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Favorites of 2021: Novels and Novellas

Neon Hemlock Novellas 2021It appears I’ve read 60 books this year, which might be a new record for me, and I might even manage to sneak in one or two more before the year is done! As with the past several years, I want to highlight some of my favorites reads, starting with novels and novellas. (I’ll put together separate posts for collections and anthologies, and short stories and novelettes – they deserve their own space to shine!) But to kick things off, in no particular order, here are my favorites of 2021!

The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey

The story takes the basic premise of a wife discovering her husband having an affair, but throws in a speculative twist by having the other woman be her clone – not just genetically, but also secretly developed from her research. A few of the early story beats felt somewhat predictable, but the story ultimately went in unexpected directions, providing a satisfying and unsettling exploration of identity and self-determination, and a look the chilling mindset of a person who feels entitled to be the center of another person’s world. Evelyn is an excellent character, flawed and spiky, and Martine has a wonderful arc as she grows from a clone to become more fully her own person.

Dealbreaker by L.X. Beckett

A sequel to Gamechanger, one of my favorites reads last year, which picks up several years later with many of the same characters while introducing new ones and vastly expanding the world. Beckett’s writing is smooth, their plot satisfyingly twisty, and they strike a perfect balance between carrying forward familiar elements from the first novel and making everything feel so much bigger, upping the stakes by introducing alien races to the already fraught situation on Earth as humanity continues it recovery from near environmental collapse.

The Necessity of Stars by E. Catherine Tobler

You’ll see Neon Hemlock’s titles turn up several times on these lists, and with good cause – they are absolutely killing it with their publications! I adored all four of the novellas they published this year, starting with The Necessity of Stars. Tobler’s prose is always lush and gorgeous and sweeps me up. The opening paragraph of this one took my breath away and I pretty much stayed breathless until I put the novella down. It’s a first contact story, as the main character discovers an alien in her garden, but it’s also a story about aging, memory, perception, seeing and being seen. The idea of who we see and who we value as a society, as well as the things we refuse to see, is threaded throughout the story, which manages to be quiet and lovely and vast and cosmic all at once.

A Broken Darkness by Premee Mohamed

A sequel to Beneath the Rising, another one of my favorite reads last years, rejoining Johnny and Nick shortly after the events of the first novel as they’re thrown back together by the fresh threat of cosmic horror. The stakes and scope of the threat are ramped up here to feel more global, with additional tension caused by the fallout from the first book between the characters. I’m a sucker for good cosmic horror (no pun intended), which this is, and the characters are a joy to spend time with.

We Are Satellites by Sarah Pinsker

The novel looks at the impact of a new technology meant to help people focus and be a better version of themselves on one particular family. Pinsker does an excellent job with small-scale and personal stakes, showing the human side of a life-changing technology through characters the reader immediately cares about. The conflict between the members of the family feel real, relatable, and is very well done, and the novel also takes time to examine some of the larger social issues like who has access to technology, who gets left behind, and the ethics (or lack thereof) of corporations, while never losing sight of the characters at the story’s heart.

Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon

The novel opens as main character Vern escapes from the cult-like commune where she was raised and goes on the run with her newborn twins. The story takes several unexpected twists as Vern builds a new life for herself, getting progressively weirder in the best of ways. The slow introduction of the more fantastical and supernatural elements is incredibly well-done, and the writing is powerful, painful, and lovely as the story explores gender, relationships, the reclamation of one’s self, found family, evolution, and transformation.

All the Murmuring Bones by A.G. Slatter

This is another novel that to my mind took several unexpected turns and went in directions I didn’t predict, but ended up in a highly satisfying place. Slatter blends a Gothic atmosphere and set up – a lonely house, an orphaned young woman, an unwanted marriage, dark secrets – with a fairy tale feel as Miren uncovers the truth behind the legends passed down through the generations about her family’s wealth and their bond with the sea. The stories nested within the novel add to the overall richness, making the world feel deeper and more lived-in, while also adding to the feeling of reading a fairy tale.

