Friday, December 16, 2011
So my big decision is that I'm going to blog all my professional stuff over at Winniewoohoo.com. I'll blog about writing at the Inkpunks. And I'll blog all the goofball stuff here! Brace yourself for more recipes and silly hijinks.
This week I've been working hard to eat really great, healthy food and conquer some of my crazy cravings. This isn't easy! My family has roots in Missouri, and so I grew up eating good ol' country food: lots of pie, tasty casseroles, and my mom's amazing biscuits. If you're trying to cut calories, biscuits aren't always the best choice, but here are some biscuits you can enjoy calorie-free!
Wednesday, December 07, 2011
Friday, December 02, 2011
Monday, November 14, 2011
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Monday, November 07, 2011
Friday, November 04, 2011
Monday, October 24, 2011
- Thursday, 10pm. How to Survive the Coming Zombie Apocalypse. (Panel)
- Saturday, 3 pm. Reading from The Way of the Wizard. (Group reading/party)
- Saturday, 6 pm. Edge Book Launch. (Group reading/party) -- I'll be reading from Rigor Amortis, so be prepared for some raunch. Or squick. Or just plain fun.
- Saturday, 8 pm. Inkpunks 1st Anniversary Party! (Group reading/party)--I'll be reading "Curvature of the Witch House," currently up at Innsmouth Magazine. But more importantly, there will be drinks! And snacks! And hot, hot door prizes!
- Sunday, 10 am. Crossed Genres Group Reading. Ease out of your hangover as I read a teaser from "A Tiny Grayness in the Dark," which is in CG's forthcoming Subversion anthology.
Monday, October 17, 2011
Last week combined illness and writer's block with the result of zero accomplishments (save sewing a Halloween costume for my daughter and crocheting a scarf for my own Halloween costume). I know it's not popular to admit to writer's block--I feel sometimes that if you say you believe in it, other writing types act as if you've just admitted to believe in the Boogey Man or something equally infantile. I think a better name might be "Brain Tantrums" or "Sick Leave for the Intelligence." Honestly, I've reached a point in my current work/home/jobbing life that I just don't have enough oomph. For the past three years, I've tried to limit myself to one day off a week, a day that I still usually wind up using for editorial work, and it's okay to sometimes admit that I'm tired.
Thursday, October 06, 2011
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Today one of my very favorite pieces came out in the fall edition Three Lobed Burning Eye. And this got me thinking: Why do I love some stories more than others? For example, I had fun writing "Cold Iron and Green Vines," but I never felt particularly attached to it, even though it's a pretty enjoyable tale and it found a home in pro-level magazine. There are just some stories that resonate more inside me than others, regardless of their craft or skill-level.
As an exploration, I decided to dig out my very first accepted short story and share it with you all. It was published in the no-pay online zine The Abacot Journal, and it appeared in January 2009. (I wonder whatever happened to Alexandra Ash, the editor of this departed magazine? I hope she's still out there working with words.)
THE KITCHEN WITCH
By Wendy N. Wagner
Elva Manotte hadn't spent the last fifty-five years practicing witchcraft just to be surprised by a naked man on her front porch. She had seen many more exciting things than that, and more horrible, and never flinched.
She raised the flag on the mailbox and petted the big gray tom circling her feet while she decided what to do. When a crow hopped out of the house and tugged at the man's brown hair, she made up her mind.
"Well, Marcus," she said, voice as rusty and croaking as the crow she addressed, "let's bring him in and see what we can do." The gray cat at her feet hissed at the idea, and darted back into the house.
If Elva's husband—God rest his soul—had been there to see it, he wouldn't have batted an eye. Elva was always picking up strays. He would have looked over the top of his newspaper, made an offer to drive to the store for supplies, then gone back to reading until she asked for help. As it was, his skull over the fireplace merely clacked its upper jaw against the mantle in a reflexive offer.
