February Dispatch

Candy Sugar Hearts for Valentine's DayHere we are, folks! February has come and gone, the shortest month following its trend of being the fastest, and I’m writing this to you from March, which has already come in like the lion it is and dragging the cold back with it.

February was a pretty packed month, and while many events happened that were a blast, I am a little disappointed in myself that I missed out on the gym so much. It was not a conscious decision, but then again, what I’m learning is the going to the gym HAS to be a conscious decision. It can’t just be something I do when I have time; it has to be something I MAKE time for. So I’ve started doing that; already have gone three times this week, and am implementing small changes to make sure I can get there a good amount of the days to come. I’m going to start throwing some weight lifting into the mix, so that will be fun.

But here are some fun things from this month:

  • My dear friend Lara Elena Donnelly had her debut novel come out, “Amberlough,” and we celebrated by launching it at the Astoria Bookstore, my local hub for all things literature. I’m so proud of her, and this novel is a thing of wonder, pain, and beauty. Go pick it up if you haven’t!
  • Saw Neil Gaiman for his new book, Norse Mythology, was a lot of fun. He was a huge influence on me in my youth, and seeing him was a lot of fun, and a reminder of how much his work helped me when I was a teenager.
  • Valentine’s Day was a strange day, for obvious reasons. But, I gave myself the night to watch a good show, drink a good beer, and try to be good with myself.
  • Played DnD with a bunch of old college friends, where we played chaotic neutral, and were more interested in running a bar than saving the world.
  • Went to Victoria Schwab’s book tour for her novel, A Conjuring of Light, which was a blast, and it was so wonderful to see her again. Also read that book because it will destroy you and your emotions.

News wise, the biggest thing to come out of February was that I made a new story sale to John Joseph Adams and the great team at Lightspeed Magazine! I sold my short story, “Godmeat,” and I’m so thrilled to be in such a great magazine with one of my favorite stories. Thanks again to my writing group and other friends who helped whip this story into shape. It’s about gods and monster and cooking one for the other, and much, much more. It makes my sixth sale overall, and the third story due out this year, which is all sorts of wobbly-wobbly excitement! More details as they come.

I’d write about what I read this month, but I think I literally am writing about/reviewing them in different venues over the next week or two. So keep an eye out on my social media, friends! That’s where I live essentially.

Any who! I’m happy to know you’re all out there, and I’m here with you, and maybe together, we can do some good work.

Here’s to a productive March, and more posts to come!

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January Dispatch

I’m trying to be better about writing here, so you can look forward to these dispatches, at least one a month. A little recap, a little book recommendation, a little teasing for the future, all rolled up tight, right here. Like a piece of sushi. But I’m the sushi?

Let’s move on.

I came into 2017 with a few goals, as detailed in my last post, but above all, this: to treat myself better, and in doing so, pick up behavior and patterns that make my life better as a whole. This meant: more gym, less sugar, more veggies, less beer, more self-reflective kindness, less self-inflicted deprecation. Some of these things are easier than the others.

But I joined the gym, and though some weeks are tougher to make it than others, I’ve been going as often as I can. There was a dip in willpower after the Inauguration of the The Beast, (which is what I’ll be referring to our current puppet-in-chief on this blog), but I’d like to think I wasn’t the only one that happened to. But I’m back at, I’m tracking what I eat, and I’m going to the gym consistently. I’m not too obsessed with weight numbers at the moment, more just trying to get the habit of the gym to stick, but I’m currently at 228 or so; not my best, but not my worst. Hoping to drop down towards the 220 end by February-early March. I’ll keep you updated!

It does feel good to be back at the gym, working out. So much of my day is being plugged in, being online, being aware of data and trends and the like, that there’s a euphoria to simply putting headphones in, hiding my phone, and just . . . running. Watching my breath, feeling my pulse throb in my neck, feeling my face heat and track the sweat falling down my eyebrow. It helps keep me in the moment, something else I’m still learning to do. So I’m going to keep at it.

Work has been going well; learning more and more each day in the weird and wild world of SEO, and Search. Definitely still enjoying the new gig, and it’s a pleasure getting to know my colleagues more, now that I have more a chance to work with them.

Writing continues apace! I’ve got some short stories making the rounds, so collective fingers crossed for them, please. Meanwhile, work on the new novel goes on; a few more chapters done, and getting a better pace and rhythm with it, which is always exciting. I wrote a piece for Tor.com about the amazing show, Critical Role, which you can read here. Also, my new review for Barnes and Noble SFF Blog has gone up, talking about the new collection from Serial Box, Bookburners!

