Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Some books I loved this year, 2015 edition

Okay. So, this isn't meant to be a best of list, or anything numbered or specific or anything like that. Probably I will forget some! Almost certainly, in fact! But I am at the point of my own NewBook where if I ask my brain to work that hard on anything else, it will poof like smoke in my head, and leak out of my ears.

But! I read a lot of books this year. And I loved many of them! And it is a time of year when gifts are given, and maybe you want to give someone you love a book. Or give yourself a book, because you love yourself. So here we go:

Some excellent debut novels: Updraft by Fran Wilde. Last Song Before Night by Ilana C. Myer. Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho. The Daughters by Adrienne Celt. All of these books are lovely, and so well-written that I have debut-author envy. Some will make you laugh. Some will break your heart. All will make you glad you read them.

Some great nonfiction: H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. Hammer Head by Nina MacLaughlin. The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson. All smart books. All books that opened up new spaces in my brain. The first two in particular I have pretty much raved about to anyone I can convince to listen.

Some books that were just damn good reads: Persona by Genevieve Valentine. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab. The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow.Silver on the Road by Laura Anne Gilman. Saint Mazie by Jami Attenberg. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn. I mean, who doesn't like a damn good read?

Some amazing books written by good friends: Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley. Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente. About a Girl by Sarah McCarry. Sometimes you get to read something in draft, and you think, yes. Yes, this is good. And then you read the finished version, and you think, Hot Damn, you beautiful genius, you did it! And yes, yes they did.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Manuscript editing services

Maybe you just finished your NaNo novel. (Hey, congratulations!) Maybe you've just finished a draft of a manuscript you've been working on for much longer than a month. (Hey, congratulations!) If you have a manuscript that you want a new set of eyes on, some professional assistance before you query agents, submit it to a publisher's open call, or publish it yourself, I can help you.

Here's who I am: I have over 30 professional short fiction sales. My work has been performed on NPR, included in year’s best and best of anthologies, and has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award and the WSFA Small Press Award. My novella with Maria Dahvana Headley, The End of the Sentence, was chosen as one of NPR’s Best Books of 2014. I am a graduate of Clarion at UCSD, and am represented by Brianne Johnson at Writers House. My debut novel, Roses and Rot, will be out from Saga Press in 2016. Additionally, I have a Ph.D. in English Literature, and have taught at the undergraduate and graduate levels at the University of Minnesota, and Stonybrook University. I have also taught an Intro to Writing SFF course with LitReactor.

In other words, I have experience, both as a writer, and in helping other people make their writing better.

Here's what I do: I edit for content - so, this is not copy-editing, or line-editing, or the kind of thing where you have someone read over your manuscript for typos. In fact, unless I can't understand it, I'm going to leave your sentence-level prose alone. What I will do is offer you feedback on character, plot, theme, overall story, that sort of thing. I'll also be sure to include feedback on any specific questions that you have. 


What you need: A completed manuscript. This can be anywhere from your just-finished NaNo draft to something that you think is polished enough to start querying with. While I primarily write SFF, I'm happy to work with writers in any genre. I've worked with people who have self-published, and with people who have successfully pursued traditional publishing. You do not need any previous publications or credentials - I am happy to work with writers at any career stage, whether this is the first book you've finished or the 10th. I really mean this - there are always people who worry that they need writing credits, or to send me a writing sample, or to edit their manuscript again before I see it, and that's just not the case. I'm not here to judge your writing, I'm here to help you find ways to make it stronger. 


Edited to add: Yes, I do also work with short fiction. Please include your wordcount when you get in touch.

Also: The holidays are coming up. Maybe you're not a writer, but you know one, and you'd like to give them an edit as a gift. I'm happy to talk to you about that.

If you think you're interested: Contact me at KatWithSword@gmail.com. We'll talk about exactly what you're looking for, my rates, and the turnaround time for your manuscript. Please note that these last two are based on manuscript length, so if you know your approximate word count, that will help me give you a quote. I'm happy to answer any questions.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Final NaNo thoughts

I know, I know. It's not the end of November yet. Neither have I "won" NaNo, with 50K words added to the wordcount of my NewBook.

