Blade & Branch & Stone Up At Podcastle

Blade & Branch & Stone is now up at Podcastle! This is a lovely audio recording of my story, ably hosted by the amazing Matt Dovey and a trio of great narrators.

(This is also a LONG one, folks. It was a failed novel; you should be glad I stopped at 11,000 words.)

This story is a deliberate homage and (I hope) tribute to good old JRR Tolkien.  I’ve always thought the ending of The Lord of the Rings was too easy. The men inherit Middle-Earth, and the elves conveniently go over the sea, abandoning the land they’ve fought for, and the Ents… well, they’re in the woods somewhere. What happens when the age of colonialism comes and trees are cut down and men sail all over the world? Blade & Branch & Stone is a story about a world without a conveniently evil Sauron, just two very different perspectives on the planet. Hope you enjoy it.

(And if you do, please throw some support at Podcastle. They pay writers very well, and each year they do an awesome showcase of women & nonbinary writers, Artemis Rising, and do it all based on support from listeners. They’ve been my favorite short story podcast through four different editorial incarnations and eight years.)

Music Monday: New Spoon!

Hot Thoughts is out and I freaking love it! Not as much as They Want My Soul, but I can understand why the Spoonies went for something weird and experimental and atmospheric instead of a rerun of a great pop record.

There’s about four real standout songs on the album, and this is my favorite, with its crunchy Wurlitzer and crazy middle:

 

Second Novel Freeze-Up

I’m not sure what “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” is about, but I can give a stab at my own version of the lyrics:

Teardrops on the manuscript

Writer’s searching for his groove

Seems like the whole world’s writing pretty

And you can’t get this draft to move

Something something, Second Novel Freeze-Up.

(Baby We Were Born to Run-on Sentence?)

If you, Faithful Blog Reader (hi Mom) have noticed that my blog is not so much like a blog lately, and more like one of those abandoned gas stations in the Mojave Desert… yeah.

I sold a trilogy last year, and I had only written the first one. Turns out it’s hard to write the next one while you’re in the middle of selling the thing. And signing contracts. And a nightmare of an election. And and…

There’s a playful kid in my head, who makes explody noises even when he’s trying not to, who will always and forever need some Star Wars toys to bash together (shh, it’s perfectly healthy for a grown man to have a collection of toys).  For years that kid has been like, “I play, you make something out of them, the money gets me more toys.”

All of the sudden, me and the kid were over that big hump–here we had an agent and editor & first book deal, with a tight deal to turn in the second and third books and the kid SCREAMED. And hid under the bed. And said STOP LOOKING AT ME.

This was not the plan, kid. You were supposed to be a fire hose of inspiration always. I was just trying to tap into your madness.

So the beginning of Book 2 was… not great. Not in any of the three incarnations I wrote before I just forced myself to finish it. As I got into the middle, the kid came out of hiding, wiped his tears, changed his pants and started playing again. But you will not be surprised to hear that, now that we have rough drafts of Books 2 & 3, I am rewriting the entire beginning of Book 2. And having more fun this time.

You want to know more about this sequel, you say? You haven’t even read the first novel and you want more? Preorder the first one already, baby, and then sign up for my newsletter! (Either click that link, or you’ll be prompted as soon as you navigate away from this window.) Every month, I send a non-spammy email with updates on my appearances, what I’m reading, and where my stories are appearing.

The Kid needs more toys. Come on now. Sign on up.

In Which I Shamefully Admit I Had An Okay Year

I’m terribly sorry, because I’m supposed to hate 2016… but I had an okay year personally. My writing career went great. I got an agent and a book deal. I wrote a book on contract, which was such a different headgame that I haven’t been able to even blog about it! (Spoiler: it feels like trying to write under a microscope.) I finished another unrelated novel, and have started the third one in my series.

I also sold a number of stories as reprints, though I didn’t sell any original short stories this year: The Child Support of Cromdor The Condemned to Lightspeed, The Fires of Mercy to Flame Tree Press, About The Bear to Spirit’s Tincture, Five Tales of the Aqueduct to Strange California, The Ifrit’s Trial to FarFetchedFables. Blade And Branch and Stone, formerly of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, will also run at Podcastle sometime in the new year, and a novelette that Tor.com bought way back in the innocent times of 2015 should be up in March.

Phew!

I continue to like my job at Northwest Indian College, even when some of my favorite people retired or found greener fields.

On a personal note, though, my health is not good. As happens to many celiacs, I started to get sick no matter what I ate. I spent all of January-April of 2016 sick and tired, until I tried the Whole 30 diet and cut out soy, corn, and most sugars from my diet (gluten and dairy have been gone for years).  The rest of the year was a little better, but I am learning how tough it is to live entirely without cookies, candy, cake and ice cream. So far there’s no real solution for me other than to eat carefully. I’m having trouble getting in to see any specialists. Gastrointestinal people tend to be booked 4-6 months out.

I did a ton of home remodels. I now have a nice office to write in, a nice rec room to… rec… and a completely remodeled bathroom that ididntwanttoremodeldamnwaterdamagegrumblegrumble…

As for the world around me… well shit. We’re facing World War II levels of far-right fascist uprising, and this time, they’re coming from inside my country. Often from people I care about who were suckered by years of propaganda masquerading as “fair and balanced news.”

