Archive Introduction

A brief note on how I’ve set up my reviews archive:

The tags represent where a review ran the first time around, whether online, or in print. This includes defunct magazines such as Absolute Magnitude, Science Fiction Chronicle, and Realms of Fantasy.  All reviews that appeared in those magazines can now be found here, with the exception of a very few that were lost along the way. Reviews originally posted at The Green Man Review (and its sister site, The Sleeping Hedgehog), SF Site, and Tor.com remain on those sites indefinitely.  They are uploaded here at irregular intervals after their original publication, and are reprinted for my archives with all due credit and permission.

The categories, obviously, represent where a particular item falls into the grand scheme of things. This is pretty obvious, but a few things bear a little further explanation. Historical means that the book is set in the past of a world either meant to be ours, or pretty darned close. I’ve applied the Fairy Tales/Folklore/Mythology label to anything which I feel takes inspiration or influence from those themes, and as such, this is both a specific and nebulous category, applied at my whim and discretion. The Zombies, Shapeshifters, Vampires and Superheroes are in place simply because it amuses me to do so. Lastly, I’ve also marked some books as being of greater than usual interest because of LGBTQ themes – featuring a gay or lesbian character, for instance, or dealing with gender issues, or addressing matters of alternate sexuality. In all cases, this is a work in progress, to be fine-tuned and adjusted until I’m satisfied…whenever that might be. More categories may appear, some may vanish. I welcome feedback, suggestions, and comments, especially if you feel a certain book deserves (or doesn’t!) a specific, existing, category that I’ve overlooked.

Enjoy.

Update the Third: Introducing Gremlin

And now on a personal note… I’d like to introduce the newest and by far youngest member of the Feline Supervisory Committee.

Gremlin came to us at a mere five days old, along with his mother and sibling, for an 8-week foster period. However, as we spent many, many hours raising Tammy and the Squeakers, as we dubbed them, we realized that Gremlin was definitely a stand-out, and worthy of consideration for permanent residential status. So when the time came to give the fosters back… we adopted him.

As he hits twelve weeks old, he has become fearless, majestic, and utterly adorable. He is truly the best of kittens, and we look forward to watching him develop, and seeing where he fits in with the Feline Supervisory Committee…

Pictured: Gremlin with his sisters, Roxie and Blaze.  Gremlin in various sexy poses for your appreciation.

 

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Update the Second: New Stories Now Available

Now that we’ve gotten the editorial stuff out of the way, I’d like to talk for a moment about myself as a writer. It so happens that I’ve had several absolutely fantastic stories come out in magazines and anthologies since my last update, and I’m woefully behind on shamelessly begging you to check them out.

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First up, we have “The High Cost of Answers,” appearing in Utter Fabrication: Historical Accounts of Unusual Buildings and Structures, produced by Mad Scientist Journal. In this sequel to “The Strange Case of Rebecca Rice,” private detective Nat MacDonald is once again on the case. This time, she’s looking for a number of people who’ve gone missing in Puxhill’s mysterious Gaslight District. With some help from her ghostly girlfriend Rebecca, and some costly advice from the capricious Jay Willoughby, Nat has to venture deep into the heart of Puxhill to confront an ancient evil…

 

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Next, we have “An Afternoon in the Park with the Coyote Brothers,” which appears in Dark Luminous Wings, by Pole to Pole Publishing. In this YA-aimed story, 17-year-old Suzume’s afternoon is disrupted when the unpredictable Coyote Brothers wander into her after-school place of employment. But when they sense something weird about her, their efforts to bring out her hidden supernatural side turn both comic and philosophical… I happen to love this story: it’s one of the first pieces I wrote in class at Hollins, and the Coyote Brothers are personal favorites of mine, just because they provide so much room for mischief and mayhem.

 

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After that, there’s my short piece, “Saint Urban and the Peril of the Predatory Pontiff” – Crimson Streets Magazine, currently available for free online. It’s one of the strangest, most literal interpretations of “urban fantasy” you’ll see all week. As the world waits for a new Pope to be announced, a supernatural battle between good and evil rages under the Vatican, between its secret defender and its great shame. I wrote this as a response to a double dog dare, and I’m still amazed I got away with it. And that my Catholic in-laws, bless their hearts, are still talking to me…

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But wait! There’s more! There’s also “The Mermaid’s Knife” in Distressing Damsels out of Fantasia Divinity Magazine. Also written for one of my Hollins classes, this YA piece is an unofficial sequel to the Little Mermaid fairy tale. What happens if the nameless mermaid in question falls out of myth and becomes a real girl in modern-day Puxhill? And what if the sea witch’s knife, thought lost forever, turns up one day… and demands that she use it to fulfill its purpose. It wants blood, and she can’t resist forever. I owe the existence of this story to the fabulous Delia Sherman and the rest of my Genre Fantasy class for making it awesome and weird.

