2019 reading roundup!

It is nearly the end of January 2020 and I am still frantically catching up on my 2019 reading! Here is my (still growing) list of favorites, grouped by length in case you’re the award-nominating sort.

Novels:

Desdemona and the Deep by C.S.E. Cooney. Beautiful and strange, in the way I always want faerie stories to be beautiful and strange. I wish it had been longer.

The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley. A timey-wimey military scifi. The end comes together so satisfyingly I literally did a finger kiss.

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. It’s on everyone’s list AND WITH REASON. Come for the skeleton memes, stay for the surprisingly emotional character arcs and well-fleshed cast (pun intended).

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow. A late nineteenth century portal fantasy, and story about stories, and story about family, and colonialism!

Novellas:

Sisters of the Vast Black by Lina Rather. It’s about an order of nuns in space and it holds SO much heart, just read it, all right??

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. Another one that’s everywhere with good reason. Two agents on opposing sides of a time war…fall in loooorve.

Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh. Very quiet and sweet. The Wild Man of Greenhollow has to reckon with his past when the land’s new owner arrives.

Novelettes:

“Blood, Bone, Seed, Spark” by Aimee Ogden. A scientist in a fantasy world intent on eradicating death goes to extreme lengths for her next discovery. In Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

Short Stories:

“We Are Here to Be Held” by Eugenia Triantafyllou. All I have to say is: “The first time your mother swallows you whole you don’t really see it coming.” In Strange Horizons.

“Boiled Bones and Black Eggs” by Nghi Vo. In which the owner of an inn that serves the living and the dead is trying to get rid of a difficult customer. In Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

“Due By the End of the Week” by Brandon O’Brien. A super cute superhero story AND ALSO an entertaining unreliable narrator story. In Fireside Magazine.

“The Lie Misses You” by John Wiswell. A story about a family secret, told from the point-of-view of the Lie itself. YEAH I CRIED. In Cast of Wonders.

“The Horrible Deaths of Helga Hrafnsdóttir” by Christine Tyler. In a village where every girl chooses her own death from the blossoms of an Ævilok tree, Helga finds nothing but horrible options. In PodCastle.

the 2019 christmas card!

It’s that time again!! Every year I photoshop my family’s heads onto some ridiculous bodies, print out 30-40 copies at CostCo, and make Christmas cards.

Previous years:
2012-2013
2014
2015-2016
2017
2018

Much of my December was taken up with the recently-mentioned toothpocalypse. I scaled back my usual holiday activities (no mountain of cookies this year, alas), but I was determined not to miss the annual Christmas card!

It took me a solid week to make and ship these things. I’d have a good hour in which two kinds of pain meds overlapped, during which I worked some photoshop. Then bedridden. Then another good stretch where I’d cut things out. Then bedridden.

ANYWAY. I DID IT. IT’S DONE.

The plot this year? Well, Rudolph is leading his team back through another storm, intent on reaching the Island of Misfit Toys, but… alas. They go astray.

Photo of Santa and reindeer with text: Another year, another snowy squall. But Rudolph insisted he knew the way. "There!" he cried. "The Island of Misfit Toys!" The clouds parted. The reindeer gasped--

Text: Alas. Wrong Island. Photo: Skull Island with Sam's kids as King Kong and T-Rex, Sam tied to sacrificial post, husband running away, and cats as boat captains.

I know, I know, my pics of the cards are lacking. Here is the photo insert in all its glory:

Skull Island, with Sam's kids as King Kong and T-Rex, Sam tied to sacrificial post, husband running away, and cats as boat captains.

And that’s it for Samtastic Books in 2019! I’ll be back next month trying to finish some short stories, start edits on a book for my agent (yep!! still love saying that!!!), and post some recommended reading, because the toothpocalypse definitely put me behind schedule in that arena.

Till next year! Enjoy these Christmas cats.

teeth teeth TEETH TEETH

Do you remember when I said that November was a cursed month for productivity? Well, the god of November heard my complaint, took offense, and convinced December to team up for an earthly reckoning.

Or maybe it was my own fool fault for thinking I could schedule dental work on December 5th and then spring effortlessly back into my holiday To Do List.

WHO CAN SAY?

Alas, what’s done is done. The reason: I’ve had two wisdom teeth sticking halfway out for years, perfectly situated to collect food particles but hard to clean. My dentist recommended pulling them before they became cavity-stricken bone shards.

