Because I know a lot of my readers (like me) love gardening and herbs and doing stuff with that produce in addition to reading, I just have to share a link to Frances Silversmith’s website with you. She has introduced a great section there. Called “The Herbwoman’s Arts,” she talks here about herbs in fiction, especially SFF. So far, she’s discussed things like laudanum, healing salves and what goes in them, and how St John’s wort might stop not only depression but also nasty Fae trolls! It’s a lot of fun, and pretty interesting too. Go take a look!
Monday was Tell A Fairy Tale Day, and I meant to post this here then…but, ya know, life, yadda yadda. Anyhow, I’m here and posting now, so that’s going to have to work for this year.
Here’s a little story I wrote a few years back. I hope you like this darkly funny tale, and can find the various stories and nursery rhymes it references.
Jack Spratt: The Real Story
by M. E. Garber
Jack Spratt could eat no fat,
His wife could eat no lean.
Betwixt the two,
They licked the platter clean.
Jack leaned back from the evening meal, a dark-furred hand going up to pick at his large teeth.
“Mr. Spratt, if you please! Do not pick your teeth at the table!” His wife’s deep voice so close behind him made him jump like a nervous hare. He was glad, therefore, that she had just eaten her fill of the roasted goat. He, meanwhile, had made short work of the salad and carrots. It was a stem of said salad that was stuck between his teeth just now, but he ignored it due to the racing of his heart.
“Sorry, dearest. But I do wish you’d quit sneaking up behind me. It’s not good for my nerves.”
Elsa, his wife, came beside him and cleared away the plate, smiling wolfishly. She liked displaying her large, yellowed canines prominently; he knew she liked the way it made him squirm. Normally he had little qualms over his wife’s peccadillos, but in two nights the moon would be full, and Elsa was growing restless earlier with each moon that passed. It leached away her good sense, and he grew more and more fearful of her during the fullness of the moons.
He retreated to the hearth and poked at the fire, trying to calm his breathing and flatten his gooseflesh. Letting her scent his fear would be bad. In as calm a tone as he could muster, Jack spoke over the sounds of her washing up.
“I thought I might go to the village tomorrow. Leave in the morning, do some trading. Stay a couple nights. Maybe visit my friend Hamm.” He kept his eyes on the snapping fire, but he felt her glowing eyes caressing the back of his head.
“Ohhh, why, Mr. Spratt. I don’t think that’s such a good idea. You know I can use you here during the full moon. To keep things … settled … during my time of the month.”
That’s what she called it, now. Her ‘time of the month,’ as if a werewolf’s curse was something entirely normal. She’d rampage over the countryside for a night and a half, maybe two depending on the moon-cycle, then come straggling back home, naked and bedraggled, flushed with a shameful joy. Lately she’d been staying closer to home during her change. He’d heard her snuffling outside the door, howling in the forest behind the barn.
Jack shook his head. Ever since they’d refused to help the old witch of the wood the year before, when she wanted to lure children, Jack’s ears had grown, and a fine hair grew over his arms and hands, then his whole body. His eyes got sharper, and while living with a woman cursed with lycanthropy never made a man calm, Jack had gotten more high-strung than ever. He refused to admit it for the longest time, but there was no denying it any longer: he was turning into a rabbit. He knew that his wife knew, and found him … interesting.
“Besides,” Elsa murmured, turning her gold-flecked eyes back to her dishes, “you were just to the village two weeks ago, so I can’t imagine you need to visit again so soon.”
Jack froze. His heart hammered once more, and his ears heard the low, throaty laugh his wife gave. He scented his own panic, and knew mortal fear.
Jack shut the door to the chicken coop behind him. He’d barricaded the henhouse doors from the inside. Now he prepared to nail boards across the doorframe to secure it — he hoped — from entry. He lifted the hammer, set the nail and swung.
Hot breath on his neck made him leap and twirl, but the hammer landed on his thumb anyway. He hopped a few steps, sucking his thumb, as he took in his wife’s narrowed, gleaming eyes and hungry smile. He noticed the way she tensed at his hopping, and he immediately froze.
“What are you doing, Mr. Spratt?”
“Just protecting the chickens, Mrs. Spratt.” His heart hammered at his throat and made his voice come out as a squeak. Her smile widened.
“Good instincts, but somehow I think the hens will be safe. There are better things on the menu tonight, I do believe.” With a last wolfish grin, she turned and loped back to the house.
