I'm back and I'm more chaotic than ever!

also wow I made the Locus list! :D

It is amazing how rapidly the last year has receded. We’re still in this. I’m still at home. But either I’ve adapted, or it’s the light at the end at the end of the tunnel—whatever it is, I can feel my brain mending from a year of prolonged stress. I can’t remember the last time I felt so genuinely enthusiastic about everything. I’ve been plodding through mud all year and didn’t realize how much it had slowed me down till I rinsed off.

Does that metaphor work? I don’t know! But here’s what I’ve been up to! In no particular order, because I am not doing any of this in any coherent way!


I’ve learned how to make fudge, and now my children are fudge-craving zombie monsters making increasingly elaborate demands!


I’ve learned how to crochet a single style of granny square! I am not the most experienced reader-of-crochet-instructions, so I’m a little nervous about the prospect of stitching all of these together. HOWEVER, the photo at the end of the pattern is a very adorable sunflower shoulder bag, and it will be mine!! …even if it takes a couple tries.


MEANWHILE

I finally caved in and started an Instagram account, so I could share all of my photos of food, yarn crafts, and of course my cat pack.

Come find me at instagram.com/samtasticbooks/

See? Professor Stormfury is waiting. ;D


And finally! I probably should have led with this, but whatever, I’m still getting the hang of things here: I made the 2020 Locus Recommended Reading List! 🎉🎉🎉

The story: “Kiki Hernández Beats the Devil",” Translunar Travelers Lounge, Issue 2

The list (SO MUCH good stuff here to check out!!): 2020 Locus Recommended Reading List

The poll: 51st Annual Locus Poll

Voting is open till April 15, and open to all. And if your fave books/stories of the year aren’t on the list, there is even a write-in option!


Next time on Samtastic News:

I’ve got a towering TBR pile thanks to birthday and Christmas presents, so quite a lot of reading, followed by reading recs.

Also: I might buy a VCR and start writing reviews of my very dusty B-movie collection?? Because why not!

See you on the flip side. :D

santa v. the kraken 🎅🐙

Additionally: a birthday memory, and an un-fond farewell

In this installment of Samtastic News, we have: a farewell to 2020! a flashback feature! and Santa v. the Kraken!


FAREWELL, 2020!

Yep, that’s it. See ya.


FLASHBACK: Best Birthday

I recently turned 35. I don’t much celebrate anymore, but in this strange, sad year of only seeing my loved ones by phone, I wanted to share my favorite birthday memory, and why it was so important to me.

My favorite birthday, hands down: December 2008. I graduated from college the prior summer, straight into a historic recession, and promptly moved back in with my mom. I was broke, had minimal job prospects, and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.

It was a massively full house (we peaked at a dozen people including my baby sister, baby niece, somebody’s friend living in the garage, various significant others), and my old bedroom was now occupied by my sister and her boyfriend. Everyone was struggling financially, so were all piled together to make ends meet. And I mean, OH BOY, we had some serious 12-people-in-a-house drama, but we were very lucky to still have a house.

I lived in the dining room, with a garbage boyfriend (boo!) and all the bookcases (yay!).

My birthday rolled around and I wasn’t expecting anything. But my mother, brother, and sisters chipped in for a pile of little presents, just to show they hadn’t forgotten. A couple of books, some chocolates, some amazingly fuzzy socks, a tiny baby monkey toy that cooed and waved its arms, handmade cards. Things that wouldn’t be particularly special, except that nobody could afford a thing and they tried anyway.

It was a bright spot in one of the worst years of my life. It was brighter because everything else was going off the rails.

I don’t want to downplay the shitshow so many people have been going through, and I don’t want to imply that bad times are worth it to appreciate the good, because eff that, but I will say that there’s no shame in forming a few happy memories when the world is on fire; and that, in fact, it’s imperative to do so. Take some time to remember those moments that have kept you going—and maybe try to make one for someone else.


SANTA v. THE KRAKEN

I dropped the ball this year. I dropped several balls this year. The balls were on fire and lost in the mail!!