 

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Finally, if you’re in the mood for one of my erotic stories, there’s “The Hateful Chime” in Like a Spell: Earth, from Circlet Press. This was my reaction to dealing with grad school, by writing about the stresses and challenges of dealing with -magical- grad school. Come see what it’s like in the secret Arcane Arts department at Puxhill’s Tuesday University, and find out how one young woman specializing in dance and movement magic helps an alchemist overcome certain scholastic hangups…

 

Whew! That’s about it. Please, go pick these anthologies up, or check my stories out. Every purchase, and especially every review, is greatly appreciated. More so if you mention me specifically. :)

 

Update the First: Schoolbooks & Sorcery

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Hello, everyone! I just wanted to let you all know where we stand with the Schoolbooks & Sorcery anthology.

Following our wonderfully successful Kickstarter campaign, we enjoyed a several month open submission period, so we could add several more stories to the already-established Table of Contents. And let me just say, I’ve gotten some amazing stuff, and I have some very hard decisions ahead of me. After weeding out a great many inappropriate submissions, I’m still left with some 50 or so, all competing for a mere handful of spots. So in the next few weeks, I’ll be reading through what’s left as I attempt to winnow them down even further to the final contenders.

For those who are curious, I will, of course, be looking to find stories which balance and complement what I already have, which hit certain aspects of diversity and representation, which grab me and make me think or laugh or feel. I may or may not have to enlist the aid of trusted advisers and secondary readers to help me make informed judgments. So I’ll be doing this as quickly as possible while still giving every story its due consideration. After all, they wouldn’t still be in the running if they didn’t have potential…

Meanwhile, I’ll be in touch with other folks as needed to ensure the production of our backer rewards, and I’ll be working on the manuscript itself. I don’t have a specific timeline for that, but I’ll do my very best to keep things moving right along.  Believe me, I want to see this done and published as much as anyone else!

Thanks for your patience, everyone, and I appreciate you all for being part of this.

Schoolbooks & Sorcery is Officially Funded!

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Yeah, yeah, I know, who really enjoys speeches at graduation? The students just want to get their diplomas and be done, the family just want to see their kid walk the stage, the teachers are mostly just there out of obligation, so who’s there for the long-winded speeches?

And yet… this calls for something. Because thanks to all of you wonderful people, we’ve officially funded. Heck, we blew past my initial goals and into uncharted territory. I’ll admit, there were some slow, terrifying days when I really was afraid I’d have to leave the country, change my name, and become a lumberjack. But nope, we rallied, you flocked to support us, and now Schoolbooks & Sorcery is going to happen.

So now what?

First, I officially open up submissions once more, in the hopes of adding several more stories to the Table of Contents, to join our established authors in this magnificent venture. Those will run for two months, with a deadline of August 31st. More on that in a moment.

In the meantime, I have personal things to take care of which will consume my time and energy for July. But I’ll be working on the stories I already have in hand to arrange them in the most pleasing of manners, tinkering with the manuscript, obtaining publicity materials, conspiring with our publisher–you know, a thousand and one tiny little logistical items that go on behind the scenes.

We’ll also be sending out the backer surveys, so we can make sure everyone is accounted for, especially those of you who contacted me about extra copies or the watercolor buttons, and so forth.

I’ll warn you up front, friends: the estimated delivery time of December 2017 is a touch optimistic. When I set those dates, I didn’t expect to be able to open submissions up again. And I have every intention of submitting this anthology to places like Publishers Weekly for review, and they require a certain lead time between when they get it and the publication date. So if this rolls into 2018 by a month or two, please be patient and know it’s because we’re making this even better than originally advertised, and you, our backers, are still our chief concern. You’re the ones who brought us to this point, and I don’t want anyone to go home unsatisfied. Seriously, you all deserve a round of applause.

So now, the guidelines. You can find the updated guidelines here: But in short:

I want YA urban fantasy with a “schoolbooks & sorcery” theme. 2000-6000 words. Gay, trans, non-binary, genderqueer, genderfluid, asexual, or any other aspect of the LGBTQ spectrum not specifically mentioned. Submission address is facadeantho@gmail.com. Deadline is August 31st, 2017.

I look forward to seeing what people send me.

And now… yours truly needs sleep.

 

Schoolbooks & Sorcery – Updated Call for Submissions

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EDIT AS OF 8/7/2017

Because I’ve been getting numerous submissions which don’t suit my needs, I find myself in the position of placing certain things at the very top, in the hopes people will read them.

1) The word limit of 2000-6000 is strict. I will not consider anything which goes over. Seriously. I have a budget to think of. 

2) No multiple submissions without asking me first. One per author per attempt.

3) No reprints. I’m sorry, I want original stories only. If you really have something which you think is perfect, ask me first.

