What Fates Impose Kickstarter Update (or Me Write Pretty One Day…)

TL;DR version: We’re heading into our final week of our Kickstarter for the anthology I’m in, What Fates Impose, and wow! We just cracked $4000. ONLY 6 MORE DAYS TO GO!!!! Pledge $40 and you will get, along with the book, a handwritten card by me with the personality type of your choice (either Myers/Briggs or StrengthFinders) its description and a humorous fortune written in calligraphy.

Edit: And we have made our goal! And then some!

But if you want to read the long version, I’m going to talk about calligraphy. And by that I mean, what I really want to say is, I want to thank my parents for forcing me to take drafting in high school.

You see, back when I was in high school, when it came time to choose electives, I was all ready and gung ho to take art, because everyone took art. It was fun. My father, for reasons I have yet to figure out, made me take drafting instead. I wish I remembered why. Something to do with my handwriting, I think. Or was it supposed to build character? I asked him the other day and he said, “Hell if I know.” Which was the answer I pretty much expected from him.

But there I was. A sophomore? Yeah, I think it was my sophomore year. I think I was only one of three girls in the class. I remember getting drafting kits, which involves a T-Bar ruler, a bunch of other rulers, a specific type of pencil, and graph paper. And I remember being very, very disgruntled, because while my friends were making fingerpaint murals and macaroni art and pottery, I was drawing lines and measuring  them and drawing more lines and learning how to make capital letters as straight as possible.

I can’t remember what grade I got, but I’m pretty sure I passed it. You ask me what I learned there and I wouldn’t be able to tell you offhand, except that maybe my handwriting got better. Maybe.

I hated drafting class.

Which is interesting because I love calligraphy.

I’ve been fascinated by calligraphy ever since I was a kid. I got several Sheaffer kits for Christmas, you know, the fountain pen kind that came with different types of nibs and different colored ink tubes, and you put the tubes in the barrel and twist the nib on to pierce the tube? And if you wanted to change colors, you were screwed because it meant pulling out the tube carefully so you won’t spill the ink out, then washing out the nib, which took forever, and then screw the new color in, then you had to do the same thing over again so you could go back to the regular color? Yeah, I loved those pens.

I did lots of calligraphy for a while. Mainly, I wrote poems, practiced the alphabet, and did flourishes on envelopes. Probably the highlight of my calligraphy use was when I hand addressed all the envelopes I sent out for my wedding. I was always insecure about my calligraphy, though, because I’ve never had a real steady hand. I couldn’t write in a straight line and my spacing was over the place. Over time, I stopped doing it, but I kept collecting calligraphy supplies in the vain hope that one day, I would pick it up again.

That day came about a month ago, when Nayad, our editor for What Fates Impose was brainstorming on what we could offer as rewards for backers of the anthology. I thought I’d offer a handmade knitted scarf, but I wanted to do something based off my story in the anthology, which deals with the subject of personality assessment. And I thought, “I can write cards that show Myers/Briggs personality types and a a brief description. I can also throw in a short humorous fortune in the end. And I can do it all in calligraphy.”

So I went to my closet and pulled out my calligraphy tools. Since my wedding, I have amassed quite a bit, including a bunch of dipping nibs that I had no clue how to use—I just thought they looked cool. But this now being the age of the internets, I thought it was high time I learned how to use these old-fangled thingies.

And when I learned, I was like WHY AM I KEEPING THESE AT THE BOTTOM OF MY CLOSET? THESE ARE AWESOME!!!!!

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Also, ink, because INNNNNNNK!!!!

So then, I made my first mock up, and I grew immediately discouraged because to me, it didn’t come out right.

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The lines were kind of crooked and the spacing was off and…

And that’s when all those lessons I took in high school drafting reared up inside me and said. LaShawn, you need to put down some lines and do some measurements. Get some rulers, girl.

And I said, Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

So I got me some rulers, put down some lines, did some measurements, and came up with my second draft, if you will.

Calligraphy sample

Which…actually…still looks lopsided, now that I look at it. Particularly the flourish line. And the personality type still looks shaky (in fact, the first draft, the letters look more stable). But I’m happier about the description. And as I keep practicing, it would get nicer and nicer.