One was my annual Christmas card, a heavily photoshopped affair featuring myself and my family in various incomprehensible situations that I then have to explain to half the recipients. Oh well.

But, looking through my old cards, I decided that 2013’s masterpiece was actually pretty appropriate for 2020: in which I, a dolphin jockey, and my husband, an extremely hot cowboy merman, went searching for Santa Claus, who had gone missing. Santa getting eaten by a Kraken really would be the capper this year deserves, isn’t it?

Happy Holidays! At least you haven’t been eaten by a Kraken.


Next time on Samtastic News:

Next time, it’s going to be 2021!!!!!! 🎉🎉🎉

Everything's on fire but I have an Uncanny story. And cats! :D

Hello, friends!

In this edition of Samtastic News, we have: a new story! an update from the land of fire and brimstone (aka the western US)! and cats!


NEW STORY! 🚀

If you somehow missed me pterodactyl screeching my way from one end of the internet to the other, I have a story out in the latest issue of Uncanny Magazine! “Anchorage” is about a messy space family stopping to visit a drifting library and the anchoress walled up within it, told by a very unconventional narrator. It is a bit of a departure from my mini epic fantasies and I had a ton of fun with language and the point-of-view character. I’m thrilled it found such a good home!

Available for free online.


DISPATCHES FROM MORDOR 🔥

So I glanced out the window last weekend and saw this:

Huge plume of smoke visible against blue sky over a set of scrubby hills

The sky has not been blue again since. We are under a constant haze, though the smoke has been blowing away from us the entire time, so the actual air quality around our house hasn’t tanked. And you know it’s been a weird year when the countryside around you catches fire, and you think, “Well at least ours was caused by a tractor and not a gender reveal party.”

It’s been a weird year, is what I’m saying! I have reached a state of stress plateau in which I am now taking everything in stride like it’s no big deal. I packed everyone in the house some clothes, toiletries, vital records, and irreplaceable keepsakes, just in case. Then I settled down to watch MST3K with my husband so we could have a few laughs while waiting for an evacuation order that (thank goodness!!!) never came. We are good, we are fine. I have nearly let my guard down enough to unpack our stuff.

And hey, I got this sweet bloody moon photo out of it!

A blood red moon surrounded by black sky

Cats cats cats cats CATS CATS CATS 😻

The babies have completely settled in! They have even won over the crankiest holdout, our 20 pound, 11-year-old tabby cat Professor Stormfury.

I just… LOVE THEM ALL!!


Next time on Samtastic News:

I haven’t gotten a lot of new writing done amidst the… *waves hand at everything.* But I’ve been reading a lot, and will put together a big set of reading recommendations soon. Some have gone up on Twitter under the hashtag #samtasticreads, but I’ll gather up some highlights on the blog as well.

Till then! <3

new story, new kittens, new reading, oh my!

The weather is heating up and I am hiding indoors with all of my curtains drawn. Here is what’s new in the House of Books!


NEW STORY

Huzzah, I have a new short story out!! “The Limits of Magic” is available online at Apparition Lit in their Redemption-themed issue. In this story, you have run away from an oppressive regime, only to realize that saving yourself is not enough—you have to fight for those who cannot save themselves. It is a mini epic fantasy soaked with regret and determination and some bonus smashing of patriarchy. I hope you enjoy it!


NEW KITTENS

It’s okay, I know this is what you really clicked through for! I was going to wait longer, I really was. But, you see, it’s kitten season, and, well…

Meet Chernobog and Belobog (Cherno and Belo).

Bwaaaaaaaa, I already love them so much! More baby pictures as well as the long-suffering patience of our 11yo tabby, Professor Stormfury, at my blog. Plus, obviously, they are all over my Twitter account. I don’t make the rules, where there be kittens there be one million kitten photos.


READING RECS

Despite encouraging you to read my intense anti-authoritarian piece above, I have personally been in the mood for gentler, more escapist reads, so here are a couple of my recent favorites:

"The Ransom of Miss Coraline Connelly" by Alix Harrow, in which the queen of the Black Realms kidnaps a toddler, only to find matters both worse and better than she expected.

