The Initiate

November Microfiction: The Initiate

Back to Egypt…


The halls of the temple were quiet; the dawn song sung, the morning light just beginning to peek between the columns. Maatkare passed between them as silently as possible, bare feet barely making a sound on the alabaster floor and just a gentle swish from the linen wrapped around her body. Only sacred sound was permitted here.

The quiet faded the closer she came to the outer courtyard, punctuated by the quacking chirps of the flock waiting for her. She smiled at the sound–it was one reason why she enjoyed this duty above all others. The ibis roamed the courtyard, disturbed by nothing, patient and steady. This flock took a specific path around the upriver end of the city, passing each resting spot with the regularity of the sun. They knew that she, or someone like her, would appear before the heat got intense bearing their favorite food. They also knew – or so she assumed – that she always brought enough for all of them, so they never fought or crowded or menaced her the way geese would. This is why she loved them.

Click here to read the whole story.

Even When We Don't Want to be Ourselves

October Microfiction: Even When We Don’t Want to be Ourselves

The stories in this series are based on the artwork of Chiara Bautista which is amazing and gorgeous and you should look at all of it.


Wolf and Bunny artwork by Chiara Bautista

She discarded the rabbit face in the water where the moon self still cast some light. Now that she was here on the earth she wanted a single identity. To be one of the persons.

No matter. The Earth’s rabbits found her, anyway. In the swamplands they approached her in uncharacteristically untimid ways. They knew her for one of them. And she loved them for that.

She wandered the swamps in a funk. She had detached herself from the night sky and dropped here to get some perspective, yet she still wasn’t happy. Or fulfilled. Or even sure what she wanted. To feel. To be. Nothing got solved.

She came upon the skull, half sunk in the mud and grass. She washed it, pressed a bright red flower to the place where an ear would be. That was enough.

Hello. That was the voice of what was left. A girl. No, a fish girl.

“How did you get here? This isn’t your place.”

This isn’t yours, either.

Click here to continue reading.

Wolf and Bunny 1

September Microfiction: The Moon Fell Off The Night Sky And He Went Looking For Her

This story is based on the artwork of Chiara Bautista.


Wolf and Bunny artwork by Chiara Bautista

She didn’t so much fall off the night sky as she allowed herself to detach, come away, to drift. She wanted, just for a little while, to see things from a different perspective. So much time above the little blue and green planet, watching over it, playing her part in the push pull of water and energy. Acting as a light in the darkness.

Sometimes she would look down and see herself reflected in the waters. The big ones as well as the small. But it wouldn’t be her whole self, her true self. And who was that, anyway?

Click here to continue the story.

Take a Peek at Ruby vs the Big Red Bug

If you follow me on social media you likely know that I recently completed the draft of a middle grade novel. YES, I FINISHED SOMETHING. I’m over the moon happy about it. And I really love the book.

I did not intend to write a middle grade novel or any novel other than the Egypt one I’ve been working on. This all happened because of The Picture Game. I was with Alethea Kontis and we decided to gear up for writing by doing a 10 minute picture game. I had the perfect image, one I’d recently come across on Facebook. I showed it to Alethea, I set the timer, and the stuff below just came pouring out of me. I thought I was maybe writing a short story, but after I read it to her, Alethea said: “You know that’s the first chapter of a middle grade novel, right?”

This is the curse of having writer friends. they’re always telling you that things are novels.

After much noodling over the idea I created a rough outline, then told the whole story to a roomful of people at WisCon. They all loved it and told me I had to write it.

So, I did.

I’ve been posting chapters of the first draft on Patreon — one per week. Chapter 10 just went live and there are 16 chapters total plus an epilogue. You can join my Patreon if you want to read all the chapters. One week after I post the epilogue I’m taking all the chapters down. So if you want a sneak peek of this book just know there’s a time limit.

To tempt you further, here’s the first part of the first chapter:

Read the beginning of Ruby vs the Big Red Bug

February Microfiction The Locket

February Microfiction: The Locket

“This makes no sense,” Tulla said. She’d said about five times up to that point, as if repeating the statement would manifest someone who would then make it make sense. But that wasn’t going to happen because it did not make sense.

