The Cats Story Bundle

Exciting news! My short story, “A Witch for the Chrome Furies” has been published in Cat Ladies of the Apocalypse! Right now, the anthology is only available as part of The Cats! Bundle, but it will eventually come to exist as an individual ebook and in hard copy.

What can you expect from Cat Ladies of the Apocalypse?

Cat Ladies of the Apocalypse riffs off of the trope of a lone hero wandering through a post-apocalyptic wasteland with his loyal hound. Here, we see women taking control of their destinies and making choices to build a better future out of chaos. These stories are as much about relationships – between women and their cats, but also between and within communities – as they are about grim determination. When we were writing these stories, none of us knew how very timely the anthology would become, but we need stories of hope and survival and community right now.

Who wouldn’t want ten different cat books?

But even beyond my obviously biased favorite, this book bundle is a great value. You get ten different ebooks that feature cats, in a variety of genres, touching on romance, mystery, speculative fiction, and straight contemporary fiction. If you forgot to stock up on books before life turned topsy turvy, this would be an easy way to get new reading material into your hands without having to wait for shipping.

This bundle is just so. Many. Books. And so many cats! This is a particularly good deal if you like short stories, as seven of the ten books included are anthologies or short story collections. Sometimes, shorter fiction can be good for times when the real world is a little too high stress, since any fictional conflict will be resolved pretty quickly. But if you’d rather really sink yourself into a single world, the cat bundle still has you covered, with an entire twisted fairy tale romance trilogy, and two different murder mysteries.

Feel better about the world by contributing to charity!

The book bundle also let’s you contribute to a good cause. This bundle gives you the option to donate part of your payment to Ablegamers, a charity that helps people with disabilities to get custom controllers and other assistive hardware, so they can play video games. If there’s one thing that I hope we have all learned from the current pandemic, it’s that video games and other forms of entertainment are necessary outlets for mental health. Videogames can also be powerful tools to combat social isolation. Those of us who are able-bodied are only going to be isolated for a limited time, but many people with disabilities are curtailed in their freedom of movement and access to entertainment on a regular basis, and deserve access to the same tools that the able-bodied are using right now.

With the world falling apart, we all need hope and entertainment more than ever. Cat videos are great, but fairly brief. If you need relief that lasts longer than a thirty second cat gif, check out the cat story bundle for longer lasting relief! But act quickly, because this bundle is only available until April 14.

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Life in the Time of COVID-19

April 1 question – The IWSG’s focus is on our writers. Each month, from all over the globe, we are a united group sharing our insecurities, our troubles, and our pain. So, in this time when our world is in crisis with the covid-19 pandemic, our optional question this month is: how are things in your world?

I almost don’t know how to answer this question. How is my world in the time of COVID-19? In many ways, it’s unchanged. My husband and I already worked from home, and I don’t have kids who are suddenly underfoot and trying to adjust to huge changes. Our recreational activities are curtailed – no more meeting at coffee shops to write with friends for me, and no more long-sword class for my husband – but the basic meat of our lives remains unchanged on the surface. I know that I am incredibly lucky for that.

But life is much more than the surface, isn’t it?

It turns out that I really, really need social contact and external obligations in order to function. My mental health has taken a swift turn for the worse, which particularly sucks because I feel like I only just got onto even footing with that a few months ago. So I find myself mourning that progress, and worried about what it will take to regain it.

I’m frightened. I’m afraid of what will happen if America in general (and Boston in particular, since that’s where I live) does not take this threat seriously. We could lose a lot of lives. I try not to think about that, but the awareness is still there.

I hope that we can use this crisis to build a better society, one where we value people over profit, but I’m terrified that we won’t. I certainly don’t know how to make that happen. I’m looking to see what small steps I can take to create the world I want to see, but it’s hard. That’s nothing new.

But life carries on! I’m checking in with friends and baking. I go for walks and I snuggle my cat, who is finally living her dream of constant human companionship. I’m knitting and reading and getting some writing done.

I even have exciting writing news! I’ll write a dedicated blog post about it soon enough, but I have a short story published in a new anthology, Cat Ladies of the Apocalypse, which has launched as part of a cat-themed story bundle! That runs until April 15, 2020. So if you need cat breaks, you can get ten different cat books, including Cat Ladies of the Apocalypse. I feel a little weird about doing self promotion right now, but I know that I have been craving light reading, so I assume that others are, as well. Cat books might just scratch that itch, so I figure it’s a public service at this point.

