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.

cross-stichery part 1

I learned how to do a new thing! As you can probably guess from the blog title, that thing is cross-stitch!

I really needed a hobby this summer that was not associated with writing. I was halfway through crocheting a blanket when the heat waves hit, so that was promptly abandoned. I’d love to practice drawing, but typing for hours per day have turned my hands into useless claws, so that is off the board.

Thus, cross-stitch! It’s pretty, it’s precise, but it follows a grid, so my claw-hands just have to stab at the right corner and the needle will sort the rest out.

I debated jumping in with something elaborate and complex, but my internet friends suggested maybe not going off the deep end. ALL RIGHT, FRIENDS, FINE. But I am a supremely impatient person, so I couldn’t just doodle a stick figure either.

The middle ground: I decided to practice by making a piece for my 4yo son. I asked what he wanted: a dinosaur! Okay. I tracked down a simple two-color pattern for a T-Rex skeleton. I asked what color he wanted: rainbow!!!! Er, okay! I just switched colors when the time seemed right.

And Rainbow Rex was born!

cross-stitch dinosaur skeleton in rainbow colors with caption "rainbow rex"

CHOMP CHOMP, LADIES

I learned lessons! Like not letting the back get too messy, and leaving more room to frame, and perhaps most important of all: yes, you really do need to get the magic washable fabric pen, because the pencil lines will definitely not come out.

Heady with somewhat-success, I decided to creep a little farther onto that springboard over the deep end. Instead of picking one animal, this time I bought two patterns and mashed them together to make a hybrid bird-lizard, and instead of two thread colors I jumped to fifteen. What could go wrong?

NOTHING. HE’S BEAUTIFUL.

cross-stitch of a gecko with parrot wing and speech bubble "peace out bitches"

Gideon is getting the hell out of here

He now has a lovely home with a friend of mine. The stitches are small enough that she probably won’t be able to tell which ones accidentally went in backwards when I was trying to stitch with toddlers on my lap.

I learned more lessons! Like: try to keep the toddlers out of your lap, and it sure would look nice to fill the whole hoop so I’d better start making them smaller, and also: I bet I could start making my own patterns.

That’s right, friends. I’M GOING OFF THE DEEP END. Next time I should have some creative, uh… creations to show off.

Till then!


P.S. I ought to mention, for other people who enjoy the deliciously satisfying sensation of crossing items off a list:

One of my favorite parts of the process is marking the squares I’ve completed on the pattern with a highlighter. Section by section, row by row, it’s an endless and rapidly completed To Do, visibly done!

cross-stitch pattern for gecko with most of the squares highlighted yellow

GAZE UPON THE SWEET, SWEET MEASURE OF PROGRESS

Mmm, that is some good sense of accomplishment.

IDEAS – by that one recipe reviewer, you know the one

I’ve finally done it. I’ve finally figured out my go-to metaphor for how an idea becomes a story.

I’m that one recipe reviewer who pops up on every blog and recipe aggregate website you’ve ever been to. You know the one. She swapped in Italian breadcrumbs for panko and eggplant for chicken and made her own sauce and put cheese on top and baked it instead of frying it–and now she’s giving this fried chicken recipe 4 stars but she’s clearly attached a photo of eggplant parmesan.

That’s me!

If you ask me where a story got started, you might get a very pat, incomplete answer like, “I was watching my kids play,” or “I had a dream.”

But the real answer is much sillier, and more convoluted, and there’s no real point telling the entire thing except to illustrate how little that initial kernel of an idea matters–because it’s not the idea itself, but the thought process it sparks that ultimately gets you something story-shaped. The only trick is learning how to let your mind wander, to see what it churns up.

So.

Last week I had a dream about spies in a space station.

And I actually woke up on my own for once, not from my 4yo climbing in next to me, or my 2yo hollering from her crib, but actually on my own, so I laid in bed for awhile, sleepily thinking about that dream.

And I wondered: what were the spies doing there? who were they after? what was their history?

And then I thought: oh, oh, wait, what if instead of a spy, it was an ordinary woman conning her way into this station to get revenge.

And what if, instead of a space station, it was a secret luxury resort built by this billionaire she hates. Right? Because he made all of his money using people like her friends and family as guinea pigs for his medical empire. She’s coming to kill this guy.

And instead of being in space, this place is built into a mountain. A hollowed-out mountain full of mazes and decadent parties and everybody who’s anybody, all in one place.

And instead of that other spy being her partner, he’s her competitor: his friends are trying to kidnap this dude, not kill him. But maybe they can work together, temporarily, to find him…

 

Ta da! I’m outlining a book. And if this weird magic-infused science-fantasy revenge story ever gets in front of other people’s eyeballs, and they ask how it started, I’ll get to say: I had a dream about a space station.

the endless To Do

Subtitle: YOU, TOO, COULD HAVE IT ALL!

