Witchy Weekends: “The Frog Wish” (Part 5)

Those of you who’ve been following my blog for a while know that in October I have a series called Witchy Weekends, and this year I’m continuing writing a fairy tale. You can read parts 1-4 here. Read on for part 5.

***

The Frog Wish (continued)

“Do you know if there’s any food here?” Eleanor asked after she’d been jogging after Reginald’s hopping form for at least fifteen minutes. At least this activity had taken the edge off the cold. He stopped and turned to look at her.

“I’ve been eating this whole time,” he said, “but my guess is you don’t like mosquitoes.”

“Clever of you.” She just barely prevented herself from snarking about frogs’ legs. “You said sometimes people come here? Humans? How long do they usually stay?”

And did they bring food with them? And did they come of their own volition? And were they trapped here? She had so many questions but didn’t think Reginald would bother answering if they come at him in a volley.

“There’s a market road about two clicks ahead.”

“Market of what? Is there a village around here somewhere?”

“All kinds of things. And maybe? I’ve never seen any settlements in these woods.”

Eleanor looked around at the silvery landscape. Trees as far as the eye could see, and only shadows between them. The trail they’d been traveling wasn’t even well established: she’d had to stop several times to extract pebbles or leafy twigs from her shoes. At least she’d put on sneakers when she started moving the bedroom furniture. Furniture she’d really love to get back to right this very minute. “How many times have you come here?”

“Ribbit.”

“Are you kidding me?”

“Nope. Ribbit.

“Fine, don’t answer me. But I really need food, and so far I haven’t seen anything Continue reading “Witchy Weekends: “The Frog Wish” (Part 5)”

Witchy Weekends: “The Frog Wish” Returns

So for the last however-many years, I’ve been doing an October series called Witchy Weekends. Some years I reviewed books or movies, presented songs, that sort of thing. Then in 2019 I began posting consecutive scenes from a story I was writing; one of the characters is a witch. It seemed like a fun experiment, and…well…the story got some really good attention!

But I was also in the middle of finishing up my (at the time) next book — which is out now, by the way. It’s called Homecoming, Book 2 in the Animal Affinities Series. (Click on this link to find out information about the online launch event in a few weeks!) So I put this new story aside.

Well, some of my blog readers have been asking me about that story and have encouraged me to resume it. (Thank you!) So I have agreed! Today’s post is a slightly edited version of the scenes I posted last year, so you don’t have to go look them up. As for the story’s progress, I do have a rough outline of what’s coming next, but also, I am writing this story as we go along. So if you want to leave feedback or speculate on what’s coming next in the comments of each post, feel free. I make no promises about whether your ideas will make it into the future scenes — as I said, I’ve already kind of figured some of that out — but this story is also a fun exercise in plontsing, so.

That said, let us commence with…

 

THE FROG WISH

Eleanor couldn’t stop staring at the frog. A large creature, larger than the palm of her hand, it watched her as she circled the table, following her with its eyes and even turning a little to keep her in its line of sight. Maybe it was aware she was wondering about it? The thought made her a little uncomfortable. In her world, frogs were supposed to be garden animals. They did not possess the intelligence to be inquisitive about people. This one almost reminded her of Lucas, the way he had watched her sometimes from across the room, cocking his head slightly when she did something a little bit interesting. She circled around the table, and the frog’s eyes moved with her in an articulated curve, watching her until she stood behind him. 

The frog lifted itself off its haunches and turned around, squatting once more, looking at Eleanor again. It made a little croak.

All the old stories of princes being turned into frogs by witches flooded her imagination. What would it feel like to kiss one? Slimy, no doubt… What would ever possess someone to try it? She looked over at Moira, measuring dried lavender buds carefully into a plastic bag for a customer.

“Now be sure to sprinkle those in the bath while the warm water is running,” she was saying. “And say the charm I gave you at the same time.” 

The customer nodded her head. “Right. And I have to focus on myself only, not on anyone else.”

“You wouldn’t want to be unethical,” Moira smiled. She tossed a long braid over her shoulder. “Bad for your karma that way.”

“Got it. Thank you so much!” the customer called as she left the shop.

Moira looked back at Eleanor and grinned. “Some of them are so easy to please,” she said. “Just a few herbs and a decent meditation, and they think I’ve changed their lives.”

Eleanor looked at her friend more carefully, then glanced down at the frog, who’d just let loose a croak worthy of a blue ribbon. It blinked its moist eyes at her then looked away.

“This one of yours?” Eleanor asked, pointing to it.

“Who, Reginald?” Moira laughed. “He’s like a pet.”

