Writing about things that are fake

My younger son’s class has been studying fantasy stories this month.  When I asked him about it yesterday, he thought for a moment and said, “Yeah, they’re stories about things that aren’t real.”  I beamed and said, “That’s what I write!”  He looked at me with a slightly shocked expression and said, “You write about things that are fake?”

Talk about a loaded question.  My mind raced with points I knew didn’t fit this conversation:  how technically all fiction by definition is about the non-real, how fiction writers tend to explore kernels of truth by defamiliarizing the mundane, how you’re more likely to see the significance of fakeness if you first understand the genuine counterpart, and how some argue that all writing can be considered metaphor if you dig deep enough.

Instead, I stammered something about using lots of imagination.  This seemed to satisfy him, and our conversation moved on.  A few minutes later, he suddenly blurted out a couple sentences about a ghost leading me to a dark dungeon.  I beamed once more and told him, “You just made up a fantasy story!”  He looked away with a shy, pleased smile.

Publication announcement: “Warren”

I’m pleased to share that 87 Bedford has published my 50-word story “Warren.”  This little dribble of a tale came about when I attended a recent workshop on micro fiction led by Becky Kjelstrom, the President of Oregon Writers Colony, and her writing partner, Robin Anderson.  For one exercise, they passed around greeting cards with interesting artwork on the front, and one with an image of woodland creatures playing instruments jumped out at me.  They challenged us to write a 50-word story, and my mind went off on a bit of a dark tangent from the enchanting source material.  Inspiration can come from anywhere!

I love the challenge of micro fiction, how like poetry it brings the focus down to the individual word level.

Publication announcement: “Fellscorpe and the Wishing Well”

I’m so happy to share that the latest issue of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, out now, includes my story “Fellscorpe and the Wishing Well,” with a beautiful illustration by Simon Walpole.

One day on the MAX train I read a blog post by Nicole Dieker, where she discussed whether one’s approach toward a wishing well might influence the success of one’s wish.  I admired how she took the concept of “be careful what you wish for” one step further to imply “be careful how you wish for it.”  By the end of my ride, the character of Fellscorpe had stomped onto center stage in my mind.  I hope you enjoy him as much as I enjoyed writing him.

Publication announcements: “Bone Chill of a Too-Wide Smile” and “Neck of the Woods”

I’m—well, thrilled to announce that Thrilling Words has published two of my stories!  First up is “Neck of the Woods,” available to read on their website, and “Bone Chill of a Too-Wide Smile” is available to their subscribersThrilling Words offers pairs of speculative flash stories that are somehow related.  My two stories share thematic connections around extreme engagement/disengagement and transformation.  You could say they deal with the consequences of obsession.

I’d long wanted to write a jester story as well as something featuring glass delusion, and it finally occurred to me to combine those ideas into “Bone Chill of a Too-Wide Smile.”  For naming my jester character, I drew upon two other fictional ones:  Giacomo from the film The Court Jester, and Reala from the NiGHTS video games.

For “Neck of the Woods,” I’d been reading about mycology and how fungi are more closely related to animals than plants.  Then on a walk I came across a group of enormous mushrooms, pictured below.  A while later, one of my sons randomly started intoning “Fungus among us” at the dinner table, which he claimed he’d heard in a TV show.  This story spawned from there—like a fairy ring.


Water damage and a hobbit house – My writing retreat

I participated in a one-day writing retreat last weekend, a chance to challenge myself by writing to prompts and shaking up my usual routine with a new setting—namely, the McMenamins Edgefield, a historic property full of whimsical art and tucked away rooms and buildings to explore.  A few days before the workshop, local media reported a burst pipe had caused an evacuation and flooding at the Edgefield.  Thankfully the damage wasn’t as bad as the news made it seem, and the workshop could proceed as planned.  I arrived to the sight of equipment, tubing, lots of work being done in the hallways, plastic around all the piping, that sort of thing.  It added some extra character to a place that already has lots of that.

In the afternoon I plunked myself down in the property’s Little Red Shed, a little hobbit house of a building, for a quiet writing session.  I had the place pretty much to myself.

It was a lovely, productive day.

McMenamins Edgefield Little Red Shed
The view from my afternoon writing spot

Poetry publication: “Calypso, Riddled”

I’m happy to announce that my poem “Calypso, Riddled” appears in the NonBinary Review issue themed around Homer’s epic The Odyssey!  This issue explores, reinterprets, and extrapolates upon the source material, taking the reader on their own “odyssey” through many authors’ perspectives, each like the next island in the route.