4) It must be YA. That’s generally an age range of 12-18, but when in doubt, think “high school.” Grades 9-12. That general period. 

5) It must be urban fantasy. No science fiction, no epic fantasy, no horror, no fanfic… stories which mix the “here and now” with fantastic elements. -Very- near future is okay, as is relatively recent past, but certainly nothing beyond the start of the 20th Century.

6) Your story MUST contain visible LGBTQ characters, and within that, specifically, transgender, non-binary, genderqueer, genderfluid, asexual, aromantic, gay, or facets of the spectrum not specifically mentioned. I’m very sorry, but I have enough stories with predominantly lesbian protagonists or relationships. If I don’t see visible evidence, I’ll be forced to assume that everyone is straight/hetero/cis, and that’s not the point of this particular call for submissions. I have several stories already in hand which cover that end of things. 

7) See #6. I’m going to get increasingly cranky if people keep breaking this one. I’m not saying your character needs to burst into the scene going “IIIIII’MMMMMM TRAAAAAANS” and doing a song and dance routine, but if I don’t see some sign of what I’m looking for… well, y’know. I’m a reasonable editor, but I know what I want, and no amount of not giving me what I want is going to make me magically accept something which doesn’t fit the criteria. 

8) This space reserved for the next way in which someone manages to break, ignore, overlook, or bend a rule.

 

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS

SCHOOLBOOKS & SORCERY: A QUEER-INCLUSIVE YA URBAN FANTASY ANTHOLOGY

Take high school. It’s weird, confusing, complicated, and frustrating. It’s a time of growth and change, when teens start discovering what they’re made of and who they want to be. Now throw in magic. What happens? That’s the premise of this new YA anthology. Schoolbooks & Sorcery is what happens when you take all the normal ups and downs of high school, inject a healthy dose of magic, shake, stir, and serve.

Editor Michael M. Jones (Scheherazade’s Façade) is looking for YA urban fantasy stories which incorporate the themes of sorcery, magic, and enchantment. The magic can come from within, as an intrinsic ability or a family trait, or from without, in the form of talismans, training, or teaching. Protagonists can be wizards, witches, sorcerers, magicians, shamans, apprentices, or practitioners of more esoteric traditions. Whether they pick it up on their own (accidentally or on purpose), learn from a master, or go to school for institutionalized training, they’ll be involved with magic to some degree. Or, of course, the protagonist could be without magic, and stumble into a world beyond their immediate knowledge. If authors wish to set something in a magical school of their own devising, or in a previously-established setting, that’s perfectly fine. But it doesn’t necessarily need to be set at a school, magical or otherwise, so long as the main characters are of the right age set.

Just about every culture has some sort of tradition involving people who dabble in the supernatural to one end or another, and there’s a vast amount of potential left to be tapped in this genre, especially with teenage protagonists. Whether they’re wizards-in-training, voodoo princesses, the last descendant of an infamous historical figure, the newest apprentice in the family business, or just someone in the wrong place at the right time, the stories are endless.

Schoolbooks & Sorcery is also designed to be a queer-friendly YA anthology, embracing the full spectrum of sexuality and gender identification, while offering a wide selection of satisfying, entertaining, fascinating, powerful stories in which the mundane and the magical overlap and interact. Stories are encouraged to take place in the overlapping area between urban fantasy, high school, and LGBTQ issues and themes. Stories should send the message that it’s not just okay to be gay, it’s okay to be gay and to have the same crazy, wicked, scary, seductive, exciting, magical, strange, funny, romantic, dark adventures as everyone else. We’re looking for stories which are all-inclusive, with the characters writers have been dying to write and readers clearly want to see, diverse and interesting, with an underlying current of tolerance and acceptance. Obviously, we’re looking for a wide range of themes, tones, and voices.

IN ADDITION TO THE BELOW, I AM SPECIFICALLY LOOKING FOR THE FOLLOWING:

1) Stories with gay, trans, non-binary, genderqueer, genderfluid, and/or asexual characters… or other facets of the LGBTQ+ spectrum not specifically mentioned. Because I am trying to achieve a certain balance of representation, I am not looking for lesbian stories at this time

2) I also heavily encourage characters of color, neurodiverse characters, disabled characters, characters from outside the United States, and stories which reflect under-represented voices or experiences. The same goes for the authors! 

TECHNICAL DETAILS:

All stories should be between 2000-6000 words.

All stories must involve magic, and those who practice magic. This covers wizards, witches, sorcerers, magicians, shamans, and other traditions not specifically mentioned. This covers self-taught characters, those whose power is intrinsic or passed down through a family, those who find objects of power or books of spells, those who study with a teacher, those who go to school for magic, and so on. Other paranormal elements, such as vampires, werewolves, ghosts, or fairies, are welcome, as long as they don’t overshadow the primary theme.

Paranormal romance elements are also welcome, but this is not specifically intended as a romance anthology. Romance is good, but not necessary.