Eleanor couldn’t believe she was about to ask it, but–– “Did you make him…?”

“Did I turn him into a frog, you mean?” The amused grin on her face tried hard not to look condescending.

Eleanor felt stupid now even for thinking something like that.

“No,” Moira laughed. “I found him that way. The Goddess has to take credit for that one.”

Eleanor sheepishly turned away from the frog, who croaked again, and followed Moira into the book room for tea and a cozy seat on the sofa.

The book room was Eleanor’s favorite spot in the entire shop. Oh, she liked the garden well enough, and the alcove filled with crystals and jewelry; the shelves lined with large glass jars full of powders and dried herbs fascinated her. But the book room, with its floor-to-ceiling rows of spellbooks, memoirs, meditation primers, and tarot decks, was absolutely the spot to be. Moira had set up a couple of Queen Anne wingback chairs (that might have been worth some real money if she’d reupholstered them) in the corners and a velvet divan under the window, and Eleanor often came in here to read or admire the art on the tarot cards. When things were slow, she and Moira would sit together for a cup of oolong or chai and pretend the world wasn’t a madly spinning maelstrom of nonsense.

Moira pointed to a small wooden box inlaid with mother-of-pearl on the coffee table. “A new deck arrived this week.” She crossed the room to pour the tea.

Eleanor lifted the lid and drew back a dark blue silk covering the cards. An intricate image stared up at her, a wildly overlapping pattern of jewel colors and shapes she couldn’t quite identify, and when she tried to impose some order onto it, the image seemed to shift back into chaos. An optical illusion, she thought. Clever. She flipped the first card over and saw The Fool, cheerfully traipsing down a haphazard path. Nothing she hadn’t seen before, even if the art was vibrant and appealing. She lifted the rest of the deck out of the box and sifted through it. The Major Arcana were gorgeous but easily recognizable, even without glancing at their titles or numbers.

Moira brought two teacups over and sat down. The scent of cinnamon and vanilla permeated the room.

“I still haven’t figured out how you manage such perfect foam without a latte machine,” Eleanor said. Continue reading “Witchy Weekends: “The Frog Wish” Returns”

Just A Little Video With Something Nifty And An Invitation

Self-promotion is the least wonderful part of being an author. (Actually, waiting on various aspects of the publishing industry beyond one’s control is the least wonderful part, but self-promotion is a noteworthy second.)

But I made this video, so I hope you’ll watch it and take heed of the excellent developments therein.

And here’s the link you’ll be wanting after you watch it.

An Invitation For You

EDIT:  In light of Hurricane Laura making landfall nearby this week, I’ll be postponing this reading until September. Stay tuned for more details!

 

So I’m doing a livestream toward the end of this month: I’ll be reading my work online at Facebook live and on Instagram. Here’s the official invitation. I hope you can join us! (And please do spread the word.)

Relief Efforts for Beirut

Many of you know I am of racially mixed heritage. Some of you know that I am half-Arab. In fact, I am Lebanese. My father’s entire family is Lebanese, in every direction and all the way back. So the news this week has been troubling.

In an effort to help with relief efforts in Beirut after the massive explosion there this week, I will be donating proceeds from sales of my books and poetry art cards to the Lebanese Red Cross, which is the largest national humanitarian organization in Lebanon, according to their website. They provide most of the ambulance services in the country and have been setting up first aid and triage stations as well as temporary shelter for the victims of the blast. (For other helpful places you can donate to help relief efforts, click here.)

So how to participate in my fundraiser? Go to my brother’s online shop, Ella’s Apothecary. There you will find my books and poetry art cards for sale (along with a bunch of other really excellent things my brother makes). For every copy of Finis., The Sharp Edges of Water, The Milk of Female Kindness, and my poetry art cards you buy there — from now through this Sunday, August 9th — I will donate proceeds to the Lebanese Red Cross. Feel free to spread the word on this, too.

Here are a few examples of some of the poetry art cards. All thirteen designs are listed at Ella’s Apothecary in more detail.

Thank you so much for helping out with these relief efforts. Stay safe.

Achievement Unlocked: Camp NaNoWriMo

So this month I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo for the first time. And I won!

Now, you might be wondering a couple of things: what is NaNoWriMo, and what does it mean to “win” it?

NaNoWriMo means “National Novel Writing Month,” and traditionally it is held in November. The idea is to write 50,000 words of a manuscript in 30 days. One might argue that 50,000 words is just the very barest minimum you could have for a manuscript and consider it a full novel, and in some ways one would be correct in thinking so.

