Since I just tossed this up on a message board I belong to, I figured it might be time to put it in blog-form, too.
I had several short stories out last year, but the ones I liked best were a novelette and a short story. The novelette is a fantasy set in a fictional analog of Renaissance Italy, concerning the broken romance between two painters, one a genius and the other her protege, and how their relationship is overwhelmed by art and magic. It can be read on Tor.com, “Portrait of Lisane da Patagnia”
It was summer when I first came to Lisane’s house. The sun shone brightly, casting rose and gold across squared stone rooftops, glimmering through circular leaded windows, emboldening the trumpet-shaped blooms that peaked out of alleys and window boxes. Women sat at upper-story windows, watching events in the streets, their heads and shoulders forming intriguing triangles. Shadows fell everywhere, rounding curves, crisscrossing cobbles, shading secretive recesses.
That wasn’t how I saw it as I walked to Lisane’s house that morning, holding the hand of the journeywoman who’d met my boat. It was Lisane who would teach me how to dissect the world into shapes and shadows. That day, I was still ignorant, overawed by the chaos and clamor of beautiful, crowded Patagnia.
The other was a short story that appeared in Nick Mamatas’s THE FUTURE IS JAPANESE. My work aside, I thought this was the strongest anthology of the year with some really lovely work by Ken Liu, Project Itoh, Issui Ogawa, and Cathrynne Valente, among others. The anthology is absolutely worth it for those four stories, not to mention other strong pieces.
The short story of mine that appeared in it is called “The Sea of Trees” and it’s a ghost story about the suicide forest, Aokigahara.
The forest grew eight-hundred-and-fifty years ago after an eruption of Mount Fuji. Green things sunk their roots after the lava cooled.
The woods are very quiet. Little lives here except for ghosts and people on their way to joining them. Wind scarcely blows. Mists hang. Overhead, branches and leaves tangle into a roof underneath which the world is timeless and directionless.
Everything is trapped.
Everything is waiting.
A pair of tennis shoes, sitting alone.
Pants, voluminous over leg bones.
A suicide note nailed to a tree: “Nothing good ever happened in my life. Don’t look for me.”
The yurei, watching.
I’ve been a bit obsessed with ghosts lately, or rather I suppose with death, and its melancholy and incomprehensibility and savageness. With ghosts, there’s always a twist of memory, too, and of either reconciling or of becoming stuck, both things I’ve done, at different times. “The Sea of Trees” is still under exclusivity so I can’t publish it online, but if you would like to read it for award consideration, ping me and I’ll be happy to provide a copy. (ETA: It’s also available to SFWA members on the discussion forums.)
I had two other pieces published as well that weren’t quite as close to my heart. I’ve heard from a lot of people who really enjoyed “Decomposition” which can be read in Apex Magazine, and as always, I feel lucky to have received such kind reception. “Decomposition” is the story of a villain who obsesses over the decaying corpses of his kills.
Once outside the city gates, Vare had planned to deposit the girls in some lonely place where wild animals would devour them before they could receive a decent burial. But in the morning, as he bowed beneath their bodies, he found himself unwilling to part with them.
Each ounce of their weight upon his back gave him a thrill of rich, red pleasure, the kind he’d never thought he’d feel again. Ayl’s bony elbows jutted into his shoulder blades. The uneven pressure of Delira’s curves created a jigsaw of pain across his back.
Their deaths had been his life’s obsession; their corpses were his prize.
I also published a story in WHEN THE VILLAIN COMES HOME (eds Gabrielle Harbowy and Ed Greenwood), a small anthology that follows on the heels of an earlier success, WHEN THE HERO COMES HOME. They’ve got a third anthology planned for this year, too. My story, “Broken Clouds,” is about a girl who turns to dark magic to save her sister.
She’d been browsing a perfectly ordinary shelf, filled with rumpled paperbacks, but suddenly, everything was different. Tall, narrow mahogany bookcases formed an endless, twisting maze, their shelves populated by dust and spiders and books far too old to belong in a local library branch. She scanned for a way out, but saw nothing except corridors of books.
She jumped as a crooked man stepped around a corner. He was lean and dark like an evening shadow. He wore an old-fashioned suit with tails, elegantly cut but shabby. Tattered lapels sported desiccated flowers that had withered where they were pinned. Long, pointed fingers poked out of holes in his pockets.
I am, of course, also happy to provide copies of this story to those who are interested.