Life in Soundtrack: Harry Belafonte’s Pure Gold

Life in Soundtrack is a new series on the blog in which I share an album I was once obsessed with and the time in my life it immediately evokes. Consider this my musical memoir.

Our very first album of yore: Harry Belafonte’s best-of cassette tape Pure Gold (1975)

TRACKLIST

1 – Day-O
2 – Jamaica Farewell
3 – Come Back Liza!
4 – Kingston Market
5 – Angelina
6 – Jump in the Line
7 – Matilda
8 – Sweetheart from Venezuela
9 – Jump Down, Spin Around
10 – Man Smart, Woman Smarter

Picture this: it’s the early 90s. You’re in second or third grade, and your teacher has taken you to music class. There is going to be an ice breaker assignment before you all pick up your plastic recorders and commit uncoordinated musical crimes with them (mostly likely Hot Cross Buns). The assignment is this: bring your favorite song to school and share it with your peers.

Are you a Madonna fan? Queen? Prince? Elton John? Are you partial to Def Leppard? Or maybe Michael Jackson, Paula Abdul, or Aerosmith??

Forget all of that, because today we are talking about me and my history of tragically overthinking every last little thing, and while I dearly loved all of the artists I just listed, I did not bring a single one of them to music class. I brought Harry Belafonte’s Pure Gold.

Let’s roll it back a minute.

I, like many children, formed my first musical tastes based on what my parents were listening to. In later years, I would also be influenced by:

  • things my friends liked;
  • the radio, via my sweet boombox;
  • music videos on MTV and VH1;
  • and downloading random tracks on limewire, desperately hoping that this time it would be a real song and not random porn noises that somebody uploaded for the lulz.

My parents had tons of Madonna and Aerosmith, and therefore I also listened to tons of Madonna and Aerosmith. Simple! So why didn’t I just bring the Immaculate Collection or Toys in the Attic on favorite song day? Because of childish insecurity of course!

For most of my life, I have had a paralyzing fear of being wrong. Being wrong, doing something wrong, saying something wrong, liking something wrong. (I got better.) The question what’s your favorite song was simple on the surface, but devilishly psyche-twisting underneath. I like many songs, I thought, but what does everyone else like? What is the correct choice to bring? If I was meant to share my favorite song with a single other person, I could tailor my recommendation to that person. But an entire class? With varying tastes? How do you chameleon your way through a situation like that?!

You can’t! And that’s the point, to be yourself. But Baby Sam could overthink herself into a frenzy, and what a frenzy it was. One time, I won an essay contest at school, and I became so worried that accepting the award in front of an audience was akin to one of the worst crimes in our family, “bragging,” that I tore up my parents’ invitation and did not tell them about it — only to stand up in front of that auditorium and realize everyone else’s parents had come, and it wasn’t a big deal. In junior high, I was so terrified of making other students feel bad that I would hide my grades, only to spawn a game in which other kids tried to get hold of my tests to see if Sam got 100% again. (Of course I had. An A- was a failure and failure was not an option.)

In seventh grade we had a brief lecture on the merits of active listening, and I took detailed notes, which I studied at length, determined to be the best at active listening, and to this day, when my natural enthusiasm bubbles up and I begin excitedly interrupting people mid-sentence and gesticulating wildly, a voice roars up inside of me: slow down! make eye contact! ask follow-up questions! make sure everyone else gets a chance to speak!!

So what is a compulsive people-pleaser to do when they are asked an opinion question with no correct answer? SPIRAL. OUT. And somehow over the course of that spiral, I rejected option after reasonable option. Pop music is too popular, what if that moment has passed and now it’s uncool. Rock music is great, but what if there is something inappropriate in the lyrics. It can’t be something sad. It can’t be too long. It can’t be the same as somebody else’s because then I’m not introducing them to something new and I am not adding value to the group activity. WAIT A SECOND! I KNOW!

And so I handed Pure Gold to my teacher, and sat back down crisscross applesauce, and watched the confusion spread palpably through the room as everyone listened, in painfully perplexed stillness, to Harry Belafonte belting out Day-O. Is a day, is a day, is a day-ay-ay-o.

