the red pen chronicles

The #SixteensBlogAbout topic for the month of April is “revision” and friends, let me tell you, I have a few things to say about revision. The things I have to say can be summarized like this:

  1. I love revision.
  2. There is no difference between revising and writing.

I know there are writers out there who don’t have a revision process prior to editorial input. They put words on the page, they proofread those words for mistakes, they send them off to magazines or agents or editors. I know these writers exist because they talk about their writing processes and that is what they describe and it works very well for them and how nice that must  be.

Well, no, it doesn’t sound nice. It sounds awful, because I love revision and I don’t ever want to skip it. But it’s probably nice for them, in the same way being a football fan or drinking Bud Light or having a career as a wedding planner must be nice for somebody, or any other life choice that is perfectly reasonable for other people but wholly incomprehensible to me.

In any case, it’s pointless to talk about people who don’t revise while talking about revision, so never mind them. “No revision” is not a writing goal. A writer’s job is not to write a story that comes out exactly right on the first try. Nobody cares how many drafts preceded the final version. A writer’s job is to write the best story they can possibly write. How that happens, whether it’s one draft or ten thousand drafts, is something every writer has to figure out for themselves.

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anthologies and collections

I am delighted to announce that my short story “Water in Springtime” will be included in The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2015 (edited by Paula Guran), to be published by Prime Books in July. The full table of contents is here. It’s an honor to be included with so many fantastic writers and stories!

And my short story “No Portraits on the Sky” is in the Clarkesworld: Year Seven collection, now available in both print and ebook formats. The full table of contents and buy links can be found here.

once upon a time

The #SixteensBlogAbout topic for the month of February is how and why we started writing, but I can’t answer that question. I don’t remember how or why I started writing. I was only a kid and it probably wasn’t a terribly momentous occasion.

I do, however, remember the first story I wrote. It was about alligators with pink eyes who lived in caves in the hills. At twilight their eyes would glow. The narrative was only a few sentences long and somewhat lacking in plot or character development, but I remember the setting being very important: those dark hills, those shadowy caves.

I like to think I’ve improved as a writer a bit in the intervening decades, although I will admit that I still secretly believe that properly communicating the ominous feel of dark hills and shadowy caves is often more important than pesky little things like plot. I wrote that story about the pink-eyed alligators when I was about seven. I don’t remember why. Why does a seven-year-old do anything? My father read to me and my sisters all the time, and he wrote his own stories, mostly dark fairy tale retellings in which nothing ever ended well for anybody, especially not frogs, so the possibility of putting words to page was always there.

I don’t think it’s that important, what I was thinking when I was seven. What is important is that once I started writing down my glowing pink-eyed alligators, I never stopped.


I still have nearly all of the stories I wrote as a child and teenager. They are amazingly bad. I love them for how bad they are. Mostly they consist of strange scary things happening right before people die horribly, which is exactly the kind of story I’m still writing nearly thirty years later, so I guess it’s true that you ought to start as you wish to go on.

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on reading

The Sixteens Blog About topic for the month of January is reading resolutions for 2015. Now, I think we can all agree that reading resolutions are the best kind of New Year’s resolutions. It’s so easy to resolve to do something you want to do anyway. A few years ago, my reading resolution was to read more books. Last year, it was to specifically read more books by female authors. As far as New Year’s resolutions go, these are kind of on par with “eat more chocolate” and “pet more kittens” in the level of personal hardship they require, but I am not ashamed, nor shall I hesitate to make the exact same kind of resolutions this year.

For this year:

1. Sometimes maybe instead of always buying new books, I will read the ones I’ve already got on my bookshelves. Now that my books are out of storage and delightfully alphabetized all over the apartment, it’s time to start working through the multi-year backlog of “books I am totally going to read someday.”

2. And that means the nonfiction too! Read more non-fiction in general. I like learning things. I like books that help me learn things. I always enjoy nonfiction when I read it. I have a metric fuckton of unread nonfiction books on my shelves. I should read it.

Corollary to 2. Expand my nonfiction reading horizons a little bit. There are in fact nonfiction books out there on topics besides the history of science and people dying horribly of plagues and/or during polar exploration, but you would never know it from looking at my bookshelves.

3. Reread Patrick O’Brian’s entire Aubrey-Maturin series. It’s time, and now I actually have all the books in my possession. When I purchased the last one I was missing (The Nutmeg of Consolation which, let’s be real: greatest title or greatest title ever?) the man at the used bookstore and I agreed that not understanding any of the nautical chatter is part of the experience. You just let it wash over you, like the ocean. Like the Southern Ocean in the Roaring Forties while you’re being chased by a 74-gun Dutch ship-of-the-line and about to hit an iceberg. Like that.

4. Make all of my fellow Sweet Sixteeners send me their books so I can read them before the rest of the world gets to read them and taunt people who haven’t read them and feel very smug.

5. Slow down and pay more attention. Just… slow down. Pay more attention. The books aren’t going anywhere. I’ve done the thing where I read like all the world’s literature is going to burst into flames if I don’t pack it into my eyeballs as fast as possible. Now I can try the thing where I slow down and savor and contemplate.

These are my reading resolutions for 2015. It’s going to be a good year for books. I know it.

but you’ll probably go mad reading it

I have a new short story out in the Lovecraft-themed totally-not-fake-occult-books anthology The Starry Wisdom Library (ed. Nate Pedersen), now available from PS Publishing. It’s a beautiful little hardcover book filled with weird and wonderful contributions from a ton of great writers:

Scholars and book collectors across the country have long pondered the intended fate of the infamous collection of rare occult books left to rot in the Church of Starry Wisdom in Providence, Rhode Island, after the Starry Wisdom cult dispersed to parts unknown in the late 19th century.

The recent, shocking discovery of a previously unknown book auction catalogue issued in 1877 offers insight into the myriad mysteries of the cult. Entitled “Catalogue of the Occult Library of the Recently Disbanded Church of Starry Wisdom of Providence, Rhode Island,” and issued by the notorious Arkham firm Pent & Serenade, the catalogue reveals the long-suspected fact that the Church intended to sell its library to finance its removal from Providence.

The sale, of course, never materialized—as later events make obvious—but the book auction catalogue informs us of the cult’s original intent and leaves for us an enormously valuable and fascinating piece of ephemera detailing the infamous collection of rare occult books in all of its dark and foreboding glory.