Debrief: MATTERS OF SCALE

MATTERS OF SCALE is available for purchase here

Moshel has hidden himself away for years, trying to keep the emotions of others from driving him mad. It’s in mechanics alone that he can find relief, the reliable tick of clockwork his escape. It’s only when he meets his counterpart, Tovah, that he realizes all may not be as it seems in his world, and there may be a way to change it. It’s all a matter of scale.

Publication date: April 13, 2015

Completion date: January 18, 2014

Number of times subbed:
Four–but only out of miscommunication (bear with me). Matters of Scale was, like most of my shorter fiction, written in response to a call, this time a steampunk call put out by Inkstained Succubus press. I immediately had an idea for it, banged out a story, and subbed it. The editors at Inkstained got back to me quickly: good idea, but the story felt cramped. They gave me a Revise & Resubmit with guidance to expand the story. so, I expanded it, subbed it again, and waited.

I confess, between working a day job, parenting, and sleeping I don’t often follow up as thoroughly or in as timely a manner as I should have. February spilled into March, which meandered into…holy shit, it was September and still no word. I assumed the anthology was dead. I subbed the (now novellette) elsewhere. One market rejected me with a letter expressing interest in future stories. Another gave me a form rejection soon after. I decided to table the story, not sure what to do with it. At 10k words, it was a decidedly odd and somewhat unmarketable length.

And then, out of the ether, voila! A note came from Inkstained saying that their editor was happy with it but had some line edits. I said I was happy to make them. Just like that, things were back on track.

BUT LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES! Always actually get that a dead end is a dead end in writing before you move on, because it might actually be that those editors are working hard (for months!) in the background, and you just don’t know it.

The story of the story:
Again, this story more or less wrote itself. When I hear steampunk, I think clockworks, and when I think clockworks, I think about the Semadran elves in Aerdh, my secondary fantasy universe. And no Semadran elf is more Seamdran than Moshel Atoosa’Avvah.

It was a particularly natural fit to got with a Moshel-centered story for an Inkstained call because Moshel was first introduced as an important secondary character in my debut novel, Resistance, which the fine folk at Inkstained published. This story works as an odd sort of prequel to some of the events of Resistance–but with clockpunk background.

Placing the story:
Ultimately, the story landed exactly where it should have. I never mind it when a story I write for a specific call winds up elsewhere, but I always feel an extra edge of accomplishment when they do. I wrote Matters of Scale for Inkstained, and Inkstained published it. Simple as that.


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Sex as Worldbuilding

A couple of days ago, I read Karin Kross’s recap of the Sex and Science Fiction panel that happened at SDCC. From Karin’s recap, it sounds like the panel was equal parts thoughtful1 and irritating2. In any case, the recap got me thinking about the role sex plays in my own writing.

Just narrowing the scope of this post to sex, the act itself, and how that has occurred in my fiction, I’ve tried to explore it in ways that mirror the way sex is used Ariah_FrontCoverOnlyin the real world. Which, yes, often sex is an expression of love. Or desire. But many times, sex is divorced from both of those things: it can be used as a weapon (either literallyy or figuratively). It can be used transactionally, economically. Sometimes these uses blend together, and you can’t separate one from another.

Sex for love and desire happens often in my writing; my characters tend to be sexually and romantically agentic people. Yay for them! That’s why Ariah was classified as a romance, after all3. But here are some other ways sex has appeared in my fiction:

Matters of Scale coverMatters of Scale” touches obliquely on the issue of sexual addiction. Both “Matters of Scale” and Ariah explore the intersection of sex and magic with regard to shapers, for whom sex is complicated—consent is tricky because they essentially black out4. Some shapers self-medicate with sex to escape the constant noise of their magical abilities, just like some real-life people use sex to keep anxiety or depression or other demons at bay.

Cargo is one of the very few places I’ve written about sexual violence. It’s a topic I write about infrequently, not because it’s unimportant, but because it’s triggering and it’s often written about flippantly and inappropriately. But it does happen.

Cargo also introduced the Aerdh-pirate concept of tethers, or captain’s concubines. CargoMy current work-in-progress, The Search, is exploring the nuance and nature of tetherdom in greater detail. This is sex as transaction, or at the very least implied sex as transaction, but it’s not coercive. The Search is going further, too: what would a brothel that is not coercive and exploitative look like? What would a sex worker-run brothel look like?

All of these elements were as plot-driven and plot-driving as the romantic and lusty bits. All of these elements, I think, were also key to include from a worldbuilding perspective, as well. It’s false to think of sex one way. It has always been a flexible part of human nature, used and abused and traded in a hundred different ways. Hopefully one day we won’t abuse it anymore, but I think we’ll continue to trade it (hopefully ethically—because I think we can trade it ethically). At the very least, unless you’re writing in a utopia, your world needs to include all the permutations of how sex occurs.