It turns out: nobody else had seen the movie Beetlejuice.


And with that: welcome to Life in Soundtrack! The music-based memoir series in which I intend to lay bare my most searing memories and charming (?) neuroses. The idea was spawned when I realized I haven’t owned very many complete albums in my life, and so the ones I did have stand out — are fixed in time — and when I hear one of those tracks I am transported back.

Even when “back” means sitting on the thinly carpeted floor of an elementary school classroom, watching my classmates’ bafflement as they encountered the sweet, sweet sound of the most successful Jamaican-American pop star of the 1950s and perhaps of all time — all while squirming, red-faced, and wondering how I got myself into this mess.

And as always, if you’d like to start getting SamtasticBooks blog posts straight to your email inbox, sign up for my newsletter here! You’ll get the full text of new posts, plus other bonus material. See you next time!

Rabbit Test Reading List

New story day! “Rabbit Test” is now available in Uncanny Magazine Issue 49, free online here. It is about the past, present, and future of abortion rights in America. Genre-wise, this one is a real departure for me. I tend to stick to fantasy, telling whatever story I like on the surface and embedding something personal in the metaphorical underground. But in the case of “Rabbit Test” I wove real history all throughout the narrative, because I couldn’t separate my feelings from reality.

And frankly? History is broader and weirder and messier than anything I could make up, and I had to leave out as much as I managed to shove in. I wish I’d made more room for birth control, for instance. The trifecta of birth control, pregnancy testing, and abortion have been intertwined through all known human history, but this thing was already pushing 7K words and decisions had to be made!

Anyway, if you’d like more background on nineteenth century sex scandals, abortionist nuns, the ongoing frog apocalypse, and a few bits that I dearly wish I could have found room for but didn’t–take a look below.

And if you’re looking for ways to give or get help, the National Network of Abortion Funds to be a really great resource for findings groups that are already doing work on the ground, as well as a simple way to donate to multiple groups at once.


This story began with my interest in the history of pregnancy testing. There’s a detailed timeline of the development of the home pregnancy test on the NIH website, including the work of Judith Vaitukaitis and Glenn Braunstein in the 1970s to develop a new assay for hCG, as well as a look at magazine advertising (which sent me down a Mademoiselle rabbit hole) and pop culture references.

The Harvard blog has an overview of historic urine-based tests, from the barley seeds of the Egyptians to the piss prophets of Europe to rabbits, frogs, and finally the modern pee-on-a-stick. (And there’s a more conversational overview of the same over at Gizmodo.)

The Atlantic has a great article about the invention of the first at-home test. Here’s one of the bits I didn’t manage to work in: it was a woman named Margaret Crane (a freelance designer hired to work on Organon Pharmaceuticals’ cosmetic line) who spotted the lab’s row of pregnancy tests while touring the facility and thought, couldn’t we do this ourselves at home? She made a prototype out of a plastic paper-clip holder, a mirror, a test tube, and a dropper, and presented it to the company a few months later. Blammo, patented and into development. (And then, in this article at IBMS I found a description of that two-hour, nine-step home testing process complete with vial of sheep blood cells. We’ve got it easy these days!)

So: on to the poor mice and rabbits of the title. The Washington Post has an article about the work of Aschheim and Zondek with mice, and Friedman’s work with rabbits. I didn’t understood the Aerosmith lyric “you can’t catch me cuz the rabbit done died” when I was a kid, but now I sorta do! (Aside: I also learned the very unfortunate fact that Billy Crystal’s first movie was a comedy about “the world’s first pregnant man” called Rabbit Test, directed by Joan Rivers, universally panned upon its release in 1978 as a “trivial and tasteless little movie… nothing more than a series of tired ethnic insults and vulgar sex jokes.” Ouch. I wonder how Junior has held up.)

And then, of course, there are the frogs. Ed Yong wrote a highly entertaining article at The Atlantic about the history of frog-based pregnancy tests and the resulting frog apocalypse that is now underway as a result. It also includes this amazing quote from an animal rights protester: “First time stealing a frog, but strangely not my first time fighting a pregnant woman.”