All of this is to say, if you wish to get in on my calligraphy journey, there are two backer rewards left for my calligraphy cards. Pledge $40 and you will get, along with the book, a handwritten card by me with the personality type of your choice (either Myers/Briggs or StrengthFinders) its description and a humorous fortune written in calligraphy. It won’t be super perfect, but I can guarantee it will be authentic.

Oh yes. I want to thank my parents. If it wasn’t for me being forced to take drafting, these calligraphy supplies would still be sitting at the bottom of my closet. Never being used. Collecting dust until, in shame, I sell them to the next poor sop at a garage sale. And I would have never discovered the joy of dipping a nib into ink, shaking the excess off, then sketching the letters into paper just so.

This has brought back the joy of writing.

New Story in “What Fates Impose” Anthology! Kickstarter Details and Prizes!

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m doing my part to bring more diversity to the SFF genre. And what better way to do that than a new story!

I am excited to announce my short story, “There Are No Wrong Answers”, will be appearing in the What Fates Impose anthology, edited by my fellow Madisonianite Nayad Monroe.

Fortune-telling is a tricky endeavor. It’s the domain of an assortment of characters with various motives: charlatans looking to make a buck, true believers who may or may not have the gift, and powerful oracles who might be inclined to spin the truth for their own reasons. Which prophecies are true? Which are false? The powers of belief and wishful thinking drive the quest for a glimpse of the future–but is it a true vision? Whether the message comes from Tarot cards, tea leaves, entrails, or in my case, personality assessment, how are lives changed when predictions are made?

Nayad has gathered some awesome storytellers to peer into nature of fate. Here’s the full list of contributors:

Introduction by Alasdair Stuart: “Singing from the Book of Holy Jagger”

David Boop: “Dipping into the Pocket of Destiny”

Maurice Broaddus: “Read Me Up”

Jennifer Brozek: “A Card Given”

Amanda C. Davis: “The Scry Mirror”

Damien Walters Grintalis: “When the Lady Speaks”

Sarah Hans: “Charms”

Erika Holt: “Murder of Crows”

Keffy R.M. Kehrli: “Gazing into the Carnauba Wax Eyes of the Future”

Jamie Lackey: “Another Will Open”

Rochita Loenen-Ruiz: “Body of Truth”

Remy Nakamura: “Pick a Card”

Cat Rambo: “To Read the Sea”

Andrew Penn Romine: “Ain’t Much Different’n Rabbits”

Ken Scholes: “All Our Tangled Dreams in Disarray”

Lucy A. Snyder: “Abandonment Option”

Ferrett Steinmetz: “Black Swan Oracle”

Eric James Stone: “A Crash Course in Fate” (new) and “A Great Destiny” (reprint)

Tim Waggoner: “The Goggen”

Wendy N. Wagner: “Power Steering”

LaShawn M. Wanak: “There Are No Wrong Answers”

Beth Wodzinski: “One Tiny Misstep (In Bed)”

This anthology is being crowd-funded through Kickstarter. If it gets funded, we’ll get paid pro rates, and if goes beyond the funded goal, there’ll be more stories and artwork.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

Check out the backer’s rewards. Look on down to the $40 level, which is the Palmistry and Calligraphy level. That’s right, you’ll get a little somethin’ somethin’ from me! Pledge $40 or more and I’ll write up a 4 X 6 card from with your Myers/Briggs personality trait and its description in calligraphy. A picture sample is forthcoming.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S EVEN MORE!!!

If you pre-order the anthology before this Thursday, June 20, you will be eligible for a drawing to win prizes: artwork of tarot cards done by Nayad, a signed print of the anthology’s cover, a copy of the book with all our signatures. And as the Kickstarter meets its milestones, there will be even more prizes!

So go check out the Kickstarter, reserve your copy,  and spread the word! Every bit helps. All the answers you seek can be found within this anthology. And if it’s not the answer you’re looking for, well, at least you get some darn good stories.

Tell people about What Fates Impose on Twitter
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Tell people about What Fates Impose on Google+

Edit: WE HAVE MADE OUR GOAL! Thanks to everyone who contributed! More details on the book will be out soon.

Review: Dark Faith: Invocations

Dark Faith: Invocations
Dark Faith: Invocations by Jerry Gordon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m in this so I’m a bit biased. I also have the first anthology.

