Poetry Sale: ‘The Doppelganger and the Ghost’

I’m excited to announce I sold ‘The Doppelganger and the Ghost’ to the “Ghosts” issue of Eye to the Telescope, which will be published on October 15. Later this month you’ll also see “My Heart Is Set On Wandering” in Strange Horizons, another ghost poem about Filipinos in Louisiana. Strange Horizons is currently fundraising, and I encourage you to go throw some pennies at a magazine that is gearing up for its THIRD publication of my work. Strange Horizons takes interesting risks, publishes first-time authors, and is just one of those special venues whose archives have something for every reader of the speculative.

‘The Doppelganger and the Ghost’ leans more heavily into “horror” than anything I’ve published to date, but it is not exactly a supernatural haunting. This poem may have special resonance for my trans readers, or anyone who has felt forced to suppress their real identity in favor of a false image. It was a poem I figured was near-unsellable, so I’m excited to be bringing it to you soon.

I’ll also be re-releasing a special poem currently unavailable online a lot of people have asked about on October 16 when rights revert back to me, so the poetry news this month flies fast and thick!

If you’d like to support my writing, please consider tipping me.

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Poetry Sale: ‘The Doorway’

I’m excited to announce I’ve sold the poem “The Doorway” to Pedestal Magazine, to be published early in July for their summer issue! The Doorway is an interesting poem for me to have sold at this time, because I wrote it after revisiting what I consider to be my adolescent body of work from 2007-2010, a period where my PTSD was fresh and new and I wrote hundreds of poems a year as a tactic of survival (nota bene: not a recommended way to learn how to write poetry). The original version was a scant few, angry lines about a dream I had. This version — well.

“The Doorway” is both a love song about two people in parallel universes and what it takes to go between them, and is an exploration of saudadeshiraeth, and all those other words English doesn’t have, a longing for a time and a place you can never go or return to. “The country to which there is no returning”, as it was once said to me. Exile, longing, death, and survival.

It is also another piece inspired by the works about JRR Tolkien, and is quite explicitly (for those of you who are meta-nerds like me), about the sinking of Númenor and wrestles with themes of drowning and suicide. After living through the spring I just had, in an apartment where the air was poisoning my wife and having a severe impact on my health, a poem which, ultimately, is about survival and rescues and near escapes, feels fitting at this particular moment in time as I settle into my newer, safer home and make transitions of all kinds.

Exciting big news coming soon, which some of you have probably guessed following my twitter timeline — but more on that soon!

“The First Wife” now available!

Last year, the poet Elizabeth R McClellan injured her shoulder and steadily accumulated bills for a painful health problem that still isn’t resolved. At the time, to help her pay her bills, Alexandra Erin came up with the idea of a chapbook to pay her bills. Elizabeth’s poetry had previously spoken to me, and I had no money to offer her, so I did the best I could: I donated a poem.

That poem, many more, and prose pieces by some incredible authors, is now available for purchase and immediate delivery as the anthology Angels of the Meanwhile.

“The First Wife” is a retelling of the Garden, of Eve and Lilith and the dark spaces a broken relationship leaves — and the possibilities dark spaces open. It is only available in this anthology. Buy a copy and receive work it’s an honor to be listed among, including Bryan Thao Worra, Lisa M. Bradley, Catherynne Valente, Kythrynne Aisling, Sonya Taaffe, and many many others who are probably already your favorites.

“Death by Three Senses” out today & other news!

Strange Horizons has published my poem Death By Three Senses today. I’m THRILLED this poem has made it out into the world, it was an impulse submission of a poem I found tucked away in an unusual spot (at the bottom of a document where I had been doing finances) and is based on an important event in the mythological world of my poetry, told from the point of view of a necromancer who sacrifices everything to save a man he loves and almost gets it right.