Full up on weird pregnancy testing trivia, I then moved on to abortion. I had heard of Madame Restell, the Wickedest Woman in New York, but didn’t know about the end of her life, hounded to death by Anthony Comstock. And I had never heard of Asenath Smith, whose mistreatment at the hands of philandering preacher Ammi Rogers was used to justify the first abortion law in America in 1821–which was really just a means to push midwives out of the practice and leave it to the newly minted doctors of the American Medical Association.

And there was no way around the fact that these early anti-abortion campaigns were rooted in white supremacy and anti-feminist backlash, just as they are now. The head of the AMA’s campaign in the 1910s, Dr. Horatio Storer, was candid about this when he said things like, “Shall these regions be filled by our own children or by those of aliens? This is a question our women must answer; upon their loins depends the future destiny of the nation.” Madame Restell was a threat because her clients were primarily white Protestant women. And as bad as that was, it was nothing compared to the treatment of Black women, from the terrors of slavery to the development of modern gynecological tools and the racism that fueled campaigns to ban midwifery.

I looked earlier, at abortion practices in early America, and found so many common abortifacients in use by Indigenous tribes that it was a struggle to narrow things down to a pithy montage. I was particularly struck by the long history among Hawai’i’s Indigenous people, and this detailed report by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs included some great historical anecdotes about the gossip that would ensue if a woman didn’t properly space her children out. “They would say, ‘Why, the walewale (lochia) for this child hasn’t even stopped, and she’s having another child on the end of it…’ Any wahine (woman) who had too many babies in too little time was fair target for every waha ko‘u (clucking mouth) in the neighborhood.” (page 50)

In another case of I wish I’d worked this in, I found an article in The Lancet about naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian, who embarked on her own scientific voyages with her daughter beginning in 1699, and documented the use of the “peacock flower” among the Indian and African slave populations in the Dutch colony of Surinam, who were partly practicing abortion to protest slavery (all the content warnings on that link). I don’t think it is possible to understand the history of abortion without understanding the history of personal autonomy.

In original documents, I found a number of ads for Dr. Reynolds’ Lightning Pills in the 1920s, as well as the full text of the extremely popular home medical handbook The Poor Planter’s Physician (check out how to fix the SUPPRESSION of the COURSES on page 40), which, by the way, I failed to mention was updated and distributed for American audiences by Benjamin Franklin.

And though most of my focus was on dispelling the Supreme Court’s laughable assertion that “a right to abortion is not deeply rooted in the nation’s histories and traditions,” I couldn’t resist following the trail of Catholicism backward to Saint Hildegard, a renowned medical practitioner who didn’t shy away from describing or providing abortions to her community.

Finally, I roped my book club into reading The Story of Jane by Laura Kaplan, all about the legendary abortion underground in Chicago in the years leading up to Roe v. Wade, as remembered by members of the group. That book is also where I learned about the Clergy Consultation Services, which I hadn’t heard of before. And I looked for resources in a post-Roe America, as well as how things will shake out along state lines in its absence.

In the end, I couldn’t possibly fit everything into one story–and that’s what I tried to convey, as the narrative breaks down entirely, interrupting itself with anecdote after anecdote: that there is more variety and more history than you could possibly summarize in one place, because we are talking about billions of people over the entire scope of human history, trying to control the courses of their own lives.


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Mrs. Cat takes a writing retreat!

Mrs. Cat standing in front of a road with hills in distance, clear blue sky, and bright clouds overhead
Mrs. Cat hits the road.

That’s right! Mrs. Cat was long overdue for a writing retreat, the last one being in the long hot summer of 2019. It’s summer again, it’s hot again, and this time instead of being cramped in a desert tiny house with minimal allowed A/C use, I trekked all the way to the mountain town of Idyllwild to stay in a friend-of-a-friend’s cabin, with shade trees and moderately more A/C!

Mrs. Cat lounging on a deck rail, pretty trees in background
Mrs. Cat takes some air.

