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!

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.

 

 

 

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).

 

2015: A Report from the Field

There are cobwebs covering the monitor, yet still, a cursor the color of fresh limes blinks against the stark night of the computer screen. He walks into the room, the air itself wrapping him in a musty, eager embrace.

“My god,” he said. “You’re still here . . . you’re really still here . . .”

The blog chirrups, a baby bird trilling to see its parent flying back home. The green cursor blinks rapidly, as though staving off tears. He walks to the dusty chair; sitting in it feels like coming home. His hands hover over the keyboard like a conductor appraising the orchestra moments before the song starts.

“I’ll never leave you again, blog,” he says, his own whisper sounding far too loud in the holy space.

After a moment, he starts to type.

#

Hi friends.

::scratches back of head::

So, that weather . . . crazy, right?

Okay, you got me, you got me! I’m sorry, okay? I know it’s been . . . ::checks watch:: . . . a while since I’ve posted here, and believe me, I wish I had a good excuse. Aliens. War. Extradimensional game of chess. Any of those you would understand, I bet. But really? I just got caught up in the usuals of life: work, family, friends, writing, and love.

Well, some of those things are new. I shall explain what I’ve been up to since 2015 came roaring into our lives. The last time we’d left our intrepid hero, he had just gotten hired at a small publishing company to work publicity. He had ended his time behind the bar and the bookstore. He was working on a novel (again). And he was dating.

Eleven months later, we find him . . .

-In a stable relationship with one of the best people he’s had the privilege (and sheer luck) to become so close to, and share his heart with.

-Part of a prestigious writing group, with the first draft of a finished novel, and a number of short stories written this year.

-Brimming with publicity knowledge from his previous job at that small publisher, and now ready for an adventure working in marketing, which starts on Monday.

-Happy, healthy, confident, and ready to see where life takes him.

It really has been an amazing year, even with its ups and downs. I got to work in an industry I love, and despite the stress that came with it, I made some amazing friends. I got to work on my writing, and join a group that supports me and lifts me up. I got to celebrate landmarks and milestones with friends and family. And most importantly, I learned how to share my heart with an amazing woman who supports me on the good days, lifts me up on the bad days, and makes me laugh and smile when skies are grey. I’m truly a lucky guy to have her in my life, and the lessons of love has been taught well to me this year. I’ve learned so much from her, and she makes me the best version of me I can be. We started dating only a few days into 2015, so if there is any running theme this year, it’s been her.

2015: The Year of Love.

I can take that.

I’ll elaborate in a future post. I’ll also be doing more reviews, more writing stuff, more life stuff, but know that I’m back, and I won’t let 2015 pass unremarked upon again.

With love,

Marty

2014: A Retrospective on the Whirlwind

Another year in, another year out. The more I think about it, the more I’ve come to realize: this has been an absolutely insane year. I hit a lot of personal milestones, achievements, events, bucket list items and more. Below, in rough chronological order, are those chips of brightness that make up the mosaic of 2014.

January, I went over with my older brother, and visited Ukraine, my first time overseas in a foreign country, on a long-ass flight, experiencing a culture and peoples different than my own. It was mind-blowing in the best way, and through the haze of vodka-laced memories, I can still see the cities, the plates of Christmas dinner, the statues and shops and winter fairs, feel the squish of wet socks in damp boots on a train rocketing through the night, sharing a cabin with three other people in a space for two. It was an amazing way to kick off my year, and was so glad for the experience, (especially because it helped me get out of the polar vortex).

February through late March, I worked six weeks straight, and got more sick than I’ve ever been; at one point my doctor though it may be some form of y’know, meningitis. So that was awful. But it taught me as much as I want to stay busy and work, I have to learn to take some time for myself.

All the while, I had a chance to work with the incredible men and women of the JABberwocky Literary Agency, where I picked their brains about agenting, contracts, writing, and more. To Joshua, Eddie, Sam, Brady, Lisa, Christa, Krystyna, and Eeyore, I say, thank you so much for letting me become a part of your team for a while, and for teaching me all you knew. Through them, I got to know the Drinklings crew, and my circle of friends in the SFF publishing community grew by leaps and bounds. And it was about to grow even more . . .

Early in March, I received my acceptance letter to the Clarion Writers’ Workshop, one of the preeminent science fiction and fantasy short fiction writing workshops in the world. I was lighter than air. I literally turned to hydrogen for a moment, and then came back together, screaming my head off, jumping up and down in the JABberwocky offices, freaking out. When Jeff Vandermeer messaged me to say congratulations, my body deflated and I turned into a puddle of excitement on the floor. I’d been applying for five years and I had finally gotten in.

But that was still months away! So I continued bartending, bookselling, and working at JABberwocky. Around that time, thanks to the lovely and intelligent and kickass Rebecca Schinsky, I started writing for Book Riot, an amazing book related blog and news website, full of passionate, bookish badasses.

In April, a story of mine was published for the first time. And then a second in May. In both cases, there was a huge outpouring of love and support from the industry, and it warmed the entirety of my soul to know that kind of support for a new writer on the scene. Big thanks again to John Joseph Adams and Brian White, the two editors who took a chance on me; thanks again for putting my stuff out there.

May came in like a goofy, leaping hound, or maybe that was just me? In any case, had another amazing experience at the Book Expo of America, especially with my new Book Riot crew.

And then it was time for Clarion.

I’m not going to rehash what I’ve blogged about before, but it was one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life. I made friends for life, (many of whom I’d been reading for years), learned an insane amount about myself, my writing, and the industry in general, and experienced a new world of beauty in San Diego. Clarion, we salute thee. ::stand up, salutes, pants fall to ankles by accident::

Coming back from Clarion was a fist of cold water to the face, and for many weeks, it seemed as if I’d never recover my equilibrium. But then I attended the Writing Excuses Retreat, and for a week, out in the cooling autumn embrace of Chattanooga, Tennessee, I started to come back to center, learned how to process everything I’d learned at Clarion, and enjoyed time writing and talking writing with a great group of folks, who were all struggling to write, same as me, same as all writers. Thanks again to Mary Robinette Kowal (who helped clean my brain out of neuroses), Doc Brown and his lovely wife for putting us up in their ancestral, beautiful home, Dan Wells for the lovely gaming nights, Howard Taylor for making Rock City gnomes hysterical instead of terrifying, and Brandon Sanderson for typing quietly so I could sleep.

Refreshed from the experience, I jumped from that right into my first professional fantasy convention, World Fantasy Con down in Washington DC. An amazing experience, I’ve never been surrounded by so many heroes at once, and I was almost too stunned to go into hero worship mode. It was one long weekend of summer camp friends all seeing each other again and catching up. Thanks to everyone who made me feel welcome, bought me a drink, and to Sara Glassman for letting me buy her ticket, Gama Martinez for giving me a floor to sleep on, Scott Andrews for the beer, and Mom and Dad Vandermeer for the love. And Max Gladstone for talking drunk Marvel movies at 4 in the morning.

And that brings us to now.

I started a new job on Monday, as an assistant publicist with Skyhorse Publishing. I’m more than halfway through a new novel and hope to have that done soon. I’m going to begin looking for an agent soon after. I have a bunch of short stories I’m shopping around. I’m looking to move out of my parents house soon. I’m dating again. And I’m happy.

It’s been great 2014. Here’s hoping 2015 is full of magic, wonder, stories, good beer and great friends, not just for me, but for all of you as well.

See you on the other side!