Wizards in Space

You guys.

I can’t find the words to tell you how unbelievably excited, honored, and humbled I am to appear in Issue #2 of Wizards in Space Literary magazine. My story “Our Lady of the Crossroads” is featured, and tells the tale of a teen witch in the ’90s who summons Hecate to deal with her Health teacher, who happens to be a demon cast out of Hell.

Like don’t get me wrong, it’s a good story, but… daaaaaaammmnnn. My piece is surrounded by some incredible, incredible goddamn work.

My personal favorite has to be “The Land of Rough Draft” by Brenna Harvey. If you are a fantasy fan of any stripe or caliber, you absolutely must read this piece. I found it breathtakingly clever, laugh-out-loud funny, and emotionally devastating simultaneously. “The Land of Rough Draft” tells the story of Ventin, the stereotypical manly-man fantasy hero, the chosen one meant to fight the evil sorcerer Elthumath and rescue the blonde and perfect princess. However, the story reads literally like a “rough draft” of a fantasy novel someone is writing as they slowly wake up to the fact that their story is full of gender and ethnic stereotypes, and tired, disheartening tropes of high fantasy. The characters and stories change as the invisible author comes to understand how to write a much better story. Here are some choice excerpts:

“Ventin had an uncertain leadership role in this army. he often made passionate motivational speeches to his men before deadly battles against unbeatable odds. But he also snuck away for a great many entertaining side adventures without a noticeable impact on the organization or discipline of his troops. Whatever his official authority level, Ventin attended a great many strategy meetings held in large, luxurious tents… he stabbed a great many expensive daggers through the yellowed maps and into the rough wooden tables to emphasize just how righteous his fury was. Where he bought the daggers, none could say”

This description of Ventin’s sidekick character, Kimbo-Limbo: “Kimbo Limbo’s description portrayed him very emphatically as a black man, in language both fetishizing and smugly self-congratulatory. Kimbo Limbo had been added to the story under the misguided assumption that any appearance of a person of color in literature is necessarily a progressive, anti-racist move.”

Ventin says at one point, “I have therefore successfully couched stereotypical, oversimplified, homogenized depictions of non-Western cultures in admiring language.”

“Which obviously absolves you of all racism,” said Kimbo Limbo.

“Obviously,” said Ventin.

My favorite character is the villain, Elthumath, who is described thusly: “As a shortcut to imply the Dark Lord’s villainy, everything about his appearance, from his intricate glam rock eye shadow to his luxuriously tailored robes, suggested gleeful and unapologetic gender nonconformity.”

I could go on and on and on. But I won’t, because YOU SHOULD READ IT! Oh my God, please just buy a copy and read it. I’ve never read anything this savagely funny that also made me so, so sad. Because I love Tolkien, but he is the biggest a-hole of them all when it comes to this stuff.

And truth be told, this piece is making me look SO HARD at my own fantasy novel in the works, Harvest of Ash. I’m writing it to be feminist, but I fear to look at my work through Harvey’s critical lens. Because fantasy needs to change, and we need stories that embrace the world we live in now, not some romantic ideal of Medieval life which clearly sucked for 90% of the population at the time.

“The Land of Rough Draft” is just ONE of so many fantastic, illustrious, and wondrous pieces in this lit mag. If you’re a fantasy/sci-fi fan, and believe in reading progressive pieces about identity and representation that really make you think, this is the lit mag for you. Buy it. Buy it! DO IT NOW!!

It will make you go:

giphy (45)

Editors Know Best!

I heard back from Vivian, my editor for Humans Wanted, and she had some excellent notes for my story. Of course, just like when I was a teenager and my mom would try to give me advice, when I first read edits and suggestions of any sort, I always get huffy. “Well, I MEANT to use that word there, thank you very much!”

Then I re-read the comments and start making changes, and all of the sudden it dawns on me (with this music in the background). “Oh my God. This is so much better now that I’ve taken those suggestions!”

It happens each time without fail! I wish I could skip over that initial huffy phase (even if it only lasts about 90 seconds) and go right into the grateful stage. I suppose that happens with time! So typical — I’m great a dishing it out, but terrible at taking my own medicine.

