Sunday recs: Rose Lemberg’s Birdverse

Rose Lemberg is a wonderful writer (and editor! but I’m concentrating on her writing here). I’ve recced many things by her in the past too: she writes beautiful poetry full of word-magic, for instance.

But today, I want to highlight two stories from Rose that I’ve recently read and loved. These are both set in the same world, Birdverse: a world where magic is based on language and geometry in fascinating ways.

First, Geometries of Belonging, in the October 2015 issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies. I read this story yesterday, and was blown away by it. It’s a long novelette – so, there’s plenty of time to get immersed. And oh my heart, how immersed I was. The narrator, Parét, is struggling with his own issues within the broader context of the story, and he felt so delicate and fully realised. I ached for him. So many complex characters in this novelette, and complex cultural and political situations that act as a background to the events. It was great to read about an autistic character who is portrayed with such sensitivity and nuance, too. The story also features polyamory, a complex dom/sub relationship, trans and nonbinary characters… wonderful to see such a variety of sexual expressions and gender in a story! This wasn’t the lightest of tales to read – the various societal oppressions and people’s own locks and problems do not make for a happy-go-lucky atmosphere. But Geometries of Belonging is a hopeful story, definitely. And an important one.

Then for something different, to show how varied Rose Lemberg’s Birdverse tales are: The Desert Glassmaker and the Jeweler of Berevyar, published in the newest issue of Uncanny Magazine. This is a happy story – ah, marvellously joyful and hopeful, though not without conflict. It’s written in an epistolary format, which is something that I really enjoy. Two artists meet and share their art, and more. Rose always writes exquisitely, but the language here is really something special. The words in these particular arrangements sparkle like jewels, like shimmering shards of coloured glass.

Advertisements

Sunday recs: Stories + novels

Sunday recs! Featuring three delightful short stories, and two excellent novels.

Tomorrow When We See the Sun by A. Merc Rustad (in Lightspeed) – a weird and cool space opera. A dark atmosphere but so beautiful. Merc’s worldbuilding is great, and I especially love how they use language. Poetic writing in prose <3

And the Balance in Blood by Elizabeth Bear (in Uncanny Magazine) – such a delightful novelette!! In contrast to Merc’s story, this one is hopeful and has lots of funny bits. This story reminds me that I should get round to reading Bear’s novels.

Wing by Amal El-Mohtar (in Strange Horizons) – a lovely short piece from 2012, lyrical and strange. Mystical books, yay.

***

Then for the novels: I’ve got longer reviews/squee for these on Goodreads, but I just really want to recommend two novels from this autumn that I read recently:

Black Wolves, Kate Elliott’s newest novel – set in the same world as her Crossroads trilogy, but you needn’t have read the trilogy to enjoy this one. (I greatly enjoyed the references to the trilogy, though!) In fact, I didn’t even like the Crossroads trilogy as much as Elliott’s other stuff, but omgggg I adored Black Wolves. So, so good. A must-read if you’re into epic fantasy. It does some pretty bold things with structure, but I think it works very well. And there were so many great characters. Lots of women being awesome, and a very interesting portrayal of a fantasy society in the process of great societal changes. So great. I wish I could re-read this book again with new eyes, but I’m sure I’ll enjoy rereading it in any case.

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho – which I just read over Christmas. A riot of a book, vastly different from Black Wolves, but that was probably a good thing since I’d just finished BW before starting SttC. Zen Cho’s got a really good Regency thing going on: I’m so happy there’s more stuff in the general vein of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell! This was a light read on the surface, but Cho also deals really well with issues of e.g. racism and colonialism.

I’m really looking forward to the next parts of the trilogies for both BW and SttC!

My novelette “Moss” out in Silver Blade!

Eeeep!

I didn’t realise that my novelette “Moss” had already appeared in Silver Blade Magazine – but it has! This is my longest published story to date – a novelette, eeee! I feel so happy it’s out and I can share it with everyone!

Read “Moss” here!

Note: trigger warning for (implied) incest: the story was inspired by the fairytale “Donkeyskin” and some other variants of Aarne-Thompson motif #510B. It’s not graphic at all in “Moss”, just implied, like I said, but I thought I’d warn about it anyway.

“Moss” is set in the forest world of “Boat-husk” and “The Ruin” . Timeline-wise, this novelette is set way back in the world’s history compared to “The Ruin” – the apocalyptic event mentioned in “The Ruin” is still far, far in the future for the protagonists of “Moss”.