There are some generally accepted word length requirements for different types of fiction forms, which can be verified in multiple places on the Internet, should you choose to do so, but for simplicity’s sake, feel free to go with these distinctions:

  • microfiction: under 100 words
  • flash fiction: under 1,000 words
  • short story: under 7,500 words (sometimes under 10,000 words)
  • novelette (which seems to pop up primarily in the various genres of speculative fiction): 7,000-17,000 words
  • novella (which sometimes encompasses novelettes as well): 10,000-50,000 words
  • novel: over 50,000 words

Obviously one will find some overlap here and there, but these are general guidelines.

And what does it mean to “win” the NaNoWriMo? Completing your goal!

You might be wondering how anyone can get that much writing done in 30 days, especially when we have day jobs and (in the US) the Thanksgiving holiday and other things going on in our lives. That’s a totally fair question. For me, as a full-time high school teacher who also has a family and who hosts Thanksgiving, the idea of writing 50,000 words on a single manuscript during the month of November is unrealistic at best (and insane at worst), and my thoughts on that craziness are well documented. And apparently I’m not the only one who feels that way, because NaNoWriMo also now hosts “camps” — such as the one which occurs in July every year.

Anyway, I have been working on a new novel and made it a goal for 2020 to reach 50,000 words on it, and my friend Christa encouraged me to do Camp NaNoWriMo with her this month, and we did, and I made it past 50,000 words! Yes!

Is my novel done? Hell no!

And there are a few important reasons for that:

  • first, this novel is probably going to be closer to 100,000 words long when I finish the first draft;
  • second, once I get to the end of the first draft, that only gives me something to then work with;
  • third, the path to publication is long and sometimes winding and definitely has a lot of repeat steps on it (see also: revision and editing).

(One thing that has unfortunately given self-publishing a rancid name is the slew of first-draft NaNoWriMo projects that turn into badly written self-published ebooks on Amazon every January. Ah well. It’s a shame, too, because there are quite a lot of self-published and independent authors who are churning out excellent work, and their marketshare is tarnished by the people who don’t quite fully participate in all parts of the writing process.)

Some brilliant novels got their start as NaNoWriMo projects: one of the more famous examples is Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. If I’m not mistaken, I think I read that she worked on it three Novembers in a row. (Case in point of how really good literature often takes quite a long time to make really good.)

Anyway. I’m just pleased that I managed to unlock this achievement, and I’m going to keep working on the new novel in addition to my other projects. (More on those later.) I’ve created a new goal for this manuscript for August and will keep doing so each month until this manuscript is done.

Have you done any version of the NaNoWriMo? Drop a note in the comments here about your experience!

So, cheers to you. Stay safe by staying home when you can, wearing a mask when you can’t, washing your hands frequently, and paying attention to science over nonsense and legitimate doctors over politicians. All the best.

***

Want to read more of my writing that’s already published? Click here for poetry, click here for urban fantasy, and click here for realistic flash fiction. You can also buy my books at Blue Willow Bookshop and my books and poetry art cards at Ella’s Apothecary, and I hope you will! 

Monday Earworm: (Deleted)

EDIT:  It has recently come to my attention that the song I included here today was by a band whose members included a known perpetrator of sexual assault. I had no idea. The song I played here is the only one by that band that I ever really knew, and I hadn’t paid attention to anything else they’d done. I regret that and hope that my post didn’t cause anyone distress. I will leave up the anecdote but not the reference to the song, which I’ve removed.

Instead, please feel free to post in the comments on whatever music or book you’re enjoying right now to make your own part of the world better and more enjoyable for you. 

 

I’m cleaning out my classroom at school this week. Plans for the fall semester are still in flux, of course, but I know that some stuff needs to come out of there, so. One thing I’m doing is bringing home my classroom library so I can make more room on my shelves. These are primarily books which have been withdrawn from our school library and given away free to a good home. These are books which belong to me personally that I keep around for my students when they are looking for something to read for fun and need some inspiration.

Those who know me well know that I might be slightly obsessed with books. They were my most enduring form of entertainment the whole time I was growing up, and that has never really changed for me. I’ve been reading stories on my own since I was four and writing them since I was eight. And I cannot seem to stop acquiring books.

One of the reasons I have a Little Free Library — aside from the desire to provide free books of quality to anyone walking past my house — is so that I don’t feel I need to hoard books. So I brought home a literal carload of novels and culled through them this afternoon to figure out which ones I wanted to keep and which were going to the Little Free Library, either because I already owned a copy or because the story blurb didn’t interest me overmuch. Four large bags of books are destined for the LFL, and one large bag went up to my bedroom….

