There was a stone in Paul’s mailbox instead of a newspaper.

In Good Neighbors, my story for Not Our Kind, a town is flooded with new residents of the faerie persuasion, all of them beautiful, capricious, and wildly powerful. They have magic, but we have a complex and fascinating human society. They like us. They want to be us. Unfortunately, sometimes we already are us, and then the position, shall we say, must be vacated.

My favorite Twilight Zone episode is “It’s a Good Life,” and it’s possible that fed the swirl in the back of my head while Good Neighbors was coming together. I love how that episode skips the usual twist in favor of a growing, overbearing dread. “It’s a Good Life” depicts a town under a tyrant, but Good Neighbors takes place under a whole class of tyrants. One monster might be defeated. If a thousand monsters suddenly and delightedly move in next door, you have to learn to live with them.

Not Our Kind is Kickstarting right now, with preorders for electronic and print copies along with the backlist of Alliteration Ink (pick up What Fates Impose for another great set of stories containing me, also edited by Nayad Monroe), and a table of contents featuring some of the most exciting short fiction writers working in speculative fiction these days. Check this action out:

Wes Alexander, Alex Bledsoe, Maurice Broaddus, Jennifer Brozek, Amanda C. Davis, Sarah Hans, Janet Harriett, Tyler Hayes, Michael Haynes, Erika Holt, Gary Kloster, Marissa Lingen, Remy Nakamura, Andrew Romine, Ekaterina Sedia, Lucy A. Snyder, Reinhardt Suarez, Juliette Wade, Tim Waggoner, Damien Angelica Walters

Right? The best part of anthologies is the contributor’s copies, and I am beyond excited to read this one. If you want in on this, you can help make it happen here. There are also some fun backer levels. I understand there are brownies.

Good Neighbors is one of my favorite things I’ve written this year. Can’t wait to share it.

Not Our Kind: Tales of (Not) Belonging

NaNoWriMo starts in two months (*pauses to let the hyperventilation pass*) and I’m in once more, for my third (!) year as a Municipal Liaison and tenth (!!) year participating. I write year-round and I’m never short of projects, but I like to use NaNo to experiment, indulge, connect, and generally enjoy my hobby that, these days, tends to feel more like work.

I also like to do NaNo with a new, standalone story idea. To that end, it’s time for me to run my best off-season writing exercise.

I don’t have a name for it. (So if you’re clever, suggest one–maybe something like Gail Simone‘s recent #MyThemesAre.) I take a blank sheet of paper, write FAVORITE STORY ELEMENTS at the top, and list twenty or thirty things I currently think are awesome.

In fandom they’re called “kinks” whether or not they’re of a sexual nature, or “squees” (as opposed to “squicks”) whether or not they’re positive moments. Most of these can be found cataloged on TV Tropes–but don’t go there, it’s more important that you name them yourself, and also TV Tropes is an Internet tar pit, where productivity goes to die. Look, I didn’t even link to it.

Types of story elements include:

Character archetypes or subtypes
Emotional beats (ex., “David Tennant cries in rain”)
Very Important Opinions
Plot twists
Forms of dialogue (ex., “snappy”)

Everything goes in the list, no matter how weirdly specific, fleeting, or inconsequential. And it doesn’t matter if they work together or not. Even opposites are fine! It’s less of a checklist than a wishlist.

The quicker you write, the better; the goal is to draw from your id, so the list is as potent as possible. It’s also a good way to suss out what’s made an impression on you recently, that you might want to explore on your own. My list this year includes “allies who kind of hate each other”–thanks, Guardians of the Galaxy! They can also be valuable insight, if you do them regularly. Why did I love X book so much? Why do I never get sick of writing Y? Why are my curtains blue?*

Once I’m done, I don’t try to form a story out of what I’ve got. I just read it over and bask in how awesome it would be to use those elements. Then I put it away. But it’s brought those elements to the front of my brain, so when I do start coming up with a NaNo idea–a proper idea, with all the important parts–those elements are ready and waiting to attach themselves to the structure, and make everything awesomer.

And, you know, if I DO end up writing about, say, an ocean ghost who falls in love with a warrior nun trapped in a seabird’s body…I can’t say I wasn’t warned.


*A reference to this meme, about which I have Strong Feelings, summed up as: If it was YOUR brain that made the curtains blue, take a minute to figure out why it chose blue over every other color.

I’ll be in London for LonCon soon, by sheer chance, because I’d signed up for a bus tour in the same area that happened to be ending the day before the con. Sweet Providence! Which means I’ve had two weeks to acclimate to travel around the UK and the handful of little things different from US hotels. Since they might save LonCon attendees a tiny amount of grief, here you go.