In other news, I have written 50 blog posts on my blog I Know What I Know, which seems like SO MANY. I swear, very few of them are rants. Check them out. They will be relevant to your interests. This is because each post is radically different. I write about soup, wax museums, and that time I rode in a Lyft. There’s bound to be something you wanna read about.

I haven’t heard anything, but I’m still holding out hope to have a story in “Ride the Star Wind” which is a Cthulhu space opera anthology. The close date was January 31st but I haven’t heard one way or the other. I suppose I’ll wait until the end of the month and contact them. Fingers crossed?

Beauty and the Beast, Slayer of the Vampyres

Well, I have finished the first season of Alayna and the Beast, my beauty and the beast reboot. In my reimagining, “Beauty” is a vampire hunter and the Beast had a wife who was also transformed. They team up to kick some monster ass and maybe fall in love.

I wasn’t planning on it being a cliffhanger. I wasn’t planning on a season two until suddenly at the end of the final scene, Alayna did something unexpected! Wow. A character hasn’t surprised me like that in a long time.

The good news for this story, which was crafted with Big World Network in mind, and thought the site is under new management it appears it will stay up and they are now taking submissions again. I’m hoping to see this story online soon and for free, dear readers! Though I came abide by doing my own audio recording anymore — it’s just too time consuming with a toddler!

I finished some books recently and you can read my reviews on Goodreads. Please follow my Facebook author page for updates. I’ve just started reading Beyond Black by one of my all time FAVORITE authors, Hilary Mantel. Not even done with the first full chapter to and I am already in awe of her descriptions and electrifying characterization.

Ahem, by the way Hilary, where is the final Cromwell book in your Wolf Hall series may I ask?!?!?

Much love. Read, write, rise up!

Returning to the Violet Realm

Good news everyone! (Futurama professor voice) Big World Network, the episodic story site where Harvest of Ash appeared, has been saved from shut-down. Some of the writers and narrators are transferring it to a non-profit so the company can continue to run. I have a new editor, and I am continuing work on Season 3, so never fear, Ash fans! The story shall be finished! I’m planning for a season 3-4 and ending the story at the end of season 4. I hope to someday see Ash in print!

I just finished a short story that was supposed to be scary but just kind of ended up being snarky and funny (in my opinion). In a way, it took on the voice and tone of my Christmas themed short story “It Means No Worries” that also appeared one or two years ago on BWN. I don’t know if anyone else will think it’s amusing, but I had a ball writing it. The main character is a disillusioned teacher, so go figure. It really was supposed to be a horror story about a girl robbing a grave for the perfect prom dress, but it sorta turned into a… farce? I don’t know. I have some people from writing group offering to beta read, so we’ll see what they think.

More good news is that my babysitters are available on Tuesday nights again, which means I can attend my lovely fantasy writers group at the public library. The Iowa Writers’ House does such unbelievably amazing things and provides such critical services for emerging writers. Everything they do is phenomenal. Please support them, or consider taking advantage of some of the services they provide!

I’m seriously considering signing up for a food writing class they’re offering. I just finished Fuchsia Dunlop’s Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China and I adored it. I ate it up like Fuchsia slurps noodles! I would die of happiness to become a food writer. I’ve dabbled a bit in travel writing but nothing major, just a few blog posts or rejected article pitches. Eating and writing are two of my favorite things, so why not wed those together? A delicious partnership.
Well, that’s about it from this end. I love you all, stay safe, and be excellent to each other.

I’m Appearing in a Science Fiction Anthology!

The most fantastic news!

The first science fiction story I ever wrote will be featured in the anthology Humans Wanted, and will appear in print and ebook format!

You can check out the kickstarter page here and pre-order your copy!

Here’s a description of the concept behind the anthology:

When going somewhere dangerous, take a human. 

Humans are tough. Humans can last days without food. Humans heal so quickly, they pierce holes in themselves or inject ink under their epidermis for fun. Humans will walk for days on broken bones in order to make it to safety. Humans will literally cut off bits of themselves if trapped by a disaster. 