Almost being the key word that drives this poem. It is, like many of my poems, an attempt to invert the “tragic queers” trope — the two men who drive this poem find a way, even if it is an uncomfortable and awkward one, to be together and not to let death be the end. It is, in a way, a sort of portal fantasy, too — in the mythic landscape of my poems, death is the doorway to other universes, a one-way trip that can take you anywhere.

Strange Horizons has also bought another one of my poems, “My Heart Is Set On Wandering”, set to come out later this year. It is about the history of Filipinos in Louisiana, colonialization, and my own family history. It is set in the “Ethical Necromancy” universe, where several short stories I’m working on have also been set, in which dead spirits and revenants reappeared in the early 2000s in the “Great Awakening” and the rest of the world must somehow cope.

I also found out that “The Woman Sings Her Marriage Into Being” was nominated for the short form Rhysling. I am so thrilled that this happy love song has resonated with so many people, especially since its ultimate roots are secretly Tolkien fanfiction. Two Rhysling nominations is a TOTAL surprise to me, and it means the world to me that the discerning readers of science fiction and fantasy poetry have chosen two poems of mine that are about death, love, and happiness for gay and lesbian people usually denied it as their nominations from last year’s body of my published work. Thank you.

Finally, though this deserves its own post, I have sold my first piece of fiction! “Backgame”, which is about a necromancer in a magical siege who brings a friend back to life, has been sold to the second volume of Myriad Lands by Guardbridge Books! When I know more about when the anthologies will be coming out, you will hear more! “Backgame” being my first fiction sale is especially exciting to me because it stars a trans narrator and centers on his friendship with an asexual woman, and there’s just not enough queer friendship representation, period.

If I had any more news to fit in this post, I don’t know that I could! Thank you for your continuing support. Because I am currently in a precarious financial position (described by my wife here), I have instituted  a tip page to my paypal (you can write in any amount in the box). I have discovered mold in my apartment is making my wife very ill & we need to move basically immediately (literally, we were in the ER yesterday for emergency treatment, this happy post is very weird to write) and if my poems or activism speaks to you, any money shared to me is being used to feed my wife and I as we attempt to use what is left of her student loans to move to a new mold-free home.

Witch’s Brew is out today! & a Rhysling nomination

The much-anticipated Hope issue of Stone Telling is out today, featuring both my poem Witch’s Brew and my first review of a poetry collection, a review of Sonya Taaffe’s Ghost Signs. Working with Rose, Shweta, and Bogi helped create what is one of my favorite poems to date — their editorial suggestions helped make it a very special poem to me.

Witch’s Brew is about a lot of things dear to my heart; exile from the homeland, and being from the generations that have never seen the homeland. It is about magic — real magic, the magic that saves you. It is about choosing to embrace your heritage, and finding “your people” — things I once never imagined were possible for a third-generation American like me. To be featured alongside the breathtaking,  powerful, shattering poems of M Serano, Kim Eun-byeol,  Sonya Taaffe, and so many others is incredible. It’s an incredible issue. I am so proud to be a part of it. Take the time to savor  the beautiful poetry here, hold it close to your heart, keep it for a dark day when the world seems dim and in need of a little light.

I also recently found out that my poem An Unexpected Guest in Liminality 5 was nominated for the Rhysling long-form. This is a complete surprise to me, and a huge honor I can barely wrap my head around. To be considered among the many fantastic, excellent poems published last year, and to be on such a list is huge for me. Thank you.

I would like to make a small correction note about the original version of that particular poem as it was published:

the ghost who appears in the poem is an artillery lieutenant, not a sergeant. His name was Earlston L Hargett, and he was the first lieutenant of the 150th Field Artillery, called the “Rainbow Division”. According to local newspapers, he died Sept 30 1918 in a military hospital in France where he was also buried. It is my deep hope his mother, Emma Amelia, has heard or will soon hear the message he seeks to bring her. My apologies to them both I did not get it quite right at the time I submitted the poem.