Engines of Oblivion by Karen Osborne

A sequel to Architects of Memory, which deals with the fallout of the first book, and like the other two sequels mentioned here so far, vastly expands the world of the first novel, digging further into the interstellar war, greedy corporation, and shadowy factions moving behind the scenes. The writing is sharp and evocative, and Osborne doesn’t pull punches, putting her characters in increasingly brutal situations that never feel gratuitous, but rather an inevitable reflection of the unfair world they inhabit. While the world may be grim, her characters never cease fighting, and they do the best with terrible situations, giving the novel a grace note of hope.

Chosen and the Beautiful CoverThe Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo

A take on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, which introduces magic to the glittering high society world in a way that makes it feel as though of it always should have been there. Multiple forms of power are explored, along with the question who has access to it, and all the machinations that go into maintaining it. Vo’s version of the novel focuses on Jordan Baker instead of Nick Carraway. Brought to America by a missionary as a very young child, she remembers almost nothing of her home. Raised in wealth, almost as a sister to Daisy Buchanan, she has all the privilege and access money can buy, yet her race still sets her apart, adding a further layer of depth to her character as she struggles with her identity, where she belongs, and where she wants to belong. The voice of the novel is perfect and Vo captures the feel of the original while making it wholly her own. The writing is gorgeous and the characters are all spot on with their conflicting desires, their struggles to define themselves, the bits of themselves they show to the world, the bits they keep private, and all the spaces in-between the two where they risk losing themselves.

And What Can We Offer You Tonight by Premee Mohamed

I mentioned that Neon Hemlock is killing it with their releases this year. So is Premee Mohamed. In addition to releasing A Broken Darkness, she also released three novellas this year, and while I haven’t had a chance to read These Lifeless Things yet, I adored And What Can We Offer You Tonight and The Annual Migration of Clouds (which I reviewed here.) And What Can We Offer You Tonight is a beautifully-written story of a murdered brothel worker who returns as a ghost seeking revenge on the client who killed her. It looks at the way money and power allow certain people to commit violence without consequences and how lack of access to justice, resources, and many other things the wealthy take for granted, can in itself be a form of violence. It also provides a powerful look at the idea (and idealization) of victims of violence and the question of who is allowed to be angry and seek revenge, versus who is expected to be passive, pure, “rise above it” and “not sink to their level”.

My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones

Can a novel both exist within a genre and be a love letter to it? Yes. Much like the original Scream helped reinvigorate the slasher genre, while poking fun at it, being a loving homage to it, and being a satisfying slasher movie in and of itself, My Heart is a Chainsaw is a tribute to the genre, a stunning example of it, and moves beyond the borders of the genre as well. Jade is a super horror fan, the weird kid who doesn’t fit in and doesn’t really care to either. She knows the rules of slasher horror inside and out, and when a mysterious death occurs in her town occurs, she’s thrilled, certain her purpose is to help the new girl in town realize her destiny as the final girl who survives the horror and faces down the killer. Jade is a wonderful character, the deep-dive into slasher lore is highly satisfying, and the slow reveal of information and the uncertainty maintained until the end is incredibly well-done. The novel also manages to be heartbreaking and poignant on top of everything, and I can’t wait for the sequel due out next year!

The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig

It’s a classic trope of the horror genre to have a character move back to their small hometown and face a dark past or an ancient evil. (In fact, you’ll see it show up at least twice more just on this list, and it’s done incredibly well each time!) The cyclical nature of evil, inter-generational trauma, the idea that we carry our ghosts with us and can never outrun our pasts is a staple of horror, and Wendig adds an extra level of weirdness here, setting the trope askew in a way that makes it feel completely fresh. The book is fast-paced, full of eerie imagery and ideas, and all the unsettling threads and questions about what’s really going on in the small, unnaturally accident-prone town Nathan Graves returns to with his family are expertly woven together, building to a satisfying conclusion.

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

I knew very little about this book going in other than that it was a highly-anticipated, much buzzed about horror title. Based on the cover alone, I expected a haunted house story. In a way, I was right, though not at all in the traditional sense. In an effort to avoid spoilers, I won’t say more, other than I thoroughly enjoyed the read and the exploration of characters dealing with trauma, healing, and horror centered around the unsolved mystery of a child who disappeared years ago.