You would be amazed what humans will do to survive. Or to ensure the survival of others they feel responsible for. 

That’s the other thing. Humans pack-bond, and they spill their pack-bonding instincts everywhere. Sure it’s weird when they talk sympathetically to broken spaceships or try to pet every lifeform that scans as non-toxic. It’s even a little weird that just existing in the same place as them for long enough seems to make them care about you. 

But if you’re hurt, if you’re trapped, if you need someone to fetch help? You really want a human.

I jumped at the chance to submit to this because it’s true — in this era of dystopian future themed literature, it seems humans are the worst thing to ever happen to the universe. So why not create an anthology where authors showcase what humans have to offer the future?

I read a great article in Smithsonian last year about the dystopia trend, and how some science fiction writers are fighting back by offering optimistic visions of the future. After all, art imitates life imitates art, am I right? If we want a brighter future, we need to start teasing it out in our speculative fiction. That’s why I’m a Trekkie. I believe if we shape things right, we can have a better tomorrow.

My story, “A Second Zion,” tells the tale of Rani Okalivi, a kick ass Kurkani mercenary who is very dismayed to learn that her new team has three squishy, pathetic humans. Humans: famous throughout the galaxy for destroying their planet through unstoppable industrialization and, more unforgivably, race war, causing what was left of the population to flee to the stars. Will they be an asset to the team sent to save the child of a galactic diplomat, or will they betray her as they betrayed their own world? Buy the book to find out!!

I am absolutely thrilled to be accepted, and I can’t wait to get my copy.

***

Well, aside from this major news, there hasn’t been much going on. A few rejections, but they’ve been rolling off me like unsupervised kids off a trampoline. I’ve submitted a couple of things, and written a chapter of my SUPER SECRET writing project. Also for over a year now I’ve been plugging away at a book I’m calling Our Liberties We Prize. This weird little book is a collection of short stories that retells notorious events from Iowa history from a different perspective (think the Villisca Axe Murders through the eyes of the murderer) or from a cosmic weird detached 1st/2nd/3rd person. Many of the stories play with the idea of time and space being spongy. People and things and energies fall through all the time and nobody ever sees the holes. I have no idea where this work is going, but I keep having ideas for it, so I guess we’ll keep going.

On a side note, nothing kills my writing energy faster than being WAY TOO FULL. This post has been shortened for you by Zombie Burger…

 

 

New Year, Old Fears

I’m feeling pretty ambivalent about the new year, as are a lot of people. The general climate is one of fear and devision, and it seems like the more things change the more they stay the same. So what’s the point of making some kind of resolution?

I am definitely NOT the poster child for keeping resolutions. I can’t tell you how many diet, fitness, and mindfulness programs I’ve started and slowly let list into the rocks like an ill-fated cruise ship. I know this about myself, and yet, what are the options? Give up and never try to make yourself a better person?

I don’t have the answer to that, but here’s something I can tell you. In 2013 on a road trip to and from Jekyll Island, Georgia with my husband and father-in-law. I had lot of time on my hands so I spent it journaling, specifically making new year resolutions. I’m sure that journal entry had the obligatory fitness goals, but it also included a challenge to myself to really take writing seriously. I had just turned 30, and I decided if ever there was a time to make a real go at this writing dream, now was the time.

I’m no JK Rowling, but here I am at 33 with published poems and short stories, numerous manuscript requests, and a steady gig blogging for mom.me. And my momentum is still going strong. For that reason, I’ll never badmouth a resolution or a person making it. Now if I could get the pumped up about fitness… 😣😥😦

Okay, so for the writing update, I sent a lot of my break finishing The Feast of All Saints by the incomparable Anne Rice, but did get a smidge of my own work done. I wrote a very short, very half-hearted chapter of Drifting, which is so scanty I haven’t the heart to post it on Wattpad yet until I flesh it out some more. My best writing day lately was at the lovely Fuel coffee shop in my hometown where I cranked out a very action packed chapter of Alayna and the Beast, my gritty Beauty and the Beast reboot where”Beauty ” is a monster slayer. It’s a fantasy novella I’m not sure what to do with, but I love it.

