publishing


hands_2015_xpk1In anticipation of the release of my Steampunk Weird Western, Vermilion, my dear friend and steampunk expert S.J. Chambers introduced me to the lovely Kevin D. Steil. Kevin is the creator/editor of Airship Ambassador, which hosts a yearly event called Steampunk Hands Around the World. This year’s theme is Steampunk: Our Playground, Our Classroom, Our Workshop. I’m a little late to the party (it’s the last week of the event) as my copy edits for Vermilion took quite a bit out of me, but better late than never! And if you’re interested in what other participants have been doing as I agonized over commas, you can check that out here.

Though I’m just writing about all this now, the theme “Our Playground, Our Classroom, Our Workshop” had me thinking as I poured over Vermilion, re-checking various historical details and knowing that in spite of my best efforts, I would inevitably miss something. And I’m not just talking about a clunky sentence or a dropped word… I mean something more akin to an anachronism, an incorrect detail, a bit of “common knowledge” I never questioned. I loved researching Vermilion, but it was an experience as intense and humbling as it was rewarding, and today I’m going to blog about why.

Vermilion is set in 1870, in an alt-historical America where ghosts, monsters, and talking bears are as much a part of the landscape as people, trains, guns, and purveyors of quack remedies. That said, certain familiar elements remain—the Transcontinental links the West with back East, road agents hunt down and terrorize travelers, diseases like tuberculosis are as dangerous as they are difficult to cure, and it’s hard to get a fair shake if you’re not white, wealthy, and male.

Lou Merriwether is none of those things. She’s half-Chinese, works for a living, and she’s a woman, even if she usually passes as a man while she tramps all over San Francisco, exorcising the restless dead. Lou does well for herself, but that doesn’t mean things are easy for her; in fact, where the novel opens, anti-Chinese sentiment in San Francisco affects her personally and professionally on a daily basis. In spite of this, she tries to maintain a sense of humor, but that doesn’t mean she’s not aware of how annoying (and dangerous) being different can sometimes be.

When I first began to draft Vermilion, then a very different novel with a very different title, I knew I wanted a protagonist who lived on the margins, and whose identity (and sense of that identity) would create difficulties for her as much as it allowed her to access interesting opportunities. Vermilion is very much about the marginalized—19th century racial and sexual politics are reflected in the action as much as discussions about sickness versus health, insider versus outsider status, martial prowess versus strength of a different sort—and I wanted the novel’s point of view to be someone flexible enough to negotiate with everything with… let’s call it “a varying degree of success.”

For Steampunk Hands Around the World, the theme of “Our Playground, Our Classroom, Our Workshop,” inspired me to blog about a little about some of the historical and cultural research I did for Vermilion. As with all of us, Lou’s childhood experiences inform her personality, her lived experience, her work, and her decisions, so I wanted to read and learn as much as I could in order to bring her (and her world) to life. One of the reasons I enjoy the challenge of writing historical fiction is I love to research! It’s exciting to lose myself in the past, whether it’s picking up a work of fiction from a different time and place, or looking up what are considered to be the best nonfiction books on a certain subject. While I might jot down random notes or ideas during the drafting process, reading is how I know I’ve really and truly begun a new project.

When I began in earnest to work on Vermilion, several books in particular were extremely helpful to me:

Iris Chang’s wonderful and detailed accounts provided much of the backdrop I needed to create my alt-history Chinatown, and The Children of Chinatown was a fantastic study that helped me imagine what someone like Lou’s early life might have been like. Given that Lou must do some detective work, supernatural and more traditional, the tales of Judge Dee gave me some insight into the specifically Chinese detective novel, and Yutang Lin’s treatment of the Tao Te Ching, which pairs the original insights of Laotse with commentary by his follower Chuangtse, was most informative when it came to developing Lou’s personal philosophy toward life, death, and undeath.

While I love reading, and curling up with a history book is one of my favorite things in the world, I also wanted to do some more “hands-on” research. To that end, my husband and I took an anniversary trip out to San Francisco a few years ago, to relax and hang out, but also so I could walk the streets Lou would have walked. We had a great time visiting landmarks and poking around in shops, and he was very patient as I spent several hours taking notes at the Chinese Historical Society of America‘s wonderful museum. I also consulted with an apothecary and got a TCM prescription filled at the Great China Herb Company.

