Sherwood and I posted on disability in the Change series at Diversity in YA.

Everything I write stems from personal experience, even if it’s set in a post-apocalyptic world where people have mutant powers and the trees can eat you.
Partner is finished, polished, proofread, and DONE. It has been turned in for formatting, and will be published once that's complete.

Prisoner is currently free at all e-book vendors. Hopefully that will lure in some readers.

If you enjoyed the banter and hurt-comfort in Prisoner, there's lots more in Partner.
rachelmanija: (Books: old)
( Jan. 9th, 2015 09:48 am)
In case anyone would like to nominate my work for anything, here's what I published in 2014:

Stranger, by Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith. (Viking, November 13, 2014.)

Prisoner, by Lia Silver. (Melusine Press, June 30, 2014.)

Laura's Wolf, by Lia Silver. (Melusine Press, March 5, 2014.)
And as if to celebrate our collaboration, Stranger has been nominated for YALSA's Best Fiction for Young Adults. The final list will be announced in February.

The way Sherwood and I collaborate is that we first sit down and discuss the plot of the entire story, taking notes. Before we write a chapter, we discuss what will happen in more detail. Then we sit side by side at a computer and write the chapter. Usually Sherwood types, with either of us or both of us actually writing. (I would be dictating.) The result is a book where any given sentence was probably written by both of us together. When we have a first draft, we pass it back and forth for rewrites and polishes and additions.

Sherwood thinks on a much larger scale than I do, in every way. I tend toward intimate scenes with a few people, shorter lengths, and less lavish description. She goes for epics, LONG epics, and more description. Our work together tends to split the difference: medium length, medium description, a large world but we only see a small part of it.

We think differently about worldbuilding. Sherwood creates entire worlds from scratch, with economies, ecologies, and cultures. I tend to start with our world, make a few changes, and extrapolate from there. The werewolf Marines books are typical of my general tendencies in that direction. I didn’t create a new ecology or economy, because werewolves exist secretly within our own ecologies and economies, but instead focused on how werewolf culture might have evolved alongside all the other real cultures, and the details of how their powers work. How might pack dynamics (actual wolf behavior, not the alpha male bullshit) translate into human culture, is there a limit to how much transforms with them when they shapeshift, do they have origin myths, etc.

Sherwood tends to start with an image. I tend to start with “What would be the most interesting/dramatic path that follows logically from what we’ve already got?”

The best part of collaborating is that it’s impossible to get writer’s block. If I go blank, Sherwood will provide something, or vice versa. It’s also just fun – a bit like playing a role-playing game. We’re different enough to keep things interesting, but similar enough to have infinite fun inventing creatures, mutant powers, difficult situations for our characters, etc.

The worst part is that we’re both absent-minded and not very computer-adept, so we have repeatedly lost files, accidentally copied old versions on top of new versions, etc. It can also be hard to find the time for both of us to get together.

I’ve tried collaborating with a number of people. It doesn’t always work – sometimes our prose styles don’t mesh, or our working styles are incompatible, or we argue in a way that isn’t fruitful, or we have wildly differing visions, or we plain don’t get along.

When I saw the movie Pacific Rim, where giant robots can only be operated by a pair of pilots who are capable of working so smoothly together that they can make one mecha move as if operated by a single person, I thought, “Sherwood and I are Drift-compatible.” Call us if a giant monster appears and you need pilots.
Hostage, the sequel to Stranger, is out now. The e-book is $4.99; the paper book will be released in a few months.

Sherwood has put up a detailed post about why we chose to self-publish Hostage. It’s well-worth reading in full, but the short version is that we finished Hostage a year ago. If we stayed with Viking, it would be two more years before it would be released. (Stranger also took three years to come out, counting from when Sharyn November first told us she wanted it; two and a half years if you count from when we actually got our contract.) We decided that being able to control the price and release dates of the series was more important to us than the prestige and resources of a traditional publishing house.

Feel free to discuss here or there; feel free to publicize and link anywhere.

I welcome comments on your own publishing experiences. I ask only that you refrain from put-downs of individuals or general statements that anything is evil. Amazon included. Criticize all you want, just don’t say stuff like “Amazon is trying to enslave us all, like STALINIST RUSSIA!!!” or “You’re just self-publishing because no one wants your politically correct tripe!!!” or any other statement that naturally lends itself to three exclamation points.