Summer Sons CoverSummer Sons by Lee Mandelo

I promised the trope of a character revisiting their traumatic past and coping with personal hauntings would return. Here, the haunting is very personal indeed, intimate almost, as Andrew follows his best friend Eddie to Nashville after his apparent suicide and tries to piece together what happened in the last months of his life. As children, Andrew and Eddie experienced something inexplicable, which linked them to the world of the dead. While Andrew tried to leave it behind, Eddie delved deeper, making it the focus of his graduate research. The novel is a slow burn, a deeply atmospheric Southern Gothic, and gloriously queer. Tension of multiple sorts simmers under the surface throughout, the characters are wonderful, and the ending is perfect – realistically messy and showing the lasting impact of hauntings and horror rather than tying up everything in a neat bow.

The Deer Kings by Wendy N. Wagner

The theme of excavating one’s past and coming face-to-face with old ghosts continues in The Deer Kings as Gary returns to the small town where he grew up, and to which he swore he would never return. As a child, Gary and a group of friends made an appeal to the Deer Saint to protect them from their violent and terrifying new neighbor. As an adult, Gary discovers that the mysterious Deer Kings club his parents were a part of seems to have grown and morphed into something (even more) sinister, leaving the whole town under its sway. The appeal to power by a group of innocent children parallels nicely with the appeal to power from a group of the town’s adults, showing the way intention and desire can twist a “haunting” that is neither good nor bad into something either good or evil. As frequently turns out to be the case – it is humans, not the supposed monsters, that are the problem. Along the way, the novel looks at themes of faith, sacrifice, and friendship, and the way each can shift with perspective and time. I’ll also throw in a bonus shout-out to Wagner’s novella, The Secret Skin, another Neon Hemlock novella, which sees a character return to their family home to confront old secrets, and blends a small town Gothic feel with hints of cosmic horror.

& This is How to Stay Alive by Shinga Njeri Kagunda

This gorgeously-written novella expands the author’s short story by the same name, published last year in Fantasy Magazine. Following her brother Baraka’s suicide, Kabi is given a potion that seemingly allows her to travel in time. Initially, she believes it will allow her to save Baraka, but she grows increasingly frustrated as it appears she isn’t able to shift events at all. The poetic, flowing nature of the language here is perfectly suited to the dream-like feel of a story that is both disconnected from time and deeply immersed in time s a cyclical concept. Memory, story, grief, art, how we act towards others when they’re with us and when they’re gone, what we carry forward into the future, and what we carry with us from the past, are all at play here in an exploration of what it means to be alive.

The Death of Jane Lawrence CoverThe Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling

Starling takes on tropes from Gothic romance and horror in this novel and flips them around. The story begins with Jane Schoringfield, a very practical and pragmatic woman, proposing marriage to Dr. Lawrence as a pure business arrangement. When he reluctantly agrees, Starling does a wonderful job with her first flip of the script, putting the marriage up front while maintaining a sense of sexual and romantic, will-they-or-won’t-they, tension between her characters. A dark past and family secrets are at play in Dr. Lawrence’s crumbling family estate, and Jane is determined to uncover the truth of what happened despite the lies, the obfuscation, and the doubt constantly thrown her way. The uncertainty over whether she can trust her own senses allows Jane to be both the mad woman in the attic and the new bride threatened by said mad woman at various points in the novel. Starling adds an extra element to the classic Gothic with the introduction of magic. Jane is a wonderful character, and the doubt cast on the truth of what’s really going on is incredibly well-done, carrying the suspense and mystery through to the very end.

Submergence by Arula Ratnakar

Published online at Clarkesworld, this novella explores the ethics of experimenting on living creatures and using them to medically benefit humans, as well as looking at the idea of memory persisting beyond death. Nithya is submerged in the memories of a woman named Noor in the course of investigating her death. The technology was originally designed to let people relive their own memories, meaning that in essence, Nithya becomes Noor when she is inside the memories, allowing the story to also explore questions of identity, self, and free will. It’s a fascinating look at medical and scientific ethics, while also being a satisfying science fictional mystery.

Arisudan by Rimi B. Chatterjee

Another novella published online, this time at Mithila Review, Arisudan is full of deep worldbuilding and has an epic feel as it moves backward and forward to visit multiple points in its characters’ lives, centered around a disaster on a submarine and the question of whether it was an accident or something more sinister. The story explores the idea of heroism and characters struggling to do the right thing according to their personal code and their understanding of the world. At the same time, it looks at corporate greed, humanity’s impact on the environment, and the weight of both societal expectations and family expectations, especially when it comes to gender. The novella packs in a lot, but does it effectively, and it’s an excellent read.