The locket on the sidewalk was not a picture. It also wasn’t a mirror, yet it was a reflection. Just of someplace that didn’t exist. Click here to read the rest of the story

Dragon Bound

January Microfiction: Dragon Bound

“You’re not supposed to carry me like this! Are you listening? Kid! Brruughfft – this is so undignified.”

Tamar let the Dragon complain until his complaints ran out. He’d pay for it later when the Dragon got bigger. Didn’t take too long for that to happen, but maybe by then he would be a Dragon himself and nothing could hurt him.

“You think you’ll get to be one of us? Not likely.”

Click here to read the rest of the story

Sunspot Jungle cover

Celebrating the Equinox (an excerpt from The Copper Scarab)

The autumn is upon us, and it’s time to celebrate the harvest and wave goodbye to summer ~sniff~. I try to mark the quarter days (equinoxes and solstices) with something special. And there is stuff to celebrate! Those of you who backed the Sunspot Jungle Kickstarter should be getting your hardback copies of the book very soon! The paperback and eBook editions will be out on December 1 (and are already up for pre-order!).

I have a story in volume 1, a reprint of my Pyramids and Punk tale The Copper Scarab. When I was writing it I had this vision of how I wanted the last section of the story to go. I knew the sphinx at Giza would be involved, but needed some other element to make it all click. I went poking through all my research files and found an article I’d saved talking about the connection between the sphinx and the eastern horizon and the timing of the inundation of the Nile (which is a plot point in the story) and everything fell right together into this passage below.

This is from the last section of the story but does not include the end. It’s minorly spoilery, but I doubt the reading of it would be “ruined” for you if you read this.

Excerpt: The Copper Scarab

In the darkness before dawn on the equinox, Khemetans who came from across the delta and White Fortress region gathered around the base of the Great Lioness. Their voices quiet, reverent; their bodies newly wet with water from the still anemic Nile. They sat with eyes trained on the eastern horizon. Like the giant stone Lion of the Horizon, their faces would greet the dawn directly on the day marking the beginning of the harvest season. Most of them tried not to think about how poor that harvest would be this year, just as last year, and possibly all the years to come. Instead, they waited for the life-giving rays of the sun to warm their skin and remind them of the first eternal truth: Everything changes, but the dawn always comes.

Half a shade after the sun disk pushed fully over the horizon, the Lioness seemed, impossibly, to shudder. Sounds emerged from under the ground that ricocheted around the still quiet crowd–vibrations that didn’t make sense.

They had begun to murmur when the copper scarab emerged from the sand between the stone paws, hissing and clicking and gleaming in the sunlight. The people’s silence held for one breath, two, before everyone reacted at once. Amatashteret watched from a short distance as some scrambled away in fear, some fell to their knees in shock or in reverence, and some ran to get a closer look. The engineers surrounded the scarab, lifting the copper wings to the right position and ensuring the steam pressure stayed at the right level. Once they gave the ready signal, she and the other chariot riders rolled past the machine, heading into the desert and upriver toward the capital.


Pre-order Sunspot Jungle to read the whole story.

Goth Rose

Story Notes: August Patron Fiction

Sometimes inspiration comes from unexpected places.

Earlier this week I took an out of town friend up to the International Rose Test Garden here in Portland. In the Shakespeare Garden area we sat to chill and my friend, Shveta Thakrar, read to me from a book of faerie stories.

One of the stories she read was The Lothian Farmer’s Wife, a tale I hadn’t heard before.

The wife of a farmer in Lothian had been carried off by the fairies, and, during the year of probation, repeatedly appeared on Sunday, in the midst of her children, combing their hair. On one of these occasions she was accosted by her husband; when she related to him the unfortunate event which had separated them, instructed him by what means he might win her, and exhorted him to exert all his courage, since her temporal and eternal happiness depended on the success of his attempt. The farmer, who ardently loved his wife, set out on Hallowe’en, and, in the midst of a plot of furze, waited impatiently for the procession of the fairies. At the ringing of the fairy bridles, and the wild, unearthly sound which accompanied the cavalcade, his heart failed him, and he suffered the ghostly train to pass by without interruption. When the last had rode past, the whole troop vanished, with loud shouts of laughter and exultation; among which he plainly discovered the voice of his wife, lamenting that he had lost her for ever.