She lowered the strange man's head onto her bottle green couch and gave the skull a tender smile. "Ah, that's good of you, Sean. Don't worry yourself. I'm sure this is nothing I can't handle."
The skull made no response. There was no need, really. She was probably right.
"Now, what have we got here?" Elva sat back on her glider rocker—a fortieth anniversary gift from Sean, and never a better purchase—and took a look at her foundling.
He wasn't very old, early thirties perhaps, and thin as a rail. There was a white scar along his side. As far as she could tell, it was his only distinguishing mark. She watched a lot of crime dramas these days; she knew things like that were important.
The crow hopped onto the back of the couch and cocked its head, shining an eye down on the man's face. Elva knew the look.
"Don't even think about picking out his eyes, Marcus. He's not even dead."
The bird grumbled and fluttered on its perch. The back of the couch was scarred from his frequent use, and the back streaked white. Elva had thought about covering the thing with plastic, but settled for scrubbing it once a week. She'd use a spell, but by and large, inanimate things resisted her powers. She had hoped to outgrow that little weakness, but now that she was collecting Social Security, she had to admit it wasn't likely.
"Well, I ought to at least cover him up. Don't need him to get shock on top of everything else."
She went to the big cedar chest in the corner and drew out a quilt her mother had made in the twilight of her years, and spread it over the man on the couch. The quilt was all sunny yellows and oranges, in the neat squares that were all arthritis had left the old woman. Elva's mother had once worked intricate patterns with lyrical names and tiny geometric pieces of fabric, the craftswoman's mosaic. The quilts had sold for thousands of dollars, and one even hung in a museum.
But this one, warming a strange and naked man on her daughter's couch, was a gift of love simplified by the ravaging hand of time. Elva straightened it fondly.
She stood up with a smile, rubbing the small of her back, which always felt worn after lifting and stooping. The man hadn't been a light load for her, after all. She looked at the bird.
"Marcus, let me know if he wakes up. I'll be in the kitchen. He'll want something to eat, I'm sure."
The bird bobbed its head in the affirmative, and Elva left him. She had put up some jars of peach pie filling this July. Maybe she would bake. Yes, a pie. With crumb topping. Did she have any ice cream left?
These were the things that went through her mind, because Elva was a practical woman, and she knew wondering and fretting would do nothing for herself or the man. She could go through old books and guess at the cause of the man's stupor, using up half her magical supplies and risking demonic possession—or she could bake and let the comforting scents of cinnamon and sugar reach out to him.
For a woman who now received food stamps, the choice was easy. Besides that, Elva had always preferred kitchen magic. It was simple, surprisingly successful, and easy to hide. Work magic in secrecy, Elva's mother had maintained, and she had lived to be ninety-eight. Not every witch was that lucky. Elva's great-grandmother had died at age forty-six at the hands of Baptist lynch mob.
Yes, there was a good reason to stay in the broom closet, and broom closets are usually close by the kitchen.
Elva pulled the butter from the fridge and set it on the stove to soften. Then she opened the window, calling in a breeze, and set the rest of her ingredients out on the counter.
It was the kind of September afternoon she loved better than any other time. She was sixty-nine this year, but she still felt that she had not had enough fall days. She didn't want to live forever, but she wanted to see another thirty or thirty-five falls, even if it meant drinking a few unpleasant potions along the way.
Her fingers worked quickly without too much instruction from her mind. Elva was a good baker, with a lot of practice. Pastry dough was one of her specialties; the fire department had a standing order for an apple pie a week during the fall, and every club in town made sure to call her for help planning their bake sale.
She patted the dough into a ball and rolled it out. With a certain economy of motion, she flipped the circle of pastry into the pie plate, and turned her attention to the crumb topping.
If only Sean were here, she caught herself thinking, and shook her head irritably. It was true her husband had loved a good peach pie. But what was done couldn't be undone, especially if what was done involved an eighteen-wheeler and a two-speed bike. Sometimes it didn't matter you were wearing your helmet—although, she had to remind herself, the only part of Sean's body that hadn't been pulped was his cranium.