One came out cleanly. The second was a fight. And the second promptly developed dry socket.

*clears throat*

*lifts megaphone*

THIS WAS THE SECOND MOST PAINFUL AND PROLONGED RECOVERY EXPERIENCE OF MY LIFE!!!

haggard Sam with hot pack pressed to jaw

the author, in distress

The only thing that beats it was my c-section, during which one of my organs was literally pulled from my body, pushed back in, and stapled shut!! For ten days I did nothing but keep my children alive and monitor my jaw pain. My pain meds would wear off every 1.5 hours, followed by a horrendous debilitating gap till I could take more, 24 hours a day! I… did not sleep much.

I went back to the dentist twice, and he said he didn’t see any inflammation, but the pain and pressure worsened, so after another few days of zero progress I dragged my tylenol-addled body to urgent care and got some antibiotics.

And would you look at that, I immediately went on the mend! It’s almost like I should have been on antibiotics the week before. X(

ALAS. It was a terrible couple of weeks, and my December goals turned straight to ash–they didn’t even catch fire first, they just went insta-dust. But it’s over. Fingers crossed!!

And hey, I now have some excellent fodder for future tactile details in my writing. If I ever dive into the realm of grimdark torture, I’ll just have my villain pull out somebody’s teeth. Done and dusted! He’s a monster and that poor character will never be the same again. SUCH REALISM, SUCH HORROR, HOW DOES SHE COME UP WITH IT?

I’ll just wink. Imagination, I guess.

the silence of the hams

It’s that time of year again! The weather begins to cool, the holiday ads begin pouring into inboxes, and I enthusiastically decorate my house for Thanksgiving.

Previous years have included:
Itsa Me, Thanksgiving!
The Adventures of Young Ham Solo
Harry Potter and the Day of Thanks
THANKVENGERS: The Winter Solstice
And the tradition’s humble beginning, with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turkeys.

So what did we go with this year? You’ve seen the blog title already! It’s…

The Silence of the Hams

Obviously, we had to turn one corner of the living room into a prison cell:

hand truck with lecter mask and homemade strait jacket

A warning to misbehaving children

sam wearing lecter mask and strait jacket

…or  misbehaving adults

I, uh, might have ordered two $7 sweatshirts off Amazon and cut the sleeves off one to stitch onto the other. Super effective!

Despite the title, it was a more general horror theme. So I re-purposed some of my Halloween decorations and a bunch of Amazon package packing material to turn my bedroom hallway into a haunted cemetery!

butcher paper tree with witch decoration in front of hallway

Beware the cemetery witch!

hallway wall with paper trees, ghosts, and grave stones

proooobably shouldn’t have buried all these people in one spot

husband in Friday the 13th ski mask in front of hallway decorations

This is what I was afraid would happen!!

Good food, good fun! And afterwards, a grand Mario Party competition (on GameCube, OBVIOUSLY) and the traditional family roasting, in the form of giving only insulting answers during Loaded Questions.

Truly, the holidays are a magical time that bring us all together.

loaded questions game board with toys for playing pieces

Watch out, Finn! You’ll be caught by Toilet Duck!

Now time to go plan a Christmas party!

Samtastic News!

colorful banner with words "samtastic news with mr. and mrs. cat"

I’ve finally started a mailing list!

You can sign up at samtasticbooks.substack.com and get all my bloggy content, reading recommendations, and writing news straight to your inbox. I’ll be posting on an as-needed basis for now, which won’t be more than once-per-month. You can either check here for my usual blog posts as they come up, or wait for the emailed digest version. There’s something for everyone!

And I do have news!

photo of New Voices of Science Fiction anthology next to Mr. and Mrs. Cat

My proud parents. :’)

This month marked the release of the anthology The New Voices of Science Fiction, edited by Hannu Rajaniemi and Jacob Weisman. Spoiler: I’m in it!!

Description from Tachyon Publications: In this daring anthology of cutting-edge short stories, new science fiction luminaries including Rebecca Roanhorse, Amal El-Mohtar, and Sam J. Miller, are showcased with the rising stars that are transforming their genre. Discover exciting writers who are already out of this world, in this space-age sequel to the 2018 World Fantasy Award-winning anthology, The New Voices of Fantasy.