…where I already have a TBR stack that is, I kid you not, an entire bookshelf plus three tall stacks on top of my dresser plus two stacks on top of my nightstand plus my Kindle.

I might have a problem.

And what have I chosen to read for fun this week? I’m rereading Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston because it is, hands-down, my favorite alternate timeline I wish to all the gods that have ever been that we were living in right now. It’s also hilarious and sexy and deeply smart and character-driven and just all-around well-written. It makes me genuinely happy to read it.

*le sigh*

In the comments, tell us your favorite book obsession — whether it’s your favorite storyline or your author obsession or your book boy-/girlfriend. Inquiring minds want to know!

 

HOMECOMING Cover Reveal

Okay, not gonna lie, this is some very exciting news. The last eighteen hours have been a mild frenzy of posting on my various social media and to my newsletter, because I am finally able to reveal the cover of the new book!

Homecoming is the second book in the Animal Affinities series, and for those of you who are fans of Finis., rejoice, because at long last the next book is coming! I hope you’ll enjoy it. It’s a bit longer than Finis. and focuses on the wolves. I’ll do a first chapter reveal here on the blog in the near future, so stay tuned for that.

But here is the gorgeous cover, designed by Lauren Volness, who also did the incredible cover art for Finis.

cover design by Lauren Volness

The pandemic has delayed the release of this book but not canceled it — so keep an eye out for it late this summer. More details as I’m able to share them!

Also, now might be a great time to remind you that if you’d like to get Finis. or my most recent book of poems, The Sharp Edges of Water, both are available from Blue Willow Bookshop!

In Which I Give A Virtual Reading For Spider Road Press…

So in case you’d like to see me reading one of my stories online, you can now.

Last year I wrote a flash fiction called “Mother” which placed in the annual Spider Road Press flash fiction contest. They even nominated it for Best Small Fictions. (This year’s contest is going on now, by the way, until June 1st, so do enter a story if you’ve got one that fits their guidelines.)

And this spring they’re posting online readings of flash fiction from their authors, and today my story went up! I hope you’ll take a look.

Have a great weekend!

Poem-A-Day: Rukmini Kalamangalam

And so we come to the end of April, and thus the end of National Poetry Month 2020 and this series for another eleven months. It has been a wonderful series this year, and I’m so grateful to all of the poets who participated by letting me share their work on my blog. If you’re just coming to the series, I hope you’ll click through the past posts and have fun reading the poems.

There’s a note toward the end of each post this time around about participating in a cento together. Although there weren’t a lot of contributions at the end of the first post this year, there were some really good ones. Thank you to all who posted there!

I’m still interested in doing a cento, though, so I want to open things up a bit. Cooperative art is super important right now, so I’m inviting anyone who is interested to select lines from any and all of the poems in the series this year to create a found poem. Look back at the first post in this year’s series for more details on how. Then send me your cento to forest [dot] of [dot] diamonds [at] gmail [dot] com with “cento” in the subject line, and I’ll post them here.

Tonight’s oh-so-relatable poem is by another Mutabilis Press poet, Rukmini Kalamangalam. Do enjoy.

And thank you again for tuning in to this year’s series. Monday Earworms will resume next week, so you can look forward to that — as well as some very exciting new book news! in the near future.

Until then, be well. Stay safe at home as much as you can. Let’s beat this virus. Best.

 

Fishbowl

it annoys me when people say they hate
poetry
and their lips curl like
if there’s no plot there’s no point 
their eyes resembling
the Fishbowl i broke in the third grade
when it was winter
and i shivered through time out while the kids turned red
playing soccer on the field
it annoys me that they will read these words
without wondering which way
my breath left my lungs
whether it
wisped in a twisted waltz
or
tumbled out of my mouth,
wild and heavy
they’ll say it doesn’t matter
what color my jacket was
or who scored the last goal
just that
i killed the Fish
and i sat on the curb of a playground for five extra minutes
***

Go to this month’s first Poem-A-Day to learn how to participate in a game as part of this year’s series. You can have just a little involvement or go all the way and write a cento. I hope you’ll join in!

***

Rukmini Kalamangalam is a first-gen page and performance poet from Houston, Texas. She is a current sophomore at Emory University. In 2018, she was named Youth Poet Laureate of the Southwest as well as Houston Youth Poet Laureate. Her poem “After Harvey” was set to music by the Houston Grand Opera. She has been published by Jet Fuel Review, Blue Marble Review, Da Camera Museum, GASHER, and SAND Literary Journal, among others.