Learning about language was also part of my research. A large portion of the Chinese immigrants who lived in San Francisco and worked on the Transcontinental came over from Toisan, called Taishan in Mandarin, and Hoisan by native speakers. I initially hoped to use Toisanese when I needed to use a Chinese word, but after a few conversations with a native Toisanese speaker, on his advice I ended up using mainly romanized Cantonese pronunciations. Negotiating with Cantonese was fascinating if frustrating, as I neither speak nor read any Chinese, but my Toisanese contact as well as my very patient friend-cum-scholar of Asian languages Raechel Dumas got me through it in the end.

I cannot conclude this essay without mentioning several wonderful films that not only initially inspired the project, but actually helped me in my research into what would become Lou’s profession. The truth is, my interest in Taoist necromancy and geung si began with a film: Mr. Vampire. It’s an awesome flick, and I followed it up with watching many more in the Hong Kong vampire genre. Here’s an incomplete list for any curious cinemaphiles out there:

  • Mr. Vampire

The Hollywood picture Big Trouble in Little China is also worth a watch, if you’ve never seen it. I once pitched Vermilion as being set in the historical past of that film. It made sense to me, at least!

Writing historical fiction requires all kinds of research, but as much as I wish I could share everything, I want to keep my focus in this essay. And on that note, I’ll conclude. Many thanks to Kevin for hosting and promoting Steampunk Hands Around the World, this was a fun opportunity and I’m so glad I got to participate!

Oh, and if any of this sounds intriguing… well, Vermilion drops on April 15th, and can be pre-ordered now. There’s even a fancy bundle offer going on right now!

lazy-fascist-review-2_coverCall for Submissions

Lazy Fascist Review #4: Lovecraftiana

Below you will find the details for the forthcoming (November 2015) issue of the Lazy Fascist Review. This issue’s theme is Lovecraftiana. Please read all the submission guidelines carefully before submitting!

Basic details: I will be looking for stories set in any time period, 2-7k in length. Payment will be $75 per story.

IF YOU ALREADY SUBMITTED: Do not worry; do not resubmit. Your submissions will be considered even if they’re not within the above parameters.

No poetry.

No reprints.

No multiple submissions, no simultaneous submissions.*

Title your submissions LOVECRAFTIAN ISSUE: [Story Title], and send them to lazyfascistreview at gmail dot com.

The reading window is from the moment this appears on the Internet until July 1st, 2015. Anything arriving after that date will be deleted unread. Final selection will be announced by mid-September, though rejections may arrive earlier.

During the reading period, all submissions must be sent as a Word document in Standard Manuscript Format, double spaced, blah blah blah.

IF YOU ALREADY SUBMITTED: Do not worry; do not resubmit. Your submissions will be considered even if they’re not correctly formatted.

Now for the good stuff. What am I looking for?

This is the Lovecraftiana issue of Lazy Fascist Review. That means stories submitted should seek to explore some combination of Bizarro with the themes typically found in Mythos fiction. This could mean just about anything, so do not be daunted or put off by this. That said, for those of you unfamiliar with Bizarro, consider familiarizing yourself with the genre before submitting. This is not to say anyone should worry whether their submission “is” or “isn’t” Bizarro enough, or Bizarro at all… this is just a prompt to get interested writers to think in a slightly different mode than usual. There are an astounding number of titles out there, including compendiums like The Best Bizarro Fiction of the Decade. Read a little, have fun, and see where it takes you.

As for Lovecraft, his creations (Cthulhu and other elder gods, settings such as R’lyeh, works like the Necronomicon) exist ambiguously within the public domain. This means authors can play in Lovecraft’s sandbox with a relatively clean conscience or fear of being sued. Not so for those who came after—the “Lovecraftian” stories of Howard, Campbell, and modern authors are the property of those authors alone. I’m too busy to deal with a lawsuit, so keep your stories firmly within Lovecraft’s Lovecraftiana. This means you can draw settings, characters, motifs, whatever from that which he wrote about. A good source to check would be H.P. Lovecraft.com.

