Happy Spring!

Spring is here, my crabapples are blooming, and I’m fully vaccinated and on Saturday got to visit with my family in person and without a mask for the first time in over a year! 🙂

Since my last post Jasper had surgery, which was stressful and scary—but it went amazingly well! He had a mass on his liver, and the day of surgery the vets did a CT scan and found something in one of his lungs that was so tiny it hadn’t shown up on the X-rays. We paused everything and spent the next week talking with multiple vets and fretting about what to do. We decided to take out both things in the hope that they weren’t related. And they weren’t! We got so lucky—if it hadn’t been for the benign thing on his liver, we wouldn’t have even known about the thing in his lung until it was too late. Hooray!!!!!

While all of that was going on, I was wrapping up the last bits for Fresh Starts, the first ever Pikes Peak Writers Anthology. Lou J Berger and I co-edited all of the stories, I formatted the book, Jenny Kate edited the poems, and Jenny and Kathie Scrimgeour handled marketing. Josh Clark, one of our authors, designed the cover.

And check out this awesome quote about the anthology!

“FRESH STARTS bursts with wonderful stories that showcase exciting new literary voices! Very highly recommended!” –Jonathan Maberry, NY Times bestselling author of V-WARS and INK

Pulling all that together was a lot of fun, and a lot of hard work. Lou and I went through all stories, memoirs, and non-fiction and narrowed the 200+ manuscripts down to 23. Lou then took on the heroic task of first editor for all but the two manuscripts I handled. We went through multiple rounds of edits, and while that took a ton of time, I really enjoyed working with Lou. Co-editing is a pretty big task to do together, and it was great to see how compatible we are. We might even collaborate on another project in the future!

Speaking of editing, I also edited and published a new anthology on my own: Magicks & Enchantments. I’ve wanted to put this one together for a while, but between the pandemic, my day job, and the time I spent on Fresh Starts, it took longer than planned to get this out. But now it’s finally published! It’s the first issue in a new anthology series, and the plan is to publish one issue/year, which is the same thing I’ll be doing for the Haunted anthology series.

I’m trying to be careful with how many anthology projects I commit to so I can make progress on writing novels. I’ve got two more anthologies in the works right now, and hope to get those wrapped up and published soon. I’ll also have a new novel out in June. It doesn’t have a title yet, so hopefully I can come up with one I like. 🙂 It’s been extra hard to find time, so while it’s great that I beat my personal record and hit 14 meetings/day at the day job multiple times, I’d much rather spend my evenings writing than working.

Here’s a sample from “Diamond Betty,” my short story in Magicks & Enchantments.

I leaned against a pillar of marble, tucked a stray curl behind my ear, and took as deep a breath possible given the ridiculously tight corset I wore. I rummaged through my beaded satin handbag, pushing aside the tiny, ribbon-wrapped spells I’d prepared ahead of time as I pretended to look for something—but I was really watching my target out of the corner of my eye.

Elizabeth Mercy Lévesque—or, as she was known here in Denver, Colorado, Diamond Betty—stood in the center of the mezzanine of the opera house, light glinting off the giant blue diamond that was the centerpiece of her necklace. Her flame-red hair stood out against her ermine opera cloak like a splotch of wine on a white linen tablecloth. She held a flute of champagne in one hand; her other hand rested on the arm of her new husband, Cornelius Montgomery. Betty said something I couldn’t make out from this distance, and then tossed her head back with a laugh like the pealing of bells. The crowd of well-dressed, well-coiffed, and well-to-do ladies and gentlemen surrounding her joined in, a few giving soft, polite claps.

Cornelius started a silver mining company right after he left the Union Army, invested in real estate and other mining holdings, and by the mid-1870s he was worth well over five million dollars. He’d met Betty in Leadville. She’d been part of a traveling theater troupe, a singer, or perhaps a seamstress; no one seemed clear on exactly what. There was, however, no doubt about what had happened next: Cornelius left his wife of twenty-seven years, set up extravagantly appointed hotel suites in both Leadville and Denver for Betty, and began what turned into a two-year battle to get a divorce his wife. Somewhere along the way he’d acquired an elaborate necklace studded with diamonds and sapphires, with a large, dark blue diamond pendant; Betty had worn it at their lavish midsummer wedding a few months earlier. The newspapers said the necklace cost close to $100,000.

I’d come here for the necklace. Not because of how much it was worth, but because the blue diamond contained a demon.

—from “Diamond Betty,” in Magicks & Enchantments

Happy Spring!!!

Be careful what you wish for…

My latest short story, “The Wishing Thorn,” is now available in the Once Upon a Wish anthology! Anthea Sharp put together this wonderful collection. And I love the cover, which was designed by Christine Pope.

I based my story on the folklore of the blackthorn, the tree known as the “wishing thorn.” There are many tales about wishing trees around the world—from Scotland, to Hong Kong, to Argentina. After doing more research than I probably should have, I decided to focus on the Ogham trees in Irish mythology. I know what you’re thinking: what on earth is an Ogham tree?!? I didn’t know either, until I spent hours reading about mythology. 🙂

Ogham is an ancient Irish alphabet where the letters are named after trees or shrubs. The more I read about this topic, the more I realize there is to learn—so I’m definitely not an Ogham expert. But I’ve really enjoyed reading about how the different trees are assigned different days/months on the moon calendar, or which are associated with the solstices and equinoxes.

