21 Steps to Enlightenment (Minus One) Eligible for 2014 Awards!

So I’m beginning to see people listing the works they’ve done for 2014 that are eligible for awards. My short story “21 Steps to Enlightenment (Minus One)” , published in February 2014 by Strange Horizons, has been generating a lot of buzz, so I thought I get it out there. (and hey, I’m actually on time on making this type of announcement, too!)

You can both read and listen to it on the Strange Horizons website. Also, if you are a Drabblecast B-Side subscriber, you can listen to a reading there as well as view new art!

You may also want to check out my story “Sun-Touched” published by Kaleidotrope in March 2014. 

Thanks for reading!

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New story! “Sun-Touched” up at Kaleidotrope

I have a new story up! You can now read "Sun-Touched" for free over at Kaleidotrope.

You can thank Neil Gaiman for this one. In 2010, I was invited to attend “The Gathering of American Gods” at the House on the Rock. I was trying to think of a cool costume to wear and, well, okay, I was looking for an excuse to dye my wedding dress with tea. I came up with going as the Moth Queen, because I had a pin shaped like a butterfly, but this party would be at night, so moths fit better.

Well, the costume idea petered out, (I wound up going as a vaguely steampunk lady). But the idea of a Moth Queen stuck with me, and I began to play with the idea. How I went from a Queen to a Princess, Queen and Dowager, I don’t remember. but when I came up with the idea of butterfly people (papilion) being enemies of the moth people (doptera), and how the moth people are attracted to light, I knew I had a story.

I will confess, coming up with the backstory and history of the world was somewhat difficult. After I finished it, I shopped it around. One of the rejections I got mentioned that it was a very good story, but the editor wished the doptera and papilion were more insect-like. And this is true. But I had no clue how to make them more insect-like without making them relatable. And besides, I had a selfish wish to keep the figurines as is, which play a part in the story.

Hmm. Writing that though makes me wonder. Can I make a lead character that’s not human, completely alien, and yet make them relatable? At the time I wrote Sun-Touched, I didn’t think I could. Now? I might be able.

In the meantime, enjoy "Sun-Touched", and let me know what you think!

New short story! “21 Steps to Enlightenment (Minus 1)” up at Strange Horizons

It’s now up! “21 Steps to Enlightenment (Minus 1)” is up now at Strange Horizons! It has an illustration! It has a podcast! It is so cool!

The inspiration for this story came one day when I was on Google Plus (why yes…I do go there from time to time). Someone had posted an album of different spiral staircase pictures, and when I clicked on the album, it posted all the staircases at once. Seeing all those staircases and spirals got me wondering: what if spiral staircases appeared at random, with no reason whatsoever. What would be at the top? And then I wondered…if spiral staircases could appear out of nowhere, who to say it’s just a normal staircase? What other materials could it be made out of? How fanciful could I make these staircases?

Oh, I had a fun time coming up with the different kinds of staircases. But I didn’t have much of a plot until I came up with the idea that the staircase was a metaphor for epiphanies and enlightenment. Around this time, I had visited my folks back in Chicago, and wound up watching the Help with the womenfolk of my family, including my grandmother, who is awesomely badass. Talking with her and my own mother about growing up and raising kids, made me want to commemorate their strength, while at the same time showing how opportunities seem to open up more for each generation. So I decided to make the spiral story more personal.

The Momma in the story is a mash-up of my mom and grandmother. There are other true parts too; if you know me, you’ll figure it out. I never snuck out of my house, for instance. But the boyfriend part? That’s mostly true. So was the feeling of optimism. My dad never wanted to join the circus though.

Anyway, check it out and let me know what you think. What would your spiral staircase look like?

New Story! “Ebb and Flow” up at Daily Science Fiction!

My first SWFA sale! It’s a flash story called “Ebb and Flow” and you can read it now for free at Daily Science Fiction!

I wrote this story for a flash contest, back when I was wrestling with feelings of trying for another child. I’m really glad DSF picked it up. Head on over and check it out!

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
Tell people about What Fates Impose on Facebook
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.

My Wiscon 37 schedule

Due to a wedding I won’t be joining Wiscon until Friday evening, so I’ll probably miss out on the Gathering. But here’s what I’ll be doing when I do get there.

Friday, May 24 9pm Oxford Comma Bonfire Reading, Michaelango’s

I’ll be joining Vylar Kaftan, Michael Underwood and Nancy Hightower for a reading at Michaelangelo’s. I’ll be reading my story poem from Dark Faith: Invocations “All This Pure Light Leaking In”. This is open to the public, so if you’re around, stop by!

Sunday, May 26 8:30am Intimate vs. Remote Gods, Senate A

Is it faith if you run into the god in question while doing your grocery shopping? What is the nature of a god whose existence you don’t have to take on faith? What does believing in an unseen god signify? I’ll be joining Heidi Waterhouse, Rose Hayes, Janice Mynchenberg, and Judy Peterson to discuss examples from recent and older literature, including N.K. Jemisin, Mary Doria Russell, Phillip Pullman, and Lois McMaster Bujold.

Monday, May 27 11:30am Sign Out, Capitol/Wisconsin

If you have a copy of Dark Faith: Invocations, bring it by for me to sign. Or just come by to chat, because, really, this being my first signing, I have no clue how to do these things.