- Energy-saver boxes by the door use your keycard to allow power in your room. Until you put it in & leave it in, the lights don’t work.

- Low-flush toilets with dual flush buttons, like a lopsided yin-yang.

- Plugs. Everyone knows they’re different. American appliances do need an adapter. They probably DON’T need a voltage converter: most modern devices are rated for about 110-220V, so work in both places.

- Coffee: very strong everywhere! Room accoutrements: electric kettles, not coffee pots! Raw sugar (Demarara sugar, “brown” sugar): very popular apparently!

- Nobody puts ice in your drink unless you specifically ask for it. Ever.

- They like to hide the blow dryer in a drawer for some reason. There also never seem to be washcloths, which I don’t use, but this vexes some of my older traveling companions.

- Boy, do I love the pound coin. Also awesome: London taxis must be certified & have set meters, so they are fast and reliable and not bad rates if split with friends; cheaper than the Underground, for how we used them. The ones I’ve seen fit four comfortably in back, five if you’re thin or friendly.

- Crappy wifi seems the norm, and has usually required some kind of login, the stuff of nightmares. Almost none of our hotels have had AC; none had a fan in the bathroom. Windows tend to open.

- The tap water seems fine to drink.

This is probably kindergarten stuff for seasoned travelers, but it took me by surprise. If you’ll be at LonCon on Friday, let me know. Happy travels!

2014-summer-sale-banner copy

World Weaver Press, the publisher of Wolves and Witches, is holding an ebook sale through August 10. That means our collection of fairy-tale retellings is down to $2.99 on Amazon, and 50% off direct from the publisher, with coupon. There are some terrific books in the mix, and rolling freebies, so be sure to check it out!

As part of the Smashwords Summer Sale, The Lair of the Twelve Princesses is 50% off for the whole month of July! The price is set in at Amazon; for other formats, you’ll need to hit its book page on Smashwords to get the coupon. (Want to use Smashwords to pick up a Kindle-friendly format, such as .mobi, and put it on your Kindle? Here’s how.)

If you’re also participating, put a link in the comments so we can all check out your work!


Bay has nothing to show for her years of military service but the clothes on her back, a bad leg, and a sardonic imp in a bottle who’s more harm than help. When she hears an open call for bodyguards for the twelve headstrong princesses, she thinks the job could reverse her fortunes. Unfortunately, her new charges are under a nightly curse, and everyone seems determined to keep the details a mystery–including its victims.

Luckily, Bay has a trick up her sleeve. Her imp owes her three wishes, and is desperate to grant them. She’s been hoarding his magic for an emergency, but it might be time to cash in: according to a fine-print clause in her contract, if she cannot solve the princesses’ curse in three nights, she’ll be executed the following dawn.

This 9000-word novelette first appeared in InterGalactic Medicine Show in January 2012. Cover elements by Jessica Truscott and Jeannie Ann Numos.

(I’m not saying I’ve also got a small, free collection of zombie stories over there too…but I’m not saying I don’t.)


Lair of the Twelve Princesses on Amazon

Suddenly, Zombies on Amazon

Good news, everyone! World Weaver Press’s latest anthology, Fae, is gearing up for release. Here’s the cover!

FAE coverMeet Robin Goodfellow as you’ve never seen him before, watch damsels in distress rescue themselves, get swept away with the selkies and enjoy tales of hobs, green men, pixies and phookas. One thing is for certain, these are not your grandmother’s fairy tales. Fairies have been both mischievous and malignant creatures throughout history. They’ve dwelt in forests, collected teeth or crafted shoes. Fae is full of stories that honor that rich history while exploring new and interesting takes on the fair folk from castles to computer technologies and modern midwifing, the Old World to Indianapolis. Fae covers a vast swath of the fairy story spectrum, making the old new and exploring lush settings with beautiful prose and complex characters. Enjoy the familiar feeling of a good old-fashioned fairy tale alongside urban fantasy and horror with a fae twist.

With an introduction by Sara Cleto and Brittany Warman, and new stories from Sidney Blaylock Jr., Amanda Block, Kari Castor, Beth Cato, Liz Colter, Rhonda Eikamp, Lor Graham, Alexis A. Hunter, L.S. Johnson, Jon Arthur Kitson, Adria Laycraft, Lauren Liebowitz, Christine Morgan, Shannon Phillips, Sara Puls, Laura VanArendonk Baugh, and Kristina Wojtaszek.