But I'm officially wrapping up the posts now, because I've gotten what I wanted out of the month - forward momentum on the NewBook, with a sense (finally!) that I know where it's going and I know what I need to do to get there. Plus also, more words written on it, and better ones. Plus even more also, I have gotten my feet back under me, short-fiction wise - this month I've written, cleaned up, polished and submitted stories again, some from nothing, some from previous drafts that my brain hadn't been ready to wrangle with before.

I'm not sure how much sitting down and telling myself that this was the month to do this helped. I didn't keep a tight record of my wordcount, so I can't say what it would have been like to "officially" see that meter move (or not). My guess is, knowing myself, and knowing the way I felt at the beginning of the month in particular, having a low wordcount day could have really messed with my head. But I also know there were days when I kept writing, just because I wanted to hit that next round number of words in the file.

Basically, I feel much more like a functional writer again than I did at the beginning of the month, and that, for me, is a huge win.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Guillotine Fantastique

Just look at this.

Completely beautiful, right? And available today, for those of you who enjoy tiny heartbreaks of fiction, handbound into a chapbook. You can find all the ordering information here.

If you've never read Sofia's work before, well, here is an excellent chance to change that. I will warn you now that you will then want to read her entire back catalogue - she's a brilliant flame in the field.

Here, taken from her blog, is an except from "Meet Me in Iram":

I remember when I was a kid, on long car trips, I’d imagine a giant saw was attached to my side of the car. The saw could cut through anything. It sliced fences, it sliced trees. The fences gave a swift groan and exposed the hollow insides of their poles. The trees went snick and fell over with juicy ease, the tops of the stumps left gleaming moist and pale, like a wound before the blood comes. I was leveling the whole country from my seat in the back of the car. I don’t know why it gave me so much pleasure. 

Here's a bit from "Those Are Pearls," which is about curses, and sisters, and seeing things.

There are rituals. Traditions. A curse, once broken, breaks easier a second time. Death becomes one hundred years of sleep, becomes one thousand and one nights telling stories. We know what our curses are when we see them, and we know their undoing.


But there is a catch. We may know how to break curses, but they knew how to bind us in the first place.

I'm so pleased to be part of this project, and I can't wait for you to read these stories.

Monday, November 16, 2015

NaNo update; openings for clients

So, we're halfway through November. If you're writing right now, whether for NaNo, or for project finish your draft, or you're trying to write 1000 words this month just because, whatever it is, I hope things are going well for you.

I am still making forward progress on my draft-finishing. The scenes are still small and bare, but there are more of them every day, so I am happy. I also got a short story into draft yesterday, and I am pretty excited about this. I am trying to let myself remember to celebrate the small victories at the same time that I keep my eyes on my larger goals. 

I also wanted to take a moment and let people know that I am open for editing clients, both now, and for your NaNo projects. 

Here's the basic information:

Here's who I am: I have over 30 professional short fiction sales. My work has been performed on NPR, included in year’s best and best of anthologies, and has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award and the WSFA Small Press Award. My novella with Maria Dahvana Headley, The End of the Sentence, was chosen as one of NPR’s Best Books of 2014. I am a graduate of Clarion at UCSD, and am represented by Brianne Johnson at Writers House. My debut novel, Roses and Rot, will be out from Saga Press in 2016. Additionally, I have a Ph.D. in English Literature, and have taught at the undergraduate and graduate levels at the University of Minnesota, and Stonybrook University. I have also taught an Intro to Writing SFF course with LitReactor.

In other words, I have experience, both as a writer, and in helping other people make their writing better.

Here's what I do: I help you edit for content - so, this is not copy-editing, or line-editing, or the kind of thing where you have someone read over your manuscript for typos. In fact, unless I can't understand it, I'm going to leave your sentence-level prose alone. What I will do is offer you feedback on character, plot, theme, overall story, that sort of thing. I'll also be sure to include feedback on any specific questions that you have. 