Hostage at Book View Cafe (the writer’s collective). Hostage (The Change) at Amazon. At Barnes and Noble At Apple. At Kobo
rachelmanija: (Naruto: Super-energized!)
( Nov. 13th, 2014 08:06 am)
The post-apocalyptic novel Sherwood Smith and I wrote, Stranger, is finally out! It's the "Yes Gay YA" book. But you could just as easily call it "The one with the telekinetic squirrels," or "The X-Men in the post-apocalyptic Wild West," or "The one where the sheriff is super-strong, the doctor can speed up time, and the plant life is out to get you."

Kirkus gave it a starred review, calling it " afirst-rate page turner that leaves its own compelling afterimage."

Other points of possible interest: Psychic powers. Luscious food descriptions. Detailed world-building. Hurt-comfort- lots of hurt-comfort. Thrilling battle sequences. Cute animals. Killer crystal trees. Romance in every configuration: gay, straight, lesbian, and poly. Illusion-casting rabbits. Flying cats. And, of course, telekinetic squirrels.

It had a publicity budget of literally $0, so anything you feel like doing to spread the word would be great.

On Kindle: Stranger

Barnes and Noble.



Last year I wrote two full-length novels under a pseudonym. If you haven’t come across them already, you can read them now. You can read them in either order.

Laura's Wolf (Werewolf Marines). Werewolf Marine Roy Farrell meets reformed con artist Laura Kaplan in Yosemite. Features a snowed-in cabin in the woods, banter, domesticity, PTSD, gun fights, werewolf fights, “let’s get you out of those wet clothes,” light femdom, trauma and healing, out-of-control superpowers, the heroine rescuing the hero, and a pack of traumatized psychic werewolves held hostage by a criminal mastermind.

Prisoner (Werewolf Marines). Werewolf Marine DJ Torres meets genetically engineered assassin Echo in a secret underground laboratory. Features banter, romantic comedy, desperate treks through the desert, martial arts fights, gun fights, werewolf fights, psychic powers, clones, dyslexia, bonding in a bar on the Las Vegas Strip, a dysfunctional werewolf pack, and discussions of Norwegian death metal and Filipino hip hop. (DJ is, in fact, also a DJ.)

Laura’s Wolf is complete on its own, but I will eventually write sequels. Prisoner is the first of a three-book series. It doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, but they are not eaten by the shrieking eels at this time don't get out from under the thumb of the evil lab in this book.

Laura’s Wolf has more genre romance conventions (with substantial twists); the hero and heroine are sexually attracted on their first meeting and bond quickly. It has somewhat unconventional gender roles. Prisoner has fewer romance conventions and subverts the ones that it does have more, and features a friends-to-lovers romance. It has very unconventional gender roles. Laura’s Wolf sold better, but Prisoner attracted more attention in the romance blogosphere.

In case you’re wondering, I have been paying my rent with these books. Which is to say, I didn't make tons of money, but I did make as much or more than if I'd traditionally published. Both of them are way too unconventional, structurally and in terms of content, to sell to any but a small press, so it made sense to self-publish. And the series got two Yuletide nominations, so that makes it all worthwhile.

I wrote them under a pen name because I wanted to write without baggage, emotional and otherwise. Consequently, they are written completely from the heart. Complete with earnest afterwords about PTSD and dyslexia. (They’re self-published, I can put in earnest afterwords if I want to.) Also, I did not want precocious ten-year-old readers of Stranger (or their parents) to type my real name into Amazon and find books with explicit sex.

I wasn’t sure until somewhat recently whether I would ever publicly reveal my real identity. This was unexpectedly freeing. I normally am not capable of writing two full-length novels in a year, while I’m working and in grad school! But I decided to go ahead and reveal so any of you who might enjoy them can find them, given that you otherwise might never read that sort of thing.

Laura’s Wolf is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Kobo, ARE, and in print. Prisoner is currently only available on Amazon and in print. If you’d like a copy in any other format, you can purchase it directly from me by either emailing me at Rphoenix2 at gmail or by commenting here with your email address and your preferred format.
I wrote a lesbian erotic romance novelette for an anthology to benefit international LGBTQ human rights under a pen name, Rebecca Tregaron. Please consider buying it - it's only 99 cents for now, and we're hoping to bounce it on to the bestseller list before raising the price.

Her Private Passion: More Tales of Pleasure and Domination

Five smoldering tales of women’s passion for women. Five best-selling authors bring you their hottest lesbian historical stories of desires that cannot be denied.

From elegant aristocrats, cross-dressing soldiers, and sultry sirens, to naughty nuns, seductive spies, and innocent young ladies, some women must dominate... and some women must submit.

