I’ll admit, my latest story, “Song of the Balsa Wood Bird,” came about because I was feeling kind of jealous. There are so many wonderful fairytale retellings out there, a lot of them based in Western Europe traditions, with more and more from other parts of the world. I started racking my brain, trying to come up with an equivalent rooted in the Ecuadorian side of my heritage. I took inspiration from the Shuar legend of Etsa.
I’ve always enjoyed visiting the folkloric markets in Ecuador. They’re colorful and lively, full of all sorts of souvenirs and treasures. Between my dad’s more frequent trips there and my own few but cherished ones, I’ve amassed a variety of animal figurines. For example:
I imagined discovering an unknown creature made of balsa wood, one combining features of some of my favorite Ecuadorian animals. I merged that idea with the Shuar legend to write “Song of the Balsa Wood Bird.” My thanks go out to the Fireside Magazine team for giving my tale such an amazing home, especially guest editor Aigner Loren Wilson and Chelle Parker for helping make my story sing.
Coming up this month, I’ve got a poem due out in the Light issue of Eye to the Telescope, guest edited by Jordan Hirsch, as well as another article for WritersDigest.com, this time on “How Writers Can Apply Business Tools to Their Writing.”
Happy holidays! I’m thrilled to have written a blog post for WritersDigest.com, the official website of Writer’s Digest magazine. I had so much fun co-teaching last month with Elizabeth Beechwood about nonhuman characters that I wrote about “How to Write Relatable Inanimate Object Characters in Fiction.” I’ve written about them for the SFWA blog as well, and this time I wanted to expand on these characters for writers of any genre. I have copies of articles I’ve saved from WD over the years; I hope my contribution helps inspire other writers too.
We got some snow last night and this morning. I think it started before midnight so technically qualifies as a white Christmas. For Christmas, my kids gave me a lovely birdhouse and a copy of the new anthology Dispatches from Anarres: Tales in Tribute to Ursula K. Le Guin, edited by Susan DeFreitas and featuring an eye-popping table of contents with a bunch of my local heroes. We’re elated to have our San Diego relatives visiting, our first time seeing them in person this whole pandemic.
I’m lining up a few projects for next year, including a bit more non-fiction, a new virtual event, and of course more short stories and poetry!
My flash horror story “Neck of the Woods” was featured on the most recent episode of the podcast Black Women Are Scary, which showcases horror by BIPOC writers. They read it this past summer during a live, unrecorded event, and now you can hear their new recording of it on the episode Flash Fiction Friday: Episode 4, following discussion with their guest, Abigail from the Lunatics Radio Hour podcast.
I got such a kick hearing them bring my story to life and then analyze the characters afterward. They’re totally right, Cara is the worst niece ever. And by the way, this story first appeared in Thrilling Words.
I spent a lot of my younger years feeling self-conscious about my hair. It’s thick, coarse, wiry, and unruly, takes forever to dry, and sheds constantly. In college I tried writing a poem about it to come to terms with it. A few years afterward, I decided to devote an entire magic system to hair: human hair as a source of power, as a source of pain and vulnerability, as something to rid the body of, or as something sacred to protect. I assembled the worldbuilding around that. I cast my characters and put them in conflict with each other according to the magic. It took me years to grow enough as a writer to bring the story to fruition. And when “Desert Locks” was first published last year in GigaNotoSaurus, I celebrated by letting my hair air dry into its naturally thick, coarse, wiry, and unruly state.
I’m thrilled that “Desert Locks” was selected for Volume IV of Best Indie Speculative Fiction and appears alongside so many wonderful stories. Here’s the list:
“Pokey Potz, Come Out to Play” by Colleen Anderson
“Sibyls” by Melissa Bobe
“How to Find a Demon Eater” by Tara Campbell
“The Collection” by Myna Chang
“The Haunted Heart of Ebon Eidolon” by Matthew R. Davis
“+30 Seconds” by Madison Estes
“Maker Space” by Adele Gardner
“Tempus Obscurum” by Brad Goldberg
“Sid” by Andrew Jensen
“Fireflies” by Zakariah Johnson
“The Exhibit” by Mark Keane
“Coin” by Matthew C. Lucas
“The Sailor’s Salt, the Gaoler’s Rust” by L.P. Melling
“Leaving Sedna” by Mike Morgan
“Storm Spun” by Jennifer Quail
“Desert Locks” by Katherine Quevedo
“Deadbeat” by Susan Taitel
“None So Blind as Those Unseen” by Richard Zwicker
The anthology is available now. You can also find one of my stories, “Fellscorpe and the Wishing Well,” in Volume III.