"Open House on Haunted Hill" by John Wiswell, about a terribly lonely house that just wants somebody to live in it again.

Regarding the Robot Raccoons Attached to the Hull of My Ship” by Rachael K. Jones and Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali, about a case of sibling rivalry that gets amazingly and intensely out of hand. I absolutely adore this one and want to shove it at everyone, EVERYONE.


Coming Soon…

I just sent back line edits for my upcoming story in Uncanny Magazine, and I can’t wait to share it!! Stay tuned for the gentle tale of a messy space family who stops to visit with an anchoress, told by a very strange narrator indeed.

what was, what is, what could be

I think about intergenerational trauma a lot. It frequently appears in my long-form fiction, sneaking into plot and backstory regardless of my intentions. Every once in a while I try to take the classic fantasy writer's shortcut—the single child, the orphaned hero, unencumbered!—and that immediately backfires because I start to wonder who these missing parents were, what happened before they vanished, what is the history of this person, these people, this place?

I can’t help it. It’s what I want to know. And once I figure it out, it changes everything about the story I’m telling.


Here are two true stories for you:

I.

Both sides of my family came to the U.S. after World War II. They fled Poland and Italy respectively, and they locked that shit up so tight that it took me an embarrassingly long time to even realize it was both sides. We don't talk about those things. We don't talk about those things so loudly, I didn't even realize what we don't talk about until this year, when my family continued to very loudly not talk about the state of the world we are in right now. What did it mean, to keep your head down as a teen girl in Mussolini's Italy? What did it mean, to be parents in war torn Poland? I'm starting to figure it out, I think, and I am not pleased with the conclusions I’m drawing. I love my family to pieces, but they taught me a million ways to be quiet, and now I’m on my own, trying to learn how to shout.

II.

I have an ex who dominated years of my life, who dominated those years so entirely that I still think back on that time with a glower and probably always will. He was just like his father, he said. He didn’t tell me this as an apology or a promise to change, but as a simple fact: that is how things are, so deal with it. His father was angry and emotionally unavailable and ignored people for days over the tiniest slights, and therefore so did my ex, and that's that! It wasn't until recently that I wondered about the grandfather who raised that father. In the ten years we knew each other, I learned one solitary fact about the man, mentioned off-handedly years before we dated: oh, my grandfather was Japanese. And now I do the math, and hey, maybe it’s unrelated! Or maybe this war I never saw has influenced my life yet again.


We are story-driven creatures. You shouldn’t need an identical story of your own in order to believe somebody else’s, you just need to know that for every long thread of history shaping your life right now, there are a million others tangling up everyone else.

If I squint at the shape of my life, I can see half a century of history behind it, and there is plenty more I’ll never know. So when I consider four hundred years of history? When I add up the generations from then till now, when I imagine all the many traumas rolled from one person to the next, compounded, plus all the ones still happening because actually, they never stopped? Yeah, I'm not surprised we are where we are. I'm only surprised it didn't all catch fire sooner.

We are all living with the consequences of decisions made before we were born. But here is the important part: we are still making decisions. Cycles can be broken. I can learn how to be louder. My ex could go to therapy if he really wanted to, I guess (sorry, I’m still salty). What you’re accustomed to right now isn’t how it always has to be. You’re reading this because you’re my friend, or you’re an SFF fan, or both—I know you know how to imagine other futures!

So look to your own community. There are people already working toward change, and they need your support. Because, spoiler alert: everything I just said? If you’re one of those movers and shakers, you already know all of this. I am talking to the rest of you, the folks who are used to being quiet to survive, the ones who don’t know how to talk about all of this because you never tried or you did try and you put your foot in your mouth and you rushed back to the personal safety of that quiet. Feel uncomfortable if you need to, sit with it for a little bit, absorb the ramifications—and then go do something.

https://secure.actblue.com/donate/bailfunds

https://blacklivesmatter.com

https://secure.actblue.com/donate/ab_mn


And, as always, when in doubt, read some books.

More resources at: bit.ly/ANTIRACISMRESOURCES

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