“Birch Daughter” out in Fireside!

Tuesday was a happy day — my story “Birch Daughter” appeared in the wondrous Fireside Magazine.

You can read “Birch Daughter” here!

If you like Finnish-inspired folklore, forests, bears, and queer women, this one’s for you. Fireside describes it as “a magical short story about where the search for heart and home takes us”.

My father told me that the spell was too strong to break, that I should never trust the forest-folk. But the thought of my mother trapped within a gnarled birch tree in the far north was too much for me to bear.

“Birch Daughter” is set in the same ‘verse as my poems Raw Honey and Wolf Daughter (both published in Strange Horizons). I get a very specific pleasure from spinning my Finnish heritage into stories in English.

Also, isn’t the illustration amazing? It’s by the Finnish artist Satu Kettunen; I love it so much. Satu really managed to capture the atmosphere of my story and incorporated lovely details in the artwork. Having such amazing art for my story is a dizzying thing!

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Award eligibility and year in review

I didn’t have much published this year, but here are my award-eligible works from 2017, one short story and four poems:

Short story:
07/2017 “Don’t Look a Wish Horse in the Mouth” in Cosmos Pen, the English special issue of Finnish SFF magazine Kosmoskynä. Short story, 2065 words.
— This is a bit hard to get hold of since it’s in a Finnish print magazine, but I’m happy to provide anyone who asks with a digital copy of my story.

Poetry:
01/2017 “The Queen, After” in Through the Gate.

08/2017 “Sunharvest Triptych” in the anthology Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk & Eco-Speculation, edited by Phoebe Wagner and Brontë Wieland.

10/2017 “Artemis–” in Issue 1 of Blossomry.

10/2017 “When They Belittle Your Nature” in Issue 1 of Blossomry.

The poems are all eligible for the short poem category of the Rhysling Award.

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YEAR IN REVIEW

My writing goals for 2017 were:

  • Finish revising novel; get everything in shape for submission and start submitting it to literary agents.
  • Get back to the poetry collection thing; revise the collection, try to get the ms in shape and submitted.
  • Write more short stories.
  • Get back into the poetry habit.
  • Submit more poetry and stories.
  • Look over previous Nanowrimo novels, make plans for the potentials (rework as novel / condense into novella or novelette).
  • Have fun with writing. Play with it too.
  • Don’t compare yourself to other writers in the bad way. We all have different paths.

Well. Ambitious goals, considering I’m also working on a PhD, and this year was difficult in many other ways too. I obviously didn’t succeed with all of my writing goals, thus.

However: the novel is almost entirely revised to be the best I can make it. I’ve worked on it a lot this year: most of my writing hours were spent on it, which is partly why I’ve not succeeded so well at the other goals. Writing a novel is a long slog, and takes a lot of energy and time. But the time I’ve spent on the novel has paid off: the novel is at the polishing stage, and – importantly – I still love it. I’m looking forward to finishing it in early 2018.

I did not have the energy/time to start submitting the novel to agents, or even to properly start doing my agent research. But that is something that I don’t want to rush: the novel has to be good first.

Re the poetry collection mentioned in my goals: I did basically nothing to it because the novel gobbled up my time/energy. I will eventually try to do stuff to it, though.

I didn’t write many short stories – again, because of the novel. BUT I did complete one new short story, wrote part of another (should get back to it!), and am almost done with a third.

I did not get back into the poetry habit, sadly. I wrote 13 poems, most of which are just short things and not too many of them good. I’d like to get more poetry written: should do some poetry exercises in the new year.

I didn’t submit that much stuff in 2017. 17 poetry subs (14 rejections, 2 acceptances, 1 pending), and 12 story subs (11 rejections, 1 joyous acceptance to Fireside). I have no stories out on sub right now: should try to fix that soon. And also write more stories!

I did not have time to do anything about my previous Nanowrimo novels – but I wrote a new one instead in November. It’s not very good, but it’s proof that I can still plonk out 50,000 words in a month.

As for my final goals for 2017: I haven’t played around as much with writing as I’d have wanted, mostly – again – because I’ve been busy with the novel. But I have managed to compare myself less with other writers. I’ve been so damn busy with work and other life things that it’s a wonder I managed to get through 2017.

Every creative word written is a win, especially when you’re working on a PhD. Really, I’ve done a lot this year even though the brainweasels tell me it’s not enough. My novel is almost submittable – I’ve done some other creative writing on the side – and even though I haven’t submitted much stuff, I submitted something. I kept going, kept writing.

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My writing goals for 2018, then:

  • Finish novel revisions; send it out to agents. Revise again as needed.
  • Do something about the poetry collection.
  • Look over previous Nanowrimo novels, make plans for the potentials (rework as novel / condense into novella or novelette).
  • Write for yourself – write amazingly self-indulgent things that make your heart sing.
  • Make time for writing. Don’t shuffle writing to the bottom of the priority list.
  • But also: be gentle to yourself and accept that your pace will be slower because of all your other commitments.

Happy New Year, dear readers. I hope it’s a better year, a happier year, a more hopeful year. No matter what, I will keep writing words of hope and kindness in the face of hardship.