All stories must be considered YA.

Stories should be set in modern times/on Earth, but authors are encouraged to use a variety of settings, cultures, and influences to flesh out their characters and world building. Again, one of the primary goals here is to explore diversity.

While LGBTQ elements are not required, they are highly encouraged, as are protagonists who defy traditional roles and labels. (As in “girls doing boy things” and “boys doing girl things”.) More importantly: no story will be turned away for containing LGBTQ characters or elements, unless it violates the other guidelines.

Stories will not be censored for language, drinking, drugs or sexual situations; however, such things must be in moderation, appropriate to the circumstances, and tastefully handled. In movie rating terms, stories would thus fall into the PG-13 range. (To be handled as necessary. We’re not afraid of some bad words now and again…)

All stories will maintain a positive atmosphere concerning sexuality, gender, race, religion, and so on. While individual characters (most likely antagonists) may express biased, prejudiced, or phobic sentiments, or characters may deal with negative situations, the ultimate goal is to promote tolerance, acceptance, and positivity.

PLEASE NOTE: I have already seen a number of stories which address bullying. While I’m still open to considering stories incorporating this theme, I’d like to see some more variety to help round things out.

DEADLINE: August 31, 2017

SUBMISSION ADDRESS: All submissions may be sent to Facadeantho@gmail.com. Please address any questions or queries to that address as well.Submissions should be sent as an attachment, as .rtf or .doc.

PAYMENT: Payment will be 6 cents a word, plus electronic and print contributor copies.

FORMATS: Schoolbooks & Sorcery will be released simultaneously as a trade paperback and an ebook, by Ultra Violet Press, an imprint of Circlet Press.

ABOUT THE EDITOR

Michael M. Jones was the YA reviewer for Science Fiction Chronicle and Realms of Fantasy. These days, he reviews YA for Publishers Weekly and Tor.com. He is also the editor of Scheherazade’s Façade: Fantastical Tales of Gender Bending, Cross-Dressing, and Transformation (Gressive Press, 2012). His fiction has appeared in anthologies from DAW, Baen, Raven Electrick Ink, Norilana, Circlet, and Cleis Press. He can be found online at www.michaelmjones.com

Schoolbooks & Sorcery – 36 Hours Left

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As I write this, we have just under 36 hours to go in the Kickstarter for Schoolbooks & Sorcery, and I am excited beyond measure. Not only have we hit our funding goal and first stretch goal, but we’ve reached several other milestones in the past few days. Folks, we get to add an all-new Magic University story by Cecilia Tan. And what excites me even more is that we’re going to be able to open up submissions for a few more stories to help enhance our table of contents. Watch this space for details, coming very soon…

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Don’t forget, we still have the option to add a set of gorgeous watercolor buttons, either as a specific pledge, or as an add-on. (i.e. if you want them, add $20 to your existing pledge and message me to make sure I know what it’s for.)

Additionally, if you decide you want multiple copies for whatever reason, message me and we can work something out.

Because I’m so happy, I’m going to share another excerpt, this one from “The Chosen One,” by Katrina Nicholson. Despite the rather straight-forward title, this story is anything but obvious… and I think it’s pretty darn cool.

—–

“Sulfur Hexafluoride is six times heavier than air and has been known to suffocate people who play with it by displacing the air in their lungs,” René’s teacher warned. “As a mage, one of the ways you could save them would be to change the molecular weight of the gas and make it lighter than air. This is the principle upon which mage-built airships work.”

René stared at the tank of sulfur hexafluoride. He imagined himself strutting down the hall as classes let out for the day. Tall. Handsome. Rugged whiskers. Skin like dark chocolate. He’d toss back his corkscrew curls, cock a finger, and say ‘hey baby’ in the voice of James Earl Jones. The girls would swoon. Probably half the boys, too. René wasn’t picky. He drew the line at teachers, though.

There was nothing he could do about his big ears, buzz cut, baby face, or the fact that he had a fair amount of milk in his chocolate, but the voice? That’s what sulfur hexafluoride was for.

Monsieur Jean-Baptiste turned away from writing the chemical composition on the white board. He was trendy and dark, with a shaved head and a close-cropped goatee. He was young, but his sharp eyes zeroed in on René like he could mind read dumb ideas. René folded his hands on the lab bench and pretended to pay attention.

Monsieur Jean-Baptiste turned back to the board and began to rearrange the elements on the periodic table as he explained the unintentional havoc a mage could unleash if he failed to pay attention in chemistry class. René scanned the classroom. The other students all had their mage-built remembersheets out, dutifully taking notes with their fingernails.

