can read in subsequent posts, include his firing from three Star Wars projects and Marvel comics. There is a lot to unpack there as a writer with conviction. Wendig has long been outspoken against injustice.

Less writerly, more fangirl, Margaret Atwood published a review of my favorite book, Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, in the Guardian this past week. Just in time for Halloween.

Happy writing!

Submit Your Stories Sunday: Steampunk Edition

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. I’ll follow it up with the best read from my week to inspire your writing and a small collection of writerly articles to aid your craft.


Steam and Lace

Eligibility: The Steam and Lace anthology, to be published in print and ebook, is seeking noblebright, fantasy, steampunk stories from 1 000 to 10 000 words with a theme of ‘steam and lace’.

Take Note: the setting must be steampunk in some fashion, but reliance upon steampunk elements may vary. Editor’s notes suggest that the stories should be free of sexual content.

Payment: $0.01 per word, USD.

Submit by: November 1, 2018

Click here to go to the original call for details.

What I’m Reading:

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of J. B. Cameron’s steampunk novella, Flights of Fancy: the Great Atlantic Run. I do love a good airship adventure and Flights of Fancy is such fun to read I finished in one setting.

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The story opens with Captain Fancy arriving late to the Great Atlantic Run, fumbling into another captain, and “accidentally” betting her ship against his lumbering behemoth of a ship. Fancy might have a gambling problem. By the time she finally makes it to her beloved Persephone, the race is on and she discovers the lumbering behemoth is, in fact, the fastest ship in the race. It’s going to take some serious ingenuity to keep the Persephone under her name, especially with a stowaway in her hold, a storm approaching, pirates ahead, and a renegade steam-bike gang out to get her. Fancy is just the lady to rise to that occasion.

This book is a lot of fun. Remember when books were always fun? This is book for those days. It reminded me of rainy, youthful days spent reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped and Avi’s The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle. If you’d like something to put a smile on your face and forget about your cares for a while, this is the book for you. I absolutely loved it.

Click here to learn more about Flights of Fancy: the Great Atlantic Run.

Writerly links worth sharing this week:

Have you ever considered consulting a sensitivity reader, or being one?  Click here to read Lila Shapiro’s interview with Dhonielle Clayton’s work as a sensitivity reader and a chief executive of We Need Diverse Books.

The Atlantic published Greg Manaugh’s fascinating article entitled How Police Will Solve Murders on Mars. The research here is noteworthy. Definitely a must-read for science fiction writers.