Browsing articles in "The Bone Queen"
Apr 21, 2012
Alex Dally MacFarlane

wind-whipped hills stripped to bones

The state of various projects/life things:

The Bone Queen

Sent back to the agent who was interested in it.

Hopefully he will think it works now. If not, I will need to dig up my spreadsheet of agent submissions and see who I haven’t submitted it to yet. I like this book far too much to let it languish. (Arguably I could re-submit to agents who have seen it, because I’ve made some substantial changes, especially to the first half – but hopefully it won’t come to this anyway.)

Anxiety, hello. Ahhhhhhh. I want so much for the book to be good enough. Ahhh.


ETA: Very quick reply from him to say that he’s incredibly busy for the next 6 months. This gives me several choices, which I will consider when it’s not midnight.


The classes ended in March, but I still have to do the final assignment. This is due before the end of the month. Hopefully I haven’t forgotten how Akkadian works in all this work on bones and deserts and stories and no šumma.

Sadly the intermediate Akkadian course isn’t being offered next academic year – but Sumerian is being offered instead! I am obviously going to do that. :>

SF novella

This is the one set among the same people as in “Sung Around Alsar-Scented Fires”, several generations later when the problems have worsened. I have 2,000 words so far. Tentative title is “Under Falna’s Mask”, as the protagonist, Mar-teri, is in dialogue with the kind of story that Falna’s song tells.

Mar-teri is interesting to write, because she’s young, but she’s dealing with adult concerns – and, prior to the novella, has made a decision that might be called her growing-up decision. Now she’s finding that even adults have an ongoing learning process, especially ones who have to lead a group of people to safety. Getting the perfect balance for this isn’t easy, but it’s fun. It helps, of course, that Mar-teri is competent and passionate and a bit flawed but mostly good at her role.

I’m going to enjoy writing this novella.


So many stories to work on! I have two that need small edits before being sent back out on submission. I want to have another go at the SF story I’ve been calling “Spices in SPAAAACE”, which I had critiqued at Wiscon back in 2008 but was unable, at the time, to fix to my satisfaction. It’s set in the same future as Falna and Mar-teri, but several centuries earlier and in a different part of their star system. (I really want to be writing and publishing more SF. I hope this story will be a strong step in that direction.) I need to research the historical period in which people lived with foxes so I can write a story about that. I also need to research my currently vague idea for a historical and/or SF story about propaganda posters. (Research, research, research! I need more some story-ideas that won’t become entire projects – except that the heftier they feel in my head, the better I suspect they will be.) Then there’s a weird Fox Confessor IN SPAAAACE retelling that I started…

And that’s just the stories I want to work on immediately.

And now I can actually work on them instead of imagining them! I was hoping to be able to do this at the beginning of April, not the end, but oh well. Stories! And a poem that needs rewriting! And stories!

I think it’s a joke to expect that I’ll be less busy now that I’m no longer editing The Bone Queen. XD

Apr 4, 2012
Alex Dally MacFarlane

show me the arms aloft

Writing bits:

• “Written on the Hides of Foxes” got rejected, alas. Seeing as I’ve figured out something I want to change about it, it’s waiting until I’m done with The Bone Queen and then I’ll make the amends and send it to Beneath Ceaseless Skies. (It’s a 10,000-word secondary world story – it’s made for BCS, in my humble – and often-wrong – opinion.)

The Bone Queen won’t be done by Easter, but soon. Sooooon. I’m not upset about missing my self-imposed deadline because I’ve come so far and the end really is in sight. All in good time.

• I’ve been working on The Bone Queen this evening and then, suddenly, poetry: 2 new poems and a redraft of a poem I drafted on my phone while walking on the snow-covered hills by my parents’ house in February. Well, excellent! And now back to what I’m supposed to be working on.

• Got another novel idea. *resigned sigh* Onto the list it goes.

Mar 27, 2012
Alex Dally MacFarlane

but I know it’ll have to drown me

Writing bits:

• I’ve finished and edited “Written on the Hides of Foxes”, my story for Biblioteca Fantastica, which closes to submissions at the end of the month. (Until just this moment, the story was called “Bound in the Hides of Foxes”, but “Written on…” just jumped into my head as fitting better.) (Yes, foxes. You’re shocked.) It’s the full 10,000 words permitted by the guidelines and demands that I turn it into a whole novel.

• Once I’ve submitted “Written on the Hides of Foxes” tonight, it’s back to The Bone Queen. I recently got to the end of it; now I need to go back and tidy up everything I added and changed. The end is in sight.

• I have seen the proofs for Rose Lemberg’s The Moment of Change. So excited about this.

• After working on “Written on the Hides of Foxes”, I can’t wait to get The Bone Queen done so I can spend several months just writing short stories. (Hopefully shorter stories.) My head is starting to get crowded with them. I look forward to tilting my head and letting them all fall out like sea-water.

Also, though it’s not writing-related: Korra Korra Korra Korra Korra Korra Korra Korra.

