Summer Reading Mini-Listicle

Good news for horror fans: the Predators in Petticoats Kickstarter was funded! Hooray!

I’m in the middle of working on a couple of very exciting projects that I can’t talk about much right now (always fun!), so I thought I’d do a summer reading mini-listicle.

So without further ado, here are three books that I’ve recently enjoyed that would make excellent summer beach reads:

How Long ’Til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin If you like short stories and speculative fiction, this book is a must-read. Jemisin’s ideas are compelling and the worlds are rich – these stories are powerful delights.

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang I keep passing this charming graphic novel around to my friends! A dressmaker is employed to secretly create gorgeous dresses for a prince – this charming story is a quick read that will leave you with all the warm fuzzies.

Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente Eurovision meets science fiction in this blastastic comedy about the end of humanity, looking fabulous, and writing the perfect song. A novel that sings.

Remember, you can always go to your local library branch and request one of these books – librarians love it when you do this. Go make a librarian happy today!

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3 Days Left for Predators in Petticoats Kickstarter!

close up Little Red Riding Hood illustration by M. Lopes da SilvaI was honored to have one of my short horror stories accepted by Prospective Press for their new Predators in Petticoats anthology. I’ve offered to create original custom watercolor art at the “Soucouyant” backer level, so if you’re a fan, here’s an opportunity to snatch up a fierce watercolor!

All the funds generated now are going directly back to the artists and authors behind this cool horror book, so thanks for contributing! It’s gonna be a blast.

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A Fear of Bikes

I wrote this story by mistake!

How did this happen? Well I wrote down a call for writing submissions that was looking for NONfiction stories about bicycling/sex/sexuality/queerness/feminism as FICTION in my schedule – and so proceeded to churn out this little gem, noticing only on the day of submission my mistake. WHOOPS!

I’m very fond of my mistake. It’s about bicycles, and bisexuality, and coming of age (I wish I had been able to come out to my parents with the flair that my protagonist does). So Happy Pride Month, everyone!

 

I was afraid of bikes for far too long.

My parents put the fear in me: not scraped limbs but broken ones. Broken necks. Fractured skulls. They would not buy me a bicycle, and not even Santa Claus or Jesus could be appealed to in the matter.

So I tried bicycles out in secret.

Furtively, my friend Kyle tried to teach me how to ride a bike, “even though the seat’s all wrong”. We were eight and nothing happened beyond the quickening of heartbeats and long looks and flushes, our hands disentangling when I toppled over into the gravel, skinned my shin, and we suddenly had to think of a good excuse to tell my folks when I got back home.

Then I was twelve and it was Stacey, her blonde hair held up in an unshakeable ponytail that could miraculously withstand any length of helmet wear. She showed me how to fasten the strap of her borrowed helmet underneath my chin and when I nervously held her hand there for a moment too long she smiled and pushed up on the tips of her sneakers to kiss my nose and I felt like the shimmer of a hundred spokes reflecting the starlight and then we had to go inside because her mom had made pizza rolls. She had to move back to Chicago a couple weeks after that.

Secret lessons, stolen in private: accruing velocity, but slowly.

In middle school I sat on the bike handlebars of a guy that I dated for a week, then broke up with him. I made a bouquet of paper flowers for a girl I liked, and she wove them into the basket of her bicycle and kept them there for months until they got caught in the rain.

So far as my parents knew, I’d never touched a bicycle.

In high school Angel taught me how to replace a slipped chain, their hands questioning and dexterous, and me wanting to answer. Jen taught me how to patch tires, her lips applying just the right pressure as they met mine. There was something inflatable in these minutes, quiet and joyful. Every second spent floating made coming down to earth that much more tolerable.

One night we snuck out on bicycles, a spare one borrowed from a friend’s sibling for me, our tires licking the asphalt as the blue-black night sang above. We rode away from suburbia, out into the raw fields studded with rocks and weeds. Jen brought marshmallows and graham crackers, but Nick forgot the lighter, and the chocolate bars had melted in the front pocket of my hoodie. Our fingers got sticky as we ate the sugary goo. Nick’s sister passed an insulated mug of tomato soup around, and we looked up at the stars and mangled the constellations because we only knew Orion’s belt and not much else. We sat and felt close next to all that space, and small, and fell asleep on a few dirty towels that we’d brought along with us, and slept badly but happily on the hard, rocky dirt.