If you’re reading this, know I love and appreciate you and your support. I wish you luck with any and all resolutions and hope 2017 is a year of peace and healing.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas (has infected everything I write…)

Things have picked up on the writing front. As of this writing, Christmas is at a record-high 90% SAVED rating, which as allowed me to get a few things done here and there!

First, I completed a 3,000 word short story titled “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” I am so entrenched in the Christmas cheer that I can’t stop writing about it. The story focuses on a young mother and her daughter who have been protected (unbeknownst to them) for years by the angel on their Christmas tree. Things go to hell in a handbasket when the angel is lost in the basement and not in her proper place at the top of the tree…

(Side note — I had a friend in college who was convinced he’d coined the phrase “to hell in a handbasket” and I had to gently remind him that was bulls**t).

I’ve always been obsessed with the idea of ghost stories at Christmas time, as was the tradition in Victorian England. This has inspired a series of blog posts on I Know What I Know about paranormal experiences I’ve had over the years.

I also crapped out a couple of Christmas-themed poems, one about how all of our traditions for this Christian holiday were stolen from pagans, and the other about how Christmas magic fades as you grow up, but is reborn once you have children of your own. I’ve almost filled up my poetry notebook, and when I’m done I think I’m going to self-publish it. Just to give them a home. Because I’m not much of a poet, but writing poetry has made me a much more vivid writer. My descriptions often get praise from my readers, and this is because I try to describe things poetically and say it in a new way. I don’t want my little thought-nuggets to float around in my piles of notes and old writings forever when they could have a nice tidy little book to live in.

Lastly, I’ve been thinking a lot about journaling lately. I still keep a journal, but it’s not much more than just a list of things I’ve been doing or thinking for the past few months. I don’t write in it any more often than that. Mostly, I pour my creative journaling energies into a logbook I’m keeping for my daughter of all of her milestones and developments. I don’t write in that one as often as I should…

It’s weird — I used to go back and read my journals fairly often. Maybe because now the pile of notebooks is 24-25 years long, but I don’t have that desire anymore to marinate in a sauce of myself. I’m not sure what would be gained from looking back, and with so little time, I’d rather push my writing career. Yet I can’t see myself ever not keeping a journal…

Anyway. Happy holidays to everyone, be safe, and spread the love.

The 52 Short Stories Challenge

Originally, the idea is to write 52 short stories in 52 weeks! (*bursts out laughing*). Yeah that’s not happening. But I’m chipping away at these prompts, and I’m loving it. Here’s my progress. Will update as I continue.

1. A story entitled “A New Beginning” (done, and published at The Fictional Cafe)

2. A story about rising to a challenge (“Snake Charmer” published in Saw Palm)

3. A retelling of a fairytale (“The Twelve, Dancing” done and published in Quantum Fairy Tales)

4. A story about three siblings. (“We Kill the Skull Man” appearing in My American Nightmare)

5. A story set in London (“Idylls of the King” Published soon in Running Wild Press’s short story anthology v. 2)

6. A story about finding something that has been lost. (“The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” which appears in Intellectual Refuge)

