AWW2015: Insert Title Here, edited by Tehani Wessley

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On the [date redacted] of the [year redacted], [names redacted] of the [organisation redacted] discovered a hidden text that documented realities other than our own.

Dark, weird realities.

Within these pages they discovered monuments to a dying alien race, sentient islands caught like fish, a tree that grows pencils, a baby transformed into a hummingbird, and a steampunk Maori whaling crew.

They were afraid, as you should be afraid. They saw life, death and the space between; metamorphosis, terrible choices and bitter regrets.

[Names redacted] looked into the abyss, and what they saw within was nameless and terrible.

This is that book.

Enter if you dare.


 

This review is presented as part of my commitment to the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015.  I purchased this copy.


Insert Title Here is an unthemed anthology from Australian small press Fablecroft Publishing, said by editor Tehani Wessley to be their darkest offering yet.  Of note is the fact that the call for submissions for this anthology actually resulted in Fablecroft publishing two separate anthologies: Insert Title Here and Phantazein.

It is always a different experience reading an unthemed anthology.  I find it harder to read more than one story in a row, since there are no connecting threads between stories, and as such, it took me longer than usual to finish this book.  This is absolutely no comment on the quality of the book, of course, which is, as to be expected from Fablecroft, extremely high.

I’m not going to discuss every story in this anthology, but I will point out some of my favourites.  I’ll note that I loved the darkness of this anthology (you can take the girl out of horror, but you can’t take the horror out of the girl), and all of the stories were worthwhile reading.

The book opens with a story from Jo Anderton, 2B.  And holy hell, what an opening this is.  I was drawn in immediately by the vivid imagery of this world: a place where things grow in strange ways, tyres growing from trees, pencils which can be planted to grow trees which fruit more pencils.  If you’ve never read any of Anderton’s work, this could be a good place to start, as this story highlights her grasp of imagery and strangeness, while still being able to wring deep emotion out of only a handful of words.  Dreamlike and haunting, this is one of my favourites in the anthology.

D.K. Mok’s Almost Days is another story which tends towards the dreamlike, this time taking the reader into a place called the Wings.  This is definitely a story where you want to go in without being spoiled, but suffice to say that this is an incredible story.  Read it, then read it again.  Then go and devour everything Mok had written.  You’ll thank me.

Her Face Like Lightning by David McDonald takes us deeper into human darkness: of ritual magic and sorcery and grasping for power.  I feel very much like this story only begins to skim the surface of a fascinating world, and I hope that McDonald will come back to it at some point in the future (I’d happily read a novel set in this world, hint, hint, David ;)).

Sara Larner’s Living in the Light begins with one of the best first lines I think I have ever read: “My child turned into a hummingbird.”.  How could you not read on after that?  There is something almost feverish about this story, but in the sheer strangeness of it, there is also heartbreaking emotion.  Highly recommended.

Reflections by Tamlyn Dreaver takes us to the terraformed (and failing) moon, where Hana lives with her mothers.  This is a gorgeous story, short but filled with sadness, but a sorrow tinged with hope.  I’ve found myself thinking of this story often since finishing it, which is always a sign of a good short story.

My last favourite, and the concluding story in the anthology, is Stephanie Burgis’ The Art of Deception.  I need to make note here that Burgis is a friend, and someone who I have beta read for, but this does not influence the fact that I would have loved this story, no matter who had written it.  Pure epic fantasy, which is extremely hard to make work well in the short form, with a fascinating world and characters, I kind of really hope that Burgis will expand upon this world more at some stage in the future.

Overall, this is an extremely strong collection.  The stories are varied, and I suspect that most readers will find at least one or two which speaks to them.  Highly recommended.

 

Writing every day for a year, a summary

For the last year, I have written every day.

For most of that time, I was tracking wordcount on the Magic Spreadsheet.  For the last few months, I’ve stopped using the Magic Spreadsheet, but have been tracking my word counts on my own Google spreadsheet.

For the last two days, I did not write.

It felt very strange not to be getting in word count for those two days, but it also felt kind of awesome.  I was feeling very, very burned out, and just generally exhausted.  It’s the end of school holidays, and I’ve been sick on and off for months, and the cold weather has not been fun to the arthritis and fibromyalgia.

And so, on Saturday and Sunday, I did not write.  And I’m thinking that I might go back to only writing on weekdays.  Treating writing as a “real” job again.

This year has actually been a really useful experiment for me.  I’ve proved that I can write every day if I need to (though probably not indefinitely).  In this time, I’ve managed a draft and a half of a novel, two short stories that have been sold, and a novella that I’ve sent out.  Those two short stories were actually really hard to write and took a long time (as short works tend to for me, I’m slowly accepting the fact that I’m a slow writer in terms of getting stuff to the finished stage).

But should I keep doing it just because I can?  I don’t think so.  At some point, I may come back to it, and I will probably end up writing some weekends, but for now, I need some time off.

June in review

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Books acquired in June

Um, I actually thought this would be a light month for books (oops).  I did manage to pick up a few bargains, and two of them (Hear Me Roar) are contributor’s copies, so it’s not that bad.  And Afterparty was bought to counteract the “let’s all boycott” Tor day.

Needless to say, I haven’t made that much of a dent in Mount To-Be-Read this month.

Writing

  • I am in serious novel writing mode, and have just cruised past the 40k mark of this draft of Never.  My wonderful critique partner has looked over the first 35k or so, and I’m feeling good about this draft.  I feel in general like I’ve levelled up with novel writing, but I guess we’ll see once I start shopping it around (after some more editing, of course).
  • The table of contents of Bloodlines was announced, including my story The Flowers That Bloom Where Blood Touches Earth.

Reading and Reviewing

  • Hugo reading (pauses to shudder).  I made it through the novel category without getting too disheartened – there are three good best novel candidates (The Goblin Emperor just squeaks in above The Three-Body Problem and Ancillary Sword for me, but only just, and I may change my mind before the end of voting).  As for the short fiction categories, let’s just say that I have exercised my right to vote No Award a lot.  And yes, I read (or attempted to read) everything.  Thankfully, the graphic novels were also mostly awesome.  I’m trying to psych myself up to read the packet entries for the other categories.
  • One review written for the Australian Women Writers Challenge: Cranky Ladies of History (spoiler: I loved it).
  • One Netgalley review: Elizabeth Hand’s Wylding Hall (spoiler again: I also loved this).

Miscellaneous

  • Healthwise, this has been a month of wins and losses.  Win: the new medication I’m on is working with minimal side effects (which never happens) and I’m starting to have more energy.  Loss: both my husband and myself have had the head cold from hell, resulting in a lot of sinus headaches.  Unfun.
  • The cat has not tried to escape from the house again.  She seems very happy to be back home, and doesn’t even linger at doors much now.  I think she learned a big lesson.
  • School holidays start at the end of this week.  I’m looking forward to not having to rush around in the mornings for a few weeks, even if it will probably mean reduced word counts.