When she finished I said: “It’s a reverse gender Tam Lin except, when a man has to do the bold brave thing, he fails. This is why men ain’t shit.” And we had a hearty laugh.

Then I kept thinking about the story, and about Tam Lin, and about how I have never thought that dude was all that great despite really loving some arrangements of the ballad, such as my favorite one by S.J. Tuckeri:

The more I thought about how the people in this story might have known the people from the Tam Lin ballad and how Tam was probably not the best husband a Janet could ask for, the more I started to spin a backstory on why the wife got taken and then the first draft of this month’s microfiction poured right out of me.

It is, as some of you are aware, not all that micro! It’ll likely get a bit shorter once I polish it and send it out into the world for publication. Patreon patrons get to read it right now.

  1. P.S. You can buy the studio version of this track, which is excellent, on Sooj’s website []
background of books on a shelf in sepia tone with the words steampunk dollhouse on top

The Copper Scarab mentioned in the Steampunk Dollhouse podcast

Clockwork Cairo, the anthology where my first Pyramids and Punk story “The Copper Scarab” was published, hasn’t gotten many reviews. The few it has garnered are pretty positive on up to glowing, which makes me happy. Still, I was really glad when the person behind the Steampunk Dollhouse podcast (her nom de plume is Bluestocking and I am here for this) said they were going to devote an entire episode to the book.

You can listen to Episode 12 “Walk Like a Windup Egyptian” over on the Steampunk Dollhouse website or subscribe to the podcast. If you don’t want to hear a discussion about recent sexual harassment allegations in the steampunk community, you can skip to the 40 minute mark, which is where they start going through the book. Bluestocking devotes a few minutes to each story. If you haven’t read the book yet you’ll get a good sense of everything. Since my story is last she talks about it at the end. And hooo let me tell you all the blushing was going on once I got there.

Bluestocking loved the story and spoke highly of what I was trying to do with it. I haven’t been sure how steampunk fans were going to react to my milieu (I’m using many French words today), so it was a happy surprise to find that she enjoyed the story in part because it’s not “Anglo at all” as she put it. She also compared me favorably to Ken Liu and therefore is now my favorite person.

If you haven’t bought the anthology yet but do like steampunk, have a listen. It may inspire you to grab a copy.

Cover for the Sunspot Jungle next to text from the backer reward level

Get a mini Writing the Other class if you back the Sunspot Jungle anthology

Rosarium Publishing is celebrating 5 years of existence with a mega anthology called Sunspot Jungle. Two volumes, over 100 stories, and authors from all over the world. If you don’t know about Rosarium and what they publish, this anthology will be an excellent introduction to the kind of press they are. Later this year volume 1 will come out in eBook formati and volume 2 will follow in 2019. However, if you want a hardback version of the books you need to back the Kickstarter campaign going on right now.

The campaign only has a few days to go and is so close to its goal! I’m here to urge you to back it by talking up my contribution to the Kickstarter. Back it for $200 or more and you can choose an intimate Writing the Other class as your backer reward. There are only four spots in this tiny class available and, as of right now, two are already spoken for. Here’s why should you scoop up one of the other two:

Nisi and I charge $300 – $425 for the various versions of the full Writing the Other classes. Back Sunspot Jungle for $200 and you get the whole class. Plus, you and the other backers can choose your format — weekend intensive, 2 week intensive, somewhere in between… not the 6 week version, though — and the date/times the class will run. Big bonus: you only have to be in the class with a max of 3 other people.

If you’ve been wanting to take a Writing the Other class but have held back due to timing, due to price, due to being nervous about messing up in front of a bunch of strangers, this mini class is perfect for you and only available for a limited time.

Plus, you get two big books full of amazing fiction. Rading fiction by the authors in this table of contents is something Nisi and I recommend to our students, anyway. You’d already be on the path to greatness!

If this sounds good to you, go on over to the Sunspot Jungle Kickstarter, scroll down until you see WRITING THE OTHER course, hover your mouse over it, and click Select This Reward. Easy!

  1. I’m in this volume! []