Chiral Mad 3

Guys, I'm late to the party here, but the anthology Chiral Mad 3 hit Amazon and bookshops on March 28. The anthology contains my story "The Black Crow of Boddinstraße," one of the first pieces I wrote after moving to Berlin in 2014. It's the story of a Nebelkrähe (gray and black crows that you often see picking through trash or fluttering around Berlin) looking for a home during one of those impossibly dark, why-do-we-live-so-far-north German winters. Also the Nebelkrähe might be a ghost, obviously, because it's pretty impossible for me to write a story without at least one ghost or haunting. I didn't make this lamp for my old apartment for nothing:


But I digress. Go forth, check out the anthology and its impressive lineup!

Sale: Hungry Ghosts to Black Static

I'm so pleased to announce that I've sold my short story "Hungry Ghosts" to the superb British horror/dark fantasy market Black Static. This is my first sale of 2015 and the first time I've sold a story that takes place in my homeland (my homeland referring in this case to the forests of northern New England).

The story is currently slated for release in March, both in print and online. It's a story about alienation and fitting in (or not) and family curses and the particular nature of New England ghosts. The haunted house in the tale--all faded wallpaper and creaking floorboards--is based on a house where I once lived, outside Boston. I hope you all like it (the story, not the house. The house was both a miserable and magical place to live).

Sales: The City Dreams of Bird-Men & Speaking to Skull Kings

I'm pleased to close out the month of May by announcing two more sales. "Speaking to Skull Kings," a strange slipstream-y dark fairytale about two lost children in the woods, will appear in Betwixt Magazine in July 2014. And "The City Dreams of Bird-Men," a dark fantasy set in early modern Prague and involving bones, plague and heartbreak, will appear in Fantasy Scroll Magazine, a new market that's already published lots of award-winning and exemplary authors. I'm very excited to have found a home for both of these stories, and to appear in these exciting new markets.

Sale: Not the Grand Duke's Dancer

I'm quite happy to announce that my short story "Not the Grand Duke's Dancer" will appear in issue #5 of The Dark, an online magazine of dark and strange fiction. This is my first Odyssey story to find a home-- the story began its life as a much shorter piece that I read at the Odyssey Science Fiction and Fantasy Slam. This is a tradition at the workshop where halfway through the hectic six weeks of writing and critiquing, Odyssey students take a break to road trip from Manchester, N.H. to a Barnes and Noble in Nashua, N.H., where they read flash fiction pieces. This was one of my first experiences reading my writing out loud, and while it was nerve-wracking (my parents were there!), I do think it's an essential skill for any writer to develop. At any rate, when I returned home from the workshop, I expanded the piece to its current form, and here we are.

This story contains many of my favorite things: bones! Train travel through Europe! A veiled reference to Rasputin! It also switches settings quite a few times in its 3400 words. I'm a very visual person/writer, and I love designing sets and settings and scenery for my stories. When I was writing this story, I referenced several places and cities that I've visited. As a preview of the tale, I thought I'd include some of the photos that I used to write the story:

Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, an important setting in the story.


Also pictured: 18-year-old me, imagination whirring, no doubt. 

Hot air balloons rising over Stockholm. This image has always stuck with me--I took this picture on a lazy summer evening, at about 9 p.m., because it stays light quite late in Scandinavia in the summer. I was sitting with one of my best friends by the water, eating violet ice cream. I'm glad I was able to insert such a happy memory into a story.

муми 023
муми 023

A view of Munich. One pivotal scene in this story takes place in a cursed church in Munich, which I based on the Frauenkirche, the church on the left in this picture, which has several interesting legends attached to it.


Highgate Cemetery in London, which I visited when I was studying abroad in London, because I do love visiting cemeteries (to no one's surprise). Karl Marx is buried here, and many people believe it inspired several scenes in Bram Stoker's Dracula.


