Beginnings

A start. Vegetable Garden 2016

A start. Vegetable Garden 2016

Yesterday was Imbolc. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure what it was outside of an old Celtic holiday. I did a little research, and while I’m no Wiccan (I don’t follow any religion), I like the idea of a celebration between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, a time to be grateful that the days are growing longer. This is the time of year when I actually check the sunrise/sunset data each night in order to track the sun’s return, to get confirmation that yes, there actually was an extra minute of sunshine yesterday. I live for the long, warm summer, when I can work every evening planting gardens, tending to animals, and growing vegetables. I can imagine that for the ancient Celts in Northern Europe, the lambing time was kind of the same – that first hint that the long, hard winter was waning, and the sun would indeed return. So, on Imbolc Eve I lit a small fire in the firepit, and my kids roasted hot dogs while I gave a little thanks to the universe that we’re all still here.

On a related note, the first batch of summer veggies have sprouted, along with a flat of companion marigolds. We’ve got seven varieties of tomato, four peppers, and two types of zucchini growing on warming mats in the garage, getting ready for the first wave of planting in March. In the old refrigerator we keep out there, I’ve also got another flat of three different varieties of milkweed, 70 plants in all, cooling their heels in the refrigerator (cold stratification) before going under the full spectrum bulbs in a couple of weeks.

Work on the novel continues as well. For the past few weeks I’ve been participating in a writing challenge put together by some of the members at Codex, the writer’s website I belong to. This particular challenge is geared around really short pieces, <750 words, but it’s done wonders for getting me back into the writing habit after the crazy-hectic holidays. So now, on days I don’t work on those stories, I work on the novel, which will hopefully be done (in first draft at least) by the end of the summer.

A few updates:

I’m pleased and excited to report that my poem, “Changeling,” which appeared in Liminality’s Winter 2015 issue, has been nominated for a Rhysling award in the Long Poem category.

My poem, “Spell,” has just gone up over at Stone Telling, a really gorgeous online poetry ‘zine. After this issue the editors plan on going on hiatus for the rest of 2016, so this is your last chance for a while to catch some of the best speculative poets working today.

This morning, SF Signal went live with this week’s “Mind Meld” titled, “Graphic Novels We’re Loving Right Now.” I weigh in on The New 52’s Wonder Woman reboot, but there are some fantastic reviews of other great graphic novels as well, so check it out.

The Persistence of Vision Expansion Pack*

Heretofore, this blog has focused mainly on my writing news, along with occasional reviews and journally-type entries. Starting in 2016, however, my plan is to expand a little bit into another passion of mine, gardening. The trick, I think, is finding a way to dovetail those two topics into something cohesive, interrelated, and hopefully interesting. So, to that end, I’ve decided to start with a series of posts on the myth and folklore of certain plants; specifically, those which have traditionally been seen as having magical properties. I actually got the idea from an article written a couple of years ago by Theodora Goss for Cabinet des Fées, called Planting a Magical Garden. My plan is a bit more ambitious, however: each plant will have its own blog post, which will include traditional folk uses and properties, modern uses and folklore, and (hopefully) examples of art and stories featuring said plant.

More than simply bringing diverse topics to hand, the hope is that this research and documentation will serve as a resource for me, as well. I adore myth, fairy tales and traditional folklore, and in the past I’ve explored both topics in my fiction. Researching these plants, and organizing what I find here will give me quick and easy access to the information I find most interesting.

The long-term goal is to expand this website into a resource on a variety of topics regarding the intersection of mythology, folklore and the natural world, and how all of these ideas are being reinterpreted and carried forward into the twenty-first century.

But we’ll start small. We’ll start with roses.

 

 

 

*Coming soon to a comics store near you.

Award Eligibility 2015

It’s very tough for me, personally, to write these kinds of posts, as I’m not the sort for self-promotion. However, I’m also well aware that writing (for fun and profit) entails a certain amount of that kind of thing, and, the nature of squeaky wheels being what it is, I feel as if I should at least put forth the effort. 2015 was by far the most successful year I’ve had so far in terms of writing, and I’m pretty proud of that fact, considering I also obtained a Master’s degree and homeschooled three children. I wrote and sold more short stories than ever before, and had more than a few poems published as well, all of which I’m quite proud of, and would be absolutely thrilled to have nominated.

That being said, I give you, without further ado, the list:

Stories

“The Answer,” (Fantasy Scroll Mag #10, December 2015), reviewed at Quick Sip Reviews
“Connection,” (Daily Science Fiction, November 2015)
“Mother,” (Pseudopod, Episode 459, October 2015)
“The Memory of Trees,” (Nature: Futures, July, 2015)
“When I Needed You Most,” (Every Day Fiction, 2015)
“Lost in Translation,”  (Welcome to the Future, 2015)
“Pattern, Piece, Block, Stitch,” (The Lorelei Signal, Jan, 2015)

Poems

“Three” (Eternal Haunted Summer, Winter Solstice 2015)
“Changeling” (Liminality, 6, Winter 2015)
“Code Talker” and “I Sing the Void” (Illumen, Autumn 2015)
“Harrowing” (Strange Horizons, 2015), reviewed at Quick Sip Reviews
“First Contact” (Eye to the Telescope, 18, October 2015)
“Midnight at the Hub City Café” (HWA Poetry Showcase II, 2015)
“There Is No Why” (Star*Line, 38.4, 2015)
“The Garden Wild” (Liminality, Autumn 2015)
“Anchorite” (Eternal Haunted Summer, Autumn Equinox 2015)
“Omega Woman” (Eye to the Telescope, 17, July 2015)
“Superhero” (Lakeside Circus, Spring 2015)

 
If you are a voter for SFPA, SFWA, or the Hugos, and would like to receive a .pdf copy of any of these works, please shoot me a line via the contact form on the “About Me” page. Thanks!