This retreat was a long time coming. After the long awful year of 2021, it felt like my brain would never recover. I spent the first three months of 2022 laboriously finishing a novel edit that I’d begun the previous August and then put on hold during The Terrible Times, well aware that the book would be forever etched in my mind as The Book I Edited While Big Sis Was Dying. The editing went so slowly, I began to worry that this was my new normal, just fits and starts of brain power at a fraction of the speed I used to work.

But I sent the book off to my agent, and I spent the next couple of months on a deliberate break. I squeezed one short story in there, realized I was making a mistake even trying to force that out, and then stopped writing shorts as well. For the rest of the time, I read sea monster books and took notes and let my brain percolate on something brand new, something not bogged under the stress that The Book I Edited While Big Sis Was Dying had suffered from.

And folks.

I think it worked.

I have an outline that I’m very excited about. I have characters and the characters have voices. (Yessss this is the project that I mentioned in my last post.) I had a start and a course of action and an end goal, and that meant I was ready to dive in.

Close up of chipmunk eating a nut on a large tree stump
Ms. Chipmunk says hello.

Enter: writing retreat.

Forty-eight entire hours without interruption. Forty-eight entire hours to get momentum going on the sea monster book and also to take several quiet naps! Heaven.

I napped and watched birds and chipmunks and ground squirrels and ate in the sunshine and sat on a couch typing until my hands went numb, and it was great. The book is past the 10K mark and I’m feeling good about it.

I’ve also spent some time pondering this here blog! It’s time for a bit of reconfiguring. Now that I’ve put short stories on hold, there’s a short-form-sized hole in my attention span. I’ve got ideas for blog series on music, B-movies, and crafts that I can pepper in between writing news. They’re gonna be great.

Goodbye, cabin! Till next time, Mrs. Cat out.

The back of Mrs. Cat in focus as she looks out at sunset behind leafy trees
Mrs. Cat says goodnight.

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I kept busy all right

One year and 16 days ago I said, “I really hope that my next update is, “hooray, my kids are vaccinated!!” 

😒

I didn’t realize there would be delay after delay, staggering kids out a handful at a time for a solid year after adults got their shots, BUT SO IT WAS, and HERE WE ARE, and today at long fucking last, my youngest child is getting her first covid vaccine!!

🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉

Tada and hooray and party poppers galore!

I have one niece who still needs an appointment, but she is eligible, we’re here, most of the country moved on and tried getting back to normal in the meantime, but whatever, you do you, I spent an extra year at home nervously testing every runny nose. I’m going to continue staying mostly home and testing every runny nose, but if the virus catches up to us at last, I at least want to go in with the best armor we’ve got.

Last time I was here I declared OPERATION: KEEP BUSY, and it is true, I’ve been hella busy, there are five kids in the house and I keep overcommitting at the day job (did I even mention that one year ago I picked up a very part time day job??). I’ve also made a heck of a lot of crochet animals, sent a second book off to my agent, and sat around for a lot of hours crying to my husband that I’m still not getting enough done.

It’s my way.

In the interest of being honest about my abilities and the amount of free time available to me, I’m extending my short story hiatus to focus on my next book. My brain just can’t split in any more directions, so this week I’m trying to finish my last in-progress short story draft– and if I don’t get it done, oh well Sam, it has to go on hold. Then I’m going to spend two weeks in research and outline mode to flesh out some vague worldbuilding in Sam’s Sea Monster Book #1 (working title), AND THEN I am going away for a 48-hour writing retreat to get some momentum going on the draft.

After much hemming and hawing, I think I have the voice of the first main character (there are four):

Text in Word doc: Chapter 1 Maia Kelani, former captain of The Wretched of the Sea, the woman who had crossed the Keening Strait without losing a single crew member, the woman who’d single-handedly fought a red-throated cephalobeast and won—Maia Kelani, that Maia Kelani, was bound in chains and headed for the dread prison island of Ghistain. That she would escape, she had no doubt. It was only a matter of how long it would take for her crew to find her. She knew, with the conviction of righteous fury: there would be salt, and there would be blood, and at the end of the chaos and the noise she would sail away victorious with her loved ones at her side. She was Wretched Maia, and no land-born magistrate could lock her away for long.