“Birch Daughter” sold to Fireside

This news is a couple of weeks old, but it’s wonderful news despite that: my story “Birch Daughter” has sold to the amazing magazine Fireside. I’ve loved the stories in Fireside for a long time and am super excited that my story will appear there in 2018!

I should write my award eligibility post soon (it will probably be after Christmas at this point): I’ve been procrastinating doing it because of busyness and brain weasels. Things have been super hectic and stressful after getting home from my two-month visit to the UK, alas. But it’s all finally quieting down a bit: I’m on holiday, and hope to have the energy to write a lot. In any case, getting the Fireside news has buoyed me up in this dark season. And we’re already past Midwinter Day. I can do this. We can do this.

Cosmos Pen and Sunvault!

I got my copy of Cosmos Pen: A Travel Guide to Finnish Weird today! Yaaay! The issue looks fantastic and I’m looking forward to reading all of it.

So, this special issue of the Finnish SFF magazine Kosmoskynä (which translates to Cosmos Pen) includes my story “Don’t Look a Wish Horse in the Mouth”. As I mentioned when I talked about the sale, this story has had quite a few rejections (although also good feedback), so I was very happy to have it accepted for Cosmos Pen. I don’t write a lot of stuff that could be considered “weird fiction” as such – but Wish Horse definitely counts. It’s set in my home town of Helsinki, and the first line pretty much tells you what you need to know re the weirdness:

When wishes became horses, beggars still couldn’t ride — for the horses were the size of Christmas tree ornaments.

I got the idea for this story, quite literally, as a fever dream many years ago. I was ill, unable to sleep, and suddenly the thought just popped into my mind. What if wishes really did become horses? But pesky tiny ones? I wrote the first version of the story in 2015, and revised it soon after to become pretty close to the published version. I’m proud of this ridiculous story and so happy it’s out now! I feel like I’ve captured some of my Helsinki in this story, too.

I think Cosmos Pen will be sold at Worldcon75, so buy a copy there if you can make it to the con! (A Worldcon post is forthcoming – I’m doing some exciting things there!)

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And then more publication stuff – Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk & Eco-Speculation! This solarpunk anthology – edited by Phoebe Wagner and Brontë Christopher Wieland – features fiction and poetry from a lot of amazing writers, including Nisi Shawl and Daniel José Older.

My poem “Sunharvest Triptych” is a fitting companion to the wish-horse story in that it’s also set in Helsinki – but a solarpunk Helsinki.

I’m so happy to be part of this anthology. Much awesomeness – and what a glorious cover, too. Likhain is one of my favourite artists and it’s fabulous to be in another anthology involving her art! (An Alphabet of Embers was illustrated by Likhain.)

Sunvault is currently available for preorder, so go ahead and order a copy from your online retailer of choice!

Story news! “Don’t Look a Wish Horse in the Mouth”

My weird Helsinki story “Don’t Look a Wish Horse in the Mouth” will appear in Cosmos Pen, the English-language special issue of the Finnish SFF magazine Kosmoskynä. The issue is going to appear around Worldcon. \o/

I’m so happy to have found this story a home. It’s received positive feedback from a few venues but been rejected; but I think Cosmos Pen, with its theme “Travel Guide to Finnish Weird”, is actually perfect for this odd little story. I don’t often write stuff that could be classified as “Finnish Weird”, but this one definitely qualifies. I’ll have more to say about the story itself when it comes out!

Award Eligibility 2016

Award nomination season is upon us and I’ve had things published this year that I’m really proud of. I’d be honoured if anyone were to consider my work for nomination. I am also in my first year of elibigility for the Campbell Award.

So, with less self-deprecation than in the past couple of years, here are my award-eligible works for 2016:

Short story:

(eligible for the Hugos, Nebulas and World Fantasy)

“The City Beneath the Sea” (c. 1,100 words)
     Published in the anthology An Alphabet of Embers, edited by Rose Lemberg. This is a story on the borders of dream and waking. “They say it appears when the stars shift up right, shuffle into a straight line in their slow dance. And here we are, waiting.”

“Water, Birch, and Blood” (c. 4,100 words)
     Published in Strange Horizons, the special issue Our Queer Planet. This was inspired by summers spent in Finnish summer cottages, and wondering what happens to the children who save magical worlds and get sent back home. “Crows, their granite grey and black wings beating victory into the air, the flash of an unknown face like a fir tree–”

“Creation” (c. 1,000 words)
     Published in the August 2016 issue of Flash Fiction Online. Faerie is grim, but hope can be born even amid despair. “When the Queen of Faerie orders you to do something, you don’t refuse.”

(I’m very proud of all three stories, but especially since An Alphabet of Embers is not freely available, I’d like to recommend “Water, Birch, and Blood”.)

Poetry (short poem):

(eligible for the Rhysling Award)

“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.

Story sale to Strange Horizons

I’m delighted to announce that I’ve sold a story to Strange Horizons: “Water, Birch, and Blood” will be appearing in SH’s special issue Our Queer Planet.

“Water, Birch, and Blood” is about family, memory, and loss; it’s got echoes of my own memories in it, through the setting (a Finnish summer cabin). I can’t wait for you to get to read it.