It’s hard to write like this. I don’t hole up and write to process; I like going out with friends and playing loud punk rock when I’m angry. (Current emotions: anger, anger and anger.) It takes me about three months to properly process any emotions for writing. And as of November 8th, I had just under three months to finish writing my space opera trilogy.

I haven’t hit on any great techniques for writing with EMOTIONS, so if you have any to suggest, send em my way.

Oh yeah, and one more writing-related thing…

THE BOOK IS UP FOR PREORDER.

(Barnes & Noble too!!) 

Mormons, We Should Talk

Mormons.

Up until Tuesday’s insane reversal of every single thing anyone with sense thought about the election, they were the conscience of the Republican Party.  Mitt Romney called The Big Racist Cheeto on his racism and wouldn’t support the guy from day one.  Evan McMullin gained a lot of momentum within Utah as an eleventh-hour independent who was LDS and Not Trump. Had McMullin carried Utah’s electoral votes, Mormons would be on record as having been the one demographically conservative group to defiantly reject the BRC’s sexism, racism and violence.

So what happened? Well, forty-six percent of the dang vote still went to the Big Racist Cheeto. But more than that, six electoral votes went to the BRC. This despite an outcry of conservative Utah politicians just a few months ago. What happened?

Orrin Hatch happened. He told electors to vote for the party, for the Big Racist Cheeto, despite the outcry from members of his state and religion. And they fell in line. Mormons heartened by the moral stance of Romney and McMullin seemed to forget that Romney & McMullin didn’t actually have electoral votes!

But it’s more than that. Look at those red, red results. Other than liberal bastions of Salt Lake & Park City, the 90+ percent of Mormons in Weber County, Davis County, Wasatch County, Kane County, etc… voted Trump. Even in Utah County, home of Brigham Young University, McMullin couldn’t carry the vote.

Statistically, Brigham Young University voted for Trump.

And I have a theory why. And we need to talk about that theory, Mormons. Because this election has made me feel weirdly close to my LDS roots. I don’t often attend church these days, but when I do, I am proud of my roots in a persecuted religious minority, especially one known for solidarity with Muslims.

But it’s also a religion that has a deeply sexist tradition. Any Mormon over the age of 25 probably remembers the chastity lessons where church leaders were encouraged, by official Church manuals, to lick the frosting off a cupcake and explain that the now bare, saliva-covered cupcake represented a girl–never a boy–who’d had premarital sex.

Elizabeth Smart has rightfully critiqued these teachings and this attitude, but years of lessons that reduce womanhood to virginity/marital sexual fidelity and years of rhetoric about “our mothers and daughters” instead of language of equality, and now look… the most LDS state in the nation voted mostly for a man who is defined by treating women as objects.

A lot of Mormons, with their votes, said that they didn’t care how many sexual assault allegations Trump had against him. And he has a lot.

One can’t help seeing a trend. Years of objectification of women in church ≈ an excuse for an objectifier & abuser, as long as he’s Republican.

It’s time for Mormons to get up in Elders Quorum and Relief Society and not just condemn sexism, but find a different way to talk about sex and women. It’s time to have that awkward conversation about Helen Mar Kimball and say that maybe we need to be more critical even of Church founders in regards to sexism, and that’s okay; it won’t destroy our faith in Christ.

If you’re a Mormon who is horrified that the Big Racist Cheeto won, well, a lot of your fellow Church members helped elect him. And they weren’t just hicks out by Bryce Canyon. They were people like Orrin Hatch. They had the same lessons and the same leaders as you.

STRAAAAANGE CALIFORNIA!!!

Hey people who read this blog! I have been trying to finish a book, a process about which I have MANY THOUGHTS. Most of those thoughts are OHMYSWEETMONKEYTEATS

THISTHINGISDUEINAMONTHANDAHALF

WHATAMIDOINGWHATISLIFEWHYISTHERESOMUCHBLOOD

BUT in the meantime, my story “Five Tales of the Aqueduct,” which originally appeared in the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, is in the Strange California anthology.

The story is a paean to Palmdale, where I grew up. If you haven’t heard of Palmdale, yeah, there’s a reason for that. It’s north of the LA area, north of Vasquez Rocks, the desolate area that serves as an alien planet for every classic Trek episode. That’s the part of California where no one goes. And there isn’t any water there naturally. Governor Pat Brown’s massive California Aqueduct irrigation project brought water down from Mount Shasta all the way to my house, creating The Concrete River On The Hill, along with Lake Palmdale.

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The aqueduct always felt a little strange and alien. It was a giant river! On a hill! In the desert! As teenagers, we’d crawl through the teeny little drainage tunnels underneath it, hike along it and… uh, definitely never went swimming, nope that’d be dangerous and why would teenagers do anything dangerous…

So I celebrated the weirdness of water in dry places with this weird story. I’m absolutely thrilled that it was picked up for this anthology, which highlights a number of other weird things about California.

BUT.

Not yet is it paid!

We have a few more days to go, and a little bit to go to make our Kickstarter goal. So if you have a few bucks, please throw it at the Kickstarter.