Elva pried the lid off the jar of pie filling. The smell of peaches and ginger made her close her eyes with pleasure. This was a good batch. Yes, Sean would have enjoyed it.
She poured the pie filling into the pan gently and shook the crumbs over it. Then the pie went in the oven.
It baked for an hour. That gave her time to tidy up the dishes, go out to garden and pick some dahlias for the table, refill the cat and the crow's food dishes, and fold a basket of laundry. She took a moment to run a brush through her close-cropped white hair and apply some cherry-flavored chapstick.
Then the pie came out of the oven, and she started the coffee.
It was an old percolator, loud, and with her head bent over yesterday's crossword, it was no wonder the man surprised her when he coughed at the doorway and said:
"Is that . . . coffee I smell?"
He had a nice voice, a little nervous, with an accent Elva couldn't place. He looked lost, standing in the kitchen doorway with the blanket wrapped around himself and his bare toes curling on the linoleum. She smiled, grandmotherly, at him.
"Yes." He looked down at himself. "And apparently naked."
She laughed. "I'll get you something."
She didn't have any men's clothing, of course, not after five years as a widow, but she found a pair of her own sweatpants that might fit, and a plain green t-shirt. She sent him to the bathroom to change while she poured coffee and cut slices of pie. It was still too hot to cut, but she encouraged it to cool with a murmured chant, and it was good enough.
He emerged from the bathroom looking sheepish but clad.
"Do you take sugar? Cream?"
He nodded to both and sat down where she showed him to. She sat across and stirred her coffee. The crow hopped into the corner of the kitchen and watched him, eyes reptilian, orange.
"What's your name?"
"Jesus." He took a sip of coffee, winced. It was still very warm.
He didn't look Hispanic, although he was dark enough. You could never tell. Elva prided herself on being open-minded.
"Mine's Elva. Nice to meet you."
"Elva." He looked around at the kitchen, its ten-year-old appliances shining under their coats of children's drawings, and the dishes waiting in the drainer.
Elva noticed his glance. "My grandchildren give me those. I baby-sit for them every Thursday."
"That's lovely." He took a bite of his pie (there had been no ice cream), and his eyes closed. "Oh my. That's wonderful."
Elva took a bite, too. It really was. It had been years since she'd made a peach pie this perfect. She would have to save a slice for the skull.
They each took another bite, chewing and swallowing slowly, taking their time to enjoy each meaty slice of peach and feel the tiny burn of the spices on their tongues. It was a wonder of contrasting textures and flavors, the embodiment of all that was sensual and all the sunshine of summer.
Elva swallowed. She brought her coffee cup to her lips and looked hard at the man. She took a drink without letting go of his eyes, and he flinched a little at her gaze.
"What brought you to my doorstep today, Jesus?"
He looked surprised. "Don’t you know who I am?"
She took another drink, brows coming together. He could see her mind working, and he shook his head.
"Look." He brought his palms up beside his face. There in center of each, bright as moonlight, a silver scar. Circles of long-ago pain. She thought of the scar on his ribs and put down her coffee cup.
"Why my door, Jesus?"
He shrugged. "The Lord works in mysterious ways."
"Trite." She pushed aside the mug and folded her arms across her chest.
He pushed away his coffee, too. "Elva. I came to you because of who you are, what you do. I was sent here. Because it's my job." He smiled, his coffee-colored crinkling with gentle humor.
"Your job. The Son of God has a job?"
"Duty, perhaps, is a better word."
"Duty." She stood up, the lines around her mouth folding themselves deeper. "I understand duty. I learned duty before I could walk. Protect people, heal the earth, keep the world from falling apart. That's the duty of a witch, and that's what we've been doing since the birth of humankind. I'm not sure we need help from a minor deity like you."