I found this one less disturbing, though there are a few stories that made me put the book down and back slowly away (Lucy Snyder, I’m looking directly at you). Most of the stories had me thinking about the nature of faith.

The ones that stuck with me the most:

Subletting God’s head, Tom Piccirilli: a guy living in God’s head and being privy to His innermost thoughts. A part of me felt rubbed wrong by his portrayal of Jesus.

The Cancer Catechism by Jay Lake: I’ve followed Jay Lake as he tweeted about dealing with cancer and this is his most poignant,vulnerable, open, honest take on it. His experience with anesthesia is very much as I found it, disturbing and unsettling. His last line is so strong, it is worth the entire book alone.

Kill the Buddha, Elizabeth Twist – most surreal and sad

Night Train, Alma Alexander – lonely story about belief and trains.

The Sandfather, Richard Wright – this can be considered a sequel to his story “Sandboys” in the first anthology. I didn’t find this one as devastating, but it still stood out.

Sacrifice, Jennifer Pelland – a cool alt-choice story.

Thou art God, Tim Waggoner – Loved this take on “All is God and God is All” belief

Wishflowers, Tim Pratt – I just listened to his story “The Secret Beach” on Podcastle, and this could be considered a continuation of that tale, sort of. Like all Tim Pratt tales, this one socked me in the gut at the end.

Starter Kit, RJ Sullivan – Cute story about the universe as a kid’s aquarium. The apocalypse could really be God hitting the reset button & starting over.

God’s Dig, Kelly Eiro- A kid hears God telling her to dig, and she does. Oh, so disturbing. This was one of those stories that made me put the book down and slowly back away.

The Birth of Pegasus, K. Tempest Bradford – A retelling of Medusa and Poisiden. Loved the style of the story, and loved how it lead into the next story, which is…

All This Pure Light Leaking in, LaShawn M. Wanak – Okay, yes, this is mine. But I reeeeeeeally loved how they juxapositioned this after The Birth of Pegasus. And, it led very nicely into what I consider the “angel” section of the book. Plus, every time I read it, I think, man, I write the freakiest stuff…

Fin de Siecle, Gemma Files – Another angel story that’s more creepy.

The Angel Seems, Jeffrey Ford – Scary folktale, though the ending fell flat for me.

Magdala Amygdala, Lucy Snyder – Holy crap this was disturbing. Probably the most disturbing story in the entire book. How Snyder describes the brain sucking…I can’t even look at someone’s head now without thinking, “Brain jelly…” Oh…guh ::shudders::

In Blood and Song, Nisi Shawl & Michael Ehart – Cool story about how different people have their different gods.

Little Lies, Dear Leader, Kyle S. Johnson – While Madgala Amygdala was creepy, this one affected me the most because it’s so close to real life, it could easily have happened. My inlaws were in South Korea a year ago, so they were able to see the reactions to Kim Jong-il’s death. How all the tvs showed women weeping as if they were heartbroken. This was a hard read, but also necessary, I think.

I inhale the City, the City Exhales Me, Douglas F. Warrick – a great story to end the anthology, this was a nod to all the apocalyptic anime where a blob engulfs Tokyo. Reminded me a lot of Paranoid Agent. Also was a strong theme on stereotype and how we believe cultures are/should be.

As a whole, I really enjoyed this one. It’s more dark fantasy than horror, but I really liked the focus on all kinds of faith throughout the book. This gets five angels out of five…and if I want to see an angel, I’ll ask the right way…

View all my reviews

Lavender & Chamomile Reprint, Wiscon 36 Schedule and Chicon 7

Way…way too much has been happening in my life. Suffice it to say, I finished my short story Sun-Touched and sending it out to markets, and I’m putting all my energy into editing Willow.  I’ll post more on that, but for now, I have a couple of announcements:

LAVENDER & CHAMOMILE REPRINTED IN A RUSTLE OF LEAVES ANTHOLOGY

I’m pleased to announce that my short story "Lavender and Chamomile" has been reprinted in the anthology A Rustle of Dark Leaves: Tales for the Shadows of the Forest, edited by Inanna Gabriel and published by Misanthrope Press. From the website:

Step among the trees and discover the tales that lurk within the shadows that fall across the forest floor. From the words of the Forest himself to the ancient gods who defend him, from those who dwell within to those who merely wander, these fifteen tales of the forest will intrigue, inspire, terrify, and enchant.