I really enjoy this world I’ve built/am building! I hope you do too. :) (I should do something about the zero draft of a novel I wrote last Nanowrimo, also set in this forest world…)

Sunday recs: Recent faves

Here’s some stories I’ve read and really enjoyed these past few days:

Forestspirit, Forestspirit by Bogi Takács (in Clarkesworld) – a great SF piece, and superyay for nonbinary character and nonviolence!

The Cure by Malinda Lo (in the new issue of Interfictions) – feat. a great atmosphere and creepy (based on history) hysteria cures.

Grandmother-nai-Leylit’s Cloth of Winds by Rose Lemberg (in Beneath Ceaseless Skies) – oh this one made me especially happy. Rose Lemberg’s writing is utterly gorgeous, and I am soooo into hopeful fantasy stories. Also, the novelette form is excellent for more intricate worldbuilding and really getting into a story; Rose uses it to great effect here.

Story sale to Silver Blade Magazine

Good writing news to start off May: my novelette “Moss” will be published in Silver Blade Magazine!

I’m really happy that this 14,200-word baby is going to go forth into the world – it will be my longest published story to date. It’s set in the same forest world as “Boat-husk” and “The Ruin” … although in a completely different part of that world, and a different time period. It’s so much fun to write stories and poems set in the same secondary world!

2014 in review

On 1 January I made a post about my writing in 2013 and my hopes for 2014. I like looking back on the past year at its end, so here we go again.

My writing goals for 2014 were (slightly abridged):

  1. Get a story published!
  2. Get more poems published.
  3. Work on a poetry collection.
  4. Increase writing output – get back into the groove of writing, preferably every day.
  5. Rework Dim Vanities and decide what to do with it (whether to continue editing it smaller-scale, or do a total reboot, or just stick it in the trunk).
  6. Improve my plotting skills.
  7. Finish more stuff and edit previous work to a submittable point.

So, how did I do?

1) I exceeded my goal of getting one story published – I now have three stories out and two forthcoming. I am really proud and happy about this.

2) I got more poems published – nine of them. And to some highly awesome magazines, too. Yay!

3) I haven’t got the poetry collection into a submittable shape yet, but it exists! and it’s looking pretty good. Finishing it up and submitting to potential publishers is one of my goals for (early) 2015.

4) I haven’t managed to write fiction or poetry every day (except during Nanowrimo), but I have increased my writing output, I think. But this is something to work on – writing something creative every day even if it’s just an exercise.

5) Haven’t had the energy to start reworking Dim Vanities or do anything too much with it. However, a couple of weeks ago I got a flash of feeling that made me decide something: DV needs a radical rewrite. It might still not be publishable even after that rewrite, but I’ve got to give this novel one more chance. I still love so many aspects of it – I just need to rewrite the plot and give the characters higher stakes and more emotion. This is, therefore, a project for 2015. (Camp Nanowrimo, perhaps?)

6) I haven’t worked systematically on improving my plotting skills. I’ve been writing more stories, which I think helps, but plotting is definitely still something that I need to work on.

7) I have been trying to finish more things that I start! And I’ve managed to edit at least some first drafts of stories into a submittable point (and sold a couple of them, too – “Chrysopoeia” and “The Ruin”).

***

As for more concrete evidence of my writing in 2014, here’s a list of my publications this year:

POETRY (9 poems)
02/14 “Ninety-Eight” and “City of Stones” in Issue #33 of Chantarelle’s Notebook.
02/14 “Helsinki Love Song” in Wild Violet Magazine.
05/14 “The Alchemist’s Lover” in the “Alchemies” issue of CSHS.
06/14 “Looking-Glass Lover” in Issue #28 of Niteblade, “Looking-Glass Lover” (after my poem).
06/14 “Shrug Charm” in the Spring 2014 issue of Goblin Fruit.
11/14 “Kuura (extract from a Finnish-English dictionary)” in Issue 11 of Stone Telling.
11/14 “Sorrow-stone” in the “Summer Is Dead” issue of Goblin Fruit.
12/14 “Raw Honey” in Strange Horizons. Listen to me reading the poem in the SH December Poetry Podcast.