I am excite. 🤓

Operation Keep Busy

I fell off the face of the earth this year. My social media grew sporadic, my blog and newsletter were bare, my real-life relationships neglected. My older sister was dying, and I didn’t want to talk about it, but it was such a huge thing that not talking about it felt like a lie–an omission so glaring it couldn’t even be called an omission. Making jokes online or giving life updates without the largest thing happening in my life? A liar, a fake.

It was easier to just slink away and live that hospital visitation life in secret.

And now it’s done. Or, not really done, because the ripple effect is huge and my life is changing in some big ways, but they are the kind of ripples I will keep to myself, because privacy.

I will say: I had a dream the night before last. In the dream, we knocked a hole in our living room wall, and on the other side I discovered a ghost kitchen, where my sister was hanging out, baking ghost goodies. We built a little window to the other side, and brought her kids to visit–but it was only a window. No touches, no hugs. I woke up crying and wished, for once, that I didn’t have an active imagination.

Not exactly the cheerful kind of update I like for the blog.

So instead I present: OPERATION KEEP BUSY.

I’m feeling very motivated these days, in a “you could die any second so best embrace the To Do List while you can” manner. (Healthy!) To this end, I have spent the past couple of weeks on the following projects:

Holiday planning! Thanksgiving and Christmas are back, baby–albeit in a smaller, more cautious form. With kiddos getting vaccinated at long last, I am thrilled to be pulling out the board games and buffet platters once again. There will be sangria and fancy hats (and ok, probably tears).

Crochet Christmas! I cannot share more of these top secret plans until after the holidays, but rest assured: practically everyone is getting a crocheted present from me, because I have been obsessively crafting every night before bed in order to keep my hands busy and away from the doom scroll. (Again: healthy!)

Digitization Project X! This one isn’t top secret, I just wanted it to have a cool name. I’m digitizing our old family home movies from VHS tape, and boy howdy, there’s some great and there’s some cringe, and bits of both will definitely make the sizzle reel.

The Long-Awaited Garage Conversion! We began converting our garage into additional living space waaay back in spring of 2019. We managed to close up the walls and build some cabinets before our (lack of) budget and then pandemic intervened. After a very long hiatus, we are one carpet installation away from having a new room, woooooooo!

The 2022 CMMRVW Family Vacation! My siblings direly need a getaway after ::waves hands:: all this, so that is exactly what we are doing. The dates are picked, the place booked, the hideous group t-shirts commissioned: next spring, we are getting the hell away.

And, of course: OPERATION WRITE ALL THE THINGS! As you can tell from my writing page, this year wasn’t exactly my most productive. My brain malfunctioned under the stress and–oh well. But my brain is on the mend! I have nearly completed a new novel draft, soon to be sent to my agent! I have 50K worth of another book which I will complete next! I have a novella just awaiting a little more revision! And there are so, so many outlines brewing in my notes.

2021, you fucking sucked! I’m pulling the plug on this year early, and declaring us all now in Pre-2022. Let the Year of Keep Busy commence.


P.S. This helpy cat is HELPING:

the problem with knowing the end

I’m an outliner.

Mostly. Pretty much.

Anyway, I start with an outline! And then about halfway through drafting a new book, I come up with all sorts of better ideas, and I retool my outline, and I slap a big notice in yellow highlighter on page 180 or wherever I am: “FROM HERE ON OUT, FOLLOWING OUTLINE #2.”

Cuz who cares? Making the first half match the second half is Future Sam’s problem!!

Let’s just say it: Past Sam is a reckless monster. A heartless villain. SHORT SIGHTED.

Here is my blessing and my curse: I’m an outliner, and my outline is stronger in the second half. I know the ending, so I backtrack through a series of complications that need to happen in order to land that ending. And then somehow I (by which I mean: my hapless mark, Future Sam) need to stitch these intro chapters to that row of endgame dominoes without it seeming super obvious that they never fit together naturally in the first place.