One of the folk names for the blackthorn is ‘the wishing thorn.’ The Lunantisidhe, thin, wizened fairies with pointed ears and teeth, inhabit blackthorn trees and are bound to protect them. These fairies do not like people at all, and will curse anyone who disturbs their trees at Samhain or Beltaine.

The blackthorn is associated with warfare, death, and malevolence…but also with protection, purification, and hope. I love the complexity in the mythology, and incorporated that in my story. And yes, the Lunantisidhe are in my story as well. 🙂 Here’s a snippet

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

At first it just looked like a bundle of twigs, but as it grew closer I realized it was a thin, wizened, human-like creature maybe a foot and a half tall. Its skin looked as if it were made from bark. Tiny spikes, like miniature versions of the thorns on the tree in front of me, jutted out from its head. Its ears were long and pointed, and its arms and legs were narrow and looked more like branches than limbs. Black, beady eyes were framed with eyebrows that looked almost like they were made of very small leaves.

It was one of the Lunantisidhe, the moon fairies who guarded the blackthorn.

Gram’s stories had been real after all.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Between my day job (where I’m averaging about 10 meetings/day…seriously) and catching up on anthology projects, I haven’t done any writing in the past month…but that’s all about to change! I’m finally caught up from 2020 (or at least “caught up enough”), and am about to start editing my third novel. I finished the first draft in the summer, and the first draft is always the hardest part for me…so this should be fun!

I’ve been so busy lately that my brain has been extra full, so I’ve been working on a steady stream of jigsaw puzzles. Here’s the latest puzzle, with my two puzzle assistants. 🙂 Notice the lovely illustrations—both images in this puzzle were illustrated by Kay Nielson in the 1914 book East of the Sun & West of the Moon.

Rosie and Jasper helping with the latest jigsaw puzzle.

The Year of Panic and Boredom

Like most of humanity, I am beyond thrilled to see 2020 coming to an end. Plenty of good things happened this year: I switched to a new team at work, and love my job; my sisters and I got our parents moved to an independent living place (their brand-new apartment is larger than my entire house); I had my most productive writing day ever (17,732 words in one day…I still can’t believe I did that!); and I got back in touch with my two college roommates! But wow, am I looking forward to 2021. 🙂

This year I learned that I can spend the entire work day in my office, then continue to stay in the same room in the evening while I’m writing or on a video call. It’s like I’m an astronaut, and have adapted to being stuck in a tiny space—although it’s not nearly as fun as being an astronaut. I also learned that just because I spend most of my waking hours in my office, that doesn’t mean I’m going to spend much (if any) of that time going through the piles of papers and boxes stacked (mostly) off-camera. And boy am I glad I stopped coloring my hair two years ago, and didn’t have to deal with growing it out on top of everything else 2020 brought.

I realize that the end of the year is an arbitrary spot in time to pin one’s hopes on. The other day I was talking about this with a friend of mine who she pointed out that the Chinese New Year is in February, and other cultures celebrate their new years at various times throughout the year. I’m going to stick with my excitement for 2021. Even if this is an arbitrary date, it still feels like I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I think. 🙂

Lately I’ve been doing a LOT of editing, and not much writing. My thoroughly thought-out plans for 2020, which included a writing and publishing schedule that even had time added in for unforeseen events, were of course completely derailed. I ended up with a bunch of anthologies stacked on each other this fall: The Wild Hunt, Hauntings, the first ever Pikes Peak Writers anthology (which I’m working on with three other trusty volunteers), a magicky/witchy anthology that is almost ready to publish, the sixth faerie anthology, and the next issue of Amazing Monster Tales (which also got hammered by my co-editor’s unplanned life events). I’m finally almost caught up on all of these projects. I have to do edits for the last anthology, but I’m not going to start those for another week or two because I’m focusing on a few writing projects. I am off from the day job until next week, and set aside this time to write.

And speaking of writing, I am happy to report that my short story “Gilroy and the Kitten” is in a new collection called A Cat of Heroic Heart! This is book 7 of The Year of Cat, a series edited by Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith. I have been catless for over a decade now, and will remain so until we built a utility room, since there is no good place for a litterbox in our house. I can’t make that happen any faster—we have a lot of remodeling projects that have to happen before we get to this one. So for now I have to make do with writing about cats. This particular story is about Gilroy, whose person is a witch, and the witch’s niece, who accidentally turns herself into a kitten.

The book I’m working on also has a cat…and a witch. 🙂 It feels kind of weird to be getting back to this project after so long, but it also feels really good. I’ve got first drafts of 1.5 books, and plan to write at least three books in this series (probably more, I just haven’t thought past book 3 yet). It’s a little intimidating to be working on a series of novels, but I know once I actually write multiple books in this series I’ll feel comfortable with the concept, just like once I wrote my first novel I realized I could write more novels. The first time I do something new writing-wise seems to be the hardest—which doesn’t mean subsequent projects are always easy. 🙂 But once I’ve done a thing, I know I’m capable of doing that thing again. Let’s see how much I can get written before the end of my week off!!!

Rosie and Jasper playing with their Christmas toys
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