Debrief: “The Sharpshooter”


Amazon | Goodreads

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?

Publication date: 2/17/2016

Completion date: 7/31/2015

Number of times subbed:
Just once. I saw the call for queer and weird stories under the big top that Matthew Bright, the editor, put out on twitter, and could not respond fast enough. I’d worked with Matthew before, and he gave me the go ahead to put something together. I was THRILLED.

The story of the story:
I immediately had three of four ideas for queer and weird stories. The one that kept sticking and building out in my mind, though, was spurred by something that Matthew had mentioned: that there had been a weird west story slated in the anthology, but that the author had pulled out, so there was a hole, now. That plot just came together so fast, and so thoroughly.

“The Sharpshooter” is ultimately born from that seed–a weird west story where once you scratch the surface nothing is what it seems. Of course a western has to have a gunslinger, a suave and rakish gunslinger who ends up fighting a duel for their life. That’s the core of the story.

The fun part was digging into the nuts and bolts of this story. Why was this character a gunslinger? How did they end up at the carnival? What, exactly, was up with their gun? Were they going to get out of this scrape in one piece against all odds, and if so, how? It was an enormously fun piece to write.

Placing the story:
Easy peasy! This was one of those lovely times where the stars align, and the call to which you wrote the story actually accepts it.

Want posts like this delivered to your inbox? Sign up for my newsletter!

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”.

Want posts like this delivered to your inbox? Sign up for my newsletter!


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.

Want posts like this delivered to your inbox? Sign up for my newsletter!

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:

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.

Want posts like this delivered to your inbox? Sign up for my newsletter!

ARIAH Countdown: A Short History of ARIAH

Today’s post is essentially a post-mortem. This is a short history of how Ariah the book came to be written, and then how it came to be published. I am always interested in that kind of contextual backstory, so I thought maybe some of you out there might be interested in it, too. Remember, you can pre-order Ariah here!