Reading wise, this was a very fantastic month for books. I have a review or two for the ones below, so consider this a quick snippet of thoughts:

The Art of Starving by Sam J. Miller – YA debut novel by a good buddy of mine, about a young, gay teen in upstate NY who thinks that by starving himself, he gains access to supernatural powers, which he’ll use to discover the truth about his sister’s disappearance, even if it means confronting the school superstar, Tariq. I already wrote about this amazing novel a bit here, but I’ll just say again: this is a breathtaking debut, and Sam, already known for his stellar short fiction, is going to blow up in a big way with this novel. I loved the ever-living hell out of it.

Crossroads of Canopy by Thoraiya Dyer – Epic fantasy debut involving giant, magical rainforests, reborn gods, and a stubborn as hell protagonist. Review to come on BNSFF. Definitely enjoyable, though I had my nitpicks.

Bookburners by Max Gladstone et al.; review above. An awesome, campy, pulpy, fun and horror infused romp through the worlds of magic, mysticism, and myth, written by a group of very strong writers. A great Warehouse 13 or The Librarians feel to it, if that’s your jam. Definitely recommended.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders – His debut novel, Saunders does to novel narratives what he has done to short story narratives: turns them on their head, disassembles them, reassembles them into something totally new, while wringing out your heart from end to end. Not a novel to be missed.

Skullsworn by Brian Stavely – An epic fantasy stand alone returning to the world of his previous trilogy, Staveley doesn’t miss a damn beat, as we follow Pyrre, a potential priestess of the god of death, Ananshael, as she goes back to the city she was born in, to finish her pilgrimage and deliver seven people to her patron. Including someone she loves. One problem: Pyrre’s never been in love. When I told my Dad this premise he went, “Oh, so love on a deadline!” which is just fantastic. I really love Staveley’s work, and this is no different. Philosophical, gut-wrenching, lovely, funny, and violent, while further deepening the mythos of the world. I’ll never get tired of his work.

City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett – The final book in his Divine Cities trilogy, Bennett knocks it out of the park, as Sigurd Je Harkvaaldson dedicates himself to hunting down the people responsible for assassinating his best friend and former Prime Minister of Saypur, Shara Komayd. Everything is firing on all cylinders, and I was in tears by the end. This is a beautiful, hopeful, tragic, but joyful novel, and you definitely need it when it’s out in May.

snowAnd that’s January!

Keep fighting. Keep resisting. Keep being amazing.

I’ll be back on here soon.

I promise.

 

 

 

So You Need To Rewrite Your Novel

(Is the title a little dramatic? Maybe? Eh, I’m going to roll with it.)

So! You need to rewrite your novel. Bummer, right? All those hours of work only to be told that this draft just isn’t strong enough, isn’t good enough, some things are working but some things are not, why is there a tortoise in a tank you need to answer that if your readers are going to trust you, and so on.

From here, there are two options:

1: Tell your first and beta-readers to go screw themselves, and shove your work into the world, critics be damned.

2: Take a month off, think about your reader’s comments, and when you’re ready, get back to work.

Now getting back to work could mean a few different things, which is why I advocate taking time off from finishing a novel to working on it right away. For several reasons:

  • You’re far too emotionally attached to it to be critical: this is your baby, man! You’re sweat and blood child, crawling in the world, screaming to be loved as you love it, and those guys over there just said your baby sucks eggs! Which isn’t true.
  • The fixes you think you need to make today are not the fixes that will last tomorrow. As much as your beta-readers are smart and insightful, not everything they say is going to be right for your next draft; likewise, you’re not going to be thinking critically after people have critiqued your novel. You’re going to need time to back away, and then return to their thoughts, and your novel, fresh.
  • Time is the creative’s best tool. There are chance moments when insight strikes from the sky, but many times, a creative person’s ability to mull things over, and work away at it in their mind, until they can come to a synthesis of the best way forward is usually these sorts of edits and fixes will happen.

Take the time you need to absorb the critiques, but don’t take forever: you’re going to want to keep those fires going, and not let them burn down. It’s much harder to jump back into a cold project than a warm one. I myself took a few months off from my critique for Magnetic, but I spent that time asking myself questions about my writing groups thoughts, talking it over with friends, and finding out the best way to preserve the heart of the story, but change the form of it. Now, several months later, the re-outline has started.