The moon rose early that evening. His wife never left the house, but sat watching Jack, pinning him to the dark corner of the room with her intense eyes. As soon as the change rendered her immobile, he raced out the door, zigging and zagging in a panic. All too soon, he heard the howl of pursuit, and in a burst of speed, Jack zipped up to Hamm’s dilapidated, straw-mortared hovel. At his panicked knocking, his short, fat friend opened the door. Jack burst inside, slamming the door behind him.
“Why, Jack. Whatever is the matter? Onk.” Hamm always caught his breath after each utterance, sounding like a goose. Or a pig.
Before Jack could explain, Elsa was upon the house, howling for Jack’s blood. The two friends cowered in the center of the room as the wolf shouted, “Little Pig, Little Pig, let me in!”
“Go away! Onk. Onk.”
Elsa rammed the door, and it gave way in a shower of wood and straw. Jack and Hamm sprinted out, to Hamm’s brother’s house nearby.
At Pudge’s wooden house, the scene repeated itself, and Jack and the two little pigs squealed in terror as they zipped to the eldest brother’s home. Porky’s home was stout brick, and when the wolf arrived hot on their heels, Porky laughed at the wolf’s foolishness. Jack cowered by Porky’s feet, panting, as his friend’s brother told off the wolf.
The door shuddered once, twice, three times, but held. Elsa snarled and snapped on the other side, cursing Jack, cursing bricks, and doubly-cursing Porky. Jack looked up, his pulse slowing as hope bloomed in his heart.
There was a long silence, then the sound of footsteps on the roof.
“The chimney!” Jack shouted. But Porky was already stoking the fire higher. He placed a large soup pot in the hearth. The wolf popped out the chimney and fell into the pot, and Porky threw the heavy lid onto it. Jack and the others raced to hold the lid in place as the wolf who’d been his wife struggled to escape.
As the bangs and knocks came to an end, Jack grinned at his friend.
“Looks like you’ll have soup tonight, my friends. Thanks!”
“No thanks needed. But you know, there’s one thing that goes perfect with soup.”
“Oh?” Jack looked back towards the kettle, sniffing appreciatively as Porky lifted the lid. “What?”
As the lid hit his skull, Jack heard the pigs cheer, and he saw only dark.
(This story was first published in Short Sips; Coffee House Flash Fiction Collection 2)
If you liked this short tale, here are links to a few other people who played along this year–and they actually got their stories posted on time, unlike me. (Drat them! Um, I mean, good for them!)
It’s the middle of a very long week, and I’m needing some oomph getting over this hill and sliding down the into the end–so here are some fun things to help the day along:
1)A squirrel-eye view of traveling through the trees? Got it! Check out this video of a squirrel carrying a GoPro on a leafy journey. (you might want to wait for the annoying “sign up here for updates” to pop up before you start the video and have it blocked — sigh)
2) Finally, a fun political sign I can fully support! When’s the last time a political sign made you laugh?
3) Looking for something to read for the next year? Portable and bite-sized spec fic? Here’s just the thing, from Fantasy & Science Fiction’s Facebook Page:
F&SF Electronic Subscription Deal… 1 year, 6 issues, 450,000 words of fiction, plus columns, cartoons, and more…
for just $5. FIVE DOLLARS.
Or for UK residents, just £5
But this is a limited time offer, so if you’re not currently a reader of F&SF and have ever considered subscribing, now’s a good time to try us out.
Here’s a fun project that is just 10 days away and a few hundred dollars from full funding, and that I really hopes makes it. It’s an anthology called “No Shit, There I Was” and its full of tales I’m dying to read! And it’s from Alliteration Ink!, a great small publisher run by a great guy (I’ve been in one of his previous anthologies, and am still thrilled to be associated with this press). His press release has been denied by some local outlets because he, you know, actively solicits stories from writers from under-represented groups. And who wants that? So in addition to putting out great stories, he’s fighting the good fight against the forces of…mediocrity. Status-quo. Etc.
How do I know I’m dying to read these stories? Because I’m in an online writers’ group with many of them, and I can tell you they write great things! I simply can’t imagine that this themed anthology will make their combined talents wither; instead, I can only believe that such a fantastic prompt will have caused time and space to bow to their might. And I want to read it all! (insert terrible sound of an excited squee and a devious cackle agonizingly merging here)
For a mere $5 pledge on their Kickstarter, you can help fund this anthology and make it real (thus letting me read it!), getting an e-book copy for yourself. That’s pretty much a steal, IMO. I hope you agree. Like I said, I want to read it…
Every year, hundreds of thousands of wonderful stories are written and go out into the world. Along comes award season, and we readers scratch our heads, trying to remember which stories we read this year, not last year. What length were they? And which ones were by new authors who are eligible for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. It’s a bit overwhelming at the best of times.