The Giants of the Violet Sea by Eugenia Triantafyllou

This was a great year for novellas published online. This one, appearing in Uncanny Magazine, shares some common themes with the Clarkesworld and Mithila Review novellas, including deep and evocative worldbuilding, a science fictional mystery, and an examination of humanity’s impact on the environment. In this case, the environment happens to be an alien planet, which adds an extra layer to the story’s depth. A sister returns home to unravel the mystery of her brother’s death and spend time with her mother, despite their fraught relationship. The story touches on complicated family relationships, the expectations parents put on their children, the expectations children can put on themselves, and how all those expectations can lead to resentment, sibling jealousy, and feelings of not belonging. With its setting, the story also touches on issues of colonization, humanity’s impact on the native life of a colonized planet, and the way colonists with the same roots can diverge into vastly people different peoples with different traditions in a short period of time, ultimately leading to tension and distrust.

So there you have it, my favorite novels and novellas published in 2021.But of course, I can’t leave it with just that, so I’ll close out with a few honorable mentions (aka non-genre works and works published prior to 2021):

You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories About Racism by Lacey Lamar and Amber Ruffin
The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow
Piranesi by Susannah Clarke
The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Deep by Alma Katsu

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October Happenings

This weekend (October 6-8) I’ll be at Capclave in Gaithersburg, MD, which is a small, literary-focused convention. This year’s guests of honor are Neil Clarke and Ken Liu. It’s a relaxed, laidback, con, and every year I’ve attended it’s been a lot of fun – good friends, tasty food nearby, people saying smart things on panels, and of course, lots of books. In between my panels, I’ll be hanging out in the bar area, attending friends’ readings and panels, and browsing the dealer’s room. As to the rest of the time, here’s my official schedule for the weekend.

10am – Saturday – Rockville/Potomac – Doctor Who, End of an Era, Beginning of a New One.

Moffatt’s era ends and Chibnall’s era begins. What did we think of the Capaldi era and Clara and Bill as companions? What do we want from Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor? What are our hopes for Chibnall as showrunner? Moffatt era vs. Davies era?

Victoria Janssen, A.C. Wise, Hildy Silverman, Vanessa Phin (m)

11am – Saturday – Rockville/Potomac – Reimagining Fairy Tales

Who doesn’t love a fairy tale retelling? Part of the universal appeal of fairy tales is that they were never a static form, at least not as an oral tradition. Re-tellers have used these archetypes and modes to spin new variations ever since these stories first came to the page. Angela Carter once said that “Ours is a highly individualized culture, with a great faith in the work of art as a unique one-off…. But fairy tales are not like that, and nor are their makers.” We can find fresh insight into our own lives and connections through these age old tales. This panel will focus on a variety of approaches in reconstructing fairy tales with a modern bent, both in their favorite respins and in their own work.

Margaret Ronald, A.C. Wise (m), John Skovron, Michelle Sonnier, Marylin “Mattie” Brahen

6pm – Saturday – Frederick – Writing for Anthologies

Anthologies are an excellent opportunity for writers to get their work out to new readers. Where to look for submission opportunities, how to write to a theme, tips on catching the editor’s eye (in a good way), and a what-not-to-do list are some of the things to be addressed.

M’Shai Dash, Hildy Silverman, A.C. Wise, Alex Shvartsman, Larry Hodges (m)

Saturday – 10:30 pm – Rockville/Potomac – Superheroine to Wise Woman: Creating Powerful Female Characters

What goes into creating strong, compelling female characters in fantasy worlds? Speculative fiction authors discuss how to approach elements such as world-building, magic, special powers, and plot when crafting a multi-dimensional character, and how to avoid the pitfalls of the “Mary Sue.”

Joshua Palmatier, Michelle D. Sonnier, A.C. Wise

Noon – Sunday – Frederick

Reading – Beverly Haaf (12-12:30pm)

Reading – A.C. Wise (12:30-1pm)

2pm Sunday – Bethesda – Why Do We Like Being Scared?

Fear probably developed as a survival mechanism. We fear things that might hurt us. Yet many read horror, go to slasher films, ride roller coasters, and climb cliffs. Why? What does this say about us and our psyches?