PROSE (3 stories)
07/14 “Wind Chimes” in 365 tomorrows. Flash fiction.
10/14 “Chrysopoeia” in Issue 9 (Fall 2014) of Quantum Fairy Tales. Short story.
12/14 “Munankuorikehto” (‘Egg-Shell Cradle’) in issue 3/2014 of Spin, the quarterly magazine of the Turku Science Fiction Society (TSFS). The magazine can be ordered from the TSFS webpage. Flash fiction. (in Finnish)

Oh, and rejections? There were many. It’s especially heartening to see some poem or story published that has previously been rejected (many times, even). I don’t really post about my rejections, but of course they happen. A lot. Way more than acceptances. I’ve learned how to deal with them pretty well – I usually don’t take them too personally any more, although getting a rejection is always a disappointment of course.

In addition to this published stuff, I also wrote oodles of poem drafts (I really can’t be bothered to count, there’s so many), several writing exercises with potential for more, one Nanowrimo novel (crapola zero draft, but with definite potential), and some short stories. Oh, and I edited two 10k+ novelettes. NOT BAD.

***

Now, what about the coming year? Here are some writing goals for 2015 (many of them, as you can see, carrying over from last year):

  • Get more stories published.
  • Get more poems published.
  • Revise the ms and submit poetry collection for publication.
  • Start gathering poems together for a speculative poetry collection.
  • Increase writing output – get back into the groove of writing, preferably every day, even if it’s just a short poem or writing exercise.
  • Continue to write more in Finnish. It’s been so great to tap into that part of my writing brain this year, so I want to continue experimenting in my other native language too.
  • Rewrite Dim Vanities entirely. Do this with the help of a proper outline.
  • Improve my plotting skills.
  • Finish more stuff and edit previous work to a submittable point.
  • Submit more stuff, both prose and poetry! Try to submit something at least once a month.

In general, I’m really pleased with how much I’ve written this year and how I’ve improved as a writer. So far it’s been easy for my PhD work to coexist with my writing life – I really hope that state of affairs will continue! And I think it will, if I just make good use of my time.

***

In conclusion: Dear readers, I wish all of you joy and fun writing times in this coming year!

Sunday recs: Fairytale, memory loss, alien chess

Three awesome stories for you this Sunday.

How the Milkmaid Struck a Bargain With the Crooked One by C.S.E. Cooney (in Giganotosaurus). Gaaaah, this story made me have all the feelings. It’s long, but it’s SO worth it – what a treat to sink into a world like this. (Incidentally, it’s a sequel of sorts to The Last Sophia, which I believe I’ve recced here previously.) A gorgeous, detailed fairytale retelling with cool worldbuilding, a great first-person narrator, and gorgeous language. And rhymes! Basically: everything about this story is amazing.

Icarus Falls by Alex Shvartsman (in Daily Science Fiction). An aging protagonist suffering from memory loss – this story of space travel and a mother-daughter relationship is sad but in a very beautiful way.

Zugzwang by Curtis C. Chen (also in DSF). A middle-aged woman is challenged to a game of alien chess to save the crew of a spaceship. This story could’ve been bleak, but instead it made me happy and hopeful.

(Kinda) Sunday recs

It’s past midnight but I’m still calling this Sunday recs because I haven’t gone to bed yet. Days, this is how they work. I’ve been good and gone to sleep before 1am for the past couple of nights, but it’s not going to happen today. But for a good reason: I’ve spent six hours editing a novelette (start to finish) and didn’t finish till past 11pm, after which I had to make the dinner that I’d neglected making earlier. Only now am I full enough and coming down from the writing high enough to even consider bed.

Anyway, enough babbling. Here’s some fairytale-themed pieces that I’ve enjoyed:

Fitting In by Katrina Robinson (in Enchanted Conversation: A Fairy Tale Magazine): this is a pretty awesome Cinderella poem – from the shoe’s point of view!

The Faerie Tailor by Suzanne J. Willis (in Goldfish Grimm’s Spicy Fiction Sushi): gorgeous flash piece, such lyrical prose.

Recognizing Gabe: un cuento de hadas by Alberto Yáñez (in Strange Horizons): this is such an amazing story! A powerful, beautiful story of a trans kid with a fairy godmother.