“Bound in Silk and Steel,” by Rebecca Tregaron. The lovely courtesan-spy Perrine travels to Serenissima to seduce and ensnare the noblewoman Fiorenza. But in the sensual abandon of Carnival, power can shift in the blink of an eye, the turn of a mask, the flick of a rope…

"Convent Discipline," by Honey Dover. Alessandra isn't looking forward to becoming a nun, but in strict medieval Italy, her family has given her no other option. When her training as a novice is taken over by the lovely Julia, Alessandra learns that submission can mean much more than prayer.

"Found," by Victoria Janssen. In the midst of the American Civil War, Clodia flees slavery and certain death. Found by her escaped friend Diana, who is serving as a man in the Union army, Clodia fears she can't be forgiven for the past.

"Spanked On The Prairie," by Isla Sinclair. When Emily Welland misbehaves on the Canadian prairie, she is due for a spanking from firm but beautiful Miss Grant. But little does she know the sensual lesbian delights in store for her.

“The Ocean's Maid,” by Mona Midnight. All Sarah wanted was to find her sister, lost to the mermaids more than a year ago. But in the world of the sirens, she finds welcoming arms... and the promise of the forbidden pleasures she has denied herself for so many years. Will she return to the surface? Or will she succumb to the temptations of life under the sea?

The companion volume of gay historical stories, His Prize Possession: Tales of Pleasure and Domination, is also available.
rachelmanija: (Books: old)
( Jul. 2nd, 2014 09:39 am)
I won't be posting these regularly, but hey, it's our first.

School Library Journal

BROWN, Rachel Manija & Sherwood Smith. Stranger. 432p. Viking. Nov. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780670014804; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781101615393.

Gr 7 Up–Intrigue, feuds, hypocrisy, and a love triangle fill the pages of this dystopian tale narrated by a diverse cast of characters in alternating chapters. After a solar flare, all electronic devices are useless. A mysterious, wounded stranger wanders into Las Anclas (formerly Los Angeles) with a secret; Ross has narrowly escaped the diabolical ruler Voske, who desires a rare book that Ross possesses. Mia’s family shelters Ross as he heals and receives warrior training from 16-year-old Jennie, Mia’s best friend and the town’s teacher. Both teens are attracted to the newcomer, and he can’t decide between them. As the town slowly warms to Ross, likewise his barriers slip away as he enjoys life in Las Anclas. Authors Brown and Smith create a village in which flora and fauna exhibit flesh-eating powers and symbiotic relationships with select people. Some humans remain “Norms” while others are “Changed,” and therein lies the only prejudice; no one looks askance at homosexuality and all races are appreciated. Some elements appear contrived and slightly pedantic: there is exactly one gay couple and one lesbian couple; [GIANT SPOILER REDACTED]; and the Norms and Changed unite in an epic battle against Voske. Despite these conventional components, Stranger is a fresh story with well-developed characters, fast-paced action, a fantastical world, and a hint of romance.–Laura Falli, McNeil High School, Austin, TX

I have to note for the record that 1) "love triangle" and "he can't decide between them" is very misleading, 2) there are actually two lesbian couples and additional non-coupled gay characters, 3) Jennie is 18, 4) classism not only exists but is a pretty major factor in the book, 5) there is only one symbiotic person/non-human relationship in the book, and it's otherwise unknown, and 6) "Norms and Changed unite" is kind of like saying, "American blacks and whites unite to pay taxes every year," ie, there was never any question of them not doing so.

But hey! She generally liked it!

Please suggest any major review blogs that might like a review copy. It's already at Booksmugglers.
Deborah Ross solicited me to write a story for a new Darkover anthology a while back, and was very understanding about extending the deadline when I had a grad school-related crisis. Thank you, Deborah!

The anthology is out now. My story is a novelette (10K) about a genetically engineered sex slave and an emmasca (intersex person). It features food porn, hurt-comfort, psychic powers, and wilderness survival (typical Rachel tropes), and an asshole father (mandatory Darkover trope.) Also rabbithorns. I assume those are rabbits with horns.

Here's me describing my story in slightly more detail.

The anthology also features Janni Simner, Judith Tarr, Kari Sperring, and other excellent authors. If you like Darkover, you will probably like it.

Stars of Darkover (Darkover anthology Book 14)
If you were to pre-order the hardcover and then get pregnant, it and the baby would arrive at about the same time. Check out the gorgeous cover, if you haven't already!
I have a story in an upcoming Darkover anthology, Stars of Darkover! I was so excited to be invited to write for it. I'm also excited to read everyone else's stories.