If you’ve been following me on Twitter for more than a year or so, you already know that the European Song Contest, Eurovision, makes me happier than anything else on earth. Wall-to-wall Europop punctuated by backflips and fountains of fire and clowns–it’s upbeat and theatrical, both awesome and ridiculous. This year, my sister Megan Engelhardt watched the promo videos for the competitors ahead of the finals this Saturday. Here’s her take on this year’s batch. With, of course, links so you can judge for yourself.

Eurovision: First Thoughts

Megan Engelhardt

Sweden – Stand and sing. Pleasant enough, catchy, but still.

Moldova – This sounds like it should be in the musical Jekyll and Hyde. The video is overly dramatic. Are those dancers airbending?

Estonia – The song is just OK but I dig the dancing. Surprisingly low voice.

Latvia<3! The guy needs a haircut. His band is totes adorbs. I bet that’s his hometown singing with him. These guys won’t win but I love them anyway.

Poland – I think the video having old people is making me not hate this, but removing the old people would tip it over. Hubband thought it was about “Slutty girls”, not “Slavic girls”, lol.

France – This is very un-France, haha. The chorus is “I wanna have a moustache.” Wut France? This looks like an 80s music video!

Portugal – Woo, salsa! Hubband: “I like the song better than the performance of it.” I dig the drum/flag guys and the painted bongo guy.

Belgium – Mine ex nihilo! I like this song! Not sure what the dancer is doing. Appropriate for Mother’s Day, n’est-ce pas? D’awww, was that his mom in the audience?

Norway – Pretty song! Plaintive, pleasant. Will probably go on my “melancholy” playlist.

Switzerland – Peppy! I love songs that go Acapulco except claps. Cute.

Austria – The big flap is that the singer is a drag performer. The sad thing is he’s a prettier woman than I am. Not terribly impressed with the song. Sounds like it’s trying to be a Bond theme.

Finland – Had me tapping my toes right off the bat.

Ukraine – Also kind of 80s music video ish. Catchy but not overly so.

Netherlands – Folksy with a nice driving beat. A low-key sound. Not a winner but I’ll keep it on my playlist.

Albania – Torn on this one. It’ll take a few listens to decide if I like it or if it grates on me. At the end she’s rocking out far harder than the song requires.

Malta – Well, I like this one. Also soldier music videos get me. Sweet dulcimer. They may have a chance on sentimentality and musicality.

Azerbaijan - Just singing. Meh. Bored.

Armenia – Bookies’ choice to win. We can’t see why. It’s OK but I wouldn’t say the best of the lot.

San Marino – host piano! Also, Valentina love, 3 years at Eurovision? Really? San Marino is small, though. Maybe they only have the one singer. TO be fair, this isn’t terrible. Also kind of Bond-film-esque.

Iceland – Picking up the ska sound from Moldova, but not successfully. To be honest, though, this will probably get a fair bit of play from me. And they look like they’re having fun.

Denmark – Hosts this year. This is pretty dang fun. I think he’s channeling Michael Jackson and Bruno Mars.

Spain – Fun dancing. Pleasant song but not outstanding.

Italy – Lady Gaga? Not interesting, anyway. This song seems SO long.

Belarus – This guy needs slapped. I appreciate that he knows it, though. I kinda like his pouty chick, at least until the end. I will probably skip this on the playlist.

Greece – I feel betrayed. The horns provided a good sound and then there was rapping. L Sad, because if it wasn’t for the rap this would be a funky song.

Georgia – This is strange. I could have used less weird chanting in the beginning but I liked it once actual singing happened.

Montenegro – I always dislike Montenegro’s entry but this is not terrible! Pleasant, even! You redeemed yourself form last year, Montenego.

Hungary – This video made me feel sick to my stomach, which was probably the point. I will probably skip this one because of that, which is not to say it’s bad. I just can’t handle it.

Romania – Magic girl! That is awesome! The song is not terrible and kinda catchy.

Ireland – Boring video, nice song. It will probably be a stand and sin, alas. I do like the song, though.

Israel – Sassy! Driving beat. Fun song. I hope the sword is part of the stage show.

Lithuania – They need to spice up the stage show, but the song is fun. I dig the chorus.

UK – I actually think they have a chance this year! Catching song, pretty fun singable chorus.

FYR Macedonia – Weirdly, I feel like I’ve heard this before. Maybe like Rihanna’s Diamonds, or the Steam Powered Giraffe version, at least.

Russia – Twins! Hubband says “I prefer Jedward.” They should do some wacky twin hijinks to spice up a perfectly pleasant but not outstanding song.

Germany – What a cute weird band! I dig this song a fair bit.

Slovenia – Always love a flute player. Lots of dancing this year. Song is OK, not great but not terrible.


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