Of course, this story isn't all fun and games and frolicking through Europe on a magical tour. I also drew on negative and bittersweet experiences--especially those involving relationships-- to write this story. Which just goes to show you that the old cliche is true: no experience is ever wasted for a writer.

Anyway, I'm pleased this story found a home, and I hope you enjoy it when it comes out in August.

Sale: The Rondelium Girl of Rue Marseilles

So very pleased to announce that Michael Bailey of Written Backwards has accepted a story of mine, "The Rondelium Girl of Rue Marseilles," for his upcoming horror/science fiction anthology Qualia Nous. Michael Bailey is the editor extraordinaire behind Chiral Mad 2 (my first professional sale) and I'm honestly so excited to appear in another of his anthologies, alongside other Chiral Mad 2 authors and plenty of other wonderful writers.

I came up with the idea for "Rondelium Girl" while reading The Age of Radiance: The Epic Rise and Dramatic Fall of the Atomic Era, a history book that I reviewed for the Christian Science Monitor while wearing my journalist/book critic hat. In the book, author Craig Nelson mentions an American dancer, Loie Fuller, who was famous in Belle Epoque Paris for performances that incorporated billowing phosphorescent veils. At one point, Fuller asked Marie and Pierre Curie for advice on creating "butterfly wings of radium" for her performances. Well, at the phrase "butterfly wings of radium," my imagination was off to the races. You'll have to read the story to find out which direction I headed off in (hint: it includes nostalgia and regret and mad science and chestnuts).

Here's one of the reference images I used while writing, a painting of Loie Fuller by Austrian artist Koloman Moser:

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 11.53.32 PM
Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 11.53.32 PM

And here's the Bois de Vincennes, a large park on the eastern side of Paris (its western counterpart is the more famous Bois de Boulogne) and an important setting in the story.


Here's to spring and story sales and the dollar oysters and gin & tonic that I'm going to go consume tonight to celebrate!

Apply to Odyssey. Now.

A year ago today, I was sitting at my desk in my old office, obsessively checking my email as the work day wound down. I had applied early decision to the Odyssey Writing Workshop, and according to the website, on Feb. 28 I'd find out whether my application had been accepted early or held over for the regular decision period in April. How would I find out, I wondered? A phone call? An email? A letter waiting for me in my mailbox when I returned to my apartment that night? AN OWL?! 

At last, at nearly 5 p.m., my stomach roiling, I clicked over to my Gmail tab and saw I had three emails. From Odyssey leader Jeanne Cavelos. I had gotten in. I had gotten in! I raced out to the office parking lot to call my dad and tell him the good news, and for the first time in my post-college young professional life, I found myself crying tears of joy in my office parking lot.

Now, a year later, I can say with confidence that leaving my job, my apartment, and my life in Boston for the summer to attend Odyssey was one of the best decisions--if not the best decision--I've ever made. Here's how Odyssey works: you spend six weeks living at St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., taking classes, writing, and critiquing your classmates' work. At Odyssey, I learned more about writing than I ever thought possible. I met wonderful guest authors. I made friends who I still critique with, rant about rejection letters to, go to for writing advice. At Odyssey, I barely slept or worked out or ate anything but bacon and kettle corn for six weeks, but it was all worth it.

Thanks to Odyssey, I have the tools I need to become the writer I want to become. Yes, there's still a long road ahead, but if it weren't for Odyssey, I wouldn't even be on that road.

So if you're at all serious about writing, you should apply to Odyssey. You can find all the information here. The early application deadline has already passed, but regular applications aren't due until April 8. I realize that not everyone is 24 years old and has the flexibility to pick up and leave for the summer, but if you are in a place in your life where you can, do it. I promise you will not be disappointed.

Chiral Mad 2!