My story “Exchange (A Coral Study)” is part of the November 2021 issue of Mermaids Monthly (currently available to subscribers). I feel the love for this tail tale. It originally appeared in Factor Four Magazine, my first pro sale, and since then has been read by Tina Connolly for her podcast, Toasted Cake, and reprinted in an anthology. And each time, I get to tell my dad how inspiring is his friendship with his college roommate, Walt Krueger. I took lots of creative liberties, but their meeting is the kernel that became “Exchange.”
In an alignment of perfect timing, my parents got together with Walt and his wife over this Thanksgiving break, and Walt brought copies of his memoir for our family, hot off the press. My dad dropped mine off earlier this week.
South American Odyssey 1970 is an account of Walt’s five-month, post-college trip through South America, which started with him visiting my dad’s family. He wrote some touching passages about his friendship with my dad, including that without it, “I might never have known the world as I have, through friendships, travel, languages, reading, and greater insight into the power of people to overcome the restrictions of nationalism and to work together to make a fairer and more just world.” I assure you, my family was just as deeply transformed.
I found out yesterday that one of my poems, “The Banquet at the Center of the Maze,” has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. My huge thanks goes out to the editorial team at Coffin Bell for publishing it in the first place and now nominating it. I’m honored. So much of writing involves self-doubt, rejections, criticism, and the like—when someone expresses support for your work, whether in the form of purchasing it, recommending it, or contacting you about it, it means the world.
As a heads-up, I’ll be posting again soon. I’ve got another story reprint coming out, and this one is very special to me thanks to some family history.
This Thanksgiving season, I want to mention how very grateful I am to all my readers, writer friends, mentors, and editors! Thank you for bringing joy to my writing life.
My carousel story, “The Menagerie Machine,” is part of a new anthology about romantic love, called Draw Down the Moon. This story was first published through Short Édition’s Short Circuit website and Short Story Dispensers, but this marks the first time it will be available in book format (both print and ebook). You can order the anthology from Propertius Press. It’ll officially be released this Friday.
First off, I just have to say, I went to Orycon today and loved getting to be around other writers and readers in person again (all masked up this time).
Now for the update! Last month I reviewed the proof for my upcoming tale, “Song of the Balsa Wood Bird.” It was exciting to see my piece getting finalized, and I can hardly wait to share it when it’s published in Fireside Magazine.
By the way, Fireside Magazine publishes a range of fiction and poetry chosen by well-respected guest editors, and they really support their writers. Please consider supporting them as a subscriber. It means a lot to those of us who focus on short stories and poems, where the economics often don’t match up to all the time we invest in our art. As the Econ major in me would say, please help demonstrate the demand so we can continue to provide the supply.
What can we humans learn from sentient ships? In this case, I don’t mean AI generation spaceships, I mean sailing vessels on the high seas. My new poem, “The Bowsprit Mermaid and the Stemhead Dragon,” appears in the latest issue of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, and it explores how legends are born and how precious is the chance to connect with others, truly.
If you’re a writer and this type of nonhuman perspective piques your interest, Elizabeth Beechwood and I have our online workshop coming up later this month on Creating Nonhuman Characters, offered through Hugo House. I hope you’ll consider joining us for several hours of discussion of animal and object characters, writing exercises, and a chance to connect with fellow writers (in a much safer way than the titular characters of my poem).
Happy Halloween! I’ve got several new poems out this weekend.
First up is “Dancer Summons,” my belly dance poem appearing in the new issue of The Common Tongue Magazine, which is full of dark fantasy stories and verse to scratch that Halloween itch. Coincidentally, later today I’ll be participating in a dance event for the first time in over a year and a half.
Next are two poems, “Merfolk in the Ghost Net” and “The Kraken’s Bight,” in the new issue of Seaborne Magazine themed around Storms, Omens & Monsters. I love the illustrations by artists Ioan Nicolae Ciontea and Caroline Scamell accompanying my poems. Seaborne Magazine donates a portion of their revenue to charities that support oceans and marine life; this issue supports Surfers Against Sewage.
Finally, “The Devil with the Golden Hairs Earns His Sleep” is in the Magic issue of Analogies & Allegories Literary Magazine. I was inspired to write this poem while thinking about how my dad used to recite the Grimm fairy tale “The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs” to my sisters and me when we were young—except that he always called it “The Three Hairs of the Giant.” He recently told me that my grandmother used to tell it to him in Spanish.
If you want to finish off your Halloween with even more poetry, one of my fellow contributors to The Common Tongue Magazine, Brittany Hause, put together a great list that you can find at this link.