7. A story about a journey. (“Thriller”)

8. A story set during a war (“The Kitchen at the End of the World” in anthology Enter the Rebirth)

9. A creepy story (“Our Lady of the Crossroads” published in the “Wizards in Space” literary journal)

10. A story featuring a countdown (“Countdown”)

11. A story set at a full moon. (“Motherhood of the Wolf)

12. A story about a contest or competition. (“MVP”)

13. A story that takes place entirely inside a vehicle. (“The Witch Tree”)

14. A story from a villain’s perspective. (Snow White’s Villain retelling)

15. A story set at a concert or festival.

16. A story that begins with a gunshot.

17. A story set in a country you’ve never been to.

18. A story about a historical figure.

19. A story set in a theatre.

20. A story written in 2nd person narrative.

21. A story set on another planet.

22. A story written from the perspective of someone dead/undead

23. A story about a birthday.

24. A story that ends on a cliffhanger.

25. A story set at the summer solstice.

26. A story about nostalgia.

27. A story that features a song or poem.

28. A story that ends at sunrise.

29. A story opening with the words “F*** you!”

30. A story about a magical object.

31. A story set at sea.

32. A story about a curse.

33. A story set 100 years in the future.

34. A story about loneliness.

35. A story that features a real recent newspaper article.

36. A story written from an animal’s perspective.

37. A story about a scientific discovery.

38. A story set on another planet.

39. A story with only one character.

40. A story about a secret.

41. A romance that ends in tragedy.

42. A tragedy that ends in romance.

43. A retelling of a recent Hollywood movie.

44. A story that takes place the year you were born.

45. A story about a near-death experience.

46. A story about anger.

47. A story about a magic spell.

48. A story set in a strange small town.

49. A story about justice being done.

50. A creation myth.

51. A story set at Christmas.

52. A story entitled “The End”.

Here We Come a’Wassailing (but not a’writing…)

Oh sweet Queen of Heaven, I have written PRETTY MUCH NOTHING LATELY! ACK!

Well, here’s my story/excuse/”the deal” — My husband, daughter, and I attended NCTE and AREA (English teacher conferences for those who don’t know “the lingo”) and then drove down to the glorious Jekyll Island for Thanksgiving.

When we got home, it was November 28th, and I realized I had exactly NOTHING done for Christmas. No parties planned, no decorations, no meals, no gifts.

It was almost enough to say, “Screw it, we’re not doing Christmas this year.”

sadpug

My face was literally this pug

But then I saw my husband’s sad glistening little Christmas-loving eyes… he is a major Christmas fan, but because of grad school and finals, I knew it was all up to me. So I abandoned all my writing projects and kicked my ass into SAVE CHRISTMAS MODE!!!

As of this writing, successful gatherings have been thrown together, the festivities are scheduled, cards sent, photo ops with Santa perfected, the menus achieved, and the SHOPPING DONE (as is MOST of the gift wrapping). I would call Christmas 90% saved (assuming something doesn’t go wrong… DAMN I JINXED IT!).

So, I’m going to do my very best to get back on track with the writing. I hope to get a lot accomplished over the break, but… we’ll see.

me-as-santa

This is obviously a painting of me. Because this year, I AM SANTA. I HAVE SAVED CHRISTMAS! (just ignore the burning German toys at my feet– just pretend they’re my writing hopes and dreams) (but she kinda looks like me, amirite?)

My Sinuses Cannot Stop Me!

When you’re sick, and your kid’s sick, it’s hard to get any writing done! Also, obviously I’v been setting up my website. However, last Saturday, my mom took my daughter for the morning, and I was able to drag myself to the computer and work. I’m working on a “secret” project, but, you read it here first — I’ll tell you what it is!

I’m about 40 pages into my first romance novel. It’s a m/m paranormal historical romance. I don’t want to give out the working title yet, because I think it could give away the ending. So far, it tells the story of a shy young man named Grayson who is secretly in love with his sister’s fiance. But, that’s not his only problem… his sister was bitten by a werewolf!

I’m reading Anne Rice’s The Feast of All Saints. It’s interesting to me because I think it’s pretty brave for a white writer to tackle the story of people of color in historical New Orleans. But everything Anne does she does balls out, and you just have to go along for the ride. In the 70s I think they probably didn’t ask as many questions about appropriation. I can overdo the Anne Rice (like when I read the Mayfair Witches trilogy I was like “gah, can we finish this?”) but it’s been a long time, and I’m glad to return to her lush world. She’s definitely a huge influence on me and shares that equally with Stephen King. From Anne, I learned that you should follow your heart and write about anything you want, even if your obsession is lusty vampires (sorry, that doesn’t go for you, Stephenie Meyer), as long as you are a technically skilled writer who doesn’t hold back.

Love you, don’t forget to be excellent to each other,

Amelia