1Wesley Chu

2Nick Cole

3Ariah was published by Love, Sex & Merlot, the Romance imprint of the Zharmae Publishing Press, not its fantasy imprint (Luthando Couer).

4I am coming to realize there is likely a whole separate post in this.

New Pub: “Matters Of Scale” released by Inkstained Succubus Press!

Matters of Scale cover

I’m thrilled to announce that my novelette, “Matters Of Scale”, has been published as a stand-alone work by Inkstained Succubus Press! The issue is available for purchase here, and I encourage y’all to check it out! Here’s a synopsis of the story to whet your appetite:

Moshel has hidden himself away for years, trying to keep the emotions of others from driving him mad. It’s in mechanics alone that he can find relief, the reliable tick of clockwork his escape. It’s only when he meets his counterpart, Tovah, that he realizes all may not be as it seems in his world, and there may be a way to change it. It’s all a matter of scale.

First, many thanks to the lovely folks over at Inkstained Succubus. I was thrilled to work with them again! I wrote this story as a response to a call Inkstained put out for steampunk short stories about a year ago, and when I hear steampunk, I think clockworks, and when I think clockworks, I think about the Semadran elves in Aerdh, my secondary fantasy universe. And no Semadran elf is more Seamdran than Moshel Atoosa’Avvah.

Moshel was formally introduced in my debut novel, Resistance but I have been writing him as long as I have been writing fiction. Moshel is the very first character I fleshed out on my own, and his is the very first novel that I wrote by myself. It was terrible–maudlin and overwrought, and it will never see the light of day. But I cut my teeth on him. Over and over. And he’s evolved as I have evolved.

In his formal introduction in Resistance, readers meet Moshel as a middle-aged man, someone who knows himself well, who has figured out who he is and what he wants. He still has room to grow, to surprise himself, but he is a man in control of himself. In “Matters Of Scale”, Moshel is not there yet. He is young yet, just barely out of adolescence, and still grappling with the weight of his own mind. In Resistance, Moshel is an almost paternal figure for Shandolin–gracious and supportive and competent. But he wasn’t always like that. He chides her for being brash, but I’ve written him so long…I know Moshel. I know he had a brashness, once, too. And I saw a call for steampunk, and thought about clocksprings, and then I thought about Moshel, but young and out of control and struggling.

I’m glad this episode in Moshel’s history has come to light. I wonder what other bits and pieces of him have yet to surface.

RESISTANCE Cameos

Resistance CoverYou can purchase Resistance here directly from Inkstained Succubus (support small presses!) or here from Amazon.

Resistance is set in the secondary fantasy world of Aerdh, which to date is where most of my writing is set. I consider myself a digressive writer; by that I mean that my ideas for new stories are inspired by the one’s I’ve already written or am currently writing. The stories I write become nest, tangled and interrelated. One way this happens is by cameos.

Sometimes when I’m writing a minor character springs to life. Sometimes, they demand their own stories. This is, actually, how Resistance was born: Inkstained Succubus put out a call for self-rescuing princesses, and I knew a pair of tertiary characters who’d appeared in a few unpublished works of mine were due for their moment in the spotlight. I wrote a short story—“Proof”—about them. The anthology I wrote “Proof” for didn’t pan out, but Inkstained Succubus did me the great honor of requesting that I give Shandolin and Rivna and even brighter spotlight: their very own novel.

Maybe you’ve read Resistance and maybe you’d like to see more of some of these characters. Due to my digressive writing style there’s only a handful of people in the book who only appear there.

A Tale of Rebellion, a series of novels I’m currently mired in the middle of, features some pretty prominent cameos from our friends in Resistance. These books are just a couple of years after Resistance, and there is a meaty section in the first book, Extraction, which takes place in the City of Mages. There, we meet again Shandolin, Rivna, Moshel and even Velo and Po. Kel plays a prominent role in Extraction, appears again in its sequel (The Incoming Tide) and is shaping up to be a major character in the third book in the series (The King and His Makers).

Some characters even have their own short stories all to themselves. Moshel Atoosa’Avvah is the lead in “Matters of Scale”, a short story of mine currently in submission and open to beta readers. Rivna’s father, Pahvo, gives readers a glimpse of what life is like from his perspective in “Blue Flowers,” a short story included in Crossed Genres’ Fierce Family anthology.

Even the City itself appears again. For insight into what the City of Mages looks like quite a few years after the events of Resistance, you could check out “The Other Side of Town,” currently available to read for free over at Redhead Ezine.

Happy reading!