He stood, too. "I'm not here to help you. I'm here to stop you. Witches like you can only slow down what needs to be done now. It's time. I've come back to Earth to end it—to stop all the madness and unhappiness and sin."
"By destroying everything?"
"It's the only way."
Elva shook her head. "It's wrong."
"It seems that way, but it's for the best. You know it's true. Good people like Sean die, while murderers and child molesters walk free in the streets. This world is corrupt." His brown eyes, so mild and kind, began to brighten with the fervor of his words. "It is a pit of filth and despair. I will rub it out so that it may be reborn!"
"No!" She struck out wildly at his face, and he seized her wrists. His hands were like iron, crushing hard on her very bones. Elva cried out with the pain of it, and felt her knees giving way beneath her.
There was a scream, and fluttering darkness, and Marcus the crow was battering the man's head. The cat—slinking, silent creature—threw itself against the man's knees, all claws and fury.
Elva jerked her hands free and grabbed for something, anything, and her hand closed on the edge of the pie plate. She brought the whole deep-dish weight of it down hard upon Jesus's head.
He went down without a sound.
She stood there, gasping for air, her chest tight with fear and anger, looking down at the man on the floor. The pie plate had broken, and the beautiful peaches, golden with summer, clung stickily to his curling brown hair.
A ribbon of red rolled out on the floor, and the cat licked at it curiously. It looked up at her and meowed.
"Oh, Mr. Whiskers," she murmured, and scooped him up, pressing her face into his soft fur. She rubbed his broad forehead until his purr slowed her heartbeat. The crow hopped onto the back of a chair and bumped her with its inky head.
She looked at the dead man on the floor. "How could anybody eat my peach pie and possibly think the world ought to be destroyed?" She shook her head. "And now I'm going to have to clean this mess up, for Chri--" She stopped and swallowed a cold lump in her throat. "For crying out loud!" she shouted.
Then she rolled up her sleeves.
Elva opened the back door and ran a couple of two-by-fours up the back stairs. Then she found the wheelbarrow in the garden shed and rolled it into the house, and with the help of a few herbs, found the strength to heave the corpse into the wheelbarrow. She took it out to the compost pile and buried it under a thick layer of grass clippings and dried leaves.
She wiped off the tines of her pitchfork and looked up at the sky. "I know you'll be back. And I guess you've got to do what you've got to do. But not today. I want thirty more Septembers." She smiled weakly. "The fire department is counting on me."
She put her tools back in the garden shed and went inside without glancing back at the compost heap.
After a shower and a cup of coffee, she pulled out another pie plate and baked a second peach pie. She needed a little something after saving the world. And Sean still needed his slice.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Friday, September 16, 2011
Thursday, September 08, 2011
Monday, August 29, 2011
Let me wipe the rotten tomatoes off my face before I continue.
The Dark Knight was full of exciting action and cool props. But most of the characters fell flat for me. The Joker in particular felt like a waste; he existed to simply shake things up on-screen, and there was no attempt to create a unified persona for this strange and iconic character. (Which in some ways was cool. He was essentially all chaos, all the time. But that was *all* he was.) Also, I just have to point out: that tongue-spasm-licking thing is SO over. David Tennant totally killed it in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Every moment he was on screen, I believed in him. Gordon's struggle to balance his faith in Batman and his bitter fight to keep a crooked police department in line felt heartfelt. His actions were believable, his choices grounded. The character created in the Christopher Nolan re-launch of this franchise has many of the rich nuances of the character built in Frank Miller's Batman Year One. If you want to build a complex character within the framework of a simple action story, look to Jim Gordon.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
The ground was baked dry and crusted with yellow and white mineral salts. Steamed poured from tiny cracks in the ground, spilling around rocks and carving out mouths opening into the super-heated depths.
I'm sure I'll have more photos and Reno stories tomorrow, but this place was so cool I had to share it first. (Jee, it only took me three days. But it took that long to find the camera cord!)