Mar 15, 2012
Alex Dally MacFarlane

and you may have my precious bones on my return

I was actually right about crossing the mid-point of The Bone Queen: everything is suddenly a lot easier! I’m still having to re-do some chapters/scenes, but it’s finding new words to say essentially the same thing rather than needing to say something different. I’m still making tweaks in every chapter. The big-scale changes are over, though, and I’m now getting through chapters at a decent pace!

Sokka says it best:

So this is what I have to do.

– Finish reading every chapter, making tweaks where necessary. (Tweaks are either keeping things in line with earlier changes or improving the prose.) I have about 10 chapters to go.

– Re-read the entire book. Neaten the newly written bits. Polish.

There’s still some way to go. =D But I feel renewed optimism about getting this done by the end of the month, or very soon after.

I also want to write a short story by the end of the month for the interesting anthology, so what I’d really like to do is finish the current read-through and tweak of The Bone Queen, pause to write the short story by/before 31 March, then go back to do the re-read of The Bone Queen. Eastercon has always been my slightly extended deadline for The Bone Queen, and that I think I will make.

(Yes, I will be at Eastercon! Saturday and Sunday, most likely. Definitely Sunday, because I’m on a panel that evening. More information to come.)

I can do this!

Feb 15, 2012
Alex Dally MacFarlane

and don’t look no one in the eye

Editing continues on The Bone Queen. I have finally got Jeckel out of Fall, and Beth and Imi have separately reached Elashi. That’s over 30,000 words into the novel. While there’s still tidying to do in those 30,000 words, I don’t think there are any more large-scale changes.

Even though that isn’t even halfway through the novel, I still think I can finish this edit by the end of March. I am hopeful that, once I reach the halfway point, there’ll be a lot less rewriting and lot more editing, which is (I really hope) going to be a little less time-consuming.

For the first time, I’m comfortable with the idea that this isn’t a quick, short project. I’m working hard and making progress (although, this being editing, I always wish it was quicker progress) and it will get done. No doubt it helps that the changes I’m making feel like significant improvements – it’s hard to be unhappy when I’m clearly making the book much better. And it’s so good not to be depressed by the whole process. Even though friends who were working on their books when I was working on The Bone Queen are now celebrating book releases. I believe that my book will be done when it’s done, and that’s okay.

However, one exciting side-effect of throwing myself so thoroughly into editing is that my well-faked organisational skills are fraying quite fast. I keep forgetting really important things. And so, a to-do list:

Edit poem for Stone Telling’s queer issue (by 20 Feb)
– Finish going over the edits for “Fox Bones. Many Uses.” (before 23 Feb)
– Sort out St Petersburg travel guide (before 23 Feb)
– Put waterproofing gel on boots (before 23 Feb)
Find receipt for my lost Young Persons’ Railcard and Get a replacement (before 23 Feb)
Akkadian assignment (by 22 Feb)
Phone local doctors’ practice in order to finally arrange getting a local doctor (before 23 Feb)
Go into doctors’ practice to arrange getting a local doctor (asap)
– Make an appointment after returning from Russia (1 March)
– Complete life-related thing I cannot currently discuss in public (before 29 Feb)
Politely hassle a person relating to this thing if she doesn’t reply to my recent email (soon)
Email Sean Wallace about a change of address (soon)
– Reply to several people’s emails (soon)
– Finish writing and then edit story for interesting antho (by 31 March)

I’m sure that’s not all of it.

Oh, and continue keeping up with Akkadian homework AND complete this term’s first assignment. Sometime. Soon.

One of the nice things about this new-found long-view is that I can look at April and May and think about how I will relax and work on short stories and the SF novella and it will be wonderful. I’m not really thinking yet about the possibility of the agent still not being sufficiently pleased with The Bone Queen. That will come, if it comes. For now, making The Bone Queen a better book.

In the meantime, do not expect me to remember or reply to everything. I’m in my natural state: quite scatterbrained.

Jan 28, 2012
Alex Dally MacFarlane

those who go they don’t come back

That feeling when you get an even deeper insight into what makes one of your characters tick. It’s the kind of thing that makes me believe I’m becoming a better writer.

I’m working on Imi’s plot in The Bone Queen, tweaking her first chapter to make it more urgent. So far that’s involved: upping the stakes, removing a chunk of slow infodumping, adding one or two more mentions of her frustration at the dead-end her research has taken.

And then I changed a paragraph into this:

“And it* sounds so interesting. I want to find it all, I want to bring it back into storytellers’ knowledge.” New ideas about the Umer descent cycles were interesting, but they weren’t this. She wanted to be Imi Who Brought Stories Back To Life, not Imi Who Picked At Well-Known Tales. Let Karash do that — and do it wonderfully — but Imi knew she would never find happiness in it. “It looks like I may never know the tale,” she said, and drank deeply from the tea so that she would not cry.