I have more poetry coming in February, and other good news I hope to share soon! Thank you so much for such an exciting start to 2016!

Free Poem: Florida Water

In keeping with a promise I made in 2015, the first poem of 2016 is being released freely. I have exciting news about other projects coming soon.

Special thanks to EP Beaumont and my wife India Valentin for assistance. Thanks also to the unknown seller in the French Market who sold me a steel ring promising it would bring us both good luck — it certainly made me lucky that day, and I hope it did the same for you.

Content notes: violence against women, bodily mutilation.

Florida Water
to E.D.

The sky had split into a thousand kinds of dark
when I first saw her, all shining silver plate, her dark braids loose down her back.
Later, I said: like Joan of Arc astride before the French Market
but then I only saw the side on which she wore her three red marks:
an angry scratch made by a story of jealousy or the fear of death.
She raised the sword and struck the earth and music played
the avenging angel of the apocalypse, here to make right
what the revolution had gotten wrong.
I woke to cold sweats, all filled with light, my heart beating a new rhythm
that my thoughts could barely follow.

The second time she came to me, I heard her voice: her tongue not cut
but split in two, to speak the language that I wished to cross.
Men think they can silence a woman with pain but they do not know
the things they do to tell the truth of what’s been done.
No knight, this time; but dressed up in a suit of blue, tied with a knot to make a dandy proud
and finished with a hat she must have borrowed from the Baron
for an occasion with the dead.
“So you wanna be transformed?” she said. “Well: l’ll make you new
but you gotta promise me some things first, ‘cause
life ain’t fair, but you’d better be.”

You have to understand, I didn’t mean to be a groom–
I didn’t mean to take a revolution’s fire for my lover.
I’m not the type who takes the spirits to my bed
(well, I denied it, then: but still I wore the ring).
These days the Three of Swords shows up in most draws
and young men tell me all about the mother of us androgynes
(I know the father, too, but, I swear, this isn’t how we’re usually born.)
I keep my candles burning when I can, and leave some spice
among the blue and gold.
Sometimes when the peppered rum gets low
I hear her whisper that it’s time to come–
and so I go, where I am rocked upon the heartbeat of the world.

“Dionysus of the Downtown” & 2015 in review

Just before Christmas, when I was preparing to go on my belated honeymoon with my wife, my poem Dionysus of the Downtown was published in Liminality Magazine’s Issue Six.

Dionysus and Ganymede, in this poem, are reinterpreted as figures for modern queer folks — Dionysus as a trans man, Ganymede as a figure familiar to me in both real life and literature, someone whose first queer partner was not a Happily Ever After, but instead, a nightmare. I first met this Ganymede in the writing of my wife, India Valentin, and we explored some of these themes when writing in a shared universe invented by our friend BB. Since I fell so hopelessly in love with Dionysus Liberator, who comes bringing inner freedom and whose ancient myth cycles are full of unexpected gender upheavals, and with Ganymede the Barista, who promises you can survive anything (yes, even that), I wrote them this poem. I hope this is not the last time we will see them; I have vague thoughts on short stories, still in the roughest stages, not even an outline.

2015 also saw the sale of another poem at the very tail end of the year. I sold “Witch’s Brew” to Stone Telling for their forthcoming “Hope” issue, which should be appearing very soon. Witch’s Brew is a love song to spiritual traditions of resistance, and the magic of the oppressed to find justice and make right, especially in immigrant communities where justice is often more of a pipe dream than a reality.

I wrote a lot more than I thought I did in 2015; approximately 41 finished poems (possibly more drafts, depending on how we count them), scattered here and there. I sold or donated as charitable gifts 10 poems from Jan 1-Dec 31 in 2015, self-published 2 poems, and was solicited for one book review about poetry. I sent out submissions of 50 poems in various groupings to 14 markets.