What you need: A completed manuscript. This can be anywhere from your hot mess of a NaNo draft to something that you think is polished enough to start querying with. While I primarily write SFF, I'm happy to work with writers in any genre. I've worked with people who have self published, and with people who have successfully pursued traditional publishing. You do not need any previous publications or credentials - I am happy to work with writers at any career stage. I really mean this - there are always people who worry that they need writing credits, or to send me a writing sample, or to edit their manuscript again before I see it, and that's just not the case. I'm not here to judge your writing, I'm here to help you find ways to make it stronger. 

If you think you're interested: Contact me at KatWithSword@gmail.com. We'll talk about exactly what you're looking for, my rates, and the turnaround time for your manuscript. Please note that these last two are based on manuscript length, so if you know your approximate word count, that will help me answer your questions. I'm happy to answer any questions.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Non-stop

I mean, I'm not the only one with "How do you write like you're running out of time?" playing on a closed loop in their head right now, right?

The thing about something like NaNo is that even if you don't hit the 50K wordcount that signals winning by the end of the month, you've still got more words than you started with. More words is good! (looks at grammar of preceding sentence, shrugs, moves on.)

I have stopped considering my relative wordcount. I am pretty sure that defeats some of the purpose of NaNo, but here's why. I'm not necessarily looking for more words - though I'll have that, too, at the end of this - I'm looking for more story. I need to get the events of the book closer to the end of the book. Because of that, I have spent the past few days writing a lot of scenes very very fast.

Objectively considered, theses scenes are mostly crap right now. They're all telling instead of showing, or all dialogue. Almost none of them have any setting to speak of. There are no subtleties of character, no efforts at including theme. 90% of what I'm writing right now is me writing towards plot beats.

I could go back. I could fill these scenes out, and get my wordcount, no problem. I am one of those writers whose drafts always grow in revision under normal circumstances, and the way I'm writing now is even barer, more stripped down, than normal. But if I went back and filled out those scenes, I'd be losing the forward momentum on this book even if my wordcount said otherwise.

And I hate leaving those scenes like that! The only way I can turn off the part of my brain that says, "You know, these are really not quite" is to keep a list of notes - scenes that I need to add in earlier to make what happens later make sense, and emotional beats I need to hit, and also maybe some setting, somewhere, anywhere. If I have that list of notes, then I can trust that I'll fix it in post, and I can keep writing.

My goal for this month is to get to the end of the draft. The only way I can do that is to not look back.

Monday, November 9, 2015

State of the writer: when you can't write

Here is the latest in my ongoing series of posts about finishing my novel draft this month in a somewhat NaNo-like fashion. Previous posts can be found by checking the archives for November.

The first thing I want to do is call your attention to this post from Mary Robinette Kowal, "Sometimes Writers Block Is Really Depression." It's a good post. Go read it. I'll still be here when you get back.

Okay.

I don't have depression, but I do know what it's like to have mental illness get in the way of my writing. I have anxiety. It's been officially part of my medical profile for about three years now - I see a doctor, I take medication. I have made some behavior and lifestyle changes. All of these things help; none of them are magic cures.

(I am turning off comments on this post, but please, if your kind and helpful instinct is to email or tweet me with hints as to how I can manage my anxiety, know that I appreciate your thoughts, but I am asking you to refrain.)

It took me a while to get help. I wish I had done so earlier, but anxiety is a jerk, and wouldn't let me. It wasn't until I literally couldn't write - because the idea of starting something and getting it wrong filled me with such terror that I couldn't open my notebook, even though I had deadlines and editors waiting on things, even though I had bills to pay, and if I didn't write, I wouldn't be able to pay them - that I finally was able to ask for the help I needed.

Mary is right - sometimes there are story-based reasons for writers block. Sometimes, you get the don't wannas, and you have to ask yourself seriously how much writing, or writing this particular project means to you. But sometimes, there are days that you can't write. Sometimes there are days that you can't write, even though you want and need to be writing that day. Sometimes life gets in the way. Sometimes circumstances out of your control get in the way.