René grabbed the tank of gas. He wasn’t a mage yet – he still had two more years before his eighteenth birthday – and his chemistry teacher would never be, but he wasn’t worried. Magic chose people from magical families. Nobody really agreed on how. Catholics said it was angels. Muslims thought it was the will of Allah acting through prophets. Scientists argued over whether mages’ different DNA made them mutants or aliens. However it happened, the rule was one mage parent, one kid chosen by magic. That’s why the ordinaires, or regular Haitians, called mages l’élu – the chosen ones. Because a lot of mageborn got passed over and ended up teaching pre-mage classes or doing boring regular jobs.

René was sure that wouldn’t happen to him. Both his parents were mages and he only had one brother. The magic had to choose him. And if he put his life in danger now, it would Break early and save him. His classmate Nicola had skipped straight from second year prépas to Port-au-Prince’s Grande École de Magie after her house fell on her in the big earthquake.

One puff of sulfur hexafluoride and it’d be just like his dad described. Suddenly he would feel like anything was possible – because it was. He stuck the nozzle in his mouth and cranked the valve open.

—–

A heck of a place to leave off, right? You know where to find the rest…

 

Schoolbooks & Sorcery – The Home Stretch

Well folks, we’re closing in on the final days of the Schoolbooks & Sorcery Kickstarter, and I’m rather excited. Why? Because thanks to hundreds of backers, and the generous support of everyone who’s spread the word, boosted the signal, or showed interest, we’ve funded. We hit our base goal, and are steaming towards our first stretch goal. Woohoo!

With only a few days left, there’s still plenty of time for procrastinators and latecomers to get on board, though. We’ve added an amazing new reward level, where you can get a set of fantastic handmade buttons, and I think they’re spectacular. I’ve just informed the artist that I need several bags for publicity reasons…

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Check them out! Aren’t they gorgeous?

My other big news is that, as far as I’m concerned, we’ve got ourselves a brand new Magic University story by Cecilia Tan, one which no fan of hers is going to want to miss. I’ve told her to start writing, so we don’t disappoint anyone. After that, if we hit our next goal at $7000, I can open up submissions for a limited period to seek out more awesomely, unapologetically, unabashedly, proudly queer stories. I won’t lie, I really want these stories. I need to read them…

In closing, I’d like to leave you with an excerpt from Eric Esser’s spooky “Fishing for the Dead.” I think it speaks for itself.

——-

You have to get three things right to catch a ghost: the lure, the pole, and the spell. Tonight Carlo was trying for a dog. Most kids use a tennis ball or dried pig’s ear for the lure, but Carlo tied a stuffed squirrel with a fluffy tail to the end of his line. They’d been his dog Loki’s favorite. Every night for almost a year after Loki’d died, Carlo had sat beneath the stars on nights of the waxing moon, waving his pole over the corner of the backyard where they’d buried Loki beneath the acacias. He’d spend hours hypnotizing himself by swaying his line though the moonlight before he felt it brush Loki’s soul.

Four years later he was the best ghost fisher at Monte Vista High, and had dibs on the prime spot on the lowest level of the fire escape in the alley behind the SPCA. He shared it with his best friend Lyssa, their spider silk lines glistening side by side in the moonlight. Most kids preferred the strength of tarantula, but he favored the greater sensitivity of black widow; he could sense a guinea pig three months gone with that.

“Sorry about your boyfriend’s dad,” Carlo said to Lyssa so low no one else could hear. A half dozen other kids sat above or below in other fire escapes or on dumpsters. No one was down on the ground; elevating the line helps when you’re fishing, especially if the remains haven’t been buried but burned to ash and smoke like that which rose from the wide steel pipe at the back of this building. The spirits of dead dogs and cats and rabbits and most any animal you could think of suffused the air of this alley, at one time or another.

“Walter’s not my boyfriend. We just hang out sometimes,” Lyssa said.

“I think the phrase is ‘hook up.'”

“Asshole.” Lyssa swung her pig bone lure into Carlo’s shin. Lyssa had an edge to her with her powder blue hair and half a dozen piercings that Carlo found irresistible, but she went for the burly types, like Walter Resnik: varsity outside linebacker and only a Junior. Carlo was fit but slender and pale and his cheeks were almost as smooth as hers.

“So how’s he doing? Walter?”

“Hasn’t really talked about it. Tough guy.” She paused. “Fucking moron.”

Carlo nodded because he agreed. “I hear they can’t afford a fisher,” he said, trying to sound casual.

“Yeah, no insurance.”

“I wouldn’t mind giving it a shot.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Catch a human soul? With that little pole of yours?”

She glanced toward his crotch. Carlo tried to look uncomfortable but it pleased him. He had crafted his fishing pole from the bough of a dying ash tree, then inlaid the handle with bone he fished out of dinner scraps, mostly cow he had sawn into slivers and polished down. He’d fitted it with a Shimano high speed spinning reel engraved with an invocation to Ereshkigal in cuneiform; he’d worked all last summer bagging groceries to afford it.