Some years, there’s a little help. Fortunately, this is one of them.
Writer SL Huang stepped into the breach and pulled together stories by 120 authors eligible for the Campbell Award this year. She’s put them into a huge ebook anthology called “Up and Coming,” and it’s available free until March 31st. That’s a whole lot of free reading, and I have to say, a lot of really good free reading.
So click that link, choose your format, and tuck your feet up–you might be awhile. Happy Reading!
I often talk about gardens, plants, and gardening here on Everyday Magic, and this post is no different in that regard. The different part is that this is the first Guest Post I’ve hosted! And, while yes, it’s on gardening–it’s set 65 million years ago!
Author Daniel M. Bensen is celebrating the release of his new book, Groom of the Tryannosaur Queen, by holding a blog tour with all the posts relating to “How Dinosaurs Can Fix Your .” Of course, I thought this sounded like a ton of fun (um, really, no pun intended), and signed right up with “Flower Gardens.”
But before we get the answer to that intriguing question, let’s learn a bit more about Daniel’s book. Here’s the publisher’s blurb:
Former soldier Andrea Herrera isn’t happy with where her life’s taken her. Specifically, to Hell Creek, Montana, 65 million years before the present. As far as careers go, making sure the dinosaurs don’t eat her paleontologist clients comes in a pretty dismal second choice to serving her country. But when their time machine malfunctions, Andrea and her team are trapped in a timeline that shouldn’t exist with something a hell of a lot more dangerous than terrible lizards: other humans.
Groom of the Tyrannosaur Queen (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B018UD6DH2/) is a time-travel romance with Dinosaurs available now as a kindle book.
Sounds great to me! OK, here’s Daniel M. Bensen to take it away!
How Dinosaurs Can Fix Your Flower Gardens
A museum worker I follow once commented on the kids who come up to him and asked to be directed to the “dinosaur plants.” Adorable. Can’t you just picture that dinosaur plant, spiky and gnarled, primeval mists dripping off its scaled fruit as it uncoils its fronds into the steaming jungle? Or, you might imagine cycads and dawn redwoods, monkey-puzzle trees or ferns or gingkoes. But flowers? Heck no! Dinosaurs were big and mean. They ate big mean plants, not tender daisies! Well, it depends on what time and place you’re talking about, but the home ofTyrannosauus and Triceratops, the setting for my novel (http://www.amazon.com/Groom-Tyrannosaur-Queen-time-travel-romance-ebook/dp/B018UD6DH2 ) was just crawling with flowers.
Tyrannosaurs and Triceratops (along with big duck-bills like Edmontosaurus, armored Ankylosaurus, and speedy predators like Dakotaraptor) lived and more importantly died and were fossilized, in what’s called the Hell Creek Formation, a layer of rock in the Dakotas, Montana, and Wyoming. It’s mostly chilly badlands now, but 65 million years ago, Hell Creek was the sweaty floodplain on the edge of a shallow sea. The place was similar to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, complete with palms trees and crocodiles. Plants had broad, sub-tropical-looking leaves, and included lots of bushy undergrowth. Although some modern plants like grasses or orchids did not grow in Hell Creek, a modern botanist transported into the environment (and I just happen to have included on in my novel) would notice familiar-looking beeches and sycamores, hung with American bittersweet, spreading their leaves over magnolias, tulip-trees, buckthorns, katsura (or caramel trees), and laurels. They might be able to find food hanging from grape-vines, or fig, cacao, mulberry, or pawpaw trees. Ginger grew at ground level. They might even find something like hops or marijuana.
Hell Creek was deep green and black with sprays of yellow, pink, and white reflected in the sluggish brown water below. Insects hummed and birds sang. The air smelled of salty mud and chlorophyll. If you were from Florida or Louisiana, you might mistake Hell Creek for home, until you saw your first tyrannosaur.
After I wrote this essay, my three year old daughter told me I’d gotten it all wrong. The Diplodocus could stamp its foot in the ground to make a decorative pond. The Triceratopscould dig up rows with its horns for your annuals. Dinosaurs poop a lot, and that’s good fertilizer. That’s how dinosaurs can fix your garden.
Want to see what else dinosaurs can fix? Here’s another post in the series.
Friend and fellow VP-17er John Wiswell invites folks to post their own versions of his BestReads2015, so here is my version of his posting.