Monday, August 15, 2011
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Monday, August 01, 2011
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Wednesday, July 06, 2011
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Monday, June 20, 2011
Friday, June 10, 2011
Monday, June 06, 2011
- The amazing Snarke came by for some quality girl time (and lawksamussy, we were two girls in need of some girl time!), aka, Lunch At Burgerville + Marathon Chat. She blew my mind by bringing me a copy of Fuzzy Nation. Signed. By Mr. Scalzi, the Overlord of SFWA. I'm pretty certain there is no kinder person on the earth.
- The amazing John Joseph Adams sent me many, many older issues of F&SF magazine. The next daunting task is to read all these babies, which will be inspirational!
- Due to the encouragement of the amazing Molly Tanzer and the amazing Erin Stocks, I have picked up the cookbook Appetite for Reduction and have started cooking really healthy & delicious foods. I say "encouragement," but mostly I mean "mouth-watering posts on their blogs & Twitter that feature these amazing recipes." But it's nice to be returning to my whole-foods, healthy ways! It's been a while since I've been inspired to cook!
- On a totally unrelated note, we had ramen for dinner. *looks shamefaced*
- A new submission was made, for the first time in, like, months.
- I had a major brainwave, erased the last 1500 painfully scraped together words of the novel-in-progress, and belched out 908 exciting wonderful words.
- In a totally related note, put Richard Matheson's Hell House on hold at the library.
- I've been listening to the podcast of my story "Cold Iron and Green Vines" over at Beneath Ceaseless Skies. It's so cool to hear someone else read my stuff!
Wednesday, June 01, 2011
Monday, May 30, 2011
Friday, May 27, 2011
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Friday, May 20, 2011
It's been the kind of busy week that makes a gal's head spin: an article due, revisions coming back from various editors, career opportunities throwing themselves in my path, changes at the day job, invitations to fun social events five days of the week. And behind it all, the constant pressing knowledge that queries and submissions are out there, my work under evaluation and my future on the line.
Hey, it sounds melodramatic, but dang it, that's how it feels! You know it. You've subbed to big things before, things that could have a significant effect on your life. If you let yourself think about it, your brain might explode. You can't work, because the pressure and excitement sucks the words out of your brain like a Dyson vacuum cleaner--and we all know those things never lose suction. The only solution is NOT to think about these things and try to focus on the work in progress.
But if you're anything like me, burying my thoughts is hard. They have a way of knotting inside me and settling like lead into my gut. I've always had a lot of issues with my thoughts bursting out as physical manifestations, and it's part of the reason I spent a lot of time being sick as a young person. Interest in the mind-body relationship took me to yoga and yogic philosophy, and at one time, I actually planned to be a yoga teacher.
That's right. Me. The lady who creaks when she tries to touch her toes, the lady whose Reubenesque physique is more aptly associated with Polynesian royalty than fitness instructors. I was a yoga junkie--Bendy Wendy, beloved children's yoga class leader! And I quit yoga for the same stupid reason a lot of people quit writing: I forgot to focus onprocess, not results.
You see, I've always been a chubby kid, and I've always been sensitive about being overweight. And one day, after two years of reading and studying and pretzeling, I saw a picture of myself and realized I looked nothing like what a yoga teacher should look like. My limbs were stocky, my ankles blocky. A predisposition toward a pear shape gave me the requisite prominent ribs, but my thighs never got the memo that I was supposed to be skinny. My confidence crumbled. And one day, I walked into my yoga class and realized that every woman in the room, put together, would fit into one pair of my pants. (Hey, it seemed completely possible at the time!) I ran out of the building crying.
Little by little, I left my yoga practice behind. Dropping into Downward Dog was just too emotionally exhausting, and it was easy to push yoga time out of my schedule: I'd made a commitment to writing more, and I could justify any amount of time sitting in front of the computer.