—–

What does Carlo fish up? I think you know how to find out… Read it in Schoolbooks & Sorcery!

Schoolbooks & Sorcery – Update and Excerpt!

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As sent out to the backers of the Schoolbooks & Sorcery Kickstarter (which, if you haven’t heard of, where have you been?)

Dear Friends and Backers –

As I type this, we’re less than $200 away from our goal, and 6 days away from the end of the campaign period. That has us sitting at an amazing 96%–so close, yet not quite there. I have full faith in our ability to make it, which is why I’m posting this update to let you all in on some of our plans.

1) I’ve added a new reward level at $45, for those who wish to get the ebook and trade paperback bundle, but also a little something else specifically created for this project. This set of 5 watercolor buttons, handcrafted by an amazing artist I personally lured in with cookies, celebrates both our theme and our LGBTQ-inclusive, pride-centric, mission statement. I could only get her to commit to a few sets to begin, which is why it’s a limited edition. And because of add-on logistics, I thought it best to stick to the one level. Should anyone who’s selected a different pledge level wish a set, please feel free to adjust your current pledge by $20, and message me so we can figure something out. A few sample images below, to give you an idea of what to expect:

 

2) Stretch goals! I’ve added some of our stretch goals to the page, but in short, if we hit $6500, we’ll add a new Magic University story by Circlet Press founder and author extraordinaire, Cecilia Tan. Suitable for a YA audience, it stars fan-favorite character Frost… or so I’m told.

If we hit $7000, we’ll be able to add 2 more stories, to further our representation and diversity. I, for one, want to include several more stories giving voice to non-binary, trans, and asexual protagonists. I’ll open up submissions for a limited time to seek out those voices, and look forward to seeing what I get.

After that… the sky’s the limit. Interior art, or pay bonuses to the contributors, or catnip for my cats… (just kidding!)

3) I’d like to give a quick shout-out to our friends over at the 2018 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide, who are also running a lovely-looking Kickstarter for the latest volume in their fantastic anthology series. Check them out after you’re done here!

And now… an excerpt from the wonderfully entertaining “The Grimoire Girls,” by E.C. Myers. What happens when an evil-fighting teenager transfers to a new school? Is it business as usual, or will Lexi finally run into something she can’t defeat?

———

“Oh my God!” Mom says.

“What?” I pull my nail file from my kneesock and look for danger.

“I just realized my Paul Anka CD was in your car.”

“So there’s the silver lining.” I slide the nail file back into my sock. “Mom, I have to get to class.”

She closes her car door. “You’ll tell me if you have any cute teachers?”

“No. Remember what happened with Mr. Logan?”

“I knew he was an incubus,” she says. “No English teacher is that hot and charming.”

“Uh huh. Then why did I have to save you?”

“I had him exactly where he wanted me.”

“And I can never unsee that. Good-bye.”

I open my door and hop out. I sling my bag over my shoulder and walk down the cobbled path to the entrance, concentrating on not tripping while everyone is watching. The truck roars to life and gravel crunches behind me as mom drives away.

I feel naked without my Winchester rifle–and did I mention this skirt?–but they frown on students carrying that sort of thing around, even if you’re trying to kill an urban wendigo that’s masquerading as the high school’s QB1 and eating cheerleaders.

In fact, the only weapons I can sneak into schools these days are the crucifix around my neck, which is only any good because it’s made of iron; a wicked sharp nail file boiled in the blood of a dead man; a mini-crossbow, some assembly required, that fires really pointy pencils; a pencil sharpener; a water bottle filled with holy water (the good stuff, not just lake water); a steel garrote rolled into the waistband of my skirt; a lunch bag filled with salt; a bracelet with an unspecified protection spell on it, which I worry is only going to protect my wrist from harm; and the Grahame family Grimoire–which is worth more than everything else combined.

I don’t carry the actual thing around of course. The tome is like, 800 pounds, and moldy and falling apart. But I had scanned it in as an eBook.

And then, of course, there’s me. As long as I can speak the spells I need and I keep my eReader charged, I’m the best weapon of all. I always keep the eReader charged; Mom still won’t let me forget the time it died during an incantation. Instead of being banished, the demon imploded, and my skin was green for a week. Fortunately, it was Halloween. So things worked out.

Curious about what Lexi encounters at the mysterious Doheny Preparatory Academy? Find out in Schoolbooks & Sorcery

Regarding “The Miller’s Daughter”

51ml3J3tXOL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_We take a short break from our obsessive pushing of the Schoolbooks & Sorcery Kickstarter to talk about something a little… okay, a lot different.

“The Miller’s Daughter” appears in the new anthology, Witches, Princesses, and Woman at Arms, edited by Sacchi Green (Cleis, 2017). In this delightful collection of erotic lesbian fairy tales, I, and other wonderful authors such as the ever-amazing Annabeth Leong, Emily L. Byrne, Salome Wilde, A.D.R. Forte, and Sacchi herself, take a good look at what makes fairy tales tick, and then reinvent them in sexy, sensual, satisfying ways.