I know that I am very lucky to be able to weather this story in comfort and safety. I hope that everyone reading this is doing alright.

Books for a World on Fire: Part 2

Things are hard out there, friends. We’re all struggling with the stress of not knowing how this pandemic is going to play out, with isolation and fear and the urge to constantly refresh social media and read more news articles, because maybe this one will have the answers. We’re tired. We’re strained. And we still need distractions in order to preserve our sanity.

Fortunately, we still have books. I shared some of my favorite light books last week, and here some more.

Three books stacked in front of a window, with a cup of tea resting on top of them, and a houseplant to their right

In Other Lands, by Sarah Rees Brennan

Young adult discovers magical land. Young adult is destined to save magical land. It’s a time-honored tradition in fantasy literature, so it’s no surprise that there are so many books dissecting the trope these days. I love many of them, but In Other Lands is far and away the funniest.

Elliot is the kind of smart-ass we all longed to be when we were younger, the kid who simply can not keep his mouth shut, and is constitutionally incapable of bowing to authority (or anyone else) when he knows that he is right. And while he is generally right about a lot of things, he has the people skills you would expect from the love child of a porcupine and a cactus. It’s problematic.

The plot is loosely woven, following Elliot over several years of schooling. We get to watch him grow into himself and his friendships in a way that is shockingly rewarding. This is probably the spikiest books I’m recommending – there were a few points where Elliot’s inability to keep his mouth shut causes some interpersonal conflicts that pained me in my heart – but it’s all worth it in the end. Plus, there’s some great bisexual representation, which I don’t see very often.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers

A friend described this book as the science fiction equivalent of a warm hug, and I could not agree more! This book contains some of the most emotionally healthy relationships I have ever seen committed to writing.

The ensemble cast (mostly human, but including a couple of aliens who differ from us is pretty important ways) and the episodic story (most of it really is just the crews adventures as they travel to a small, angry planet) both won me over. I found myself binge reading chapter after chapter, not because of narrative tension and the need to find out how conflicts would be resolved, but out of affection for the characters and a desire to spend more time in their company.

This may be the most gentle book I have ever read, and I can not recommend it highly enough if you are feeling terribly overwhelmed.

Heroine Complex, by Sarah Kuhn

Do you like superheroes? Do you feel like superhero stories don’t center female friendships enough? Do you long to see women of color kicking ass? Then you’re going to love this book.

Evie Tanaka and Aveda Jupiter have been friends since elementary school. Now, Aveda is San Francisco’s first super hero, and Evie is her personal assistant. Only, their relationshipsdynamic has not really changed since they were kids. Oh, and the demon attacks that have plagued the city for years are intensifying, bringing decades-old conflicts between Evie and Aveda to a boil.

This book balances effervescent fun, the very real challenges of long-term friendship, and some steamy romance. The characters tend to be over-the-top, but something about their relationships feels very real to me. And it’s the first in a trilogy, all three of which are available right now!

Minor Mage, by T. Kingfisher

I’ve already written a longer review of this delightful novella on Luna Station Quarterly, but here’s the gist of it. During a terrible drought, a village send their only mage to bring back the rain. Unfortunately, Oliver is only twelve years old, knows a total of four spells, and is not exactly prepared for this sort of an epic undertaking. Fortunately for them all, Oliver (and his familiar, a very down-to-earth armadillo) are able to rise to the challenge.

I hope you’re all staying healthy. Remember to be gentle with yourselves, now more than ever.

Books for a World on Fire: Part 1

The world is still even more of a mess than normal. In the interest of getting through this pandemic with our sanity and spirits in tact, I am taking this opportunity to recommend some light, engaging fiction. Last week, it was podcasts. This week will be the first of two posts focusing on books!

These are are all books that I would describe as fun, and fairly light, the kind where you can relax into the story, trusting that good will triumph and bad will be punished. While I love a good investigation of the gritty realities of the human experience, we have quite enough of that in the real world right now. I’m tired. You’re tired. We need a break.

a pale of books, spine in, with a delicate floral tea cup balanced on top

All Systems Red, by Martha Wells

Murderbot has hacked their own governor module, and is using that new found freedom not to wreak havoc, but to download and watch untold hours of shows. And yet, to keep from being found out, it still has to do its job and protect the clients who the company assigned it to protect. Unfortunately, humans are kind of idiots, and keep getting themselves into terrible trouble, from which Murderbot must protect them.

