Refilling the well

I thought I’d do a lot of writing during my summer holiday. But alas, I reckoned without the intensity and busyness of that holiday – and my need for physical, simple things, instead of brainwork. So yeah, it’s been wonderful, but I haven’t been writing much. I started a new short story, have some poem snippets, and have tinkered a little with my novel, but it’s much less than I planned.

I’m trying not to let my perfectionist self get the upper hand. Yes, I could’ve/should’ve written more. But the reason I wasn’t writing was that I was busy out there living. Refilling my creative well with sunshine, the faint summer starlight of the northern hemisphere, pattering rain, reading a lot, folk music, dance, sparkling wine, the laughter of friends and loved ones. I’ve experienced many of the joys of a Finnish summer in the past couple of weeks: Kaustinen Folk Music Festival, an extravaganza of music, and what a rush it is to perform dance there; a wedding, complete with dance shenanigans and a battalion of mosquitos; picnics with friends in the balmy weather; and this week, the heady joy of summer cabin life (and last night, more folk music and sauna).

It was so important for me to get to go to a lakeside cabin this year. I hold it all close: The skin-shivering heat of a wood sauna. Rereading the marvellous novel The Goblin Emperor (by Katherine Addison) on the jetty, basking in the sun. Brisk morning swims in the lake, leisurely daytime swims. The searing pleasure of plunging into the lake from the sauna at night, of floating on the still water and staring up into the breadth of the sky. The wind in the trees. Rowing on the lake towards a far-off island. I was constantly reminded of my Strange Horizons story – in which I’ve tried to capture something of what our old, now lost summer cabin means to me.

Yes. Not much writing, but so much doing. Soon I will get cracking with writing again, get more discipline back. But for now, I’ll still indulge in one more weekend of purely filling the well: Helsinki’s roleplaying convention Ropecon, more friends, and more joy.

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“Water, Birch, and Blood” out in Strange Horizons!

My story “Water, Birch, and Blood” is now out in Strange Horizons! It’s a portal fantasy (of sorts) with a queer female couple, set in a Finnish summer cabin. Birds, birches, quiet magic.

Water, Birch, and Blood

"Full Moon" by O Horvath

“Full Moon” by O Horvath

Featuring beautiful art by O Horvath!

“Water, Birch, and Blood” is also available in podcast form here, read by the lovely Anaea Lay.

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Story notes: I started this story in summer 2014, trying to finish it for an anthology call which I didn’t submit to in the end (I can’t remember if I self-rejected or ran out of time). I wrote the first draft in a few days and it’s actually surprisingly similar to the final version. Then the story sat abandoned for a year and a half – I had actually forgotten I’d written it, and definitely didn’t remember I’d managed to complete it. But the call for Our Queer Planet nudged my memory, and I was pleased to discover that the story didn’t need a complete overhaul. The main difference is that it used to be in third person; but first person ended up suiting the intimate, introspective tone much better.

I used bits of Finnish bird mythology for inspiration. Corvids are basically seen as kind of evil (or a bad omen at least) in Finnish mythology, so far as I’ve been able to find out. Of course, the corvids in this story aren’t quite that black and white (except for the magpies hehehe :D). Crows were sometimes seen as messengers. Birds in general are very important in Finnish mythology and folklore.

I spent many of my happiest childhood moments in a cabin very similar to the one I’ve set “Water, Birch, and Blood” in. I miss that place a lot, and always feel a strange joy when I can include bits and pieces of it in my fiction.

I am very fond of this story, and I hope you enjoy it! I’m thrilled to be part of Our Queer Planet.

Sunday recs: Hopeful fiction

The world’s been an awful place lately, so I think it’s a good time to read some hopeful fiction. So here are three such stories:

Songbird by Shveta Thakrar (in Flash Fiction Online): a gorgeous tale about music and identity, about the freedom to be who you are.

Prudence and the Dragon by Zen Cho (in The World SF Blog) this is just so ridic charming! I love Zen Cho’s writing (I highly recommend her short story collection Spirits Abroad!), and this story is no exception. I love the London-ness of this tale too: so very very London in atmosphere. “Prudence and the Dragon” made me laugh out loud several times and is just so warm-hearted. And has a female friendship at its core.

Iron Aria by A. Merc Rustad (in Fireside Fiction): what a wonderful, hopeful secondary-world fantasy story! I love how well Merc handles all the intersections of identity in this. The worldbuilding is fascinating (and so rich for a short story) and the characters really come alive.

An Alphabet of Embers is out!

An Alphabet of Embers cover art by Galen Dara

An Alphabet of Embers cover art by Galen Dara

An Alphabet of Embers is now out in print form! Yaaay!

I’ve read AoE as an e-ARC, and while I am obviously biased, I’m also just stunned by how awesome this anthology is. The wonderful Rose Lemberg and the editorial team have done such a great job in arranging these strange tales, like a variety of luminous beads on a string.

And the art! The cover art, by Galen Dara, really captures the tone of the anthology with its eerieness and luminosity. And the interior art by Likhain! Aaah, I can’t wait to get my print contributor copy so that I can savour Likhain’s art bigger than it was on my ereader screen. She is one of my favourite contemporary artists.

From my dream diary

From my dream diary

I’m very proud of my contribution to the anthology, “The City Beneath the Sea”. This small story has a rather unusual origin (for me): it was actually a dream I had. Not all of it, of course – but I did dream the basic form of the story on 19 January 2013 (the pic above is from my dream diary). I added characters, an ending and made things more grounded – but it’s rather remarkable that the core elements were all there in the dream. Thanks, subconscious! I ended up writing the story in one day, in autumn 2014, inspired to check out my dream diary by the call for submissions for AoE. “The City Beneath the Sea” is one of those rare stories that flowed quick and easy from start to finish.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have other pro fiction sales since, but AoE was my first, and what a wonderful place for a first sale! I highly recommend this anthology – the quality and breadth of stories is wonderful.

Poem in Abyss & Apex!

So I think I forgot to announce the sale, but – my short poem “After Selling Your Soul to the Trickster God” is now up in the newest issue of Abyss & Apex!

Read it here!

This short poem was born this past January. I wanted to get across a sense of movement and dance – often my desire, to capture those physical things in words. I hope you enjoy it!