Now, I know the title of this post is cheeky, but I want to make a point here: you don’t have to do any of the above. You don’t have to listen to your beta-readers (though you should). You don’t have to re-outline your novel, (but it’s not a bad idea). and you certainly don’t have to rewrite your novel (though it could possibly make it stronger). It’s your project, and it’s up to you how you want to move forward with it. This is what works for me, and I think it’s going to make it stronger in the end.

Do I want to rewrite it? Not particularly. But the art doesn’t ask us to do what’s comfortable. It asks us to do what’s right by it.

So I’m rewriting my novel, Magnetic, as soon as this re-outline is done. And I’m actually really excited about it.

I’ll go through the re-outlining process in a later post, but with the help of my beta-readers and writing group, I have a very cool, clear vision of what this novel could be. I’m changing the tense. I’m adding several new POVs. I’m fleshing out more of the world and side characters. I’m asking for a deeper, more emotional pull from this story, and I think I can get it there. Like I said, hoping to maintain the heart of the novel, but change a lot of the outer layers to get to where I need to go.

It’s going to take work. But I think it’s going to be worth it.

Let’s call this the first post in Novelhead Revisited, and I’ll post more on the outline process as we go. Cool?

Cool.

2016 Eligibility Post

For those wondering, this is my eligibility post for the work I had published in 2016. It is only one story, but it is one I’m very proud of, and am glad to see out in the world. For a guy who hadn’t sold a story in almost three years, having this be the one to usher me back into the world of publishing is a great honor.

A Glass Kiss for the Little Prince of Pain,” was published at Beneath Ceaseless Skies in October, 2016. It is a novelette at approximately 11,000 words, and is of the epic fantasy variety. Set in a world of memory magic, it follows Glass Kiss, a Thoughtblade of the Cold Empire, who has been tasked by an outside force to betray her leadership, break into the Imperial Pillar on a holiday night, and kill a certain memory within the mind of the Prince of Pain.

“A Glass Kiss for the Little Prince of Pain,” invites you to the Cold Empire to witness a story of betrayal, morality, and the things a person will do win their freedom. It is the opening gambit in a potential triptych of stories set in this world, in this time, and I look forward to introducing more of the Cold Empire in the future.

A big thank you to Kat Howard for helping me with her expert thoughts on the first draft, Shelley Streeby at UCSD San Diego who took time during Clarion to give me her advice, Haralambi Markov, Serena Ulibarri, Nino Cipri, Manish Melwani, and Tamara Vardomskaya for their critiques, and finally Scott Andrews for believing in this story and helping to edit it into the tale it is today.

SFWA Nebula nominations are open, and while this novelette hasn’t been nominated yet, if you feel inclined to do so, I certainly would not complain.

 

2016: A Year In Review

Man, what a fucking year, right?

Now, with that out of the way, here are some highlights.

The Good:

I sold my epic fantasy novelette, “A Glass Kiss for the Little Prince of Pain,” to the excellent magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies. This is a piece I’m incredibly proud of, and so thrilled to have out in the world. The opening gambit in a planned Cold Empire Triptych, BCS was the perfect place to introduce everyone to this world of memory magic, elemental golems, and giant, stone serpents. I’m currently working on a novel set in this world a century or so after the events of the above story, so the enthusiasm I’ve seen in the world has made me quite ecstatic at providing more of the world to readers.

My twin brother got married to an amazing woman, and the day could not have gone more perfectly. I didn’t stumble during my Best Man’s Speech, and even made some people weepy, which I take pride in.

I sold my magical realism short story, “Bear Language,” to Fireside Fiction, with special guest editor, Daniel Jose Older, who is one of my favorite authors and people in this industry of ours, as well as Fireside editor, Brian White, whose dedication to providing amazing, timely fiction is unparalleled. Another story I’m very proud of, “Bear Language,” should be out sometime this winter, and I look forward to introducing you all to Joanna, and her propensity for other languages.

