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Book Review: Next Curious Thing by Ephiny Gale

I first came across Ephiny Gale’s work last year when I read her story,
“In the Beginning, All Our Hands are Cold,” in the journal Syntax and Salt. It’s a strange and wonderful tale, about a village where children are born without hands. . . but when they’re old enough, they walk to a forest to pick out the hands that fit them just right. It’s a surreal, eerie concept, but a surprisingly warm and gentle story. It’s a story about friendship, about the paths that you choose, the paths you didn’t foresee, and the inevitable heartbreak that comes with love and life. It brims with light and love and was one of my favorite stories from 2017.
So, I was delighted to learn of Gale’s first published collection, Next Curious Thing, which was recently released by Foxgrove Press. “In the Beginning, All Our Hands are Cold” opens the collection. What follows are twenty more stories, ranging from a few pages to novelette-length, encompassing stunning horror and warming sweetness, all lit with a striki…

Short fiction recs! October and November 2018

December has flown by, Christmas is upon us, and I’m only now getting to my roundup of fiction read in October and November. Better late than never, as they say. Here are some of my favorites from the previous two months. 
Stories of horror and hope, darkness and light
Asphalt, River, Mother, Child” by Isabel Yap at Strange Horizons
The goddess Mebuyen keeps her house near the river, where the dead walk toward their final destination. But the dead are no longer moving on. They are not walking down the river. So Mebuyen takes them into her house, and tries to figure out why. . .
This is an aching story which addresses an ongoing, real-world horror. Yet even as that horror is made plain, the narrative holds compassion toward multiple characters. The victims are rendered in vivid, heartbreaking detail, but one of their murderers is also shown as human. There is an entire system at fault here, larger than any one individual. This is a beautiful and astonishing work: delicate, restrained, co…

New publication! Reprint in Passages: Best of NewMyths Anthology

Five years ago, my first paid story was published. It was also my first published story in the fantasy genre; up until then, I had danced on the margins of fantasy, writing “literary” stories that only hinted at magical realism.
Five years later, I unabashedly declare myself a genre writer. And that first fantasy story that I published so long ago is reprinted today in Passages: Best of NewMyths Anthology. This collection curates the best fiction and poetry to appear in NewMyths magazine over the last ten years. It's available in both print and e-book. I’m proud and honored to appear in these pages, alongside such writers as award-winning poet Christina Sng, novelist Beth Cato, and more.
Five years seems so long ago, and also the blink of an eye. I feel that I’ve come very far in my writing. I also thought that I would be further along; I underestimated how tough the science fiction/fantasy publishing market is. And I’m grateful for all the small successes I’ve had. That first publi…

Thanksgiving--Road trip to Pennsylvania

We drove 600 miles to spend Thanksgiving with my sister and her family. Eastward across Michigan, down through the northern edge of Ohio, past Pittsburgh and into central Pennsylvania. All the miles rolling past the car window. The dry fields of late autumn, tinged now and then with snow. Bare-limbed trees, and then groups of trees still clothed in warm, russet browns. All the rivers we crossed. Fog over the rivers. All the spaces of the Midwest. This is what I love being reminded of: all the bare space in America, the cities just isolated islands of population in a vast sea of fields and rivers and interconnecting highways.
Then fields giving way to rolling, russet-clad hills. Pennsylvania—what I’ve seen of it--is beautiful.
Travel is broadening, they say, and how is it that only on this trip did I learn that Pennsylvanians put French fries in their sandwiches? It’s a Pittsburgh thing, my sister explained. And I learned that gas stations in Pennsylvania are known for their food; the Tu…

2018 Awards Eligibility Post

It’s that time of year again! No, I’m not talking about Thanksgiving and Christmas trees and holiday shopping and carols. I’m talking about award nomination season in the science fiction/fantasy field, of course! I was pleased to publish six stories this year, and I truly believe that several of them are among the best I’ve ever written. I’d be honored if you took a look.
For Special ConsiderationThese four stories are already on the Nebula Reading List (thank you thank you to whoever put them there!) and they are special pieces of my heart. Also, please check out all the other stories on the Nebula Reading List; it’s a wonderful resource for us all.
"Wild Ones" in Bracken Magazine (fantasy, 2407 words) A mother, a daughter, and the Wild Hunt.
--Featured in the Barnes and Noble Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, Sci-Fi and Fantasy Short Fiction Roundup: February 2018by Maria Haskins. “A beautiful and poignant piece of short fiction that deals with longing and fear, adolescence and parenth…

Book review: Educated by Tara Westover

Days later, I am still processing this book.
You’ve probably heard of it by now; Educated was recommended by former president Barack Obama himself and continues on the New York Times best sellers list. It’s the story of a girl raised on a mountain by parents who were religious extremists and survivalists. Tara Westover was born at home and never saw a doctor or nurse. She had no birth certificate. She never went to school. Her father stockpiled rifles, food, fuel, and military gear on their property, preparing for the day that he and his family would have to stand up to the “the Feds” and also survive the apocalypse (or “Days of Abomination,” as he called it). The father preached an extreme, fundamentalist, and decidedly idiosyncratic personal version of Mormonism which his wife and children all accepted. And yet in spite of violence, neglect, and ignorance, Tara Westover decided to go to college. She studied for the ACT on her own, from a book, and when she walked into the testing cen…

Quote from Tara Westover's memoir, Educated

"Everything I had worked for, all my years of study, had been to purchase for myself this one privilege: to see and experience more truths than those given to me by my father, and to use those truths to construct my own mind."

--Tara Westover, from her memoir, Educated. 

Short Fiction Recs! August and Sept 2018

October is here, first drizzly and gray, now bright but sharp with cold. It’s time to bundle up in sweaters, make stews and soups, and cuddle with good stories and a cup of tea. Here to keep you company are some stories I loved from late summer and the earliest fall.

Stories of darkness, healing, love, and passion

“The Last Epic Pub Crawl of the Brothers Pennyfeather” by L. Chan in The Dark
Chan is one of the most wildly inventive writers I know, and this story shows off his pyrotechnics of imagination, his poetic language and humor. . . as well as a delicacy of emotion that is all the more powerful for its restraint. Bob and Bill are the Brothers Pennyfeather, a duo of ghost hunters/exorcists who have been trained in their Work by their mother. After a job gone terribly wrong and mutual absence, the brothers reunite for one last epic pub crawl. Creepy ghosts abound at each pub they visit, and brotherly snark and banter enliven the night. But there’s something much deeper going on than a…