*a story

Which prompted me to write something she’ll say later in the book: “It is said that, in addition to her fascination with bones, the Bone Queen collects stories, and owns one for every vertebrae in her palace’s walls.”


But, seriously, one of the most powerful words I’ve found for my characters is want. What do they want, in general, in that scene? Sometimes just stating it brings so much to light.

(I was going to quote “When The Chips Are Down” in the post title, because I was singing it earlier, but then I thought about the lyrics and went NO, THAT WOULD BE BETH’S SONG.)

Jan 22, 2012
Alex Dally MacFarlane

and frame it all in gold, in gold

I’m back to working on The Bone Queen, the weird secondary world fantasy novel I’ve been writing and editing on-and-off for some years – and, shockingly, editing is still hard and slow and somehow it’s 22 January and I’ve only read to the end of Chapter 4. I still need to actually edit Chapters 2 and 4. I’ve made the opening of Chapter 1 more urgent and I think Chapter 3 needs little more than a polish after some tweaks today.

I have set myself a deadline of 31 March to get this done, but I really need to focus more if I’m going to reach that. (I don’t think I could bear it dragging on even longer, unless it has to.) The novel has 30-something chapters and a lot of it needs rewriting because how the plot unfolds is changing quite a bit. This is doable, I still think; I just need to ignore all other projects, besides the story and the poem with submission windows closing before the end of March. (Having two other things to work on when The Bone Queen is really stuck will do me good, I suspect. Plus, I should remind myself, I can always translate more Ḫammurabi if I’m bored of writing! The Old Babylonian is excellent, but it’s also time-consuming.) As for the other tempting things, they will have to be patient.

One thing that makes me even more determined to do this is that The Bone Queen already has a life beyond the .doc files on my computer.

I’m wearing a Chimera Fancies necklace that Amal gave me, because she saw it and immediately thought of The Bone Queen:

On my desk is a box that Tori gave me, its lid decorated with the Bone Queen herself:

Bone Queen

And I have a whole series of sprites and comics and .gifs drawn by Pen, some hilarious, some horrifying (it is best we do not speak of The Boner Queen mockery-cover). This, for instance, is how Jeckel feels when given a rubix cube:

That… probably makes no sense unless you’ve read the book. (He doesn’t like squares, okay, FOR REASONS.)

It’s amazing, that this book isn’t published, isn’t even agented, and already I have things like this, gifts from people that connect to this book. I can’t properly imagine what it will be if it does get published.

It will be edited. It will be done.

Be bold, be bold.

Aug 2, 2011
Alex Dally MacFarlane

ain’t no compass brother, there ain’t no map

Tori got me hooked on something super fun recently: Pinterest, an online pin board where you can pin awesome things. I have been playing with it quite a lot. I’m foxtailedgirl there, with various boards: one for The Bone Queen, one for Turkmen pics, one for other stories, and the obligatory foxes one.

(Writing/editing on all projects is slow at the moment, which is annoying me. The fact that I recently bought Super Mario Galaxy 2 is both helpful – it’s very stress-reducing! bright shiny fun game IN SPAAACE – and not, as sometimes I play when I ought to be writing.)

As part of finding images that represent the taste I have of TBQ in my head, I wanted to find fun gunslinger pictures. Typing ‘female gunslinger’ into Google Images is a very depressing activity, let me tell you. Going to Deviantart is a bit more productive, in the sense that a lot of the art is low quality but a lot less of it is offensive. I really really like this one:

by darkfong on DA

It’s not really how I imagine Beth – she wouldn’t go bare-legged in the desert, and I can’t say I’ve ever imagined her in a poncho – but the tone of the piece is awesome.

I also found this image that someone else had pinned on Pinterest:

via, credit LA Public Library

She’s a Chicana gunslinger. The photo was taken in the 1920s. I can’t really say it any more eloquently than the woman who runs ofanotherfashion on tumblr: “I love photos like this because they’re visual evidence of the wide range of femininities that have always existed.”

This could probably be the subject of an entire post, but I’ve always identified most with women whose identities largely intersect with traits that are more stereotypically considered male. Pictures like this really speak to me. I wish I could have met her.

Out now!

"...the 33 stories that MacFarlane has gathered for this volume dazzle with the virtuosity of their contributors’ talents."

- Publishers Weekly: STARRED REVIEW

"Works from around the world, some in translation, provide an invaluable snapshot of this moment in the genre as well as some tremendously enjoyable reading."

- Publishers Weekly: Best Books of 2014

"The stories range widely in scope and form — from prose poems to metafiction — to capture a dynamic, forward-thinking genre that plays with history, myth and science."

- The Washington Post: Think science fiction is dominated by men? Think again.

"...ground-breaking and superbly conceived..."

- Nina Allan: Strange Horizons: 2014 In Review

Aliens: Recent Encounters

"...this [anthology] blew us away more than any other. Mostly because of the sheer volume of greatness contained in these 32 stories... These are classic stories of alien encounters, from some of the best science fiction writers working today."

- Best Books of 2013

Short Stories