This has been one of those weeks where it feels like I’ve accomplished nothing, because instead of completing any particular large project, I’ve taken care of the zillion little tasks that keep a household running smoothly. Individually, they seem like nothing. Collectively, my entire week has vanished!

I’m talking

  • School shopping
  • Follow-up questions to preschool because I haven’t done this before
  • Additional school shopping because yup, should have asked those questions earlier
  • Service appointment for Car 1
  • Paperwork and stickers for Car 2
  • Return package to post office
  • Follow up on refund for old gift cards (I want my money dangit)
  • Sort endless home refinance mail
  • FILING CABINET
  • Calk hallway chair railing
  • Touch-up paint on various walls, baseboards, and door trim
  • Several coats of paint on new cabinets
  • Home Depot AGAIN??
  • Grocery shopping AGAIN??
  • Budgeting, bills, meal planning, agh
  • Brief interlude with a rattlesnake on the deck?
  • Brief interlude capturing and releasing a field mouse from under the couch, likely promptly eaten by said rattlesnake?
  • Water the trees AGAIN??

And all the usual cooking and cleaning and bathing and puzzles and arts & crafts required by a toddler and a preschooler, who gamely joined me on all of these errands because their dad is out of town for the week.

ANYWAY I’M TIRED.

Somehow, despite all of that, I managed to do all of my Hugo Award voting, polished a couple of short stories and started their submission journey, and added 3K to my next book. I was hoping for 7K, but the universe had a good laugh at the sound of that, so I’ll have to settle for 3!

I leave you my new nemesis, the snek:

These photos were taken through fence slats and a window respectively, because DUH, I’m not going to be the bozo who dies taking a selfie with a snake.

Alas, I did not get a picture of the couch mouse, because, well, they JUMP.

Also, I think I need to repaint that fence.

Things I Low-Key Want to Learn, Except Learning is Hard

I’ve spent so many years focused on writing and writing-adjacent tasks: reading for research and pleasure, practicing styles, short fiction, long fiction, blogging, getting involved in forums. When I take a break, my hobbies are still very arts & craft: I am happily mediocre at sewing, crocheting, bookbinding, and making cards.

But there is a whole world around me! So many people good at so many things!

Here is an incomplete list of skills I would dearly love to possess, if only I could find the time to devote to learning them:

1) DANCE

I would love to be a better dancer! I always bop to music in public and I am fully willing to deploy my graceless moves on a dance floor, but it is surely embarrassing for everyone around me (alas for them, can’t stop won’t stop).

I also think dance would be excellent exercise. Exercise is INCREDIBLY BORING. Dance is not boring. Dance is fun! And it would work a lot of muscles that do not get any love at my writing desk, let me tell you.

PLAN FOR SUCCESS: YouTube. Only my children would witness my fumbling attempts at rhythm, but they are far too young to realize I look ridiculous.

2) MAKE-UP

That’s right, I’m putting make-up on my list. It’s a skill! It requires a deep knowledge base! And I have neither! I had zero interest in make-up growing up. I didn’t even wear any at my wedding, to the hotel liaison’s clear dismay. And now I kind of regret putting my nose up at this in my teens and twenties, because my thirties are here, and if I want to attend more networking events in the future it sure would be nice to touch up the worst of my fatigue lines. Like a suit of armor!

Also: people do some WILD and colorful stuff, I am JEALOUS.

PLAN FOR SUCCESS: Pure walk of shame. I will have to slink to my baby sisters with my hat in my hands, and ask them to teach me their ways. My baby sisters!! D:

3) SAILING

Wouldn’t that be cool??

PLAN FOR SUCCESS: Haha no.

4) DIY SHIT

Listen, I am a homeowner now. And I get wild ideas for things I want to add to my home, just because nobody can stop me! But you see, labor rightly costs money, and I have two hands and a toolbox, sooo.

Example: My husband and I are building a window seat. And we drew up some messy plans for how to build one from scratch. But then we realized: what if we bought some unfinished kitchen cabinets, and CHOPPED THE TOP OFF TO MAKE THEM SHORTER?

Do you see why we can’t be allowed to make decisions on our own? I need woodworking skills, stat!!

PLAN FOR SUCCESS: YouTube.

5) HORSEBACK RIDING

I want to sit on a living creature and be its friend and respect that it is a powerful being that could crush me but is carrying me around good-naturedly instead. And I would pretend that it is olden times, and I live on the road with only my loyal steed at my side, and we’d share something, a bond beyond words–except for the words I say when I’m riding, because I think you say stuff, right? I’m not sure. It sounds very romantic, even though it probably also smells.

PLAN FOR SUCCESS: This one only hinges on time and money. I.e., not in the near future.

6) ARCHERY

This one would be great, except somebody would definitely die.

PLAN FOR SUCCESS: I’m not joking.

IN CONCLUSION:

I think I’ll be sticking with YouTube dance videos and eyeshadow for the time being, and everyone in my life can thank me for showing such restraint. 😉