News and Updates

I’m armpit deep in Christmas, but, for those with an interest, I have a couple of things going live today:

Over at Fantasy Scroll Mag, my short story “The Answer” can be found in the newly released Issue 10, December, 2015. This is a story that was part of a (as yet unfinished) cycle of stories featuring female mythological monsters. The idea was to retell the myths from the monsters’ point of view. Of course, as happens with lots of stories, the characters tend to go and do things I didn’t plan. The end result, though not what I’d originally envisioned, ended up being one of my favorite things I’ve written in the last couple of years.

In poetry news, my poem “Changeling” is now live over at Liminality, one of my absolute favorite places to read gorgeous, evocative speculative poetry. Go and check out the entire issue if you have a chance. “Changeling” is a narrative poem about love, and loss, and how time seems to fly away as one ages, taking so much, leaving not even the crumbs of sharp memories for a consolation.

Hope you enjoy.

The Myth of Fingerprints

Warm today, currently 70°F. Late in the year and no freeze yet. El Niño is keeping us cozy this year, it would seem. Would be nice to have this continue for a few years, until the citrus trees are really up and going. Nature seems a little surprised by itself, though. Things are confused. Tulip magnolias, which normally bloom in February, are budding out now. Bees and wasps swarm, frantically working on whatever their kind works on when given a little extra time before frost. Sometimes too frantically, however–a red paper wasp stung our dog Max yesterday, and I had to spray insecticide all over the columns on the NW corner of the porch to get rid of what looked to be a fairly big colony. Some of the poison got on the plants, of course, which were full of honey bees, other wasps/flies, anoles, butterflies, and who knows what else. It is physically painful to me to kill things, and, as a gardener and a naturalist, I have a particular hatred of insecticides. The reality is, however, that red paper wasps are extremely territorial and aggressive. They will chase and they will sting, repeatedly. Still, I didn’t want to do it. I mourned the creatures that died, and asked their pardon and understanding.

Though my to do list overfloweth, the LOML and I got some things done that were not on the list, but which were important nonetheless. To viz: planted a new bed of lettuce, replaced two broken door handles (front entryway and kitchen), and painted the porch picnic table with a coat of polyurethane. Huge improvement and morale boost.

Last night we were up until 2am, finishing Penny Dreadful, Season 2. Excellent; my highest rating. I haven’t even fully processed it all, but the writing was layered and nuanced, full of myth and myth-making. One of the things I love about this show is that it doesn’t shy away from using Judeo-Christian mythology as part of its plot arcs. In an age when the religious right tends to viciously attack any biblical interpretation that doesn’t follow the KJV, it’s nice to see a show taking chances by using those stories as part of a larger pool of Western mythology. I’d like to write a longer essay on the subject some time soon.

Refilling the Creative Well (Today Might Be the Day)

I haven’t written any fiction in over a month. Not a poem, not a story. Nothing.

The last time I tried, the whole experience was fraught with pressure and guilt, me sitting there at the computer talking to myself: Come on, come on, you can do this. Write something. Anything.

The occasion was a Halloween short story contest in a writer’s group I belong to. The group hosts these sorts of things several times a year, and generally I like to do them because they impose deadlines, and I most definitely work harder when I have a deadline and someone to (potentially) disappoint on the other end.

Anyway, the participants were all given a story seed: some image or phrase that was supposed to be woven into the story. My seeds were the Ivy League, a woman who used to be a twin, and a lonely knot. You could choose from among your seeds or use them all.

And I had nothing. I sat at my computer for days; started story after story, then deleted what I had written. I stressed over it, cried a little bit, and then I made a decision.

I just put that bag down and walked away.

2015 will go down as my most successful writing year to date. I’ve had six stories and eight poems appear in various places. I wrote a good bit more. I graduated with a Master’s degree. I just needed to give myself permission to let that be enough.

Since then I’ve read books, worked in my garden, and watched a lot of TV and movies. The ideas, the voices and the stories, are coming back, swirling around in my mind, whispering in my ear. This week I’m cooking Thanksgiving dinner for nearly 20 people, so I’ll be busy as hell. Still, the words are coming back, so I might just sneak out for a while to write.

Today might be the day.