I also wrote 9 short stories from start to finish, ranging from 2000-10,000 words (average length: 4-6k, after editing, with the exception of flash pieces, of which I wrote 2). I started 11 other short stories (as far as I can tell; this number does not include any stories of which I wrote outlines but less than 500 words.) 6 of the finished pieces went out to 19 magazines and anthologies as 26 submissions. Several of these submissions were shortlisted and half of them which received responses (11) received personal, specific, positive feedback (often the very flattering yet frustrating “I liked it BUT” rejection)  or invitations to submit future work; one is still being held for consideration, and 2 were withdrawn from unresponsive markets.

With India, working on various shared projects, we won NaNo all 3 times and continued to write at a pace of approximately 30k cumulative words a month. We started and trunked 6 novels in our Faeries Run the US Universe, before setting each one aside and picking up a different version of that story (cumulatively 158,323 words exploring characters and variations on the setting); half of our Secondary World Steampunk Regency Al-Andalus queer poly romance (115,550 words); began a medieval prequel in that setting (28,554 words); wrote half of our Ghost Romance (47,210 words in November before we took a break); and various other projects that brought us up to an exciting 358,000 words, more or less. (If you split it down the middle, that’s around 15,000 words each month we both produced on top of my other writing, and her graduate career, with more during NaNo months. Damn. Go us!)

2015 was a large year in other ways; I continue to struggle with debilitating pain and the constant necessity of being a disabled caregiver for someone who shares my disability. There is no off time between my body and the work of feeding myself and others. The year was hard; very hard physically and emotionally and financially, despite the ups of publications and the very high quality of my friends who supported me through that difficult time. I look around somewhat amazed that I survived — but that is due to the amazing support of many wonderful people, especially in the writing community. 2016 is shaping up to be more of the same — endless doctors appointments and difficult decisions to make ends meet and use my limited energy wisely — but I intend to keep writing and keep working.

My big goal for this year is simply to track things; doing this retrospective has taken days of labor because I am somewhat scattershot in my organization. I’d love to sell my first short story, and I’d love to finish a novel. Other than that; I can only keep writing, keep submitting, and keep working. That’s my big goal. To keep working, and to be kind and gracious with myself when so much of this is an uphill struggle for me. I preach the gospel of achievable goals and hard limits, and I’m trying to practice it, too.

Stay tuned, 2 poems at least should be coming out in 2016, and I hope to have new sales to announce soon!

Poem Sale: ‘Death By Three Senses’

I’m excited to announce I’ve sold another poem to Strange Horizons. A.J. Odasso has announced they bought my horror poem “Death By Three Senses” for the spring season. I’m excited by the news Strange Horizons will also be publishing more poems by  Layla Al-Bedawi and Bryan Thao Worra in the spring, and I am excited to discover all the poets who are currently new to me who will also be in spring issues.

“Death By Three Senses” is another one of my ghost stories, naturally, but ghosts take a sharp turn into what I consider one of my first successful ventures into poetry of the horrific — an exploration of necromancy, sacrifice and the things we do for love, and not to be alone. It will appear in 2016.

As a belated note, my poem “I Am Alive” was also featured in the Strange Horizons podcast, read by Julia Rios. Rose Lemberg also reads their poem “Ranra’s Unbalancing” in this podcast; I was fortunate enough to be an early reader of Ranra’s Unbalancing and am thrilled to be appearing alongside it. It was also reviewed by Charles Payseur in a Quick Sips write-up of Strange Horizons.

“I Am Alive” is out today!

(Please note a trigger warning for traumatic car accidents on this post and the poem itself.)

My poem “I Am Alive” about PTSD, alternate universes, and life/death, is out today in Strange Horizons! It will also be part of the November poetry podcast later this month. Special thank you to some of the people who helped me edit it from its earliest incarnation: J L, Toby MacNutt, and India Valentin.