When I snuck home in the early hours not long after dawn, my parents were waiting up for me. Their eyes ate into me, dark underneath the yellow house lights. They yelled at me, painting a picture of my evening with their lurid colors, but getting everything wrong.

The next day after school I took out some of the money I’d been saving, and bought something for myself. They said it would be delivered the next day.

***

“I think there’s been some sort of mistake,” I overheard my father say at the door.

“Yes, would you mind checking the address on the order again?” My mother added.

I jogged over to the door, just in time to greet the delivery person from the bike shop holding the violet Schwinn. “That’s mine,” I said.

“Can you sign here?” The delivery person asked, handing over a clipboard.

“But honey, be reasonable!” My mother exclaimed. “You can’t even ride one of those things.”

My signature written, I passed back the clipboard and hopped on the bike, then rode it for a quick jaunt up and down the driveway just to see the looks on their faces before I walked it into the garage.

Mad Scientist Journal is Saying Goodbye

Mad Scientist Journal took a chance on me a long time ago and published my short ghost story, “Thump House”, when I barely had any writing credits to my name. They are also the latest publisher to accept one of my short stories. So it’s hitting me extra hard to hear that Mad Scientist Journal will stop publishing their magazine soon (click on the link to hear the story in their own words). They will still be publishing a few more issues of their awesome speculative fiction magazine (as well as a new book), but if you’ve always wanted to submit to them, they will be accepting submissions for the last time this June.

I think they’re making a good decision, but it’s always sad to see another cool magazine go. They will be missed!

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Hotel Stormcove is Available, and Mythic Picnic Announcement

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Watercolor illustration of von Schonwerth’s “The Wolves” by M. Lopes da Silva

I have some very exciting news! Today is the official release day of Five Minutes at Hotel Stormcove. Over sixty authors set their stories all at the same hotel – it’s a fascinating concept that brings together a variety of genres and perspectives all in one book (and I have a story in it). Go check it out to check in!

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In other exciting news, a flash fiction story of mine won the first round of the Mythic Picnic Tweet Story Contest, and will be included in the third volume of Mythic Picnic’s literary magazine, published exclusively on Twitter! My story will soon be collected with all the other lucky winners in a Twitter moment. I will post links and updates here when I can.

I’m still doing my Fairy Tale of the Week project on Instagram and Twitter (#fairytaleoftheweek) – the art in this post is a watercolor inspired by Franz Xaver von Schonwerth’s “The Wolves”.

Hope you’re having a good start to your May, too!

Telling Stories in Twine

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A screenshot of my first Twine story map.

I’ve recently found out about an exciting tool and resource that’s been around for a while now (it was originally created in 2009 – I’m delightfully a decade behind!) that I think more people should be aware of, and that’s Twine.

You can click on this link to go to the Twine website and learn more for yourself, but essentially, Twine is excellent for crafting interactive stories (think Choose-Your-Own-Adventure, but with hyperlinks) and text-based games! It has some functionality to add other media (images, sound, etc.), but the meat and potatoes of Twine is (textual) storytelling.

Twine is free to download or use online, and it’s relatively easy to use. The learning curve is very gentle. Honestly, Twine is a fantastic teaching resource. You can use it to teach storytelling, gaming, introductory coding – the only limit to its usage is the user’s imagination!

I’m still in the middle of teaching myself how to use it while I develop my own interactive story/game, and I’m having a lot of fun along the way. Creating interactive fiction is a great way to hone your narrative ability, and forces the author to seriously consider the power and impact of choices. If you’re curious, I recommend giving it a try.

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My Twine story gets bigger! A screenshot of a story map in Twine.

 

 

First #fairytaleoftheweek Illustrations

Here are the results of the two first illustrations for my #fairytaleoftheweek project, where I illustrate a folk or classic fairy tale once a week until the end of the year. The first illustration is inspired by the Grimm’s fairy tale, Little Red Riding Hood. The passage where the wolf describes the flowers to the girl is depicted. The second illustration is inspired by another Grimm story, Cinderella. In the classic fairy tale, white pigeons warn the prince about the stepsisters pretending to be Cinderella (the sisters cut off bits of their own feet in order to make them fit the golden – not glass – slipper). This week I plan to illustrate a nursery rhyme by Christina Rosetti. I wanted to choose a poem this week, because it’s National Poetry Month. Feel free to follow along, or contribute your own artwork to the hashtag #fairytaleoftheweek. I’d love to see your fairy tale-inspired art out there!