Let me start by admitting that I didn’t read as much this year as I’d intended–far too many “life problems,” stresses, and such interfered with my best-laid plans (as they usually do). And yet, I had no end of good things to read. I managed to finish the 40 books I’d challenged myself to on Goodreads, but only by the skin of my teeth! (In previous years, a mere 40 books would’ve been simple.) I’ve purposefully winnowed my list down to my personal top five picks, but there is no way that I could put them in any sort of order.
So, here they are:
I found this book an utter delight! I’d listened to Willis’s The Doomsday Book, so I was familiar with her time-traveling scholars universe, but this book–well. It just wrapped me up in events mid-step and got both sillier and more endearing with each and every page. Her characters are so well-drawn and halfway through I felt that I’d known them all for ages, and could easily tell who was speaking without dialog tags. If you’re looking for a combination “light read” and “mental bop on the noggin,” then this is your book!
A lovely story with wonderful period details of late 1800’s New York City, this book was both heart-rending and uplifting. Each and every character had a moral dilemma, and never have I so longed for a happy ending for the title characters as I did for these two poor souls–although their lack of mortal souls was half the point of the story. Bittersweet and immersive, I found it hard to put this one down.
The third book in this series was the best yet! And that’s no mean feat, as I loved both Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword. It was utterly impossible not to love the Presger Interpreter, by whatever name it chose to go by. The climax was a razor’s edge dance between the absurd and the utterly inevitable, and keep me laughing out loud–when I finished that chapter, I had to go read it aloud to my (poor, long-suffering) spouse simply because I loved it so much I just had to share that joy.
This is a compilation of short stories set in a future India. Each story thrust the reader headlong into the future culture, combining elements of the ancient past, the present-day, and extrapolations into the future without tagging them or weighing the narrative down. It was a glorious ride, and each tale was a small gem. But instead of gobbling this book down as I so easily could have, I read each story on its own and treasured it for a bit before I went back and opened the book for the next. Yes, it was just that good.
A mystery, a romance, a tech-heavy near-future thriller, a slow portrayal of someone running from her past coming to terms with her present–and her future. All this and more was wrapped up in this slim volume. In one sentence, the utter beauty of language and place held sway. In the next, the total barbarity of the humans involved in the novel came through with shocking clarity. It was a gripping read that, for me, was over all too soon. And yet, it ended exactly where it needed to.
Just a few minutes ago, I looked up from my desk and out the window to discover it had grown very dark outside. A flash of lightning was followed by a dull crack and rumble of thunder. And then the skies opened.
Welcome former-hurricane, former tropical storm Erika, my first “something like a hurricane” since moving to Florida a year ago.
Of course, that’s the precise moment that the dog woke up and demanded to go outside and pee. //sigh//
Now that I’ve dried off again–sheesh was it raining!–let me catch you up on some interesting things.
Have you ever wished you could put the stories you love into one anthology, without regard for theme or genre? That the only requirement is “I love these stories?” Well, pop over to Anthology Builder and you can. Yes, a reprint of one of my stories is there, but so are hundreds of other stories by other authors. How about all your favorite stories in a special, one-of-a-kind collection for your best friend? How cool is that? Have fun!
It’s been awhile since I’ve posted about QuarterReads, but they’ve been busy adding new features and new authors and, of course, new stories. Some of the new features include a featured free story, and a “read a random story” button so you don’t fall into a rabbit-hole of indecision. I hope you check it out.
In current writing, I’m flipping between the first book in a YA urban fantasy dealing with witches, and a short story about a superhero and his family. The YA, working titled “The Rogue Witch,” is coming along nicely, and is pretty much a blast to write. I’m about halfway through, and hope to have the first draft finished by the end of September.
If you’re interested in keeping up with what goes on with this novel, and the next couple to follow, learning when and where it gets published, you can sign up for my newsletter with the shiny new button over there to the right. I won’t sell or trade email addresses, and won’t spam you. Maybe 3-4 times a year I’ll send something out keeping you apprised of the state of its writing and publishing, and other tasty tidbits.
Now for the short story. It’s just so odd for me–I was thinking about super powers and super-aliases yesterday, and it was so utterly different from the novel that it feels like a shock of cold water to the face. In a good way. Really. (Since I just came in from the rain, I’m familiar with “the bad way,” so I can say this authoritatively!) I was giggling to myself until the person at the coffeeshop next to me started giving me odd looks. But…this was my husband, so it wasn’t all that unusual for me to get odd looks from him. Or for him to hear about the odd things I ponder at any given moment. (Lucky him.)
I’m also having fun doing a beta-read for another writer’s novella, submitting short stories already written, and in general being “writerly.” 🙂 Yup, that about sums it up. Writerly-ness and rain. Husband and the dog. Life is good. Carry on.