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.

Fiction Sale! ‘The Desert, Blooming’

I’m excited to announce I’ve sold my short story ‘The Desert, Blooming’, to the Sunvault Anthology of Solarpunk and Eco-Fiction. When the project was first announced, one of the editors sent me an encouraging message on twitter inviting me to throw my hat into the slush pile — much to my excitement, I had already been working on a story concept for a larger universe that fit neatly into the idea of Eco-Fiction, and after a few false-starts, have produced a story I’m incredibly proud of. Many thanks to EP Beaumont, India Valentin, and the editors themselves, who worked with me to create a satisfying exploration of an alternate-future where modern afforestation techniques being pioneered in sub-Saharan Africa and Israel are an important part of the reclamation of an alternate-universe Sahara in North Africa.

This science fiction story is a character prequel to the first novel in the Azemur universe, a magical reimagining of the ancient cultures of the near East, and the collision of religions, cultures, and peoples of medieval al-Andalus. If you follow me on twitter, you might have heard me refer to the novel as the “time travel story” but while the story creates to the greater whole, there’s neither time travel, nor magic, in this short.

Excitingly, this will mark the second time I appear with my wife, India Valentin, whose poem about remaking Israel and keeping sacred plant traditions of Judaism alive is also part of the anthology. When the final Table of Contents and pre-order info for Sunvault are announced, you’ll hear about it here!

In other fiction news, “Backgame” now comes in e-book form as part of Myriad Lands II for only $3.99! (Amazon, or DriveThruFiction for other formats). If you’ve been holding out for a digital copy, I hope you enjoy this fascinating compilation of short stories. You’re getting almost 20 stories for $4! (UK friends can order through Guardbridge Books)

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

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!

“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.

“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.

“An Unexpected Guest” is out today! (& a poetry sale announcement)

Today is the publication day of my poem “An Unexpected Guest” in Liminality Magazine! I’m awfully excited to be appearing among such wonderful poems, but hope you take a little detour to read Amy Fant’s Tasseography of English Breakfast Tea at 30,000 Feet and Jennifer Linnea’s The Night Before an Interstellar Journey especially, two poems that gripped me when I first read them and I keep thinking about. But the whole issue is incredible, and you should savor it.

This poem is a sequel-of-sorts to an earlier poem published there, titled “The Haunting”. The Haunting is the story of a ghostly possession; this poem is from the point of view of the ghost, himself haunted by remnants of WWI, where he became disabled. The narrator of today’s poem, Geoffrey, is a longstanding character of mine who is the subject of a novel I am writing with my wife, one of the main characters of our alternate history America where faeries invade during the 1919 influenza epidemic (though, he is not troubled by embodiment issues there). He is, in this poem as elsewhere, disabled, queer, a trauma survivor, and a native of my adolescent home, Virginia. My own experiences with PTSD shape this poem a little bit — it’s one of several of my published works on the theme.

This poem also appears on the anniversary of my first publication. Liminality was the very special venue where I first appeared in print, in their very first issue. One of the things about this magazine that gives it its unique voice and vision is the willingness of the editors to take risks on new authors. It has become one of my go to venue to discover poets published for the first time — new poets and old favorites always color the pages. Many writers will tell you the first publication is the one that makes all the rest possible. For a magazine to take chances on so many new poets is exciting and important.

In the year since that first sale I have received eight acceptances and five publications. This number is astonishing to me. Hard work goes on; there are always poems on the market (many more than get published!) and I get more nos than yeses on the whole (I expect that will always be true). But to be 12 months in and have a publishing history I am extremely proud of is amazing to me — the community of fellow poets and readers I have discovered has made this, and so much more, possible.

I have also sold my poem “I Am Alive” to Strange Horizons. This is a really exciting moment for me and I can barely wrap my head around it. This poem, which comes out of my an experience I had several years ago during a car accident, is one of the most personal things I have ever written and I am very excited I will be able to share it with you. Like today’s poem, it grapples with surviving — and not surviving — the things which almost kill us (and indeed, surviving those which do kill us).

The other thing that excites me is the venue itself. Strange Horizons is one of those places I have always dreamed of selling to. It is one of my favorite poetry venues and now I am going to appear in their archives alongside some of my absolute favorite poems. Every time I think about it I get excited again.

Strange Horizons is running their fundraiser right now so check that out too and donate if you can or signal boost. Jane Yolen, who opens the Liminality issue with some Russian folklore, also just got published in Strange Horizon’s Fund Drive Bonus Issue, so if you want more, read her poem The Truth About Briars and go donate so Strange Horizons can continue to publish wonderful, cutting edge work the world needs. I’m especially looking forward to the poems coming at the $11,000 mark, myself.