You can also hear the audio of my poem on Zoetic Press’s Alphanumeric podcast, read by Lise Quintana.

I recall the fateful day my undergrad Classical Cultures class was finally going to discuss The Odyssey.  This was the big one I’d been waiting for on the syllabus, with all the epic’s fantastical elements—the creatures, the adventure.  Alas, early on in class that day I raised my hand not to contribute to the conversation but to excuse myself, for I’d succumbed to a 24-hour flu infiltrating my dorm.  Not my finest moment.

I feel so vindicated having this poem published.  Consider it my belated contribution to the discussion, a brief exploration of agency and consequences.

Reprint announcement: “Venom in the Cloud Forest”

The anthology Pioneers & Pathfinders just came out, featuring speculative fiction about exploration and frontiers, including my story “Venom in the Cloud Forest.”  This tale first showed up in Myriad Lands Vol. 2: Beyond the Edge, and once again, with Pioneers & Pathfinders, I’m floored by the diverse settings of all the accompanying stories.

I felt like celebrating this publication with a sweet treat.  Luckily my middle sister had told me about a local chocolatier, Cloudforest, that sources their cacao from none other than Ecuador—and has the most fitting name.  Perfect.

Cloudforest Chocolate

San Diego + theme parks

Back home from a California vacation, mentally rested but with wincingly sore feet.  We almost had to cancel this trip at the last minute, but fortune smiled upon us.  We spent a lovely weekend with my eldest sister’s family in San Diego, where we checked off my sons’ three requests:  1) go to the beach, 2) tour the Midway aircraft carrier, and 3) make homemade guacamole with their aunt – not to mention spend lots of quality time with their cousins.

The tide was on the high side when we got to the beach.  My sister spotted a bunch of these little butterfly-like shells scattered across the sand, all different colors.


The aircraft carrier was pretty impressive.  I enjoyed weaving through the labyrinthine forward loop.

I’m pretty sure the “AI” on this phone doesn’t stand for artificial intelligence…

And the homemade guac was delicious!  Later everyone surprised me with an equally yummy chocolate cake for my birthday, which was the day we headed out from my sister’s house to our next destination, LEGOLAND.

My other sister had convinced me to stay a night in the LEGOLAND Hotel, and oh my goodness, it was awesome.

LEGOLAND Hotel disco elevator interior
Two words: Disco. Elevator! All other elevators will pale in comparison for me from now on.

We stayed in an Adventure themed room, all ancient Egyptian style.

LEGOLAND Hotel adventure room
I snapped this in the dark. Hopefully the faded look adds to the temple-like ambience and doesn’t just reflect on my lack of photography skills.

We had much fun in the park too, especially getting early access one morning and doing the Ninjago ride three times in a row before the main crowd arrived.  That enabled me to claim two spots on the daily top five scores (apparently using the same moves).  Check it out:

Ninjago Ride high scores
Achievement unlocked.

However, I feel compelled to point out that the number one slot appears to be occupied by… Is that..?

Ninjago Ride high score closeup
A water bottle?!  Achievement rescinded.

Sigh.  Moving on.  We headed up to Disneyland for a couple of days that really put my feet to the test.  So much walking.  This was a week just full of birthdays, because we inadvertently arrived on the day of the park’s 64th birthday.  Plus, LEGOLAND had been celebrating their 20th.

We discovered on this trip that my kids have already surpassed me in the intensity of rides they’re willing to go on.  Not that hard to do, actually, but still.  Good news for my husband.  Also, Disney has really upped their game of character meet and greets.  Spying for stormtroopers in the new Star Wars area?  Playing hide and seek with Peter Pan and Captain Hook?  Yup, my boys had a very magical time.  We all did.

And finally, I leave you with a photo that will make more sense this fall:

Disneyland wishing well
I know it’s a bit hard to see the coin I’m holding, but this one’s for you, Fellscorpe.

Poetry publication: “The Geologist Speaks”

I’m pleased to share that the Songs of Eretz Poetry Review has published my poem “The Geologist Speaks” in their Science & Science Fiction themed issue!  I provided some poet’s notes about the origins of this free verse poem (hint: it involves a geotech—not a geologist, strangely enough—and a dictionary).  I’ve long thought the world needs more science-based poetry in it, so being part of this issue is a real treat for me.  Science offers a wealth of terminology and concepts that beg to be made into crisp imagery and metaphors.