I’m among the …AND MORE! 😀 “Strange Waters” was originally published in Strange Horizons in April 2018, was reprinted with the Podcastle treatment in August 2019, and now has a gorgeous paperback home with fantastic company. Go, little story, go!

And in even more spectacular news (I’ve definitely buried the lede here, I know):

🎉🎉🎉I’ve just signed with a literary agent! 🎉🎉 🎉

I’m now one of the supremely pleased clients of Lisa Rodgers at Jabberwocky Literary Agency. That’s right! To actually try to sell some of my samtastic books! Will my blog title finally become a reality? Well… stay tuned here or sign up for my mailing list to find out. XD

All that said, the blog will be fairly quiet on book news until there is book news to share. This part of the journey can be just as long as the whole rest of it, and I’ve got some strategizing and prepping and editing to do, but… woo! It sure is exciting to reach the next step.

Till next time!

2019 eligibility post!

It’s that time of year again! Panic rain falls gently from the calendar sky, and up springs a crop of nervous-but-eager eligibility posts.

Astounding Award Eligibility:

That’s right! I’m still a sweet, sweet baby in the grand scheme of things. This is my second and final year of eligibility for the Astounding (née Campbell) Award! If you’ve enjoyed my weird overbuilt worlds so far, I’d appreciate the consideration.

As of this typing, the Writertopia list hasn’t been updated for 2020, but you can keep an eye on it as the season progresses–and also this fabulous Hugo Awards (2020) Google Spreadsheet, which includes recs for the other categories as well!

Short Stories:

I had four short stories out this year! If you are interested in reading only one, I’d especially appreciate a look at “Four of Seven.” It was my nearest-and-dearest for the year.

Four of Seven
In which a pair of sisters attempt to reach a hospital after curfew, in a mining colony company town in spaaace (with bonus college woe and messy family solidarity).
Escape Pod, Episode #687, July 4, 2019 [available online]

Laugh Lines
In which a far future vat baby has some strong words to say about her mother.
Daily Science Fiction, June 10, 2019 [available online]

One Part Per Billion
In which humanity is invited to make first contact, but alas, we are put in charge of selecting our own representatives for the journey.
Diabolical Plots, Issue #50, April 15, 2019 [available online]

Adrianna in Pomegranate
In which a reclusive calligramancer grows obsessed with casting a very particular spell, and his ex-wife is determined to stop him.
Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issue #271, February 14, 2019 [available online]

November’s coming. I CAN FEEL IT.

four carved pumpkins: a silly face, a bat, a cat, and a grinning emoji face

our time is nearly done

November’s coming.

I can sense it. I can taste it on the air. It tastes like wildfires and calendar panic.

November is a cursed month for productivity, and I can’t even properly explain why. All I know is that I make Grand Plans every year, and every year they get torpedoed as soon as I flip my Pets of Book Club* calendar to the eleventh page.

Some years it’s holiday planning that gets in the way. There is the grand family tradition of Themed Thanksgiving to uphold (previous years have included Harry Potter and the Day of Thanks, THANKVENGERS: The Winter Solstice, and of course The Adventures of Young Ham Solo). There is also advance Christmas prep, because I can’t just start on December 1st and possibly have everything ready in time!

And I have to confess: I wasn’t going to do a theme this year. But now that I pulled up those old photos… I THINK MAYBE I’M GONNA?? I just love it so much!

Other years I’m moving. WHY do our big moves keep happening in November? I don’t know, but it is always a disaster. I do not, I repeat, I do not recommend moving in November. Last year the move took twenty-two days of my life away. Twenty-two days! The time before that I scarcely remember, it’s such a blur. I went into a fugue, and when I emerged, I still had boxes to unpack.

Hopefully, I am in this house for the rest of my life, and never need to do that again.

So what is the problem this year? I mean, I’m not moving. I’m not pregnant or freshly encumbered with an infant. I’m not busy making a new costume (probably).

But still… November.

Will all of our pipes burst simultaneously? Will the California wildfires reach us? Will there be dramatic family announcements involving a long lost relative expiring and offering me a medium-sized fortune, but only if I spend the month of November in a haunted house?

(My last house was probably haunted, and I didn’t get a fortune, medium-sized or otherwise, for living there–so I’m saying I would definitely take the offer, if anyone’s listening.)

I don’t know. But I’ve got my eye on you, November!

I’ve got my eye on you.


*Nobody in your book club puts together a calendar every year with photos of all your pets? What a shame.