It can be really hard when that happens. First, there's your own feeling of disappointment or grumpiness at not hitting your goal. But there can be the outside pressure hearing that real writers write, that professionals don't have time to get blocked, that you should be writing every day, of the feeling that everyone else is succeeding faster. Hearing those things - even the parts of them that may be good advice, or worth considering, or standards to motivate yourself against on a good day - well, they can be less than useless on a bad one.

I'm a person who is generally happier when I am writing on a schedule. I have wordcount or pagecount or project goals. I make lists. I do this everyday. Not - anymore - because I believe I have to do these things to be a Real Writer, but because I have learned that this is the way I work best.

I have also learned that there are some days that - even though I have tried, even though I have put my butt in the chair at the appointed time, and turned off the internet, and tried all the tricks to jumpstart things - that I am not going to make those goals. (Please see yesterday's post on my current wordcount.) I've learned that beating myself up over this isn't helpful. I try, on those days, very hard to allow myself to see the things I did accomplish, and then to let go of the ways that I fell short, so that I can keep moving forward.

It's really easy to be cruel to yourself when you fall short of your goals. Try and take care of yourself, too.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

State of the Kat, draft-finishing month

I'm not sure exactly what it is about this particular draft that has me inspired to fire up the blog and note its progress, but here I go anyway.

(Previous entry here.)

The short answer is, my wordcount isn't where I would like it to be right now.

The more complicated and better answer is, while I wish that I had more words on the page (in the computer, in this stack of scribbled-upon print outs that is large enough to have terrified the cat when she knocked it over the other day), I am actually okay with where my progress is right now. I have forward motion on the draft again, and I can see where things are going, at least for right now, and those are the two biggest things that had been giving me difficulty. I am taking this as a win - because it is - and I am not beating myself up over lack of wordcount, because I cannot change what has happened on the days that have already passed.

It is a really drafty draft. Even the first three chapters, which I had gotten into good enough shape at one point to send to my editor as a proof of concept (this book, while not under deadline, is under contract, and I wanted to be sure that he would want it) now have new scenes and new people in. At least three times today, I had to stop and say "It's only a draft, you can fix it later" out loud to myself. I am better at trusting myself to fix things later, but that doesn't mean it's easy - I can hear my internal editor, following along just a few sentences behind me, reminding me that this scene would be better if it were more active, that I still haven't established a sufficient motivation for this character's behavior, that the end of the scene still needs another beat to close it out, and why don't I just sit here and twist my brain around it until I know exactly what that is?

My wordcount isn't where I would like it to be, but I am writing, and the book is moving. This is a win. If you are writing right now, I hope your wordcount is where you want it to be. But if it isn't, look for the progress you've made. Because you have made some. Give yourself the win. And keep going.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Some thoughts on writing and rules

I used to be a big jerk about National Novel Writing Month.

I didn't really think about it one way or another until I started writing seriously, but then, I was Very Grumpy about it. Real writers wrote all the time! Often in daily wordcounts that were more than the NaNo requirement! And 50K words isn't a novel anyway! NaNo was clearly not for real writers. I was very snarky about it. 

I want to be clear that I no longer feel like this.

Here's the thing. I like rules. They give me a lot of comfort. If there are rules, then I can follow them, and I can know I am doing The Right Thing.

When I was just starting out as a writer, I had almost no confidence that I was Doing It Right. So I looked for rules. I read process books and writers' blogs and anything I could get my hands on that would tell me how to do it. I made rules for myself - stringent ones, ones that some of my favorite writers followed, and ones that I put together on my own - so that I could have something to cling to that made me feel like maybe I was a real writer. (Imagine a tiny trademark symbol there.)

And I didn't cut myself any slack, because I didn't trust myself with it. Which meant that when I talked about writing, oh, say, on a blog (maybe this one even) (probably) I was rigid. Prescriptive. Sometimes probably a jerk.

I was, even though I didn't realize it at the time, sort of being a jerk to myself, too. By making all those rules (some of which I needed then, to help learn habits and discipline, some of which are still useful to me now), I gave myself a million tiny ways to be afraid of not doing the right thing. To fail. To let the brain goblins in on a bad day.