Includes stories by Alexis A. Hunter, Gerri Leen, LaShawn M. Wanak, Jenni Wiltz, Seth Drake, and many more, with an introduction by Cory Thomas Hutcheson. A Rustle of Dark Leaves: Tales from the Shadows of the Forest is sure to leave you with the camping lantern on and the tent zipped tight.

You can get the print version from their website or the ebook at Smashwords. You can also order both versions at Amazon. And when you do read it, send a review to Goodreads!

MY WISCON 36 SCHEDULE

This year’s Wiscon will be a little busy for me since I am this year’s liaison for one of the Guests of Honor at Wiscon 36: Andrea Hairston,  author of Mindscape and the 2011 Tiptree winner Redwood and Wildfire. Because of this, I’m keeping my schedule pretty light:

Friday, May 26, I’ll be moderating the Religious Agenda in SF panel in Conference 4 at 4pm. We will discuss such works as The Chronicles of Narnia, Left Behind, Battlefield Earth and other stories that have a clear religious bias.

Then, on Saturday, May 27 I’m part of the Exotic Worlds reading group at Michelangelo’s at 1pm. I’ll be reading an excerpt from the short story I just finished, "Sun-Touched". Even if you aren’t going to Wiscon, stop on by!

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Finally, just a brief, brief note that I’m going to Chicon this year! More info on that in a later post, but they just announced that the opening night will be held at the Adler Planetarium. Can you say SQUEE!!!! I knew you could.

The Passing of a Great Anthology; No more Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror

In the past, I’ve done reviews for the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror that you can find on this site. Well, today, we got the news that this great anthology is no more. You can find news about it at the Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet’s Blog, and at Terry Windling’s blog.

In a nutshell, St Martin’s Press, the anthology’s publisher, has decided not to publish a 2009 edition. That means that 21 years of the Year’s Best anthology books, displaying a broad, colorful array of fantasy and horror stories from all walks of life, is at an end.

This makes me incredibly sad.

I’ve been reading posts as of late on how the fiction world appears to be shrinking, that people read less nowadays, preferring to play video games and watch TV rather than pick up a book. For the most part, I’ve always felt that isn’t the case; if anything, people are reading more, what with networking sites like Facebook and blogs and whatnot.

But when news like this hits me, I can’t help but wonder if fiction truly is drifting away.

Maybe it’s not that the fiction world is going way. Maybe it’s just that it’s changing shape from the tangible world of the printed page to the less-substantial, more fluid media of the online document. And as gadgets like the Kindle takes off, how long will it be before all books are downloaded rather than bought?

What does that mean for book publishers? For popular writers? For writing standards?

The Year’s Best Anthology was a standard for me. Everytime I picked up a book, I read the stories and thought to myself, one day, I’ll get a story in this book. It pushed me, and still does, to write my best. I studied the stories, picked them apart, wondered what made them included in the book. But most of all, I enjoyed them. I was awed by them. While some stories I could have done without (I still think back to that one story about the Calico cat, which makes me want to curl up in a little ball), still, there were some stories that made me drop my jaw in awe.

I know, I know. There are other anthologies out there. Heck, I’ve turned most of my energies to Writer’s of the Future. But Year’s Best was the first anthology that got me daring to dream of fiction in the first place. What will be my standard now? Where would I go?

Then again, maybe it’s all the recession’s fault. Yeah, that’s it. Stupid recession.

To all the editors of Year’s Best: Ellen Datlow, Terry Windling, Kelly Link, and Gavin Grant. Thank you for inspiring this lowly writer to write. The stories you included were truly a marvel to behold. Here’s to hoping you’ll find all new ventures that will bless you greatly.

Book Review: The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror, 16th Annual Collection

Time for another Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror book review. I’ve done one for 2004 and 2006, and today’s review will focus on the 16th annual 2002 book. I’m beginning to see a theme to these anthologies. The 2004 had lots of vulgarity and warped ickiness to it that truly turned me off, while the 2006 focused on lesser known authors (at least, to me at the time–now that I’ve done a lot of reading, names like Elizabeth Hand and Nisi Shawl are quite familiar to me now). I like this idea of vaguely themed anthologies. It gives the appearance that the stories have connections to each other, even the ones that don’t.

