Birthday Challenge

So, I’m a bit slack with this writing thing. If there’s a way to procrastinate, I’ll find it. For the past few years, my go-to distraction source has been the PhD, but now that’s coming to an end (O frabjous day!) I can’t even kid myself that any future procrastination will be something productive.

One can’t very well be a writer if one is too damn lazy to write. You see the problem here.

So, I’ve given myself a challenge. Last month was my birthday, and I happened to self-pub a fantasy novella: The Life in Papers of Sofie K. Starting then, and for the next year, I’m going to try and produce a novella a month. Actually, it doesn’t have to be a novella. A poetry collection, a collection of short fic, anything that’s relatively substantial – but I reckon they’ll mostly be novellas. This isn’t because the world is in any dire need of my dulcet prose – as if! It’s more of a documented attempt to force the habit of daily writing.

Hopefully by the time October rolls around next year I’ll have become accustomed to it and my procrastination levels will have gone down. (They can’t very well go up.) And I’m sticking this on the blog because, well, public shaming is a motivating force.


“The Life in Papers of Sofie K”

sofiekcoverMy new novella is out! My new novella is out!

The Life in Papers of Sofie K. is based on the life of Russian mathematician Sofia Kovalevskaya. It’s basically a literary/fantasy bio, maths meets magical realism. The premise comes from events in Sofie’s childhood – the poor kid had the most terrible Nanny. This cheerful woman apparently had a bent for macabre tales, and Sofie had life-long screaming nightmares about witches and werewolves and the Black Death. Now, I’m not a parent but I dare say if I had a small child I wouldn’t be tucking them into bed with stories about how people infected with bubonic plague were nailed inside houses that were subsequently set alight.

I mean, come on! Nanny dearest makes the Brothers Grimm look like fluffy bunnykins.

In my novella, Nanny’s nightmares come to life: Sofie is shadowed by a monster that is all her nightmares combined. But it’s not an enemy – it’s her shadow-self, sort of daemon and direwolf and Patronus, following Sofie through the universities of Europe. Because Sofie herself is also monstrous – or perceived as being so, with her enormous mathematical talent that allows her to break out of traditional gender roles and make her own way.

My last two novellas have been published by Masque Books, and Masque’s great. But this is too short for them, and I’ve been curious about self-publishing for a while now. I’ve a few more short novellas nearly ready to go that will probably end up the same way but Sofie K. is the first. Here’s a brief taster:

Sofie wants to study at the university at Berlin. This is not an easy thing: she lacks the parts preferred to do so, and the monster is no help. The professors do not want it in their libraries and their lecture rooms, with its thick soft paws and teeth that are too crescent for them, too light and lunar for comfort. Sofie cannot argue that they take the one without the other, cannot leave the monster at home. It is bound to her and will not leave, and she does not try to make it. If it were lost she would lose herself, so while she stops it from burying its teeth in those that thwart her, keeps it from poison and breaking and hammers, she does not leash or muzzle it.

Despite this, there is yet an avenue open to her: an appeal to the senate, a plea for scholarship. A chance for talent to rise above, to compensate for monstrosity. Sofie knows that she will need to sell herself, to walk the line between sty and nightmare, to look the part of a serious student. She holds herself as her father does, stiff-spined. She must appear more pig than monster, a curiosity in place of threat. Her shoes are sensible, rubbed clean of mud with thin lines of delicacy and they make a subdued clatter when she walks. An ugly bonnet makes her look older than she is. It shadows her mouth, and if Sofie ever had a tendency to simper then the bonnet does away with it, because she saw herself in mirrors before she came and this is not a hat to simper in. She does not wish to appear ridiculous.

(She knows some people will see her so anyway.)

The senate is unmoved. Talent is not enough for them–nor ability, nor enthusiasm. Even in clattery shoes she walks too lightly for them, has too much the whiff of monster. An aberration: something to be kept out with spells and salt and silver. They see only the bonnet (not how ugly it is, or the careful preparation behind it) and their fixed idea of women says that Sofie would be happier if she left maths well alone and circled millinery instead.

Anyway. If you want to read more you can find Sofie and her monster on Amazon. Check it out if it sounds like you!

The Don’t Girls

The Don't GirlsMy second novella’s out, and it’s way different to the first. I suppose you’d call The Don’t Girls urban fantasy, with a feminist bent.