And, in a way, to be unhelpful to other writers. I mean, I've pretty much come to feel that there are few absolute rules in this business. Do what you need to do to get the words on the page, and know that that might change from story to story, from book to book. But I remember what it's like to see the people in the field that I looked up to talking about how they write, and I remember measuring my process against theirs, and making myself feel lacking because mine was different. Not rigorous enough. Not professional.

Which is some kind of bullshit, I tell you what. Because at the end of the day, I don't need to make anyone else's process work in order to write a book, and neither do you. We just need to figure out what works for us. For this scene. For this project. For today.

I was talking to a friend this weekend about a novel draft I've been bashing my head against, and I said that I thought the biggest change in my process since I started writing was that I trust myself to fix things now. I am not one of those writers who generates clean first drafts. Mine are hot messes, shitty first drafts. I wind up rewriting and throwing out A LOT. But I am a good reviser. And no one needs to see those hot messes of words except me.

I'm not officially doing NaNo this month, but I've got about 50K left in this zero draft to write, and so my goal is to push my way through it, and get to the end of that first bad draft by the end of November. Because that's what I need to do right now. Because that's what works for today. Because the only thing that matters is what gets the words on the page.


Monday, September 21, 2015

Openings for editing clients

I am reopening to editing clients. I have both immediate and future openings for clients with novella-length or longer manuscripts - in other words, your project would be at least 20K words. If this sounds like something you might be interested in, here is some more information:

Here's who I am: I have approximately 30 professional short fiction sales. My work has been performed on NPR, included in a year’s best and a best of anthology, and has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award and the WSFA Small Press Award. My novella with Maria Dahvana Headley, The End of the Sentence, was chosen as one of NPR’s Best Books of 2014. I am a graduate of Clarion at UCSD, and am represented by Brianne Johnson at Writers House. My debut novel, Roses and Rot, will be out from Saga Press in 2016. Additionally, I have a Ph.D. in English Literature, and have taught at the undergraduate and graduate levels at the University of Minnesota, and Stonybrook University. I have also taught an Intro to Writing SFF course with LitReactor.

Here's what I do: I help you edit for content - so, this is not copy-editing, or line-editing, or the kind of thing where you have someone read over your manuscript for typos. In fact, unless I can't understand it, I'm going to leave your sentence-level prose alone. What I will do is offer you feedback on character, plot, theme, overall story, that sort of thing. I'll also be sure to include feedback on any specific questions that you have.

What you need: A completed manuscript. This can be anywhere from your hot mess of a NaNo draft to something that you think is polished enough to start querying with. While I primarily write SFF, I'm happy to work with writers in any genre. You do not need any previous publications or credentials - I am happy to work with writers at any career stage. I really mean this - there are always people who worry that they need writing credits, or to send me a writing sample, or to edit their manuscript again before I see it, and that's just not the case. I'm not here to judge your writing, I'm here to help you find ways to make it stronger.

If you think you're interested: Contact me at KatWithSword@gmail.com. We'll talk about exactly what you're looking for, my rates, and the turnaround time for your manuscript. I'm happy to answer any questions.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

August opening to manuscript clients

I have a few openings for editing clients who are able to deliver their manuscripts in August. The number of openings will be based on when in August people are able to send in their manuscripts, the type of editing that they are looking for, and manuscript length. Please note: I am only accepting clients with novella-length or longer manuscripts in this window, so at least 20K words. If this sounds like something you might be interested in, here is some more information:

Here's who I am: I have approximately 30 professional short fiction sales. My work has been performed on NPR, included in a year’s best and a best of anthology, and was nominated for the World Fantasy Award. My novella with Maria Dahvana Headley, The End of the Sentence, was chosen as one of NPR’s Best Books of 2014. I am a graduate of Clarion at UCSD, and am represented by Brianne Johnson at Writers House. My debut novel, Roses and Rot, will be out from Saga Press in 2016. Additionally, I have a Ph.D. in English Literature, and have taught at the undergraduate and graduate levels at the University of Minnesota, and Stonybrook University. I have also taught an Intro to Writing SFF course with LitReactor.

