The Bringers Duty in Abyss & Apex

So excited to share my story, “The Bringer’s Duty,” in the July issue of Abyss & Apex. Here’s the link to the story: https://www.abyssapexzine.com/2020/06/the-bringers-duty/

The Spyder

Spyder Spyder, in the night
Dressed up for a spooky fright;
What potion gave you eight long legs,
And eight awful, googly eyes?

Cotton candy cobweb trails,
Like sticky, gossamer pink tails,
Unwind behind you down the street
As you go out for trick-or-treat.

How do you run on just two legs?
Who knocks on doors for sweets and begs?
And when your eight eyes start to blink
Who’s the one whose heart will sink?

With your pincer chelicerae
Candy now becomes your prey.
What chocolate, candy corn, or gum
Will you, this dread night, overcome?

Story released today in Spank the Carp 50th issue

Spank the Carp is celebrating five years and its fiftieth issue today. I’m excited to have a story in their lineup for this issue.

Ms. Cattywompus and the Piebald Porcine Prize

The story was loosely inspired by participation in the county fair when I was growing up in Iowa. However, my 4H project didn’t involve livestock. Instead, I created a photo exhibition of our family poodle in imitation of Coolidge’s Dogs Playing Poker.

The Book of Magic Places

Excited to have a flash fiction fantasy story in the latest issue of Alcyone Speculative Fiction and Poetry! The issue is up on Amazon in either Kindle or paperback format.

Alcyone: Issue III: Speculative Fiction and Poetry

My contribution is called “The Book of Magic Places.” It’s a story of worlds within worlds, and it was so much fun to write about the different settings. Here’s the Pinterest board I used to inspire me while I wrote:

My favorite new word: feghoot

Last year I had a blast reading Stephen Fry’s The Ode Less Travelled. Not only did I learn a lot about verse, but I got to encounter all kinds of fantastic poetry vocab, like dithyramb and trochee, to name a few.

Little did I know I had yet to meet another fantastic member of the poetry lingo set: the feghoot.

What, you may ask, is a feghoot?

The feghoot is a coda, a little pun tacked onto the end of narrative verse. It turns out that feghoots have been in my life since early childhood. The ending I learned to “Little Rabbit Foo Foo” is a classic feghoot:

“Hare today, goon tomorrow.”

The hare half of the pun should be obvious even to someone who has never heard of “Little Rabbit Foo Foo.” Here’s a link to the lyrics if you’re curious about the goon.

But before you click, take my advice and watch out for the Good Fairy.

What I Learned About How Thor Got His Hammer

Some of the most fun reading I’ve done so far in 2018 is Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology. I absolutely loved the way Gaiman rendered the fun and danger of the adventures of the Norse gods. And as a Tolkien fan who’d had little exposure to the Norse myths, I was tickled to see the origin of the characters and special powers of the elves and dwarves. In particular the story of how Thor got his hammer was a great example of the craftsmen dwarves, their artisanship and their endearing blend of greed and work ethic.

The origin of Mjollnir, Thor’s lightning hammer, starts much like a recurring nightmare I’ve had most of my life: Thor’s pretty wife, Sif, wakes up to find herself bald. Hair razed and gone for good, thanks to the trickster, Loki. When I imagine her shock at the sudden and unexpected transformation of her appearance, I feel for her in my gut.

But luckily Sif is a goddess, not a mortal. And she’s a well-connected goddess. In order to avoid Thor’s wrath, Loki promises to obtain new hair for Sif, hair that will make her prettier than ever.

Where to get such locks? The dwarves, of course.

The dwarves are true craftsmen, and they’re not just makers of beautiful objects, they dream up and turn into reality the magical artifacts that populate the mythological universe. They’re the unsung heroes who give the big players some of their biggest powers. They’re like the patron saints of today’s makers.

While Loki is hanging out with the dwarves, he gets to see them solve Sif’s baldness problem and create other wonders, as well, such as a magical ship that can fold up small enough to put in your pocket.

I want one of those.

Loki, being Loki, tries to stir up more trouble and more magical item innovation. But he’s got to get the dwarves to work for free. He bets his own head in a match to pit a couple dwarves into outdoing the magical hair and the nifty folding ship created by their rivals. The dwarves, proud of their craft and greedy for both fame and fortune, fire up the forge and get to work.

The myth goes into detail about how Loki turns himself into a stinging fly and tries to derail the expert work of the dwarves. But the thing is, these short, strong artisans will produce marvels even under the most dire of circumstances. Thor’s hammer is created under such duress, Brokkr’s eyes are blinded with blood by the time Loki is through with him. Thanks to being blind, the handle of the hammer is shorter than it should be, so Loki gets Mjollnir for free to appease Thor and gets to and keep his head…

…well…there’s a little more to the story than that. If you’re interested, I highly recommend checking out Gaiman’s Norse Mythology!

What I Learned about the Incredible Downsizing Marine Iguana

My favorite fun fact of the week came from browsing the National Geographic feed on Instagram. I came across a picture of a marine iguana–not the most striking image I’ve ever seen on the National Geographic feed–but the description beneath the image really caught my attention.

The marine iguana can shrink. I don’t mean it dehydrates itself, or loses fat. I mean it reduces the size of its skeleton! It can lose up to 20% of its size!

Why would the marine iguana evolve to do that?

Biologists believe it’s an adaptation to help the iguanas survive in times when food becomes dangerously hard to find. Instead of starving to death, marine iguanas downsize. As smaller predators, they require less food to stay alive.

Doing a little more research, I learned that not only can iguanas shrink, but they can grow again when food becomes more plentiful. You can check out the article on Gizmodo here.

Evolution is all about stayin’ alive (cue the Bee Gees here). What a fascinating way to survive in times of scarcity.

What I Learned About Affect vs. Effect and Learning from Mistakes

One of the very best ways to learn something new is by making a mistake. But despite my love of learning, I get all prickly and defensive when I discover I’m in the wrong. It’s one of those conflicts between personality and values that I try to create in fictional characters to make them seem more human. I guess it makes me more human, too.

Being able to learn from mistakes is a skill, one I need to improve. So I was pretty pleased this evening when I practiced learning from a mistake with something approaching a positive attitude.

This week I received a story rejection in which the editor offered feedback. Much like learning from mistakes, the opportunity to learn from a rejection is invaluable. Getting comments from any industry professional instead of a form letter is gold.

While reviewing the helpful editor’s comments, I noticed a line item concerning misuse of affect and effect. I’d long ago classified affect as an adjunct of the word affectation: a pretense, putting on a certain mannerism that’s not quite genuine. In fact, if you check out the Merriam Webster Dictionary, this is still the definition emphasized for affect.

However, according to the helpful editor who rejected my story, the Oxford English Dictionary, and one of my go-to online grammar references, Grammar Girl, when in doubt, I should use effect as a noun (cause and effect) and use affect as a verb (the cause affected the result). Even Merriam Webster will agree that using effect as a verb implies the actual achievement of a final result, not merely influencing a result, which is what I intended in my offending sentence.

Use effect as a noun, affect as a verb. Pretty simple, but I have years and years of incorrect habit to overwrite. Thanks to the helpful editor pointing out my mistake, I hope to remember correct use in the future. More importantly, if I can be grateful instead of prickly and defensive when this error was pointed out to me, maybe I can have that same attitude the next time someone lets me know I’m in the wrong.