Sunday recs: Kate Elliott and Ursula Le Guin

To my intense delight, Kate Elliott posted a Valentine’s Day gift for her readers on her blog on Friday: a coda to her wonderful Spiritwalker trilogy (Cold Magic, Cold Fire, Cold Steel). Since it’s a coda, this novelette obviously contains massive spoilers. So, it will only make sense if you’ve read the trilogy. (If you haven’t, why, go and get yourself those books! I’ve plugged them here before, but really, I haven’t had such a squee reaction to a series in ages, and they totally deserve all the love they can get.) Anyway, the novelette was lovely, it resolved some things I’d really wanted to know about. And I do love getting more glimpses of the world Elliott’s created even though the trilogy has ended. :)

And for all of you who have not read the Spiritwalker trilogy, go and read Ursula K. Le Guin’s piece Elementals over at Lightspeed Magazine. This is a wonderful secret history type piece – it’s not really a story, in the traditional sense, but it’s wonderful. It made me think about what a glorious, secret planet we live on despite the mundanity of daily life.

I’m high on writing and folk music and dance tonight, so just these two recs for now. I think it’s time for me to go and find something to eat, and then perhaps write some more.

My writing in 2013 – and my hopes for 2014

In a moment I’m going to get down to some actual writing – there has to be proper writing on the first day of a new year! But first, a round-up of 2013 and some writing goals/wishes for 2014.

I thought I’d do a list of the writing I’ve done this year. It’s difficult to quantify this stuff, really, because a lot of things are in some stage of unfinishedness, but here’s an estimate:

Written:

  • 69 poem drafts (not all of them edited or reworked, and some never will be; many have been submitted, and a few of them have got published too!)
  • 5 flash fiction pieces (4 finished, 1 still in draft phase)
  • 3 stories of <5,000 words (should send a couple of them out; one still needs editing)
  • two novelettes (still need final edits before can be sent out)
  • one failed attempt at reworking my novel Dim Vanities
  • several writing exercises with potential to become more

Published:

Rejected:

  • 32 poems
  • 1 flash fiction piece
  • 1 short story
  • –> As you can see, I didn’t submit too many stories in 2013!

*

So, that’s the numbers. Now for some more words:

What pleased me writing-wise:

  • The writers’ group I’m in – Helsinki Writers’ Group, for people in this area who write in English – has been really great. It’s been amazing to actually share my stuff live with other writers, and to get to talk about writing with people who get it. It’s brilliant to have a group where constructive criticism actually works. I’ve been able to radically improve so many of my pieces from feedback I’ve got from the group. And of course it’s heartening to have people laugh out loud at the funny bits. :) We’ve got a really good, supportive atmosphere, I think. Looking forward to our first meeting of the year this Friday.
  • I wrote a surprising amount considering I was quite stressed out for much of the year and had too much on my plate. Extreme yay!
  • I got some poems published that are very special to me. The fact that ‘Orthography: A Personal History’ is out there makes me especially happy.

What I was disappointed in:

  • As I have mentioned previously, I was disappointed in failing to get a proper edit started for Dim Vanities despite the reasons for my failure being completely understandable.

*

Now for the 2014 part of this post: the forward-looking, hopeful part. :D

What are my writing goals for 2014?
My major non-writing goal this year is to apply for a PhD position in my field of English historical linguistics and manuscript studies. However, my freer schedules this spring will hopefully result in more creative writing time too, despite my intended focus on academia. And even if (when!) busyness ensues, writing will always be high on the priority list. Hence, goals – which I may or may not achieve, but it’s better to have some nonetheless, methinks!

Some goals writing-wise (aim high!):

  • Get a story published! I’d like to get more than just my poetry out there, since, you know, I am not exclusively a poet. Achieving this goal – in addition to luck and writing well – means getting more stories (especially shorter ones) edited, finished and actually submitted.
  • Get more poems published.
  • Work on a poetry collection. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a while now, and I’ve already got a lot of ideas and some preliminary work done.
  • Increase writing output – get back into the groove of writing, preferably every day.
  • Rework Dim Vanities and decide what to do with it (whether to continue editing it smaller-scale, or do a total reboot, or just stick it in the trunk).
  • Improve my plotting skills.
  • Finish more stuff and edit previous work to a submittable point.

I could probably think of tons more goals if I really got to it – there’s always room for improvement and there are plenty of things in my writing that I want to work on. But these are the major goals. I will also work on not stressing out if I don’t manage to fulfil them. With Ye Olde Perfeccionisme, that’s going to be the greatest challenge of all!