As for some interesting examples of what a pairing of Bizarro and Lovecraftiana could look like, here are a few good examples…

  • The exploration of sex and torture in Makino Osamsu’s “Necrophallus”
  • The gleeful post-human world of Nick Mamatas’ “Inky, Blinky, Pinky, Nyarlathotep”
  • The brooding, futile insanity of the arms race in Charles Stross’ “A Colder War”
  • The fear of contamination and mutation featured in Tetsuo the Iron Man
  • The somber disquiet featured in Caitlin R. Kiernan stories like “Faces in Revolving Souls” and “Andromeda Among the Stones”

This is a scant handful of potential explorations. Show me what you think it means, I want to find out. One thing I’m not looking for: straight-up Lovecraftian pastiche. Save that for other markets, I’m more interested in seeing new takes on old themes than retreads of “oh, woe is me, I am so insane after I saw x, let me tell you about it before I kill myself.”

What else… I am not at all adverse to mature content, be it sexual, pharmacological, or violent in nature. That said, stories featuring rape will be a particularly tough sell.

Additionally, I will be actively seeking to represent a diverse array of voices and themes in this issue of Lazy Fascist Review. Women, LGTB individuals, people of color, and other traditionally “outsider” voices in the Mythos are particularly encouraged to submit. Lovecraftiana is evolving to be more accepting of “the other,” and this issue of LFR is committed to continuing that process. All authors are invited and encouraged to submit tales that expand Lovecraftiana while retaining its focus on cosmic horror, the grotesque, the fear of succumbing, weirdness in general, that beyond which man can (or should know), and so on.

Good luck, and send any questions to lazyfascistreview at gmail dot com with the subject heading LOVECRAFTIAN ISSUE: Question.

*If you submitted before these guidelines appeared, and wish to withdraw, or send one (1) additional story that you feel might be a better fit, you may do so. Also, if you submitted before these guidelines appeared and have submitted the story elsewhere, it WILL NOT be withdrawn from consideration. You get special dispensation. Lucky you!

Mr VampireYikes! I wasn’t expecting this so soon in 2015, but Vermilion is… imminent here in ARC form,out in the world, digital and hard copy.

If you are a book reviewer, and would like to receive an uncorrected ARC for review, please contact Ross Lockhart at publicity[at]wordhorde.com. ARC!Also, if you know any book reviewers into some or all of the following, maybe send them this way, or at least spread the word: gender fluidity, weird westerns, steampunk-y things, sickness, death, and dying, sea lions, vampires, San Francisco, hiking, the Rocky Mountains, trains, bears, the Mr. Vampire franchise from the 1980s, ghosts, punching things, Big Trouble in Little China, friendship, sanatorium culture a la The Road to Wellville, hysteria, adventures, snow, mountains, sexual tension, mysteries, and… uh… I guess that’s enough to go on.

Thanks, and happy reading!

I won’t just have one novel out next year… I’ll have two!

Lazy Fascist, who did such a great job with A Pretty Mouth, will be putting out my second full-length novel, The Pleasure Merchant, in Fall 2015. The formal announcement is here, on Pornokitch. I’m really stoked. Here’s a short description:

wigsThe Pleasure Merchant;

Or, The Modern Pygmalion

“To truly know a man, you must know his pleasure…”

Tom Dawne is a modest boy with modest dreams that befit his modest station in life. An orphan, apprenticed to a respectable wigmaker, all Tom has ever wanted is to learn his trade, marry his master’s daughter, and become a full partner in the business.

Unfortunately, after a mysterious young gentleman calling himself Callow Bewit tampers with one of Tom’s most important commissions, Tom is summarily dismissed and turned out into the street. It’s as strange as it is unfair—Tom has no idea how the youth planted all those playing cards in the damn wig, causing its owner to be accused of cheating during a high-stakes game at a very fancy party. But he must have done it—Tom certainly had nothing to do with the affair.

Stranger still, in the wake of Tom’s disgrace, Callow Bewit’s father, the very rich and very unhappy Mr. Tiercel Bewit, offers Tom a new job… as his “cup-bearer,” whatever that means. Tom takes the position, even though it’s uncertain why Mr. Bewit feels any responsibility toward him at all—the boy in the wig shop was most definitely an impostor, for Mr. Bewit’s son Callow is away in Europe on his grand tour. Could it be the gentleman had something to do with the scandal? Or is he simply a kindly old man with a heart of gold?