This week, I had the exhilarating experience of seeing a short story of mine in print for the first time. Chiral Mad 2 was released on Dec. 13, and while my copy hasn't arrived yet, I was able to take a look at my aunt's copy, which arrived when I was staying at her house on Tuesday. I can't wait for my own copy to arrive so I can read all the stories, but for now: this book looks glorious, and I am so excited that my story is part of a collection with so many talented and wonderful authors. Last Christmas season, I was scribbling the first draft of "Henley House" in my notebook in a cafe in Copley Square; this Christmas, I get to see it in this book. I can't think of a more fitting end to what has surely been the craziest and most eventful year of my life thus far.

In other news: the Kickstarter for Steampunk World, which will include my story The Firebird, was fully funded last week! But the fundraising continues--the editors have set several stretch goals, which include the possibility of a volume two and interior illustrations for the book (read more about the stretch goals at editor Sarah Hans' blog). The editors have offered some great backer rewards, so check it out if you are so inclined.

Write for your life

The first of the month just passed, which meant it was time to make my monthly story list. I've been making lists of all the final and rough drafts I want to complete every month, to keep myself on track for my goal of sending 20 completed stories out to market by the new year.

These lists represent something that I've realized about writing this past year: writing is a job. Not a hobby. Not a bohemian art best pursued in a coldwater garret. It's a career like any other, except it's much harder and far more competitive than most careers.

It took me some time to realize this. For most of my life, I thought I could write during summers home from college or here and there for an hour or two after work. I didn't understand that if I wanted a career in this field, I needed to invest the time and resources that I would have invested in any other potential career. If I'd decided I wanted to be, say, a social worker, I would have quit my job as a journalist and gone back to school for social work. But for some reason I was dense about the time and commitment it takes to become a writer.

Unfortunately, society at large seems to have a tenuous grasp on this notion of writing-as-career. Writers who have "made it" enjoy tremendous cultural cache, but new writers often must face the fact that some of our acquaintances, friends and family simply don't care or understand what we do with our time. For example: I applied to the Odyssey Writing Workshop in winter 2013 to figure out if I actually wanted to pursue a career as a fiction writer. When I was accepted into the workshop, I began to make plans to leave my journalism job. I received a variety of responses from the people in my life. The majority were quite supportive, but a few implied that I was throwing away my journalism career and turning my back on my responsibilities. Others congratulated me in an odd way: they lauded me for leaving my job to go "be young," as I had started working right after college and never had the chance for a free-spirited phase. I think some of these well-meaning and not-so-well-meaning people thought that Odyssey was the equivalent of a six-week basket-weaving camp, not an intensive program that, to me, was the equivalent of going back to school for a career change.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter what these naysayers think or how they perceive the choices writers must make to build fulfilling and productive careers. What's important is that you view writing as your career, and that you are willing to invest the necessary resources in it.

(A caveat: for some people, writing is a hobby, something they do when they're feeling inspired or want catharsis. That's absolutely fine. But if you want to write as a career, you cannot treat it as a hobby).

So if I could give advice to anyone who's where I was a year ago: spend time writing, revising and submitting. Self-identify as a writer. Apply to Odyssey, Clarion, or another intensive workshop. Ignore the people who accuse you of eschewing the responsibilities of adulthood to go pursue some hobby. Writing is a career. Invest in it.

Philadelphia & the importance of travel

Besides writing and reading, traveling is probably the most important activity for my writing career. Anyone who knows me knows I love to travel--I'm always packing up my ridiculously oversized hiking backpack for a weekend trip to a different city in the Northeast or for some European extravaganza. But although I love to travel, I don't equate it with going on vacation: for me, traveling is part of my work, an opportunity to overload my senses with new places, buildings, natural vistas, people, food, etc., then go back to my hotel/hostel/friend's couch at the end of the day and scribble new story ideas and observations in my notebook until I collapse into sleep. I think some people view traveling as a frivolous activity, but for me, it's an integral part of my writing process. I'm a visual, setting-oriented writer, and I don't think I would have written 90 percent of the fiction words I've written if I hadn't invested so much time and money in traveling over the years.