Here's what I do: I help you edit for content - so, this is not copy editing, or line editing, or the kind of thing where you have someone read over your manuscript for typos. In fact, unless I can't understand it, I'm going to leave your sentence-level prose alone. What I will do is offer you feedback on character, plot, theme, overall story, that sort of thing. I'll also be sure to include feedback on any specific questions that you have. 

What you need: A completed manuscript. This can be anywhere from your hot mess of a NaNo draft to something that you think is polished enough to start querying with. I'm not here to judge, I'm here to help you make things better. While I primarily write SFF, I'm happy to work with writers in any genre. You do not need any previous publications or credentials - I am happy to work with writers at any career stage.

If you think you're interested: Contact me at KatWithSword@gmail.com. We'll talk about exactly what you're looking for, my rates, and the turnaround time for your manuscript. I'm happy to answer any questions.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway: An Uncanny Review

Back when Uncanny Magazine had its Kickstarter, some excellent human helped support the magazine by sponsoring a blog post of their choice. That excellent human selected a book review of Nick Harkaway's novel, Angelmaker. After a long and patient wait on their part, I am writing this review in fulfillment of that support. Thank you, excellent human!

And now, the review.

So, the first thing that I need to tell you is something of a spoiler. I know, I know. You are now rolling your eyes and thinking to yourself, Kat, you do not understand how this review business works, but let me assure you, this is needful information.

Let me explain. Angelmaker, a book that I love, and loved again as I reread it for this review, is the first thing I read after my beloved dog, Sam I Am the pug, died. Part of the reason that I chose Angelmaker as this book - aside from the bits where many many people whose opinions I respected told me it was wonderful - was that one of the characters in the book is Bastion. Bastion is a very elderly pug, with only one tooth left in his mouth, and he is completely blind. Sam I Am had most of his teeth, and some of his vision, but he, too, was a very elderly pug. And let me tell you, Bastion is perfect, both as pug, and as book character. (So perfect, in fact, that I sent Mr. Harkaway a collection of weepy, heartbrokenly grateful messages on twitter immediately upon finishing Angelmaker, to which he responded with great kindness. He is an excellent man; buy all his books.)

Here's the spoilery bit: Bastion lives.

I really really needed to know that part, the first time I read this book.

Not everybody in Angelmaker does. Which I suppose is to be expected in a thriller populated by mad scientists, evil fiends, a vast and sundry assortment of the criminal element, some completely bonkers monks, lawyers, and Edie Banister.

Edie Banister is the 90 year old lady spy who belongs to Bastion. Just imagine James Bond, as played by Maggie Smith. That's Edie. (Actually, someone please make an Angelmaker movie where Maggie Smith is Edie, because that would be perfect.) I fell in love with her somewhere around page 50. Lots of people fall in love with Edie. She's that sort of lady.

Her story wraps itself around that of Joe Spork, who repairs clocks, and is the son of one of the most notorious gangsters in London. And at first, it's hard to see how the stories connect. At first, it looks like Harkaway is simply pulling all of the cool stuff he knows out of his brain, and throwing it on the page to see what sticks. But you keep reading, because it is really cool stuff. And there are people like Edie Banister in these pages.

And then you realize how the pieces start to fit. And then you realize, the pieces all fit, that Harkaway is writing a beautiful, elegant clockwork, as beautiful and strange and glorious as anything else in these pages. You are reading a book where someone can say "Never mind, never mind, let's get to the part where we smite the unrighteous. I've brought my most alarming teeth!" and you smile and grin and wish you had some alarming teeth, because you'd like to go along and smite the unrighteous, too.

Angelmaker is a brilliant book - brilliant both in terms of flash, and of intelligence. It is full of tremendous, complicated, interesting characters. It will break your heart, and make you think, and make you cheer. And the dog lives.

I highly recommend it.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Temporarily open to manuscript clients

In the past, I have offered manuscript critique services. I mostly closed that down at the beginning of this year to do things like move and focus on my own writing. But I currently have a period of somewhat fewer deadlines, and I've been getting emails wondering if I could work with people. So I am temporarily reopening the doors.