Dina Leacock, Darrell Schweitzer, A.C. Wise, Hildy Silverman (m), Scott Roberts

October generally seems to be a good month for literary things, so later in the month, on October 18, I’ll be reading at Noir at the Bar in West Chester, PA. The event is being held at Timothy’s from 7-9pm. A group of us will be reading. If you’re in the area, come join us!


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Leveling Up and Measuring Success

Ding! Level! It’s a satisfying noise and a satisfying feeling. You’ve put in the time, now your efforts have been rewarded. Whether it’s a noise, or pretty sparkles on the screen, video games tend to celebrate the achievement of leveling in a tangible way. They’ve also conditioned players to expect that with leveling comes other rewards – more powerful attacks, new skills, better gear, an increased chance of winning the next fight, and so on. It’s hard not to want to apply that same metric to other areas of life, for example writing. You pour your heart into your work, tear yourself open, bleed on the page, bang your head against the wall trying to get that one sentence, one word, one punctuation mark, right. And slowly, ever so slowly, you improve your craft. Ding! Wait, no ding? What’s happening?

Mario Level UpHere’s where things get tricky. That tangible reward system, that outside sense of validation, isn’t always there. It’s hard to write about things like this without it sounding like sour grapes or meaningless platitudes. This post isn’t intended to be either of these things, or to be dismissive of tangible rewards. Consider it a companion post to one I wrote three years ago: Permission to Fail, Permission to Succeed. It’s something I need to remind myself of every now and then, and maybe other people will find it helpful too.

As authors, we all love our craft, right? Otherwise why would we keep banging our heads against that metaphorical wall, agonizing over that one sentence? We’re passionate and most of us would keep writing regardless of reward or recognition, but deep down, wouldn’t it be nice if someone noticed? If a lot of people noticed? If enough people noticed to result in an award? Applying the video game metric, the logical conclusion is that as long as you put in the time, keep grinding and leveling up, an award nomination or even a win will be the end result. Level. Ding! But there are a lot of factors that go into award nominations, and nothing is guaranteed.

Every year, many wonderful, worthy, and amazing works get nominated, but only one can win. Does that make the rest of the ballot any less amazing or worthy? No. Many more works don’t get nominated – they just miss the ballot, or they miss it by miles. Does that make them objectively bad? Not worth your time? No. There are so many works published each year, no one can keep up with all of them. Incredible work gets overlooked and missed all the time. People make hard choices when deciding what to include on their ballots. The works and authors that don’t end up on the list aren’t failures.

Leveling up in writing, unlike video games, is not a strictly linear progression. Some people seem to burst onto the scene with immediate awards success, and from the outside, it looks effortless. We don’t see the years of work behind the “instant” sensation, the days when they too stare at the blank page and the words refuse to come, the days when they doubt anything and everything they’ve ever written, and doubt themselves most of all. Some people work steadily for years, build a career of small victories, then larger ones, and then finally, at last, they earn a coveted space at the top. Ding! Others zig-zag  all over the place and take unconventional routs, and others still put in the time, steadily improve their craft, and that ding never sounds. Sometimes, the cake is a lie.

Does that mean you’re doing something wrong as an author? No. Maybe there is an award further ahead in your future, and when that nomination comes it will be incredible and well-deserved and you will celebrate with glee. But there might not be. Awards aren’t a guaranteed landmark on your journey. If you don’t hit that way point, it doesn’t mean you’re lost. Again, it means the rewards, the way points on your journey, the proof you’ve leveled, aren’t always tangible.

There are other markers along the way, and sometimes it’s hard to see them. You’re running so fast toward that next level, that perceived endpoint, that sometimes the scenery starts to blur. You don’t always see that one person your words touched, or that your work meant the world too. You don’t always notice the improvements in your craft, or how far you’ve come from where you started.

The temptation is there to think if I could just win an award, I will have finally made it. I will be able to leave the self doubt behind. The dirty secret is, it’s never enough. Those people who win awards? They doubt themselves too. We all do. It’s what keeps us writing, keeps us striving. Even when you win, there’s always another level. The cap keeps rising. So what do you do? Keep writing. Make more words. A torrent of them. Don’t stop, but do look back every now and then. Give yourself permission to succeed. The metric may not be what you thought it was, but that doesn’t mean you haven’t made any progress. You may just need to learn to measure the journey in different ways.