My story, "The Fountain's Choice," is set in the Stormqueen! era, when there was lots of genetic engineering and decadence. It's about an emmasca and a riyachiya (an intersex person and a genetically engineered sex slave, neither of them entirely human), and I had a lot of fun writing it. It was a bit of a Yuletide-esque experience, complete with firing off multiple peculiar canon questions to an expert (in this case, Deborah, the editor), like "Exactly how long would it take to walk from x location to y location?" and "Is it obvious from birth that a baby is an emmasca?"
My newest book, A Cup of Smoke: stories and poems, is now available for purchase for $ 4.99, at Amazon here A Cup of Smoke: stories and poems, and in epub format at Smashwords. It contains six short stories, twenty poems, and a rodent zodiac.

In a steampunk Wild West, women with nothing left to lose walk into the desert, and emerge soul-bonded to giant robots...

A pair of bickering angels try to re-create Heaven in a Tokyo subway station...

A woman warrior matches swords and wits with a many-headed demon in mythic India...

These stories and more appear in "A Cup of Smoke." The anthology includes the Rhysling Award-winning poem "Nine Views of the Oracle" and the Rhysling nominee poem "Minotaur Noir."

Contains lesbian gunslingers, prophesying ravens, a martial artist on an interplanetary mission of revenge, three golems, and a one-eyed, hopping sandal.

Two of the short stories and eleven of the poems are original to this collection. The other stories originally appeared in Steam-Powered: Lesbian Steampunk I, Strange Horizons, Andromeda Spaceways Magazine, and Cabinet des Fees. All the short stories have new afterwords by the author.

The lovely cover is by Stephanie Folse. Huge thanks to Cora Anderson and Larry Hammer for doing the surprisingly difficult formatting.

Please feel free to link to, tweet, or otherwise publicize this book.

If you would like to review it, please let me know and I will give you a free copy. I don’t usually read reviews and am so busy right now that I’m almost entirely offline everywhere but my own sites, so please review honestly. I am highly unlikely to ever even see it, and I do not expect everyone to love everything in any collection.
I am delighted to announce that Stranger, the post-apocalyptic YA novel that I co-wrote with Sherwood Smith, will be published by Viking (Penguin Group) in Winter 2014.

The acquiring editor is Sharyn November. I have wanted to work with her ever since we met twelve years ago, at World Fantasy Con in Corpus Christi, Texas. She said that she was reprinting classic children's fantasies. I grabbed her by the shoulder and said, no doubt with a mad gleam in my eye, "Lloyd Alexander's Westmark! Elizabeth Wein's The Winter Prince! Patricia McKillip's The Changeling Sea" She smiled and said, "We're doing all three. Got any other suggestions?" Sharyn, thank you so much for championing our book.

Also, thank you very much, Eddie Gamarra and Ellen Goldsmith-Vein of the Gotham Group!

Yes, it's the Yes Gay YA book. Here's a little more about it:

Many generations ago, a mysterious cataclysm struck the world. Governments collapsed and people scattered, to rebuild where they could. A mutation, "the Change,” arose, granting some people unique powers. Though the area once called Los Angeles retains its cultural diversity, its technological marvels have faded into legend. "Las Anclas" now resembles a Wild West frontier town… where the Sheriff possesses superhuman strength, the doctor can warp time to heal his patients, and the distant ruins of an ancient city bristle with deadly crystalline trees that take their jewel-like colors from the clothes of the people they killed.

Teenage prospector Ross Juarez’s best find ever – an ancient book he doesn’t know how to read – nearly costs him his life when a bounty hunter is set on him to kill him and steal the book. Ross barely makes it to Las Anclas, bringing with him a precious artifact, a power no one has ever had before, and a whole lot of trouble.

There are five main characters. One is Ross, who knows all about prospecting, fighting, and desert survival, but hasn't had to interact with other human beings on a regular basis since he was twelve. The others are teenagers from Las Anclas: Mia Lee, introverted genius and town oddball, who can design six different weapons before breakfast; Yuki Nakamura, an aspiring prospector who is dying to get out of his small town and explore the rest of the world; Jennie Riley, Changed telekinetic and over-achiever, who must choose between becoming the teacher of the one-room schoolhouse or joining the elite military Rangers; and Felicite Wolfe, the Mayor's narcissistic daughter, who likes to spy on people with the help of her pet mutant rat.

And yes. Yuki is still gay. So is his boyfriend, Paco Diaz, the drummer in the town band. And Brisa Preciado, who has the power to make rocks explode, is still dating shy Becky Callahan, who works after school waiting tables at the saloon. As you can see, this isn't so much a "gay book" or a "straight book" as an ensemble book.