I finished the second draft of my novel Magnetic, which was critiqued by my writing group, Altered Fluid. AF is a collection of incredibly talented writers, in whose company I feel honored, and still a bit nervous, if I’m being honest. But they propel me to great heights, and inspire me to become an even stronger writer, to try new things, to give my heart fully to a story, and encourage me when I’m down. It is a privilege to work with them, and an even greater one to give them my first finished novel, and ask them for their help. The critique, while stressful, has proven successful, and with their thoughts and help, I am now re-outlining the story for a third draft of the novel. It will be a different sort of beast, but of a similar caliber. I’m hoping for a finished draft by autumn.

I sold my short story “Salamander Six-Guns,” to the ever wonderful Elise Catherine Tobler at Shimmer Magazine, a market I’ve been hoping to break into for some time. The last story I finished writing at Clarion, I finally found the time to edit, revise, and re-tool this scaled tale, and am very happy it has found a home at Shimmer. A story of two men, magical guns, and dragons from another world, it is also about love, grief, and endurance in a world that wants to kill you.

I have been recently promoted at work to a position that is at once scary and new, as well as fascinating and fun. I won’t go too much into it, but it is an opportunity I am thrilled to have with the fine people at Underscore Marketing, and I look forward to pushing myself further.

The Bad:

::gestures to the world around him, especially the current state of United States politics::

What else need be said? In the words of Hamilton, “the world’s turned upside down,” and it is now a time to fight with more grit and determination and volume than ever before. The fight has always been fought, of course, but now we must all fight: I will do my part in 2017, and I hope you do, too.

Without getting too deep into it, this autumn I made a very difficult decision, and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I could disarm a bomb today, wrestle a shark tomorrow, and it would still prove the more difficult of the three. I am working through it, and something inside of me is resetting like a broken bone, but it is a fragile, tentative thing. We’ll continue on, as we must, and hope the healing continues for all.

Goals for 2017:

Survival.

But on a smaller scale:

Selling more stories. Writing more stories. Losing weight. Taking more time for mental health. Taking more risks, stressing about little stuff less. Saving money where I can. Finishing Magnetic’s third draft. Finishing Empire’s Arrow’s first draft. Possibly submitting to an agent? Time will tell, as it always does.

Let’s see what this year brings us, yes?

Yours,

Martin Cahill

 

 

Review: A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab

Do you enjoy alternate realities, epic fantasy, ships on the sea and ships of the heart, magic, more magic, holy shit magic, and characterization strong enough to bend a steel bar?

Welcome to A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab.

The second in a trilogy, Schwab once again brings readers to her world(s) of magic, mayhem, intrigue, and more, as Kell, the rather dour world traveler from Red London, and Lila Bard, the cunning and charming thief from Grey London he brought back with him, reap what they’ve sown from the first book, and hard.

Following the events of A Darker Shade of Magic, A Gathering of Shadows picks up several months later, as our intrepid and broken heroes do their best to adjust to their new lives: Kell, his life bound to his brother to keep him alive, and not trusted by the crown, skulks through Red London, burning with the need to escape and to live for himself. Rhy, the crown prince, drinks through the pain of a life hobbled by his connection to Kell, in a deeper fashion than either would want, and must come to terms with his new life, with perhaps an old flame coming back into his world. Lila sails the high seas, pursuing wealth in the only form that matters to her: power. She’s training in magic with her captain Alucard, even though a Grey London girl shouldn’t have any potential for magic. Meanwhile, across realities, worlds thought dying or dead find themselves suddenly coming back from the brink, but at what cost?

Victoria Schwab can write, man. Of this, there is no doubt. Zilch. Nada. Her work on Vicious proved that to me, and every book of hers I’ve read since has either ascertained this fact, OR, has in fact proven that she’s even better than I thought before. Every project is evidence of leveling-up, and AGoS is no exception. ADSoM was a very good book, and I enjoyed the hell out of it. As much as I loved it, ADSoM seemed to me a very Plot book: A to B to C, a lot of movement and a lot of set-up that was ultimately rewarding, but tended to slow the book down as a whole. There was a wealth of character, and I loved it very dearly, but the narrative focus seemed to be honed in on the plot.

Not so for AGoS; this book simply SINGS with characterization. While ADSoM introduced our characters and their flaws, AGoS really pushes down on them, and forces them to fight for what they want. It backs them into a corner, and offers no escape. It brings the readers right into their heads, and watches as they choose for themselves, or for those they love, or neither. In AGoS, our characters are able to further burst from their initial sketchings, and truly step into their own. Kell and Lila and Rhy always interested me in ADSoM, but watching them fight against the injustice of the worlds, craving escape, demanding happiness? Thats when things get really interesting. ADSoM did an amazing job of introducing these characters to me, and AGoS has helped me to know them on the deepest level possible, and it’s fan-freaking-tastic. Schwab knows exactly what she’s doing, and she moves her players across the board with a confidence and poise I honestly want to steal, (but I will not, for I know she only uses her powers for good).