Whatever the case might be, Mr. Bewit’s generosity initiates Tom’s meteoric rise in 18th century London society. But as Tom goes from disgraced apprentice to gentleman’s servant, and then from gentleman’s servant to gentleman-in-training, his desires change as much as his duties, and his pleasures even more than his station. Once, a small shop and an intelligent bride would have satisfied Tom’s every desire. Now all he can dream of is climbing the social ladder, even if he’s unsure what’s at the top.

When Tom meets a man who claims he can obtain Tom’s ultimate pleasure—for a price—what will Tom ask for? A secure life as an obscure tradesman? A fate more glittering and glorious? Or something darker, like revenge on those who have wronged him? Pleasure can take many forms, after all…

Aw man. Left it too late again…

October’s been a crazy month. In spite of two major deadlines looming, I went to Japan for two weeks, which was awesome! More on that when I have time to upload a thousand pictures of temples and deer and stuff.

As my deadlines seem a lot closer on this side of the trip (and my birthday—I’m 33 now, righteous), here’s a quick update of things I’ve been doing:

  • Speaking of Pornokitsch, I had a new short story go up over there. Co-authored with Jesse Bullington, it’s called “Four Seasons in the Floating World™“. You can also buy it for 99 whole cents and read it on your e-reader.
  • In other news, I’ll be editing the 4th issue of Lazy Fascist Review, which won’t come out until a year from now. Guidelines and stuff when I have them. It’ll be some kind of Lovecraft theme, but I’ll probably narrow the scope when I have a minute to think on it.
  • I blind submitted a short story for the first time in several… years? And it was accepted! More details as I can share them.

That’s about it. Except… am I forgetting something?

Oh! That’s right!

One week from tomorrow…

watch-this-space

What could it be??

I’m back from my Florida semi-vacation. Some medical stuff in the family, as usual, so I went down to help out my mom. She’s fine—she pulled through her end of things like a champ! She’s one tough lady.

Let’s see…

I realized the other day that I’ve sold over twenty short stories in the last five years. Given how slowly I write, that’s a really exciting figure! Some of those short stories have been sold but not announced—at least two, maybe three? I’m terrible at keeping track of that stuff. Anyways, announcements on things as I can, obviously. Whee!

triathloatA week ago last Sunday (meaning September 21st) I completed my first sprint triathlon! It was pretty much the greatest thing in the world, I’ll definitely be doing more in future. And not only did I complete it, I got the times I wanted.

My goal for this was first and foremost to finish, but I also wanted to do it under two hours. That meant, knowing my athletic ability, I needed to finish the swim in under 20 minutes, the ride in under an hour, and the run in under 40 minutes. I did all of it! And I wasn’t totally wiped out, after, nor was I particularly sore. My hips were stiff, and my knees complained a little but that’s to be expected for me. All in all, it was a great experience, and I’ll definitely do another tri with Without Limits, and maybe some others. I’d be curious to do an Olympic some day.

Sprint Triathlons are:

1/2 mile swim

12.something mile ride (mine was 12.9)

5k run

Olympic/Standard Tris are:

.93mi swim

25mi bike ride

1ok run

So, a nice increase in my best event, swimming, but also an increase in my worst event, running. But, my plan is to keep up on running this winter and increasing gradually to see if I (meaning, my knees) can take that distance. But, I must say, the sprint distance was so fun and exhilarating, I have no problem sticking with that. I enjoyed it so much I’m considering looking for a used wetsuit so I can do earlier-season triathlons. The water in Union Reservoir was 69 the day I swam, which is totally fine without a wetsuit, but maybe 4 degrees colder and it would have been pretty terrible. Given how cold the reservoirs around here get during the winter, anything before July would probably be a struggle without one.

I have really been into sewing my own clothes. Down in Florida I completed a new long-sleeved tunic and a sleeveless tunic dress thing. Pics whenever I wear them, probably.