I don’t know anybody who didn’t enjoy this book. In many ways, Murderbot is every introvert who just wants to be left alone. But Murderbot actually cares more than it admits to itself.

The very first paragraph made me laugh out loud. While the humor is generally wry and under-stated, this is a novella that delivers. Best of all, this is the first in a series of four novellas, so you can spend a decent amount of time following Murderbot’s adventures in self-discovery.

Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

I first encountered this book when I was in high school, and it was the first time I’d seen my own sense of humor – dry as the desert, equal parts amused and irritated by humanity – on the page. It was also my first taste of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. All of which is to say that I have loved this funny book about the apocalypse for a long time.

There’s a sprawling cast of characters, but at its heart live an angel and demon who have been on earth since the beginning of things, and quite like it here. It’s also about a twelve year old Antichrist, the professional descendant of the only accurate prophetess in history, and young man with truly dreadful luck around computers.

It’s a story about loving the things that you were not supposed to love, and refusing to give up, and I think it’s even more relevant today than it was when it was published in 1990.

River of Teeth, by Sarah Gailey

I already wrote a lengthy review of this novella for Luna Station Quarterly, so here’s the elevator pitch. Once upon a time, in the real world, the United States Congress seriously considered stocking the Mississippi River with hippos, as a meat source. Fortunately, they voted against it.

This novella takes place in an alternate time line in which that measure passed, and the Mississippi delta is full of hippo wranglers and feral hippos. It’s funny as hell, filled with the sorts of people who are usually erased from violent heist stories: a bisexual mastermind, a black non-binary munitions expert, a fat French con-woman, and a pregnant Hispanic assassin. The story is violent, so if that’s going to stress you out, consider looking elsewhere. If you really like it, there is a sequel, but you can stop with River of Teeth and feel satisfied with the story.

Until next time!

I’ll have more books to distract you from the chaos and save you from the isolation next time!

Podcasts for a World on Fire

A building engulfed in flames

Between U.S. politics and the coronavirus pandemic, it’s hard to deal with the ambient stress level. I’m not a politician or a medical professional, so there’s very little that I can do to help this situation. But what I can do, is recommend distractions.

Whether you’re under quarantine, or just need something easy to focus on as an alternative to twitter, let me share some podcasts that have brought me joy. I’ll write about books and TV shows in upcoming posts.

Kaleidotrope

Do you appreciate the tropes of fanfiction and romantic comedies? Have you ever wished that real life promised such happy endings and neat resolutions? Then I have the audio drama for you!

The entire story is told in a mere ten episodes, each of which is about thirty minutes long, so you don’t have to fear getting involved in something that you won’t have time to finish. Drew and Harrison are reluctant co-hosts of a radio show at the fictional college of Sidlesmith, where every student is guaranteed their meet-cute and happy ending, thanks to the magic of the university founders and their star-crossed romance. Over the course of the story, they help callers with their relationship problems, while also uncovering hidden secrets about the school.

I can not over state how much I loved this story. It’s utterly infectious, without being saccharine, and the actors have amazing chemistry. You can find out more at Kaleidotrope podcast, and listen through your podcast aggregator of choice.

Castle Charming

Do you love Discworld, but you’re in the mood for a slightly more gentle social critique? Do you like M/M and F/F slow burn romance, fairytale tropes, and messed up (if generally well-meaning) royal families?

The Sheep Might Fly podcast is much more than just the Castle Charming novellas – Tansy Rayner Roberts serializes all kinds of different novellas there – but they are my favorites. Over the course of the four novellas, you will get to meet a cast of unique characters, including a foreign princess under a lot of pressure to catch a prince, a beleaguered corporal of the guard and confidante to one of the princes, a tomboy magical princess who really does not have time for anybody else’s BS, a sweet young newspaper reporter who is new to kingdom, and so many more.

The entire Sheep Might Fly archives is helpfully broken down into its component novellas. Be sure to start with Glass Slipper Scandal. Or if you prefer to read them, the author has a new Kickstarter to publish all-revised editions. That runs until April 7, 2020.

And more!

I’m currently listening to Thor: Metal Gods on Serial Box. Since I haven’t finished it yet, I can’t officially recommend it. So far, it’s light and fun and does a surprisingly good job of translating the lengthy action scenes endemic to superhero comics into an audible medium. And who can resist Thor and Loki teaming up with a Korean tiger goddess and a non-binary space pirate?

So those are my top recommendations for some light audio fiction. What are some light, escapist audio stories that you’ve enjoyed recently? Please share your favorites in the comments!