Book Review: Neurotribes, by Steve Silberman

*Cross-posted at Goodreads & LibraryThing

On one level, Steve Silberman’s Neurotribes is a history of Autism Spectrum Disorder that spans hundreds of years, many tragedies, and a thorough examination of the recent “autism epidemic,” including the many “cures” touted by experts ranging from behavioral intervention to the Anti-Vaxxer movement. My own son was diagnosed with PDD-NOS in 2003 at the age of three, so the experience of reading Silberman’s book was often like revisiting my own family’s journey through the confusing and oftentimes downright hostile world of diagnosis, intervention, and the unending fight for proper support and services.

Throughout the book, Silberman makes the case that past focus on “causes” and “cures” is misguided at best, and downright harmful at worst. As my own experience illustrates, parents are frequently made to feel as if they somehow “caused” their children’s ASD, either through neglect, exposure to some unspecified environmental factor, or, prior to its thorough scientific debunking, through vaccination. Later, inability (or refusal) to submit one’s child to a “cure” often further subjects parents to accusations that they did nothing to make their child “better.”

As Neurotribes makes clear, however, autistic people don’t need to be cured. What they need are the support services which will allow them both a voice in their own lives and as much independence as they can successfully maintain. My own son is frequently underestimated by everyone around him. He is a bright, compassionate, affectionate person who also happens to sometimes flap his hands and repeat sections of dialogue from his favorite movies in order to lessen his feelings of anxiety. As Silberman so beautifully illustrates, he and every other autistic person have so much to offer the world, if only the world will let them.

 

Book Review: Speak Easy

speakeasyCatherynne M. Valente is a master of metaphor and beautiful language. As an author who traffics primarily in the fairy tale, this is apt, but I think it’s worth mentioning on its own. In that respect, Speak Easy, her recent adaptation of the Twelve Dancing Princesses story, lived up to my expectations. Valente’s prose is gorgeous and lush, fully immersing the reader in the world of the Artemesia hotel. Set in Jazz Age New York, a la The Great Gatsby,  the imagery reflects the times as well as the protagonist, Zelda Fair–decadent, ever-dancing, ever-elegant. The over-the-top nature of the writing does what fairy tales often do; in fact are supposed to do–infuse the world with magic and the possibilities of the limitless. This, coupled with the author’s unique imagination, always makes reading Valente a joy.

Although I found the story a little slow to get going, Valente’s skill carried me through to the second half, when Zelda descends into an Underworld that has more in common with Faery than Hades. Here Zelda and the other “princesses” discover a world where, for a price, creativity flows endlessly, and their artistic instincts are not subsumed, as they are in the world above, by the economics of survival.

That is, until Frankie Key, the story’s version of F. Scott Fitzgerald, comes down below to find her.

My biggest criticism of Speak Easy is that I really wanted Zelda to be a stronger character. Throughout the story, she seems mostly guided by the events around her, rarely coming to her own defense against those who would exploit or consume her. Though her thoughts and actions are undoubtedly subversive, she seems to mostly use what  power she does possess for its seductive qualities, when she could instead protect the life she has come to love or the things she has created there. With Valente’s history of strong female protagonists (the Fairyland series comes to mind, particularly), I found this somewhat glaring lack of “girl power” disappointing.

Still, all in all this was a great book. I think I’d forgive Valente just about anything in order to read that gorgeous, lush prose. Definitely recommended reading for all lovers of the fairy tale genre.

 

October in the Chair* – Announcements & Updates

I’m not sure what it says about me and my writing, but a good deal of the poetry and fiction I’ve sold this year comes out this month. Darkness? Probably. I’ve got a lot of it tucked away inside and writing is one of the ways I purge it. In any case, if you follow my work, there’s a lot to be had this month. To wit:

My horror story, “Mother,” is featured in this week’s podcast at Pseudopod. Along with Escape Pod (science fiction) and Podcastle (fantasy), it’s a great source of speculative fiction.

This week at Strange Horizons, my poem, “Harrowing,” is featured. Strange Horizons is one of my absolute favorite spec fic markets, as the stories and poems they publish tends to be particularly bad-ass and very, very good.

Over at Star*Line, the online newsletter of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, my poem, “There Is No Why,” is one of the editor’s choice picks for October. It’s my take on the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale, set in the ‘trailer parks and honky-tonks’ world of my youth.

Speaking of the SFPA, their beautiful online journal, Eye to the Telescope, features poems centered around the theme of race this month, and includes my take on the subject, “First Contact.

This week also marks the publication of the Horror Writers’ Association Second Annual Poetry Showcase, wherein you can read my poem, “Midnight at the Hub City Café.” It’s not free to read, but the version for kindle is up at Amazon for only $2.99, a bargain if you’re interested in some of the best dark poetry around.

On a slightly less monstrous note, my poem “The Garden Wild,” is up at Liminality, a gorgeous online journal of speculative poetry that tends more toward fantasy and magical realism. My poem was written as a tribute to my mother, who showed me the joy in tending the earth and the magic in growing things from the soil.

And finally, my poem, “Anchorite,” marks my first appearance in Eternal Haunted Summer, a beautiful journal that specializes in fiction, non-fiction, and poetry with pagan themes.

Whew. October had a lot to say.

Or maybe I had a lot to say to October.

*My favorite story from Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things.