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An Unlikely Holiday

FoolAs I mentioned in my last post, Clowns: The Unlikely Coulrophobia Remix is officially out in the world. That being the case, Unlikely Story has moved onto its next adventure. This time, we’re exploring the roots of April Fool’s Day. It’s a strange holiday, unlikely even. Peasants become kings, the earth is renewed, and tricks are played. Can you write a story encompassing those concepts in less than 2,000 words? If so, we’re the venue for you!

The guidelines for The Journal of Unlikely Observances can be found here. This is a mini issue, so we really are looking for flash fiction. As the guidelines say, we’re willing to be a little flexible, but by that we mean it’s okay if you go over by a few words, not a few hundred words or more. As the old saying goes – kill your darlings. Give us a story that’s lean and mean and encompasses the spirit of April Fool’s Day. There are more details on our website. We can’t wait to read what you send us.

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Top Secret Glitter Squadron Swag!

Well, it’s not really all that secret since I’m telling you about it, but still…

Do you want your very own customized cocktail recipe, designed for you by the Glitter Squadron’s Bartender Supreme, Sapphire? Of course you do! As you may know, Bob, the Glitter Squadron Collection stories are interspersed with cocktail recipes, with a drink matched to each of the characters. So I thought to myself – what can I do to a) give something special to folks who preorder the collection, and b) drive people to drink? Why, I can get Glitter Squadron coasters, and write recipes on the back of them. So that’s just what I’m going to do!

If you preorder The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again, I will send you your very own customized cocktail recipe. But wait, there’s more! I’ll even send you a nifty bookplate to stick it in the book when it arrives. (It’s possible I’ve seen too many infomercials.) Here’s a peek at what said bookplates and coasters look like.

Glitter Swag

The bookplates will be available to anyone, but the coasters and recipes are only for those who preorder… Something a little extra special to say Thank You!

In case you’re wondering, the art on the bookplates and coasters is by the amazing Staven Andersen, who did the cover for the collection. Staven’s work is seriously worth checking out. If you’re still on the fence about the whole Glitter Squadron thing, the first taste is free.  You can head on over to Ideomancer and read the original version of Doctor Blood and the Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron, the story that started it all.

So, if you want your own Glitter Squadron recipe, drop me an email at a.c.wise [at] with proof of your preorder, and where you’d like your swag sent. If you’d like, you can prompt me with a particular flavor, base alcohol, or theme you’d like your cocktail built around. If not, well, I’ll just let my imagination run wild. If mixed drinks aren’t your thing, or don’t drink in general, just let me know. I’m more than happy to suggest a non-alcoholic, or non-mixed drink pairing. Otherwise, I look forward to getting you drunk!

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All That Glitters is Fabulous

LipsThis is a scary post to write. Because it’s about something amazing and terrifying that doesn’ta feel quite real yet. Part of me is afraid that saying it aloud will make it vanish – like the opposite of Beetle Juice or Bloody Mary. Talk about it too much and it will just go away.

… But, The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Collection is going to be a real thing. A. Real. Thing!

The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron started with a short story in Ideomancer: Operation Annihilate Mars! Or, Doctor Blood and the Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron. It was so much fun to write, but I thought that was the end of it. Then Bunny had different ideas. She stepped up and insisted her story be told. And so, there was How Bunny Came to Be, which appeared in Shimmer #17.

And after that, I fell in love. These incredible, fierce, amazing characters kept stepping up and insisting their stories be told. Their armor is glitter and sparkles and they are all the things that so many narratives tell us is the opposite of what ‘strong’ is supposed to be. They wear dresses and nail polish and high heels, and they fight and save the world over and over again. They think gender check boxes are stupid.  And they kick ass harder than you’ve ever seen ass kicked before. Did I mention I love them? I may be biased.

I was afraid no one would ever care except for me. But other people did, and as it turns out, Steve Berman of Lethe Press happened to be one of them, and is willing to take a chance on my gorgeous, glittering girls. I will be forever grateful. (Lethe Press is wonderful, by the way, and you should run out and buy books from them.)

If all goes according to plan, you’ll be able to read all about The Glitter Squadron in Summer 2015. I’ll post more details as they’re available. But for now, I wish glitter to you all.