Poem Sale: Lessons of the Knife

I’ve sold a poem to Rose Lemberg’s collection Spelling the Hours, about forgotten figures of science and technology history. (Special thanks to India Valentin, Toby MacNutt and Rose Fox, who read the poem & helped me polish it before submission.) “Lessons of the Knife” is about James Barry, a Victorian English doctor who spent his life working on issues of public health in the British army; sanitation, women’s health issues, disease prevention, better access to medicine, improved living conditions for the poor, better understanding of sexually transmitted diseases, etc. He performed one of the earliest successful cesarean sections in western history and first documented an indigenous herbal cure for STDs in South Africa. He was notorious in his lifetime for an accusation of having sexual relations with his closest friend and patron Lord Charles Somerset (even their friends did not deny his relationship with Lord Somerset was inappropriately close — the pending court case was only dismissed because Lord Somerset was extremely influential and important) and for ruffling feathers wherever he went with his insistence on good medical practice over military protocol.

If Barry were only a radical pioneering Victorian doctor who traveled all over undertaking humanitarian works of medical reform, with a colorful public history, he’d be important enough to medical history. As someone who seems to have been bisexual, a flirt with ladies and a romantic intimate with gentlemen, he even seems like a queer figure in history who doesn’t come to any of the tragic ends that we have been told are inevitable in history (Barry, like many of his generation, died in his 70s from dysentery from London’s polluted waterways, not from anything tragic). But there’s one more thing about Barry that makes him truly unusual in the history of English medicine — he’s the first trans person we know of in English history to become a doctor and practice medicine. Barry was assigned female at birth, and lived his entire adult life without his birth identity becoming public. The discovery of his birth assignment upon his death led to confusion among the English world, sensational writing and magazines depicting him as a woman in man’s clothes, going into the army for love, following narrative tropes of the time. But for trans men who have struggled to prove their presence on the historical stage, Barry seems a clear example — he wrote of himself exclusively as a man, demanded to be treated as men of his time and received that treatment, and was successful at his medical and humanitarian work and even moderately famous for it.

Barry is a fascinating man and one I’ve intended to write about for some time. Two years ago I picked up research to write a speculative fiction piece about him — that story never materialized, but this poem, celebrating his life and his achievements, has instead. I’m very excited that it will be in Spelling The Hours alongside other figures of historical importance who have been too often overlooked. When I have more information about the release of Spelling the Hours, I’ll be updating here.

If you’d like to learn more about Barry’s life, skip wikipedia (editors are constantly fighting over what pronouns to use; for that matter, skip any material that refers to Barry as a woman, it relies on bad sources) and stick with Rachel Holmes’ solid biography (though, it could use some updating to mention anywhere the concept of trans identities), Scanty Particulars.

Forthcoming work!

I am happy to announce that I sold “The Woman Sings Her Marriage Into Being” to Through The Gate! Through the Gate recently published what might have been, among tough competition, one of my favorite recent issues of poetry, an issue I glutted myself on and kept coming back for fresh rereads (I still think about Juli, TW for violence against women and suicide, but Bogi Takács’ The Iterative Nature of the Magical Discovery Process is joyous and light and still makes me smile.)

“The Woman Sings Her Marriage Into Being” is a special poem for me, which has its roots, very distantly, in the writing of JRR Tolkien and his lore of Numenor and the quite unexplored southern lands of Harad, and religion and culture I created to fill in the gaps there, though you’d be hard-pressed to call it a fanwork as such (you won’t find anyone or anything you recognize from the books!) It is, like several of my other poems, a ghostly love song (I do, in theory, write other things, I promise!) When it’s published, I’ll talk a bit more about the mythical landscape that shapes the poem, and the single ornithographic reference within that places it in conversation with Tolkien’s mythology.

Through The Gate is open to submissions through June 1! Go submit, poets. While you’re at it, if you haven’t done it already, Angels of the Meanwhile, where my poem “The First Wife” about Eve and Lilith is appearing, is on preorder till the end of June. Please donate as you are able to help Elizabeth R McClellan pay medical bills, whose poem Quiet Magick was in Through The Gate as well. For pay-what-you-will, you will get poetry & prose by some of MY favorite writers, including Rose Lemberg, Amal el-Motar, Catherynne M Valente, and Lisa Bradley, among others who I am incredibly delighted to be among.

There will be more news as events warrant. I have had some very encouraging rejections this season, and did squeak by for Camp NaNo with 30,000 words with some creative interpretation of “creative writing” (some of which is even now being edited!) but hope to bring you more publications soon!

Exciting Things In March

March has exciting things in it, and exciting things coming up.

EP Beaumont interviewed me for a project called “The Muse of Research”, in which writers discuss the relationship of research to their writing. A short version of the interview went online at Skiffy & Fanty, I’m told the full-length version will be along next week.

Liminality Magazine is publishing another poem of mine on Monday. If you liked “The Haunting”, you will probably like “Among the Dead” — it too is about the ghosts you love. Bonus notes will go up Monday, along with a themed recipe.