On that note, I visited Philadelphia for the first time last weekend, to spend time with my dear friend Laura who moved there for graduate school and to see the city. While there, I visited two museums: the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and the Mutter Museum.

At the UPenn Museum, my friend and fellow Odfellow Brad Hafford showed me around the collections. I learned about the culture of ancient Ur and about Ur's tombs, such as the "great death pit" where archaeologists found dozens of bodies of people who may or may not have committed suicide so they could journey to the after life with their queen. Naturally, these tombs, combined with the culture's overall aesthetic (limestone statues, ram's heads on the arms of throne chairs, make-up pigment stored in shells, lapis and carnelian cloak-pins) gave me an idea for a story called Girl Guards of the Afterlife, which I will be working on this week.

The next day it was off to the Mutter Museum, the famous museum of medical oddities that I had been waiting forever to attend. This 19-century-style museum features cramped shelves and rooms full of objects of the macabre, creepy and just plain gross variety.

I saw a liver that had been mutilated by a corset; the body of the Soap Lady, a woman whose body turned entirely to soap after she died; the largest skeleton on display in North America; dozens and dozens of white polished inner ears displayed in tiny bell jars; and, perhaps the most macabre part, fetuses with birth defects, all floating in glass jars and displayed in one corner of the museum's downstairs room.

One of my favorite parts of the museum was the wall of skulls, collected by a 19th century scientist in Eastern Europe. Each of the skulls had a placard describing what was known about these people before they shuffled off their mortal coils. Some of my favorites:

-Prague, age 19, suicide by potassium cyanide because of unfaithfulness of his mistress. -Famous criminal, guilty of many atrocities, captured with his band of 10 and hanged in a castle. -Ravenna, age 20, embroiderer in silk, died of tuberculosis.

Needless to say, I came up with some story ideas at the Mutter Museum as well.

I spent the rest of the weekend strolling the streets of Philadelphia with my lovely friends. Philadelphia's City Hall has ravens on it! Ravens, I tell you! (They're up around the base of the tower, in case you can't tell from this picture).

So yes, this is why I travel: because it invariably piques my imagination and leaves me pondering new story ideas on the bus/train/airplane/car ride home.

Of course, it's not always practical to live the life of a traveler: we all have homes, and responsibilities. But I think it's possible to live as a traveler even in your own city: keen observation, curiosity and a sense of adventure can turn up inspiration in even the most familiar of places.

Hello to the wide world of blogging

I can no longer contain myself: it's time to start blogging.

I've wanted to start a blog about my nascent writing career for awhile, but the time never seemed right. It's easy to stumble into the rabbit hole of productive procrastination (and I am quite the expert on procrastination) and spend too much time blogging about writing and not enough time actually writing.

But at the same time, blogging can be a great way to keep in touch with other writers. I also think it's important for writers to chronicle our careers, to talk about the pitfalls and successes and truths of the trade. A year ago,  I was determined to embark on a fiction writing career but had few connections, no beta readers, no guarantees I was going to get into a workshop for the summer of 2013, and no idea how to push forward with my career. Reading blogs by other writers in various stages of their careers was invaluable for me as I sorted out how to proceed into the mysterious world of fiction writing.


So I weighed these pros and cons, and decided I would allow myself to start blogging when I made my first pro-rate short story sale. And, lo and behold, at the beginning of the month Michael Bailey of Written Backwards bought my short story "A Guide to Etiquette and Comportment for the Sisters of Henley House" for the Chiral Mad 2 anthology. I am, needless to say, extremely excited about this, and I've decided that now is finally the right time to start blogging.

On this blog you can expect to read about my fiction writing career; thoughts about the art and craft of writing (especially the three-act structure. I have MANY thoughts about the three-act structure); my travels and how they inspire my fiction; books I'm reading; my obsession with the darkly beautiful and the macabre; and, occasionally, my other interests: fiber arts and running.

So welcome! Let us embark on this strange and haunting journey together.