Image from flickr user Snowkei, cropped and used under Creative Commons License.


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World Fantasy 2014

Next week, from November 6-9, I’ll be attending the World Fantasy Convention in Washington D.C. This is my first time attending, and I’m really looking forward to it. I’m even on programming, which is pretty exciting. Here’s where I’ll be:

Fantasy Food: The Food in Fantasy
Time: 8 p.m.-9 p.m., Saturday, Tidewater 2
Panelists: Fran Wilde (M), Brenda Clough, Diana Peterfreund, A. C. Wise
Description: Elaborate feasts versus alien worms: is Fantasy Food really better than science fiction food. Adults report a life-long love of mushrooms dating back to an early reading of the Fellowship of the Ring. Meanwhile, the Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook, featuring butterbeer and pumpkin pasties, has sold more than 150,000 copies. There are also cookbooks available or in the works for The Hunger Games, Game of Thrones, Tolkien’s works, and Narnia. Why does fantasy literature often have a gourmet palette?

Unofficially, I’ll be taking part in the mass autograph session starting Friday at 8 p.m. in the Independence Center, where several of the authors whose stories appear in Nightmare Carnival will be sitting together in case you’re so inclined to have us sign your book. I understand there is also a cash bar involved in the mass signing event.

Also unofficially, I’ll be part of the group signing for The Cutting Room, along with several other authors in the anthology. We’ll be at the Tachyon table in the Dealers’ Room from 2:30-3p.m. on Friday.

If you’re curious, the full schedule for the convention can be found here.

Outside of programming official and unofficial, I plan to attend panels, go to the ice cream social, because freakin’ ice cream social, hang out in the bar, eat food, spend time with friends I don’t get to see nearly often enough, and buy books. I hope to see you there.

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All Hallows Read 2014

All Hallows ReadSomehow it is not only October, it is mid-October. I suspect gremlins, or possibly mice, of sneaking in and stealing time when I wasn’t looking. Regardless, mid-October means it’s high time I put together another All Hallows Read Book Exchange! If you’ve not heard of All Hallows Read, in short, it is a glorious holiday dreamed up by Neil Gaiman where you give books and receive them in return. The original idea was to give scary books, but I know horror isn’t everyone’s thing, so the way I run my book exchange, you can send any type of book at all. It doesn’t have to be new. It can be something from your shelves that you want to pass on to someone else, or if you happen to be an author, it can even be one of your own books.

It’s good fun. You get to share a book you loved with someone else, and get a book someone else loved in return. It’s a great way to discover books and authors you might not ever have picked up on your own, and as a happy bonus, you get to connect with other readers. If you want to play along, drop me a note in the comments, or send me an email at a.c.wise [at] by October 24th. I’ll arrange a highly scientific flow chart so that everybody sends a book and receives one from someone else. Let’s swap some books!

All Hallows Read poster courtesy of Introverted Wife. Visit the website to grab your own.


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(Finally) Announcing…New Bugs!

We had a lot of fabulous submissions, and a lot of very tough choices to make, but I’m pleased to say we’ve made our final selections for Unlikely Story #10: The Journal of Unlikely Entomology. In no particular order, the issue will feature:

Miranda’s Wings by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro
Bookends by Michael Wehunt
Prism City Blues by Naim Kabir
Gemma Bugs Out by Victorya Chase
On Shine Wings by Polenth Blake
Coping With Common Garden Pests by Will Kaufman
Meltdown in Freezer Three by Luna Lindsey

I know I say this a lot, and I mean it every time, but this is an incredibly strong issue, and I can’t wait to share these stories with you. Unlikely Story #10 will be available sometime in November. In the meantime, we continue to read subs for Unlikely Story #11: The Journal of Unlikely Cryptography. If you’re interested, you can find the guidelines here. Come October 1, we’ll be reading stories for our next mini issue, The Journal of Unlikely Coulrophobia. So if you like clowns, or computers, we’re everywhere you want to be.

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Aaand comments are back! Thanks to my “in-home tech support” aka spouse, comments on the site appear to be functional again. Unfortunately it looks like any comments left while the comment function was broken have permanently vanished into the aether, but going forward it should be business as usual. As long as nobody looks at them funny. Or breathes too hard near them. Or doesn’t breathe hard enough. I forget how it works with you robots.


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