It started out as a short story (now the first chapter), wherein Bluebeard’s wife met up with Pandora and her box, and decided to take care of her murderous husband before he did to her what he’d done to all his previous wives. And this was all well and good, but then I gave it to my sister to read. She liked it – not surprising, our tastes are quite similar – but then she said “OJ, it reads like it should be longer.” And I thought bugger it, because I thought it was done and over with and maybe it wasn’t.

So, obliging girl that I am, I started writing. I had no clue as to story, and nothing was written in order. Instead the fragments came together on their own, and they did so very easily – as if I’d already decided what I was going to say. There was Anne of Cleves, for instance, fitting in like she was made for the story, as if I hadn’t started scaffolding around her in a quest to build a story of, well, something anyway. All I knew was that The Don’t Girls was going to be about women. Some were historical (Anne, Ada Wilson, Mary Prince, Nell Gwynn, Edith Cavell). Others came out of story (Bluebeard’s wife, Pandora, Mab the Queen of Fairies) and one was entirely made up because she came from the future and, unlike Pandora, I don’t have a magical time-tripping box.


Anyway, Masque Books published it, and The Don’t Girls is now available at Amazon, Scribd

Locus review.

StarShipSofa podcasts “Trading Rosemary”

SSS-COVER-July2014-copy-500x647I’m happy to say that my novella, Trading Rosemary, has been podcast by the Hugo-award winning StarShipSofa!

Now Rosemary‘s a bit of a beast so they had to split it into two parts:

Part 1

Part 2

Enjoy! The podcast is free and well worth listening to in general, not just for my story, so I’d encourage you to follow them. They feature work from a lot of interesting authors.


Reviews and reproduction…

I’ve had two new short stories published in the last couple of weeks, both themed around reproduction.

The Absence of Feathers“, a mythological eco-fantasy, has been published in the latest free-to-read issue of Luna Station Quarterly. “Feathers” features the Morrigan and her adopted grand-daughter Einin, and what happens to them when all the birds disappear from the world.

“Vita Urbis”, published in Elektrik Milk Bath Press’ recent urban fantasy anthology Twisted Boulevard, is probably my favourite story. It took me seven years to write, mostly because there were darlings I didn’t want to kill, but the poor things got slaughtered in the end. It’s about an architect who is impregnated by a city, interspersed with scenes from classical mythology, where women were always getting knocked up by bulls or swans or showers of gold, though I hope I’ve given the women involved a bit more agency than Ovid did in his Metamorphoses, which was a major inspiration for this story. There’s also shades of Oz in there, and 1984, to give a bit more density and layering.

That both stories feature myth is no accident. They’re part of a collection I’m working on, called The Mythology of Salt (that being the title of a story of mine that was published in Strange Horizons last year). Salt is based around the idea of women and myth and the consequences of knowledge. There’s two or three more stories I’m planning on finishing up soon, and then hopefully Salt will be complete enough to sell.

Speaking of selling, there’s a couple of reviews of my novella, Trading Rosemary, that have come out recently. The Book Smugglers were very kind and particularly complimentary, and Locus also had some positive things to say. It’s so nice when that happens – Trading Rosemary is my first book, and it’s such a relief to know that people like it.

If anyone’s interested, I also did a guest blog about the novella over at Catherine Lundoff’s site. It was very kind of her to ask me (thanks, Catherine!), and I was pleased to do it.

“Trading Rosemary” released!

TradingRosemary_V02cI’m happy to say that my first novella, Trading Rosemary, has just been published by Masque Books.

Trading Rosemary is a science fiction story set in future New Zealand. In a society where memory is currency, Rosemary is the owner of a very special library – a library of memory, where scented coins transfer personal experience from one individual to another. When she trades away the sole memory of her grandmother’s final concerto, family opposition, in the form of her daughter Ruth, forces Rosemary to go on a quest to try and recover the lost coin. Yet having to trade away her own memories to get it back, how much of Rosemary will survive the exchange?

I’ve sold a handful of short stories and poems before, but this is my first longer work. I like the novella form, and I’m planning to publish a whole lot more of them. That’s one reason I’m so glad that e-books are taking off: novellas are uneconomic to print, but they’ve got a perfect home in digital publishing.

Anyway, please take a look. Trading Rosemary is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.