Other than that, I’ve just been working on my WiP, which is finally (FINALLY) chugging along nicely. I had some early-novel struggles with this, for whatever reason, but now I’m enjoying myself greatly. The reduced speculative element in this has been very refreshing for me… we’ll have to see how it flies with my readership! At least anyone who picks it up because they know I can be counted upon to write about terrible fuckers fucking up will be happy. I gotta be me!

I made mandu/mandoo for the first time a few weeks back. They’re time-consuming but super-delicious! So far I’ve only cooked up the steamed kind. Tonight, I’ll be frying up the pan-fried kind for dinner. I also used my leftover mandu-pi to make tortellini with some home-fermented cashew-almond gruyere, which was pretty righteous.

In two weeks I’ll be headed to Japan, which is super-exciting.

Okay… that’s it, I think. Back to work!

John Langan, that illustrious author of quiet horror, was so good as to nominate me to be part of a Writing Process Blog Tour. I goofed and did not get to it in within a week, and as it’s sort of a chain letter, I guess I’ll be cursed or something. But, hey, first-hand curse experience isn’t such a bad thing in my field, I guess?

1) What are you working on?

Currently I’m working on a short novel. It’s been sold but not announced, so I don’t feel comfortable revealing the title yet. I will say it’s a period piece, and one with a limited speculative element. I hop it will please anyone who enjoyed the title novellas in A Pretty Mouth and Rumbullion.

2) How is your work different from others’ work in the same genre?

I tend to be a lot goofier, I guess. And I often write in historical settings. Horror/Weird/Lovecraftiana these days is very often Very Serious, or quiet and meditative, and largely modern. (I’m not dismissing any of the above; I love quite a bit of that stuff, most recently this story by Simon Strantzas, but you asked how I was different!) My most popular works, by contrast, tend to be ridiculous, and set in the past. For example, the first chapter of A Pretty Mouth (the novella), which is set just barely before the Restoration, involves a pudgy loser writing a poem honoring a schoolmate, not realizing it’s full of homoerotic entendre, getting shamed for it in front of his class, tripping, farting loudly, and then getting kicked in the ass by his professor. Not really deep, serious stuff. “The Infernal History of the Ivybridge Twins” got a lot of attention because it has twincest and… okay, probably because of the twincest. And “Herbert West in Love,” another story that has been reprinted and will be reprinted again (announcement when I can!) is just ridiculous.

3) Why do you write what you do?

I write stories I’d like to read.

4) How does your writing process work?

With short fiction, sometimes a title comes first; sometimes an anthology has a theme that calls to me. Most often these days, someone asks me to write something for a project, and I try to produce something that I think will be different from everything else they’ll get, and that (again) I’d like to read if I picked up that anthology. I write so slowly it’s been a long time since I’ve just written a story “because.” I’m not bragging; I hope once I clear my plate of my current obligations I can write some short fiction just for fun, but I came up with an exciting new idea for a novel a few weeks back so I’ll probably go down that hole once I’m a bit more free.

I don’t know if I have a writing process, when it comes to getting words on paper. I sometimes just blart out things and then go over them, revising and reworking until the story I want takes shape. Sometimes, especially with longer projects, I’ll use Scrivener to organize myself. I wrote the first draft of Vermilion, my forthcoming novel, in Scrivener. But I wrote A Pretty Mouth in Word, so, who knows?

As most of what I write is historical, I tend to make a trip to the library to research before I put down a single word. Like with what I’m working on, I grabbed such books as Developments in the History of Sexualities, Disorderly Women in 18th Century London, and How to Create the Perfect Wife. (So that’s a clue as to what I’m working on!)

Then I just spit on my hands, pray to Dionysios, and hope for the best. Sometimes it works; sometimes not. I junk a lot of biz.

Okay! Thanks again to John Langan, whose trust I squandered. I think I’ll tag… Simon Strantzas, as I mentioned him above, and Ross Lockhart, who is a writer as well as an editor. Huzzah!

I’m really excited to announce that Vermilion, my first novel, has been acquired by Ross word hordeLockhart of Word Horde. It’s scheduled to come out sometime in Spring, 2015. Hey, that’s next year!