What this means is, if you have a manuscript you'd like some help with, I may be the person to do it.


Here's who I am: I have approximately 30 professional short fiction sales. My work has been performed on NPR, included in a year’s best  and a best of anthology, and was nominated for the World Fantasy Award. My novella with Maria Dahvana Headley, The End of the Sentence, was chosen as one of NPR’s Best Books of 2014. I am a graduate of Clarion at UCSD, and am represented by Brianne Johnson at Writers House. My debut novel, Roses and Rot, will be out from Saga Press in 2016. Additionally, I have a Ph.D. in English Literature, and have taught at the undergraduate and graduate levels at the University of Minnesota, and Stonybrook University. I have also taught an Intro to Writing SFF course with LitReactor.


Here's what I do: I help you edit for content - so, this is not copy editing, or line editing, or the kind of thing where you have someone read over your manuscript for typos. In fact, unless I can't understand it, I'm going to leave your sentence-level prose alone. What I will do is offer you feedback on character, plot, theme, overall story, that sort of thing. I'll also be sure to include feedback on any specific questions that you have. 


What you need: A completed manuscript. This can be anywhere from your hot mess of a NaNo draft to something that you think is polished enough to start querying with. I'm not here to judge, I'm here to help you make things better. While I primarily write SFF, I'm happy to work with writers in any genre.

If you think you're interested: Contact me at KatWithSword@gmail.com. We'll talk about exactly what you're looking for, my rates, and the turnaround time for your manuscript. I'm happy to answer any questions. Please note: This is a temporary opening. Right now, my plan is to be open to new clients for a month - until July 15th - with a very small number of spots that I will schedule for later in the year (so, if you know today that you want to work together, but your book won't be finished until August, still get in touch, and you many be able to reserve a spot for then.) But depending on the amount of interest, I may close sooner.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Grace of Kings

I have pretty much been excited to read Ken Liu's upcoming (7 April, 2015) debut novel, The Grace of Kings, since the sale was announced. Ken is one of my favorite short fiction writers - "The Paper Menagerie" and "The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species" are just two of the many stories of his that I have loved. I love the intelligence of his writing, his gift for language. So I was thrilled to receive an advance copy of The Grace of Kings

(Here is the disclaimer that not only will my debut novel, Roses and Rot also be published by Saga Press, I share an editor with Ken. So please feel free to apply that filter to what comes next.)

The short version of this review is that I loved the book, but for close to three hundred pages, I was not at all sure that I would.

My eyebrows went up when I read the list of major characters. There did not appear to be a lot of women in the book, which, honestly, seemed a surprising choice from a writer that I knew well could write complex and interesting women. This wasn't someone who I thought would fall back on the facile excuse of "but it's epic fantasy, so I don't need ladies."

I trusted Ken. I liked his writing. So I kept reading. And at the beginning, all of the expected hallmarks of epic fantasy are there. There are rebellious boys who get caught up in history. There is a cruel ruler, and others, crueler still. There is a champion, seemingly touched by the gods. There are the gods themselves, as powerful and petty as any pantheon. And it's really well-written stuff. Ken's prose is as terrific as you would expect from reading his short fiction. His pacing is great. But there were almost no women.

Here's the thing. I have become increasingly less patient with books (movies, television shows, any media really) that don't have women in them. Or that have a woman, maybe two, but they're basically a name walking around in a dress. Life's too short, there's too much to read, and if you can't figure out how to get interesting women as characters in your novel without a really, really good reason for their absence, I'm going to put the book down. 

Jia, though, Jia was great. She was smart, she had skills. Jia's husband, Kuni, one of the main characters of the book, was smart enough to recognize how great Jia was. I loved her. I loved them as a couple. I kept reading, wishing that I'd see her again. 

But at that point, I was a couple of hundred pages in, and reading mainly on authorial trust, and the hope that some of the other women promised in the list of characters would show up soon, or that Jia's role would suddenly change dramatically and result in a lot more on-page time. I was pretty sure that this was going to be a book where I diplomatically said "Yes, Ken is very talented; I'm just not really an epic fantasy person" if I ever had to talk about it, and on the inside, I would be extremely grumpy. 