Schwab’s worldbuilding is on full display in this book as well. While many would be happy to simply have four different worlds to showcase, Schwab doesn’t stop there. She dives deep and showcases individual conflicts and peoples inside those worlds, bringing an already vibrant world into brighter hues and tones, highlighting cultures, magic, and more that we didn’t even know were there. She really takes the opportunity to show the reader that these aren’t just alternate versions of London; it’s alternate versions of our whole damn world.

And dear god, the action! The central plot of this book involves the Element Games, a series of competitions with players from all over the world and country of Arnes, where Red London is, and once this particular ball gets rolling, Schwab doesn’t take her foot off the pedal. Ever. Like, she has a lead foot when it comes to hardcore action, y’all. Every face to face battle sequence is  thrumming with adrenaline and fancy footwork, as magic, characterization, and plot all roll together into scene after scene of heart-pounding fights that had me grinning from ear to ear.

I mean, look, what else is there to say aside from: kissing, magic, knives, fire, duplicity, tension of the sexual kind and the secular kind, shadows, bargains, ghosts, and a cliffhanger so goddamn muthatrucking audacious, it had me shouting at the book while on public transit. I’m not kidding. Ask the NJT.

If you enjoy deep characterization, alternate realities, people kissing each other on their faces, deals in the dark, turmoil, friendship, humor, and tragedy, then this book is for you. If you haven’t read A Darker Shade of Magic, well, get to stepping. If you have, then order A Gathering of Shadows now!

It’s most absolutely worth your time.

BONUS!

I was sent an extra copy of the book by the publisher, and would happily see it go to a good home. If you’d like to WIN a copy of A GATHERING OF SHADOWS, simply comment on this review to enter. I will draw a week from Tuesday, March 1st!

(US and Canada only).

 

Hopeful Ink: Writing in 2016

2015 was a big year for my writing, and I’m hoping to keep the trend going for 2016. Last year, I joined the amazing NYC writing group Altered Fluid, finished my first novel, wrote/started dozens of short stories, and continued to learn from and make friends in the world of publishing. With all that in my back pocket, I hope to make 2016 an even more stellar year by producing more work, stronger work, and pursuing it as far as I can. Below are some of the big projects that I hope to achieve this year, and if no one else reads this, at least I can look at it as a measure of motivation in the flagging days of writing.

Magnetic – This is the novel I wrote last year and is currently in its third draft. I’m revising it, and will be sending it out to my beta readers and writing group hopefully by the end of February. A story of mad science, grief, stand-up comedy, relationships, love, doubt, and faith in the family you’ve chosen, I’m hoping to start sending this to agents by the summer, so fingers crossed!

Empire’s Arrow – The first in an epic fantasy duology, EA is the story of a middle-aged women working for the postal service, feeling as though she’s wasted her life, having to work with her ex-husband  in order to stop a national conflict from igniting. Throw in some memory magic, stone swords, mad empresses, elemental golems, and a suppressed history between two broken people, and you get Empire’s Arrow. Outlining on this is going well, and I’m hoping to start a first draft by the time Magnetic is ready to be sent out to beta readers.

Seven Bullets – This is the codename for a story that I want to tell that is really important to me. It’s something I’ve been noodling for a while, and while I’ve been incredibly nervous to start it, I’ve spoken with enough writer-y friends and publishing friends that have shown me this story can have merit, and is worth pursuing. I’m very scared that I’ll get it all wrong, but it’s absolutely worth it to write it and see what vision emerges. What’s it about? Without getting too deep, it’s about how pain can be random, about  systemic violence against women and minorities, how to move on from trauma, if it’s even possible, and what that looks like. If it looks like I’m being vague, it’s because I am. But time will tell the shape of it all. Hoping to get to this this year.

Otherwise, I’m making two more promises for this year, ready?

1: Sell at least two short stories.

2: Review every book I read on this blog.

One of those is easier than the other.

Fingers crossed both can be achieved, yeah?

Stay tuned, viewers. This is going to be a big year, I think, and I’ll be here to catalog it the whole thing.