It’s the beginning that’s the real end, the last thing I need to make work in order to set up this grand finale I’ve supposedly nailed with all that seamless action in the second half. But here’s the trouble with endings: they don’t land on their own, not without expectations raised and backstory planted, not without the tone well-tuned and the atmosphere maximally atmospheric.

Oh my god, it’s torturous.

I’m doing it right now (revisions, hiss, spit, etc) and I’m kicking my feet and wailing on pretty much a daily basis. “Please,” I’m begging these characters that I made up, “please, don’t just wander around learning the things you need to know by the end! Make the decisions that will lead us there! In retrospect!!”

Melodrama aside, there is a light at the end of this tunnel, and it is called self-awareness. (That’s right, there is a beam of light which embodies the conscious knowledge of one’s own behaviors, and it is located at the end of a tunnel, keep up.) I’ve become intimately aware of this problem, and I am now giving my future outlines a very stern look.

Moving forward, I am trying to–get this–fix the outline before I rough draft. A shockingly novel approach, I know! But I can no longer rush through my beginnings under the assumption that I always rewrite them aaaanywaaaay, because Future Sam is actually really busy these days and doesn’t want to write the book three times to make it work, she just wants to write the damn book.

And that means, well, kind of pantsing my outlines. I have to resist the impulse to leap to the ending first and then backfill the setup. I have to get better at carefully laying interesting pieces on the board, and then following through on the ramifications of what my characters initially want and probably won’t get–and if I do this tinkering and stream-of-conscious writing at the synopsis level, I’ll get the best of both worlds: the natural progression of pantsing + the steady guiding hand of an outline. Right?? Oh lord I hope so.

But first I need to finish this (last?) torturous revision.

The Year That Wouldn’t End

A Story Told in Selfies

January 26, 2020: My last outing with the kids, though I didn’t realize it at the time. We had a really lovely day at the Air & Space Museum.

“I have no idea what’s coming! 🙂 🙂 🙂 “

February 29, 2020: Decided this would be the year of getting crafty again, and made myself a necklace!

Sam smiling, wearing a green and black beaded necklace
“I’ve got a bit of a clue what’s coming, but it still seems very far away…”

March, 18, 2020: Preschool was closed, our meager version of a lockdown had begun, and the news was saying it would just be a few weeks (did anyone actually believe this would only be a few weeks?)

“This will be enough to see me through… right??”

April 7, 2020: We were suddenly advised to start wearing masks, but oops, there aren’t enough medical grade ones to go around, give it your best shot with old pillowcases, good luck!!

“I have no idea what I’m doing!”

May 1, 2020: I was about to lose my cat. May sucked.

RIP 😦

June 11, 2020: 3 months in and starting to unravel.

“Haircut? What’s a haircut?”

July 9, 2020: Overcome by a combination of cabin fever and kitten fever, I caved much earlier than expected and acquired two more cats: Cherno and Belo. *_*

Kittens don’t care about the growing bags under one’s eyes.

August 26, 2020: By this time it’s pretty clear nothing is changing for a long time, and the show must go on and all that, so I buckle down trying to edit a book with toddlers at my elbow and the world figuratively (and literally) on fire all around us.

“I’ve been wearing tank tops and pajama shorts for 5 months now!!! :D”

September 20, 2020: Apparently I took no selfies in September! Just lots and lots of pictures of cats.

Cats, cats, cats, cats, cats

October 2, 2020: Move over, sourdough starters! Forget it, yarn crafts! The new household pandemic hobby is making alcohol, lots of alcohol, and I sure did zest this mountain of lemons and turn it into 2 gallons of limoncello!

Life, lemons, etc

November 7, 2020: A light at the end of the tunnel??

Puffy fatigue face is constant by this point, but at least I was smiling.

December 9, 2020: I finally left behind my daily pajama shorts and embraced my daily wizard robe. Still trying to work. Still being climbed on 24 hours a day.

There is no peace in forever home.

January 16, 2021: It’s a new year, a new insurrection, we are still at home, we are having so many covid scares, coffee is life.

“Please, I’m so tired.”

February 26, 2021: I spend a lot of time laying down and staring at the ceiling but at least I have cats.

“I’m glad somebody is happy.”