Somewhere around page 300, things changed. I'm not going to go into all the ways how - spoilers, dearie - but they changed. More women showed up, and had more time on the page, and they were well-written. Interesting, unique, fully realized characters. Bigger than the conventions of their roles. It also became clear that the absence of women in the earlier pages (and indeed, carrying on - there are more, but there are never many) was a deliberate authorial choice. 

Because at this point in the book, it begins to become clear that The Grace of Kings isn't really all that interested in hewing to the expected hallmarks of epic fantasy. It's interested in subverting them, in interrogating them. In exposing what living by them does to a person, and to a world, and in looking at the places - and people - that epic fantasy as a genre often forgets. I was struck by how grey in moral tone the book was - not gritty, not grimdark, but they kind of grey that happens when people are complex, where the world is complex, and where people may genuinely want to make it better, but there is no agreement on precisely what better means. I was struck by how real - and how potentially glorious, and potentially tragic - the world felt as a result.

So at the end, while there could have very easily been a point where I bounced off of the book, I'm glad I kept reading. I do think The Grace of Kings is extremely well-written, and I am looking forward to reading the next book in the trilogy. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Some of my favorite 2014 reads

Yesterday, I put up a list of all of the things I had published in 2014. Today is when I tell you about the things that other people wrote that I read and loved in 2014. This is an incomplete list, partially because the vast majority of my books are packed in boxes in another state, and so I can't look at my shelves as a reminder, and also because I am behind on my short fiction reading. (This means I am even more grateful than usual for the recommendation/ here's what I wrote posts that other people are putting up.)

Novels

I wrote a post for SF Signal on some of my favorite 2014 genre novels, and you can find that here. I wish that I had remembered to include Maggie Stiefvater's wonderful Blue Lily, Lily Blue on that list - it's the third of her Raven Cycle books, and they are all wonderful.

In terms of non-genre books, my favorites were essay collections - Roxane Gay's Bad Feminist, Eula Biss' On Immunity, and Leslie Jamison's The Empathy Exams. It was a good year to read smart women thinking about things.

Short Fiction

Novella

I loved John Scalzi's novel Lock In, but I loved the prequel novella, Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden's Syndrome even more.

"Grand Jeté (The Great Leap)" - Rachel Swirsky (Subterranean Online)

Novelette

"Ten Rules for Being an Intergalactic Smuggler (the Successful Kind)" - Holly Black (the link goes to the reprint in Lightspeed, but it is originally from the Monstrous Affections anthology.)

Short stories

"How to Get Back to the Forest" - Sofia Samatar (Lightspeed)

"A Dweller in Amenty" - Genevieve Valentine (Nightmare)

"If You Were a Tiger, I'd Have to Wear White" - Maria Dahvana Headley (Uncanny)

"The Quality of Descent" - Megan Kurashige (Lightspeed)

"When It Ends, He Catches Her" - Eugie Foster (Daily SF)

"The Fisher Queen" - Alyssa Wong (F&SF)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Things I published in 2014

Here is the fiction that I published in 2014. There are links included when available, for ease of reading. 

Novellas

The End of the Sentence - cowritten with Maria Dahvana Headley. (Subterranean) There's also an ebook version, if that's more your thing. NPR chose this as one of their best books of 2014, something that still makes me grin when I think about it.

"Hath No Fury" - Subterranean Online

Short Stories

"Variant Text" - Offline (This is the name of the magazine.)

"Locally Grown, Organic" - in HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!! and Other Improbable Crowdfunding Projects edited by John Joseph Adams

"A Different Fate" - Lightspeed

"A Meaningful Exchange" - Lightspeed

"A Flock of Grief" - Lightspeed

"To Hold the Mirror" - Interfictions

"The Saint of the Sidewalks" - Clarkesworld

"The Very Fabric" - Subterranean Online

"All of Our Past Places" - The Journal of Unlikely Cartography

"Dreaming Like a Ghost" - Nightmare

"Migration" - Uncanny