The Myriad Carnival is out today!

And I’ve got a story in it!

MyriadCarnival_FrontCover

Amazon | Goodreads

About the Anthology
Roll up, roll up… The circus has long been that dream palace, intoxicating with so many lights and sights, sounds and smells. Sawdust, popcorn, strange animals, make-up, and the sweat of the roustabouts. The circus intrudes into the life of the ordinary and mundane and brings magic. Editor Matthew Bright invites you to the enjoy the sixteen attractions of the fantastical and dark Myriad Carnival.

About “The Sharpshooter” by B R Sanders
Never look too close at anything in the Myriad Carnvial; everything there is an illusion. Beneath the makeup and the wig and the costume in the gunslinger’s tent is Yves: French, genderqueer, armed with an enchanted gun. Trouble comes for Yves, but what happens when the West’s best shot is no great shot at all?

Also, hey, check out this cool trailer Lethe Press put together!

It was a pleasure working with Matthew Bright on this story, and I am so excited to be included in this anthology! I hope you’ll check it out!

Debrief: “Real Monsters”

Lethe Press | Amazon

Lethe Press | Amazon

Scylla and Charybdis are sea monsters, but they didn’t start that way. In “Real Monsters,” Scylla tells her story. In Scylla’s version of events, what lies between Scylla and Charybdis is not death and destruction but a radical and vibrant love story.

Publication date: First published in Cactus Heartissue 8, on 6/4/2014.

Reprinted in Heiresses of Russ 2015 on 10/23/2015.

Completion date: 11/3/2013

Number of times subbed:
Six–four rejections and two acceptances. One of the acceptances was an initial acceptance to publish, and the second was an acceptance to publish as a reprint.

The story of the story:
I wrote this one to a call for stories featuring queer women and the theme “over and under the sea.”

I had that call banging around in my head when I went on a trip with my ex to meet her family. That trip didn’t go well; her family could not get my preferred pronouns right, nor did they seem to have any interest in doing so. Not a queer friendly situation, much less trans-friendly.

The idea came to me very suddenly, born out of I’m not sure what, but the upshot is that I ended up in a crappy little Starbucks looking up elements of myth about Scylla and Charybdis while I sketched out the plot. I wrote the thing in a single sitting, there in that Starbucks, the day we left her family behind and started another leg of the trip. Writing it was an act of catharsis, an exorcism of vicious defiance I’d been carrying for days.

Placing the story:
This one wasn’t easy to place. It’s a retelling of Greek myth, still with the same setting but told in modern colloquial language and subrversively recast. It’s kind of spec fic but kind of not–there are sea creatures and gods and goddesses, but it’s a Greek myth retelling and those are often perceived to be tongue-in-cheek literary as often as not as well. It was another one that was, frankly, just kind of…weird.

I sent it to the lit mag that issued the call, and was rejected. I sent it to a couple of spec fic lit mags, and was rejected. I tried a literary lit mag that had a call going for a fanfic-y type thing, and this piece seemed to fit, but was rejected. I saw Cactus Heart listed on Lambda Literary, and their mission statement said they were after “spiny writing & art—sharp, relentless, coursing with energy and able to thrive in the harshest of places, all while maintaining a vulnerable, succulent interior.” Hell, I thought, this one is spiny and vulnerable. So I subbed “Real Monsters” to them, and they took it! An ethos fit, I’d call it.

A few months later I saw the call from Lethe Press for submissions to their annual Heiresses of Russ collection–reprints of lesbian fiction from the past year. I sent them “Real Monsters” and “Beneath the Dane Hills” for consideration–both fit the bill–and they chose “Real Monsters”.


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Announcement: “Real Monsters” in HEIRESSES OF RUSS 2015!

OH GUESS WHAT MOAR ANNOUNCEMENTS!

I am honored that my story, “Real Monsters”, is included in Heiresses of Russ 2015: The Year’s Best Lesbian Speculative Fiction.

The fact that my story is sandwiched between Nicola Griffith’s “Cold Wind” and Alex Dally MacFarlane’s “Because I Prayed This Word” gives you a sense of just how excellent this collection is.1 Again, I’m truly honored, and if queer spec fic is your thing I encourage you to check out the anthology!

About “Real Monsters”
Scylla and Charybdis are sea monsters, but they didn’t start that way. In “Real Monsters,” Scylla tells her story. In Scylla’s version of events, what lies between Scylla and Charybdis is not death and destruction but a radical and vibrant love story.

About the Anthology
Stories about lesbians, women who choose women as primary partners, lovers, playmates, and co-conspirators, tend to go where few men have gone before. Most of the real-life issues that lesbians must deal with, as women and as members of non-mainstream communities, appear in these stories in metaphorical form or as plausible scenarios in a future or alternate world. Lesbianism itself was routinely described by the conservatives of the past as “impossible.” The formula of “woman + woman” is thus logically connected with other phenomenon formerly considered impossible: magic, witchcraft, folk cures, scientific discoveries, alternate methods of producing offspring, space travel, communication with beings who are not human or not living in human bodies, historical accounts that have been suppressed or denied. The Heiresses of Russ series seeks to offer readers the best lesbian-themed speculative fictions stories published the prior year.


1Ok, full disclosure: when I saw the table of contents I was a bit flabbergasted that my story had been selected. Probably I wouldn’t even have sent in a story for consideration if I’d known all of these incredibly talented authors I admire so much were in the running. (I have major writer Imposter Syndrome).

Announcement: “The Sharpshooter” in THE MYRIAD CARNIVAL–Forthcoming from Lethe Press!

MyriadCarnival_FrontCoverHi friends!