What I forgot is how great yoga feels when you're doing it and not thinking about anything else. Like writing, it's easy to fall into a magical space where your inner essence is perfectly aligned with your activity, where you're just you, and nothing else matters. Whatever happens once you roll up your mat or click that "submit" button doesn't really matter. That you you find when you hit that magical space? That's the gold. You have to let the crap--the recycled pop-bottle mat carrier that everybody else is carrying to the studio; the rejections from the agents; the good reviews of your latest story--fall away from that place. You can't let it touch the you you've worked so hard to find.
In the last few months, I've started to forgive my body for being itself. I had a realization one day, and Regina Spektor says it best in her song "Folding Chair:"
I’ve got a perfect body, though sometimes I forget
I’ve got a perfect body cause my eyelashes catch my sweat
My body is perfect because it does the things it's designed to do. Instead of resenting its shape, I've started treating my body better, revisiting the healthy recipes I used to love, taking those long walks. Setting up a standing workstation, like Christie did. Even doing some yoga. It's amazing how the old lessons come back, all the training for clearing the mind wiping away the tensions my writing life piles onto my mind and body. After doing something physical, it's usually much, much easier to come to the keyboard. The monkey mind, with its constant need for reward, is settled. Instead of feeling neurotic about seeing results, you can enjoy the process of writing.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Monday, May 09, 2011
- Basic bio, added to bottom of story or article. This bio usually runs 3-4 lines. It will have a clever opener, a line about your writing credits, a second line that includes any awards or critical praise, and a final line about where you live, where you blog, and/or something witty.
Wendy N. Wagner grew up in very rural
, where she dreamed her family would abandon her to be raised by wolves. Her short fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies and the anthologies The Way of the Wizard and Rigor Amortis; her interviews and poetry have run in Lightspeed, Fantasy Magazine, Horror-web.com, and Abyss and Apex. She lives in Oregon with her very understanding husband and daughter, and blogs at www.inkpunks.com. Portland, Oregon
- "I am a human" bio. This is the bio you'll use on your blog or webpage to make people like you, and it can short or long. The master of the short human bio is Blake Charlton, whose "About" paragraph on his webpage says it all:
- The really big bio for guest appearances. You probably won't need this one until you win some awards and get invited to be the guest of honor at a convention or workshop. Most of these run 300-500 words, a full page about yourself. You'll want to focus on creating three or four paragraphs, instead of three or four lines. You can include more about your non-writing life, as well, so if you have an interesting day job that you feel okay talking about, this is a great place for that information. If you have a quirky hobby that has helped your writing career, mention it. If you were mentored by a famous author, mention it. If you went to an awesome workshop ... hey, you get it.
- Use active verbs. It's the same advice you've been struggling with in your prose, but it can make a huge difference. Look at my bio. I've got grew, dreamed, appeared, runs, lives, and blogs. There's not a lot of "she was," "she is" action. And that's good. Those constructions aren't bad, but in a short space, you don't have room for not bad. You're trying to make people share their beds (hey, most folks read in bed!) and hearts with you. Rock them!
- Use a little colorful language. It's okay to sneak in a drop of alliteration or a fun idiom. In a short story, colorful language can be too distracting from the action. But remember, there's nothing going on in your bio. It's not an adventure. A dab of colorful language will not hurt. That's why I shared about being "raised by wolves" or I've talked about "preparing for the zombie apocalypse." These phrases sound fun. In real life, I'm not actually entertaining, but I'd really like my readers to think I am. Maybe I'll sound so fun to be with, my readers will buy me a drink at a con!
- Variate sentence constructions. Easily the most important factor. If you start every line of your bio with "He was xyz. He does abc. He likes def," your bio will be boring. Make sure you have a variety of sentence structures: "A constant thrill-seeker, John Remy finds himself drawn to high risk rock-climbing. His work draws on his adventurous life, and his thrilling short fiction has appeared in Y & W. He lives in Town X, State, and blogs at blah blah." That's variety. That's the spice of life.