Sherwood and I wanted to write something fun and exciting, with adventure and romance and mutant powers and martial arts and a vivid sense of place. And we wanted it to be about the people who are so often left out of those sorts of books: Latinos and African-Americans, Jews and Asian-Americans, gay boys and lesbian girls, multiracial teenagers and teenagers with physical and mental disabilities. We didn't do this to fulfill some imaginary quota, but because we wanted to write about teenagers like the real ones we know, the real ones in Los Angeles, the real ones we were.

We hope that, however flawed it may be, our novel will make even a few of those teenagers happy.

This is a very personal project for me. People often ask me if I'm ever going to write about coming back to America, after spending most of my childhood in an ashram in India. In a metaphoric sense, this is that book. To tell the story of what it was like for Ross to come to Las Anclas, I drew upon my own experiences of stumbling into an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar rules, beset by memories I couldn't bear to recall and reactions I didn't understand, longing for connection but with no idea of how to relate to people.

Stranger is a post-apocalyptic adventure, not an issue novel. But all stories have their genesis somewhere, and for me, it was my wish to say, "It's okay. You're okay. You'll get better. You'll make friends. You'll fall in love. You can be a hero." I hope it finds its way to the people to whom it will speak.

If you would like to be notified when the book actually comes out, please comment to this post to say so. I will reply to your comment when the book is published, and you should get an email notification. Or you can leave your email address in a comment. (I can copy the address, then delete or screen the comment.) If you're not on LJ/DW, you can comment anonymously (or email me) with an email address where I can reach you.

Incidentally, I am putting out an e-book anthology of my short stories and poetry in a couple months. If you'd like to be notified when that's available, please comment to say so.

If you're interested in reading our book, you may also be interested in this list of YA science fiction and fantasy with major LGBTQ characters. And here's a list of YA fantasy and science fiction with protagonists who aren't white..

I would be happy to answer any questions you might have, about the novel or anything else.

Finally, please feel free to Tweet, link to, or otherwise promulgate this post. Lots of people mentioned during Yes Gay YA that they would like to know what happened to this book, but the vast majority probably don't read my blog.
1. What organization would you like in a collection that has both fiction and poetry? Separated into Parts I and II? Intermingled artistically?

2. So, I have this novel which I stalled out on due to the fact that without prodding from a collaborator, I find novels incredibly difficult to complete, due to their sheer length. But I could probably complete it as a novella (and, theoretically at least, expand it to a full novel later.)

Factors to consider: It's almost certainly unsalable to anything but a very small and quirky LGBTQ press. Realistically, I am way more motivated to finish it as anything if I knew it would definitely get some sort of release. It would be by far the longest story in the collection, and is tonally completely different from anything else in it. (My short stories tend more toward bittersweetness than wacky hijinks.)

It's a comic Gothic in which all the main characters are lesbians, all the people in the world are some sort of supernatural being, and the heroine is a werewolf who gets hired as a private chef by one of those sexy, bad-news noir dames, who in this case is an angel. (Not the divine kind; a person with wings.) There's a lot of food porn, a sinister housekeeper, dark secrets in the attic, flying paparazzi, and angels with watermelon tourmaline-colored eyes. You can see why I don't think this would be an easy sale.

[Poll #1850232]
I'm thinking of putting together a collection of my short stories, plus some poetry and maybe an essay or two, on Kindle.

I was inspired by Mike Allen publishing his SteamPowered, Steampunk Lesbian Stories story Sleepless, Burning Life as a stand-alone Kindle novellette.

I do not expect to become a millionaire (step one: obscure author best known for memoir self-publishes publishes obscure fantasy stories; step two: ???, step three: PROFIT), but I think it might be fun, and there are a handful of people out there who would probably enjoy such a thing.

I have two question:

1. Whether or not you would actually purchase such a thing, is there anything in particular or in general that you'd want to have in it?

Already decided upon: all three of my published short stories, plus all poems nominated for the Rhysling.

Most fanfic is out due to copyright issues, but I do have one story which was inspired by a Carter & Grammar song, and works as original fantasy. I have a couple other stories which I like but couldn't sell, plus poems ditto.

2. O Kindle self-publishers, please advise and tell tales from the trenches! How did you get your cover art? Was it profitable (at all?) What price points worked best for you? Did you advertise?
Nick Mamatas offered a copy of a Japanese sf novel, Ryu Mitsuse’s Ten Billion Days and One Hundred Billion Nights, to the top four entries commenting with our thoughts on yaoi the inevitable heat death of the universe.

I wrote,

Leaves fall, and we point and call it beautiful. Meteors burn across the sky, and we point and make a wish.

When the last star goes out and all is dark and quiet, perhaps some unimaginable intelligence will nudge another and, in some unimaginable way, point and say, “Look! The heat death of a universe! Have you ever seen one so lovely? I’m so glad we came.”


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