My story is inspired by Rumpelstiltskin, but with a dark, witchy twist. In this tale, the Rumpelstiltskin figure is a mysterious witch, an older female possessing potent magics and a knack for spinning straw into previous metals. Katherina, the miller’s daughter, is strong and resourceful, determined to find a way out of a terrible situation. Together, they pass every task set before them by the greedy king, and make some magic of their own.

What can I say? I wanted to tell this story from the viewpoint of the so-called villain, to find a way to make her sympathetic and vulnerable without sacrificing her mystique and power. I wanted Katherina to have her own sense of agency as she actively participates in getting what she truly desires and needs. And I wanted this to be sexy and at least a little surprising. Best of all, I enjoyed bringing these characters to life.

Perhaps the best compliment I’ve gotten thus far for “The Millers Daughter” comes from an Amazon review, which states, “The biggest surprise was a Rumpelstiltskin type story between two women. It was written by a man and even though I wanted to hate it for just that reason I could not…go figure!”

Hey, I’ll take that in the best way possible. It’s not the first time someone’s said I write acceptably satisfying F/F situations… for a male author. :) If you like this, or are intrigued, don’t forget I have a whole collection of f/f erotic urban fantasy out there.

For your pleasure, then, a safe-for-work excerpt…

——-

I came to her in her cell, just after nightfall.

I don’t know what exactly I’d expected of Katharina, the miller’s daughter. Perhaps a meek and terrified victim, reduced to tears by the sheer injustice of her circumstances. Perhaps a rage-weary firebrand, voice hoarse from shouting at her captors, nails bloody from scrabbling at the lock. Instead, I found a cool, calm, collected young woman, who prowled the confines of her quarters like an animal in a cage, examining it for weaknesses.

I think I fell in love with her a little in that moment.

Katharina was not beautiful, but she was lovely in her own way. Her hair was long and fine, a silken blonde that tumbled down her back like a waterfall. Her eyes were a brilliant blue, sharp and intelligent. And her skin, with one exception, was smooth and lightly tanned from time spent outdoors. Were it not for the purple birthmark which stained her right cheek, she might even have been considered a great beauty, able to attract any number of suitors.

Alas, she had reached marriageable age and then some, with no man able to overlook this flaw, despite her father’s increasingly outrageous offers of dowry. “It is but a fairy mark,” he claimed to all who would listen. “She was touched by the fairies at birth, and imbued with a great gift, which will belong to any who wed her.”  Had there been any fairies remaining in our land to dispute this, they might have put a rest to the claim before it caused problems. But there were not, and they didn’t, and so it did.

The king had heard tales of Katharina, the miller’s daughter, who could spin straw into copper, silver, and gold. And the king, a greedy man who never stopped to wonder why the miller was not already wealthy beyond belief, took her for his own, but with an ultimatum: Katharina would spin for him. If she passed his tests, he would marry her and her father would be richly rewarded. If she failed, there would be two new heads adorning the spikes atop Traitors’ Gate.

The king had no patience for failure.

I had no patience for the king, and so I came to Katharina as night fell, appearing in the shadows of her cell with but a whisper of cloak to herald my arrival.

I call it a cell, but it was a spacious tower chamber, bare but for a few necessities… such as a spinning wheel and an imposing pile of straw. There was a lovely view of Traitors’ Gate through the thin barred window, to remind Katharina of her fate should she prove inadequate.  I was pleased to see that it had not affected her.

She whirled when she sensed my presence, taking a step back to eye me warily. I can only imagine what she made of a hooded, cloaked figure, standing where none had been the moment before. Remaining still so as not to spook her, I pushed my hood back and let me look at me.

Slowly, she took in my own feminine features and long dark curls, my red lips and dark eyes, my non-threatening stance, and she relaxed. Just a little. “Who are you?” she demanded. “Why are you here? If that bastard king sent you, tell him I can’t work with an audience! The straw will turn to dust and he’ll never have his riches and treasures.”

My lips curled in a smile. Ash and oak, but I already admired her spirit. She had a fire that would be utterly wasted on the king. And yet, I had come to make sure she lived and ultimately married him. “Calm yourself, Katharina,” I told her gently. “I know the truth of your supposed gift, and the fate which awaits you come the morning.”

“Then why are you here?” she asked again, folding her arms sternly. “And just who are you?”

“I cannot tell you my name. But I’m here to help you. I will spin the straw into copper, enough for you to buy another day of life from the king.”

As she assessed my offer, her eyes narrowed suspiciously. “And what will it cost me?”

——

What is the cost of a magical favor? Buy the book and find out.