March 6, 2021: I tentatively start seeing my friends again!!!! Outdoors, masked, and distanced, but baby, book club is BACK.

And I met a new cat!!

April 21, 2021: Well it’s been over a year since my last haircut at this point, and the floof contains an entire civilization within.

I embrace my new master, The Hair

May 9, 2021: It is at this point I realize just how much gray this year has caused. I’m only 35!! 😡

“Seriously?”

June 13, 2021: We hit the second set of birthdays of the pandemic (a bit…depressing), but in year 2 we managed to bubble up with one other family to give each of our kids a mini party. At some point, you start rolling with the chaos.

“This is my life now.”

There you go, 16 months of my life. I really hope that my next update is, “hooray, my kids are vaccinated!!” Till then… I’ll be here.

Kiki’s on the Locus list! :D

In very exciting news:

Kiki Hernández Beats the Devil,” originally in Translunar Travelers Lounge, has been included on the 2020 Locus Recommended Reading List! I am in amazing company with a whole lot of my favorite stories of the year. 😀

Anyone is welcome to vote in the Locus Awards, and the poll is now live. Subscription to the magazine is not required, though subscribers’ votes count double. The poll even has a write-in option if you don’t see your favorites on the list. And if nothing else, it’s a great list of recommendations if you are looking for new novels, stories, anthologies, and short fiction to read!

2020 Eligibility Post!

Oh sweet mercy, it’s that time of year again!

This was, um, not the greatest year for me producing new work, but thanks to a little buildup from the before times, it was a really satisfying one for publication!

I have three short stories I’d like to highlight for consideration. They have three drastically different vibes–something for every mood! ;D

Without further ado…


If you’re looking for cathartic rage and fierce triumph:

The Limits of Magic
–In which you have run away from an oppressive regime, only to realize that saving yourself isn’t enough–you have to fight for those who cannot save themselves.

Originally published in Apparition Literary Magazine, Issue 11: Redemption, July 15, 2020 [available online]


If you’re looking for rip-roaring rock and the power of giving a shit:

Kiki Hernández Beats the Devil
In which Kiki Hernández, rock legend of the Southwest, finally bites off more than she can chew. Come for the devil-fighting guitar, stay for the chonky hellhound.

Originally published in Translunar Travelers Lounge, Issue 2, February 15, 2020 [available online]

And reprinted in text and audio in PodCastle, Episode #639, August 11, 2020 [available online]


And if you’re looking for something weirder and gentler and deeply heartfelt:

Anchorage
In which a very messy space family visits a floating library and the anchoress walled up within it (with bonus! narrator who doesn’t understand how metaphors work).

Originally published in Uncanny Magazine, Issue 36, September/October 2020 [available online]


I will now commence a much-needed reading retreat, because I already have SO MANY great recs piling up for my forthcoming 2020 awards recommendation post, and there are still SO MANY MORE amazing-looking reads piling up between my bookshelves, browser tabs, and twitter bookmarks, so farewell, I am now sinking beneath the waves of awesome, tell my family I love themmmmmm–

hello to cherno and belo

Well, I thought I was going to wait longer than this, but after two months with only a single cat in the house, I began to get…. the itch. We have been lavishing attention on our 11yo tabby cat, Professor Stormfury, but he can only sit in one lap at a time!

And I haven’t had kittens in over 18 years. The last kitten was Hades, in fact, when I was in high school.

And, you see, it’s kitten season.

And somebody found a litter behind a fast food place and brought them in to the Humane Society.

And I’ve loved every garbage can cat I have ever known.

And

And

Meet Chernobog and Belobog (Cherno and Belo for short)

They’re….. BABIES!!! ;_;

Stormy is being surprisingly tolerant. After a couple days of growling and running away (he is a 20 pound wimp), he now sits in long-suffering silence and tries to ignore the interlopers.

“What is this nonsense”

SUFFERING.

“mother…..why……”

The interlopers, meanwhile, have made themselves right at home.

Strange. I desire to eat this cat. NOM NOM CUTIE

Our household is now four humans, three cats. A right and noble proportion! :’)