Vermilion (which for those of you who read this blog/know me, yes, it used to have a different title) is the story of Elouise, more commonly known as Lou Merriwether, a gunslinging, chain smoking, cross-dressing Taoist psychopomp who keeps San Francisco safe from ghosts, shades, and geung si. It’s an important job, but most folks consider it damn spooky. Some have accused Lou of being more comfortable with the dead than the living, and, well… they’re not wrong. Not entirely, at any rate. Then again, it’s not like Lou gets less guff from those what haven’t yet been buried. But when Lou finds out that a bunch of Chinatown boys have gone missing somewhere deep in the Colorado Rockies she decides to saddle up and head into the wilderness to investigate… even though she fears her particular talents make her better suited to help placate their sprits than ensure they get home alive.

Many, many thanks Ross Lockhart for taking an interest in the project, and to my agent, Cameron McClure, for representing it. I couldn’t be happier—Ross and I have worked together since he shocked and surprised me in the best way possible by picking up “The Infernal History of the Ivybridge Twins” for Book of Cthulhu. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, and it just keeps getting better.

starry wisdomGot a cool thing in my inbox the other day—the cover for The Starry Wisdom Library: The Catalogue of the Greatest Occult Book Auction of All Time, which I have a thing in. It also contains things by Nick Mamatas, Jesse Bullington, S.J. Chambers, Livia Llewellyn, Simon Strantzas, “and more.” Lots more!

I wrote my piece for this approximately a million years ago so I’m excited to see it’s all coming together so beautifully.

I also have my latest Roald Dahl blog up on Pornokitch, on Memories with Food at Gipsy House, which is a cookbook co-authored by Roald Dahl and his wife Felicity Dahl. I tried to make a meal out of it! The story is all there. Plus a recipe for vegan vanilla ice cream that is pretty much foolproof.

Other than that, things have been quiet. Except, not really?

I’m going to Japan in mid-October for two weeks. Whaaat. I know! I’m going to be spending most of my time in Toyko, as my girl Raechel is living there whilst dissertating, but we’re planning a side-trip to Kyoto. So fun!

I’m still training for my triathlon, which is tiring but really rewarding.

I’m culturing up some Rejuvelac for cheese making.

Oh, and I’m working on writing and editing stuff, of course.

Things have gotten so busy in that regard I’m having to scale back my involvement with certain recreational activities, sadly to say specifically lion dance. I hope to get back into it later this year, but after mid-August I’ll be done for a while. I don’t like to half-devote myself to things, so I’m focusing on my professional life for a while.

So, if you (1) are reading this, (2) live in Boulder or around here, and (3) care, you should come see me perform either at Boulder Asian Fest, which is on the 9th and the 10th (lion both days) or in Aurora at GlobalFest, on the 23rd.

With one thing and another, I’ve been neglecting this space. So, here’s what’s up:

I guest-edited this month’s issue of The Big Click. It’s a themed Bizarro/Crime mashup issue, featuring work from Cameron Pierce, Stephen Graham Jones, and J David Osborne. I’d really appreciate it if you picked up an issue or linked to it if you enjoy what you read for free online. This is my first solo editorial project and your support means a lot to me, and to us as a magazine!

I’ve published two more in my series about reading Roald Dahl since I last blogged. Here’s one on The Gremlins, a children’s book that was a failed Disney project. The next is also about Gremlins, but it’s on Dahl’s first novel for adults, Sometime Never. Spoiler: it kind of sucks. Another spoiler: I get to debunk a Cracked.com theory that Snozzberries are dicks. Anyways!

CoOL-639x1024I have a story in The Children of Old Leech, a Laird Barron tribute anthology. It’s beautiful (Matthew Revert, who did my cover for A Pretty Mouth) and full of lots of cool people, homies if you will. My story has gotten some good buzz, including this writeup from Publishers Weekly, which specifically mentions “Good Lord, Show Me The Way.” I think this might be the first time my name has appeared in PW, which is pretty exciting!

Hm, what else? I signed up for a sprint triathlon, so I’ve been training for that. Running still sucks, but at least this is giving me a good excuse to swim. And bike more!

This space is going to have some exciting news soon (what could it be??) so maybe it would behoove me to blog more. I’ll try to be more enthralling in future.

Oh, who am I kidding? Hahaha. I’m never enthralling.

 

 

« Previous PageNext Page »