Ooooorrrrrr…. comment and you might win a copy for yourself. Details below:

THE GIVEAWAY and LINKS for the Witches, Princesses, and Women at Arms Blog Tour

Anyone who comments on any of these blog posts will be entered in a drawing for a paperback copy (in North America) or an ebook (elsewhere) of Witches, Princesses, and Women at Arms. Each blog you comment on gives you one more entry.

Here’s the lineup of blog posts—the links may be adjusted as we go along, so check back here every now and then.

June 14th: Sacchi Green-“Trollwise” (plus the Introduction)

www.sacchi-green.blogspot.com

June 15th: Cara Patterson-“Steel”

www.sacchi-green.blogspot.com

June 16th: Michael M. Jones-“The Miller’s Daughter”

michaelmjones.com

June 19th: H.N. Janzen-“The Prize of the Willow”

www.sacchi-green.blogspot.com

June 20th: Annabeth Leong-“The Mark and the Caul”

annabetherotica.com 

June 21st: Brey Willows-“Penthouse 31”

breywillows.com

June 22nd: Salome Wilde-“The Princess’s Princess”

sacchi-green.blogspot.com

June 23nd: Emily L. Byrne-“Toads, Diamonds and the Occasional Pearl”

writeremilylbyrne.blogspot.com

June 26th: A.D.R. Forte-“Warrior’s Choice”

www.sacchi-green.blogspot.com

June 27th: M. Birds-“Woodwitch”

mbirds.tumblr.com

June 28th: Madeleine Shade-“Robber Girl”

https://www.facebook.com/carina.bissett.5

June 29th: Lea Daley-“The Sorceress of  Solisterre”

sacchi-green.blogspot.com

June 30th: Allison Wonderland-“SWF Seeks FGM”

aisforallison.blogspot. com

 

Thanks for dropping by!

Schoolbooks & Sorcery Kickstarter – Week 2

schoolbooks cover comp 600 px

Well folks, here we are on day 14 of our Kickstarter for the Schoolbooks & Sorcery anthology. Two weeks down, 16 days to go, and your poor host and editor of this project is losing hair he really can’t afford to lose as he watches the numbers and tries to keep that hype train rolling. We’re staring at 48% funded, which is a perfectly reasonable but not entirely -comfortable- place to be at this point in the campaign, and boy, I’d love it if we crossed that magical threshold today.

So what can I offer to excite you? Well, first this promise:

To increase representation and diversity, I am actively looking to obtain more stories for this collection. Specifically, stories with trans, non-binary, genderfluid, genderqueer, and/or asexual protagonists. I really, -really- want to find room in the anthology for more voices. I know how to make it work. But we still need your interest and support to help turn it into a reality.

Second, this explanation:

When I call Schoolbooks & Sorcery queer-inclusive, or LGBTQ-inclusive, I mean it. Out of 12 stories, at least -10- have openly gay, lesbian, trans, or bisexual characters. Yes, there are cishet protagonists as well, because this is an anthology aimed at including and accepting everyone to the best of my ability. Is it a perfect blend? No, but we can always try to be better.

Lastly, an excerpt from Seanan McGuire’s “Finals” to really grab your attention. It’s a gorgeous story, told as only Seanan can, about the many, many schools of magic, and what it means to embrace that magic with all your heart.

——–

Four girls running down a city street, dressed in the meticulously pressed uniforms of a private school: black skirts, orange ties, white shirts.  Polished black shoes and tights in whatever color they choose, for the administration recognizes that some individuality is essential to a healthy student body.  One wears striped black and orange, like something from a Halloween store.  One wears bright pink, knees already ripped up from encounters with the pavement.  Another wears staid gray, cool as concrete.  The fourth wears no tights at all: she runs bare-legged and swifter than the others, reining herself in when she pulls too far ahead, her heels beating a staccato rhythm on the sidewalk, like she’s wearing tap shoes.

She is not wearing tap shoes.

See them run, beautiful children of a beautiful age—for all ages, and all children, are beautiful if one looks closely enough, overlooks the things which do not seem beautiful on the surface, or better yet, learns to see those things as the most beautiful of all.  See them run, each with her own gait, her own approach to the concrete, from our girl of the bare legs and phantom tap shoes to her sister in patient gray, who runs smoothly but with no hurry at all, at all, for her destination will wait until she gets there.  See them run, and know them for the miracle they are.  Now hurry, hurry.  Class is about to start.

They run until they come to a rusty gate in a crumbling wall, sandwiched between a convenience store that boasts fifteen big jackpot lottery winners in the last six years and an apartment building that has been thoroughly, utterly condemned, masked over with plywood boards and orange caution tape.  Someone with canny eyes might see those girls slip through the gate, disappearing from the street, only for flickers of motion to show through the boarded-up windows, in the places where the light slips through.

Always the light slips through.

To see what happens, you know where to go and what to do.

In the days to come, I’ll share more excerpts and blurbs.