Wow, this month has certainly brought some fantastic surprises — and it’s not even the 31st yet! With that, I’m so excited to announce another piece of happy news: my novella, Of Kindred and Stardust, has been signed with Less Than Three Press for their Home for the Holidays collection!
YESSSSSS!!! \o/ \o/ \o/
I wrote a little about the project back in March, though I was still working out the particulars then. When I saw the collection call, I knew I wanted to write something for it, though the real-world component gave me pause. Stories about holidays usually means contemporary, which isn’t my forté. And even though urban fantasy and paranormal stories do fall into my speculative fiction frame of mind, I wanted to stay away from them. I wanted to write about a Pagan holiday, but I didn’t want something that fell into the fantastical — I wanted a real, earthy story that shows what it’s like being a Pagan in the real world. I wanted to write a story from a Druid perspective, but I didn’t want it to be about someone with magical powers, an immortal, or anything else often found in urban fantasy.
No, I wanted the day to day, garden variety Druid-Pagan, which is what I live. Basically, I wanted a story about someone who experiences the world like me.
I don’t see those stories very often — they seem to be very, very rare, especially in romance and queer fiction. It’s like the difference between stories about stereotypical, fantastical witches and those about Wiccans: they aren’t the same thing. I yearn for more of the latter, as much as I really wish for more stories about actual Heathens instead of pieces that simply rip into the Norse pantheon and mess around with the gods, which often tear apart the really significant stuff or abandon it altogether. The same with eclectic Pagans, Hellenists, Kemetics, or anyone else under the umbrella, really. I have a few books (Mr. March Names the Stars is one such lovely), but I’m always looking for more. If anyone has any recommendations, throw them over!!
In the end, I came up with a science fiction piece, which allowed me to blend my geeky side with all of the above, while also looking at what it could be like for a future Druid to live in space. What would their spiritual practice look like? How would they feel? What would they do out there and how would they connect to nature when they’re immersed in the universe, away from Earth?
After that, I settled on other details that helped shape the story. The holiday of choice? Imbolc, an old Celtic holiday which takes place on February 1st/2nd (at least in the Northern hemisphere), right between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. The relationship? M/NB/F poly, because I honestly couldn’t make the character choose one or the other, so why force it? There’s also the fact the number three is involved… which is so very Druid, it kills me. And the fact that apparently, polyamory was a thing with the old Celts, along with their acceptance of same-sex relations, so I totally ran with it. *grin*
Everything else fell into place as I developed the outline and wrote the story. Though it was one surprise after another, including the fact OKAS decided it wanted to be written in first person, not third, which is my default. I’ve written in first before, but only short stories. This was my first novella with this POV, and that’s okay, because third wouldn’t have given quite the same flavour!
The only real bummer was that I started the story wayyyy later than I wanted to due to health issues and stuff that popped up and needed doing ASAP (plus a Depeche Mode concert and mini vacate in Toronto!), meaning I had to really crunch everything in and rush edits… arrrgh. I also had boatloads of research to do for this — nearly every night I’d research 4+ topics before I got any writing done, from astronomy to languages to Canadian engineering traditions.
In short: I wrote OKAS in 2 weeks, then edited it in 3.5 days.
Ugh. Writing 40k in 2 weeks — not something I want to do again!! I really felt when I was forcing things, which isn’t how I roll. I had to write a chapter a night (about 3k to 5k every day, at least), but I’m not a write-every-day kind of author. It drains me rather terribly, and when I force the words… it never feels right, especially when I’m nearly falling asleep. Yikes.
But hey, it happened. Then to see that acceptance email come in… oh, yeah, that felt AMAZING!!!
(Also, incidentally: I submitted the story on the deadline date itself, which happened to be the 6th anniversary of my mother’s passing… and for the first time in 6 years, I wasn’t get bogged down by grief. My thoughts were in this story, breathing and sleeping and living it. That alone gives this story an entirely new level of personal significance, because Imbolc is about renewal, rebirth, and the light of the year coming back around as the dark half of the year is on its way out. Maybe I needed to write this more than I realized, especially considering that the goddess most associated with the holiday is Brigit… a goddess of healing. Go figure.)
So OKAS Is About What, Exactly?
Here’s my effort at a blurb, which is subject to change:
After four years in the Alpha Centauri solar system, astrobiologist Dath Bellin is relieved to be back at ECHO-Crosspoint Space Station. His next mission: return to Earth and take vacation. There’s family to see, R&R to catch up on, and Imbolc to celebrate with his Druid grove—everything he could hope for from a Canadian winter.
Just one problem: everything goes wrong before he can even leave the station. There’s also the matter of his exes, who are all sorts of temptation he can’t have. Coming home has never been so complicated…
For four years, Mack Ainsley Tsallis and Kytzia Polović have wanted to know why Dath left them the way he did. They’re determined to win him back together, especially since Mack is convinced Dath wasn’t completely honest with xem and Kytzia before he ran off to Alpha Centauri. Being ignored isn’t cutting it anymore: it’s time to start fresh and prove the three of them are perfect for each other—assuming Dath still wants them.
And ohhhh, is there so much crammed into it. There are about a hundred different things in it that have some sort of personal meaning to me and my partner — there are nods to things we’ve done (like Highland Games and Pagan Pride Day), things we own (like our pendents), things we love (space and natural disaster movies!) and hate (BUGS), things we’ve talked about (Starman and the Tesla!)… just A LOT of personal notes, though most of them are little details, so you wouldn’t know they’re from our personal experiences. It’s as simple as the pinecone on Dath’s altar… which actually goes back to our first date. (Note: Sitting on a pinecone during such a date may end up in it becoming a symbol of your relationship forever and ever.)
But there it is. Dath, Mack, and Kytzia. Dath’s my nerdy little botanist Druid; Mack’s a rockin’ engineer and manager with edge; and Kytzia’s a sassy, colourful techie with a thing for fun types of revenge. Dath identifies as panromantic demisexual, Mack is a non-binary/genderqueer pansexual who uses xe/xem pronouns (also identifies as trans), and Kytzia is bisexual/pan… Dath and Kytzia are roughly in their mid-thirties, while Mack is in xir forties with kids in university… Dath is more laid back in style, while Mack is more of an alternative-punk sort of person and Kytzia was inspired by Garcia from the TV show, Criminal Minds. (Because OMG, GARCIA. She’s beautiful in so many ways. <3)
I’ll write a post later with more about it (for the cover reveal and release day), but the story was a lot of fun to write. And there’s a lot of Pagan perspective included — I didn’t hold back that much. Instead, I incorporated our words, symbols, practices and traditions, a tiny glimpse of a Druid ritual (I’ve been part of several), and other things that come with all of that. Of course, that’s led to me working on a glossary, so I need to get to it.
I also didn’t hold back on the bit of nerd I know and love, although the references may not be obvious. I can say there’s a Star Trek reference (because my wife really it), a couple of nods to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a teensy hint of Farscape, gaming, robots, a reference to anime… and the names. Ohhhh dear. *snickers* No one realizes just how difficult it was for me to name my characters this time, because real-world names WHAT?! (aka. It sounded more like “^#*& $^@# *%$!!!!” on this end) But with Dath and his sister, I may have had a little too much fun playing with names from a few of my favourite SFF movies/books (and a show).
Therefore, I shall leave you with “Ardath Willowford” and “Callisto Amalthea” and let y’all figure those ones out. 😉
OH! And our cat, Silbhester. He made it in, too. It was due time. ^_^
I’ll save some of that stuff for later, though. In the meantime… it’s gonna get published. SQUEEEE!