The 2002 book has a distinct British feel to it. Many stories had British themes, British settings, British writers–including writers who spent at least six months in Britain before coming to the States. However, the story that stood out most to me is not British. It’s very American…if you can call time travel and palindromes American…

Lull by Kelly Link is the first story in the anthology, and it threw me for a loop. A time loop, if you will. I’m hard pressed to describe it because there isn’t a linear storyline. Well, there is, but it isn’t really told in a linear fashion. It starts off with a group of guys playing poker in someone’s basement while listening to a cassette tape of songs playing backwards and forwards set on an endless loop. They’re telling stories to each other about a house, then they call up a phone sex line, except the woman at the end tells stories, and she tells a story…

…about a cheerleader who lives in a world where time flows backwards. She gets locked in the closet with the Devil, and she winds up telling a story about…

…a guy named Ed (who is one of the poker players), whose wife Susan is creating green copies of herself from different times and creates her own green Susan beer…

Okay. I’m going to stop because just writing this out is so freaking weird and bizarre that you have to think, what the hell kind of story is that?! But let me tell you something: Link makes it work. Yes, it’s bizarre. Yes, it’s weird. But it’s also the most incredible piece of writing I’ve ever seen. She intertwine the stories so that they flow back and forth, much like the tape that plays forwards and backwards. And in the meantime she interweaves themes of death and life and storytelling so as not to be forgotten. And the whole world where time flows backwards thing–it’s wonderful and tragic, because in such a world there is no surprises. Everyone knows what will happen already; or rather, they know what has already happened, so they just live the events that lead up to it and…

Pure brilliance. I can’t get it out of my head. I even wrote an email to Link asking her how she did it. Haven’t heard anything back yet, but it’s okay. A story such as this needs, no, begs to be studied, so I’ll probably do that.

Now that I finished gushing over Lull, here are some other stories in the anthology that stood out to me (I’m skipping poetry because I did that in the previous post).

Details by China Mieville: an interesting spin on the phrase “The devil’s in the details…”

The Assistant to Dr. Jacob by Eric Schaller: A man learns that his gentle memories of a Doctor and his greenhouse are not what they seem.

The Pagodas of Cibourne by M. Shayne Bell: Sick kid gets healed by living broken bits of pottery. It’s actually more touching than it sounds.

Stitch by Terry Dowling: Evil lurks behind a cross-stitched nursery rhyme. Nice use of dread.

Porno in August by Carlton Mellick III: The only other surreal story in here that was just weird, but also in a strange way made me think of the emptiness of the porn industry–literally. Bunch of actors get dropped in the middle of the ocean to shoot a film. They eat jellyfish. Sharks eat them. Weirdness ensues.

Mermaid Song by Peter Dickinson: A very touching fable about a young girl who learns about mermaids.

The Green Man by Christopher Fowler: Freaky story about a couple who goes to oversee a retreat hotel in a jungle inhabited by possessive monkeys. And we all know how that turns out.

Mr. Mendoza’s Paintbrush by Luis Alberto Urrea: Guy runs around painting obscure messages on people. Humorous and poignant.

Thailand by Haruki Murakami: This is another story I want to study. In some ways, I’m struggling how this got included in the anthology, because on the surface of the story, there’s no apparent threads of fantasy. In fact, remove the faint hint of magic realism at the end of the story, and it would still remain as a quiet literary story of a woman who goes to Thailand to relax and swim, and her knowledgeable chauffeur/guide. But there is something about this story that really struck me; perhaps the quiet manner it is told–the woman goes to Thailand, swims at a pool by herself, talks to the chauffeur, and then flies home after several days. There’s no action other than mostly introspective, but it makes for a very beautiful story.

The Rose in Twelve Petals by Theodora Goss: Wonderful retelling of Sleeping Beauty in twelve separate parts.

Road Trip by Kathe Koja: story told in 2nd person about a guy deep in grief over the death of his daughter.

The Least Trumps by Elizabeth Hand: Tattooist finds a couple of tarot cards that hold dreams-come-true.

Actually, there were so many more stories in this one that I really liked a lot. If I find this in a used bookstore, I would probably buy it. This ranks 4-1/2 Susan beers out of 5. And watch that first sip–it’s quite a doozy.