Being published in Strange Horizons is being in a dream venue, for me. I’ve hoped to be published among favorite authors in one of my favorite magazines since I became serious about writing in 2012 — it is an incredible feeling to be here right now. I hope many more poems and pieces of fiction will join this first poem. Their editorial staff did amazing work to bring this poem to you. If you’ve ever wanted to submit and haven’t been sure — don’t self-reject. Go submit right now.

This poem is an interesting one to share because it is based partially on an autobiographical experience. In February of 2014, my wife and I left my in-law’s house to go buy a replacement headlight lightbulb that I needed before I would drive home later that day. It had been snowing a few days before, but the snow had turned into rain, thick, wet rain that coated the back roads into standing puddles. Driving around a sharp curve on the back country roads into town, I hit a puddle. The car fishtailed. Miraculously, instead of slamming into the stone wall a few feet from the driver’s side, we slid off the road, clipping an oak tree and skidding down a steep bank. The car stopped sideways, a few feet away from the frozen creek on the passenger’s side, and a four-foot sapling had stopped the frontward motion of the car. I don’t remember those things, though; I remember the car starting to spin and the world going black for a little while.

There is a story about the kindness of local strangers who stopped their van and helped us out of the snow, directed traffic around us until the police came, about the policewoman who helped us get safely out of the cold, of my in-laws who helped us get home in a rental car, the kindness of my family, who owned the car, in helping us replace the car. That story is not the story of this poem.

When I returned to myself,  the car door-deep in the snowbank, my blood roaring in my ears and saw my wife sitting in the seat next to me  held up by her seatbelt almost sideways, I knew I was dead. I knew I was dead with such certainty that everything I did in the hazy aftermath was about making sure my wife was not also dead. It took a while, until I was standing in the cold shivering, to realize as we slid through the snow back up to the road, that, no, my body was still moving, and so was I. I was alive.

Like a lot of people who experience these kinds of car accidents (it was not my first traumatic car accident), I ended up experiencing post-traumatic stress in the months following. As I replayed, over and over again, the roaring white deafness of adrenaline and the peculiar suspended feeling of waking up, especially as the accident severely increased my chronic pain, I struggled to understand that initial reaction, the certainty of my own death, and why, despite all odds, since we did walk away, why my mind returned over and over to the possibility I had not actually walked away at all. My flashbacks began to feel like some sort of twisted time travel, in which my mind returned to a place over and over again with no ability to change the outcome.

It’s a very special moment to be here, sharing this poem with you. In a neighboring timeline, I wasn’t here to write it.

Funds For Rochita & Angels of the Meanwhile

Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, a writer who has become beloved to myself and many in science fiction and fantasy writing for her positive, welcoming, and encouraging presence in the scene, has suffered a heartbreaking loss in the unexpected sudden death of her husband. Inspired by Rochita’s own example of kindness and giving, friends have put a fundraiser together to help her deal with the financial burden of the sudden loss. I donated my poem about disability “The City Under Siege” to the fundraiser’s reward backers site as a special publication, where it has joined work by Rose Lemberg, JY Yang, Aliette de BodardShveta ThakrarBogi Takács, EP Beaumont and others. Please give to Rochita here. Rochita is a very special person who has encouraged my work and connected me with other positive and encouraging people, and in her time of need, we are trying to give back a portion of the community she has offered us.

Back in the spring I donated the mythological poem “The First Wife” to the project Angels of the Meanwhile to help Elizabeth R McClellan deal with post-injury expenses following shoulder issues. That fundraising project is still ongoing, with a tentative November release date. A donation of any size gets you a copy of the fundraising ebook, which includes writing by many of my favorite authors (Table of Contents here). Please give! Lizbeth still needs help and this collection is a very, very special one.

Finally, we are nearing the publication date of my poem “I Am Alive” with Strange Horizons. Look for that early in November! You’ll be hearing more about it soon. This poem is one of my most personal so far, and I am very excited about sharing it with you. Some other special work should be appearing in November, including my first poetry review — more on that later!