I’m super excited to tell you that one of my short stories, “The Sharpshooter”, will be included in The Myriad Carnival–a forthcoming anthology from Lethe Press in February 2016 but is available for preorder now.

About the Anthology
Roll up, roll up… The circus has long been that dream palace, intoxicating with so many lights and sights, sounds and smells. Sawdust, popcorn, strange animals, make-up, and the sweat of the roustabouts. The circus intrudes into the life of the ordinary and mundane and brings magic. Editor Matthew Bright invites you to the enjoy the sixteen attractions of the fantastical and dark Myriad Carnival.

About “The Sharpshooter”
Never look too close at anything in the Myriad Carnvial; everything there is an illusion. Beneath the makeup and the wig and the costume in the gunslinger’s tent is Yves: French, genderqueer, armed with an enchanted gun. Trouble comes for Yves, but what happens when the West’s best shot is no great shot at all?

Announcement: “Marloh And The Sprite Queen” is free-to-read at Blog Z!

CropperCapture[114]

Hi friends! Looking for a creepy short story to read? Have a hankering for a story featuring a clever elf girl? “Marloh and the Sprite Queen”, now up at Blog Z, might be right up your alley! Head over and check it out–it’s free-to-read!

And, of course, please feel free to leave comments, pass it around social media, etc, should you get the urge to do so.

-B

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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Debrief: “The Scaper’s Muse”

I’m starting a new series of posts that I’m calling “debriefs.” In these posts, I’m going to provide some behind-the-scenes insight into how a piece of fiction got published: where did the idea come from? When was it written? How many times did I sub it before it saw the light of day? That kind of thing.

Partly, I’m starting this series of posts because I keep these records for myself anyway. Partly, I’m doing it because I believe radical transparency in publishing is good for all parties involved. Partly, I’m doing it because I’m always fascinated when I read these kinds of things by other authors.


“The Scaper’s Muse” is included in Glitterwolf #9: The Gender Issue

Through bad luck and circumstance, Gavin Camayo is very politely exiled to an alien planet. But Stahvi is a fascinating place, and his stipend keeps coming from the corporation back home, so Gavin doesn’t mind the exile so much. There’s plenty of strange wonders around to keep him amused. But what happens when a familiar wonder—the person who lands him in exile in the first place—appears on Stahvi, too? “The Scaper’s Muse” is a science fiction short story about the interplay between identity and vanity set in an alien landscape.

Publication date: 7/30/2015

Completion date:
12/13/2013

Number of times subbed: Six. The story was rejected five times, with one of those being a very near miss and one of those actually being from Glitterwolf #8: Identity1. The story also received no response from one market2 before being accepted and published in Glitterwolf #9.

The story of the story:
Like many of my short stories, “The Scaper’s Muse” was written in response to a call for submissions. It was an especially vague call, one requiring only that the work to be tied to a flavor of quark (up or down, strange or charming, top or bottom). I chose strange or charming, and that gave me enough direction to start somewhere. I figured, honestly, strange/charming was the spec-ficcy of the three.

I had, for a couple of years, had half a seed of a story niggling around in my brain for some sort of spec-fic updated Sir Gawain and the Green Knight3 thingamob. This is where most of my short fiction comes from: a weird alchemy of prompts from calls I stumble across and these little unsprung seeds my brain has hidden away. Something about the strange/charming prompt sprouted the Gawain and the Green Knight update, and I was off.

So, there you have it: “The Scaper’s Muse” is, essentially, a sci-fi queer interrogation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, all in under three thousand words!

Placing the story:
It was not an easy story to place. It’s odd. It’s mannerpunkish? And queer. And trans*. And sci-fi, but somehow very lit-sci-fi. I remembered as it took shape wondering if it was maybe to literary (not sci-fi enough) for spec markets and if it would be to genre (not literary enough) for lit markets. But definitely super-duper queer, so it would have to be a queer market no matter what

When the place that issued the call didn’t pan out, I ended up subbing to two place I’d subbed to before on the rationale that they’d seen my stuff and liked my stuff before–that’s how odd this little thing was. Usually I strike out into foreign territory because I am unknown with few ready leads, but this time I went to known quantities not once but twice. One of them was Glitterwolf, which ended up being an ideal fit. Look at that cover! Exactly the aesthetic of the piece.


1I subbed to Glitterwolf only once with a note that “The Scaper’s Muse” would be a good fit for either issue 8 or 9, and the editor at Glitterwolf sent me back a single note that did the double duty of rejecting the story for 8 and accepting the story for 9. That’s why the sub count is listed at six although there are technically seven outcomes. I used to teach stats and am an analysis in my day job I am compelled to be this pedantic please bear with me.

2This was the first place I subbed to, and the place that issued the initial call for which the piece was originally written. I don’t think the issue ever came together. Sadly, I think this magazine one up one of the tragic one-issue-wonder lit mags out there.

3The Pearl Poet: some real old school speculative fiction.


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Publication Announcement: “The Scaper’s Muse” in Glitterwolf #9

“The Scaper’s Muse” is included in Glitterwolf #9: The Gender Issue (available for purchase here)

Glitterwolf9cover

Through bad luck and circumstance, Gavin Camayo is very politely exiled to an alien planet. But Stahvi is a fascinating place, and his stipend keeps coming from the corporation back home, so Gavin doesn’t mind the exile so much. There’s plenty of strange wonders around to keep him amused. But what happens when a familiar wonder—the person who lands him in exile in the first place—appears on Stahvi, too?

“The Scaper’s Muse” is a science fiction short story about the interplay between identity and vanity set in an alien landscape.

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.