Freedom

To celebrate and raise awareness of Equus‘ release, some of the anthology contributors participated in a group interview. I sent them all several interview questions and they sent their responses. Instead of sharing one person’s interview each day, however, I’m going to share one question and everyone’s responses 🙂

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t considered going with a Braveheart-type graphic for this one, but I resisted* 😉

Today’s question is…

Once the anthology was done and I was re-reading it for copyedits it occurred to me that though the stories were tied together by the equine theme, of course, they also had one other theme in common–freedom. Is that something you were consciously thinking about as you wrote your story?

“Hennessy and Peregrine’s battle for their freedom was always part of the plot, but certainly not the foundation of the concept! We both think it’s really cool that they all have a freedom theme though!”

V.F. LeSann

author of, "Riders in the Sky"

“I’m a total pantser, so I don’t tend to think about theme until after I have a draft of a story I want to tell, but once I had that draft, freedom was something I considered in my rewrites. Michelle’s theme song while I was writing was Van Halen’s “Unchained.””

Chadwick Ginther

author of, "Scatter the Foals to the Wind"

“Although it wasn’t what I was consciously thinking about when I wrote it, I find a lot of my stories are about freedom. The search for freedom to be is an intrinsic part of what it means to be alive. Well, it is for me.”

Angela Rega

author of, "The Horse Witch"

“Huh! I wasn’t consciously thinking about freedom, no. Which is sort of sad since one of my characters is a slave…”

K.T. Ivanrest

author of, "Lightless"

“I’m not surprised. I think a lot of people see horses as symbols of freedom.

As for me, freedom’s all I think about.”

Cat McDonald

author of, "The Last Ride of Hettie Richter"

“Yep! I actually have a passage where Demy’s thinking of the freedom she felt when she was on Foxy’s back, and how her motorcycle gives her some of that freedom back. Demy’s definitely still in pursuit of freedom in a lot of ways–freedom from her past, freedom from her sorrows, freedom from magic. Of course, we see how that works out for her. :D”

Stephanie A. Cain

author of, "To Ride a Steel Horse"

“Sort of. It was in the DNA at the time. I wrote this story in October 2016, literally the same week a certain American presidential candidate was caught on tape confessing to molesting women. The horror and nausea of that time period (that still hasn’t ended) is in Eli. I was also watching 70s films about fast cars and escaping from prison, too (specifically “Jackson County Jail”) and reading Bruce Springsteen’s biography, and being impressed by this overwhelming feeling — that the only thing that matters, politically or otherwise, is freedom. And I think every election cycle feels like that is on the line, no matter where you fall politically. All of that is in Eli.”

Michael Leonberger

author of, "Eli the Hideous Horse Boy"

“In an odd way, yes. The last book in my Tattooed Witch trilogy was published in December, 2016. In tone, the trilogy tends to be passionate and dark, exploring themes of love and death, in particular. I wanted to free myself from that – to write something much lighter – Ladies Day was the result. As writers, we all write what we are. I have a dark, passionate side, but I also adore the ridiculous. I had fun coming up with what I thought were silly ideas and scenes. I had been doing a lot of research on the Edwardian period for my upcoming novel. The Edwardians were all about having a good time, if we take King Edward VII, who was quite the playboy, as an example. Throw horses and the Edwardians together, and you have the Ascot. Mix in outrageous hats, snobbery, the marriage market, and cheating duchesses for fun. Add a dollop of magic. Why not?”

Susan MacGregor

author of, "Ladies Day"

*by ‘resisted’ I mean I spent a bunch of time trying to figure out how to add Braveheart face paint to the horse in the graphic at the top of the page before surrendering and just getting on with things 😉

If you haven’t done so already, be sure and pick up your copy of Equus today, maybe if it sells enough I’ll make enough money to buy some graphic design lessons 😉

…just kidding, that’s totally not what I’d spend the money on, but buy the book anyway LOL

Equine Experience

To celebrate and raise awareness of Equus’ release, some of the anthology contributors participated in a group interview. I sent them all several interview questions and they sent their responses. Instead of sharing one person’s interview each day, however, I’m going to share one question and everyone’s responses 🙂

Today’s question is…

Do you have any real-life experience with equines? Tell us about that.

“I’ve only ever ridden a horse once, up in some trails around Masanutten. And I was honestly struck by how often they defecate (and how often my horse would put his face in whatever the horse in front of us left behind). I bring that up all the time whenever I talk about horses in real life, both because I am immature, but also because that trip has some kind of magical significance for me: I read Annie Proulx’s “Close Range” on that trip, while listening to the Rob Zombie album “Educated Horses”. I think Rob Zombie is so cool, and that book was so gut-punchingly sad, and the horses were both so startlingly beautiful, while simultaneously hilariously indifferent to whatever emotions I might have been feeling — they basically called me on my crap. And somewhere in those swirling ingredients, I get a very specific nostalgic feeling unique to that trip. And I guess I associate it with horses. That is both the silliest and most honest answer I’ve got.”

Michael Leonberger

author of, "Eli the Hideous Horse Boy"

“Leslie – In my youth I rode a lot of horses and got bucked off a lot… I always rode the horses that other people didn’t want to ride, and there was a reason they didn’t want to ride them. I don’t get along well with equines. But I did perfect my landing!

Megan – Absolutely none. Considering my Albertan status, I think that’s kind of an accomplishment.”

V.F. LeSann

author of, "Riders in the Sky"

“Actually, I’m very very allergic to horses. I went to the Musical Ride once and was absolutely heartbroken when my eyes swelled shut. We always used to think it was the hay making me sneeze on hay rides, but nope.”

Cat McDonald

author of, "The Last Ride of Hettie Richter"

“My parents wouldn’t let me have a horse, but I took riding lessons (and went to horse camp) in junior high and early high school—got my first scar (and tetanus shot) when I was stabbed with a pitchfork while cleaning a stall. Since then I’ve only been trailing riding on and off, mostly on friends’ and relatives’ horses.”

K.T. Ivanrest

author of, "Lightless"

“My grandparents had some horses, but I’ve only ridden on a horse a couple times in my life. I did get it in my head that one pony would’ve looked better blue (my favourite colour at the time) but was thankfully stopped before I got the paint (or ended up bitten or stomped).”

Chadwick Ginther

author of, "Scatter the Foals to the Wind"

“Does asking my dad for a pony for every birthday and Christmas over the past forty years count? 😀

I came by my horse-craziness honestly. My mom had a pony named Foxy who was the basis for Demy’s beloved horse Foxy. As a kid, I traded cleaning tack and mucking stalls for riding lessons at our local stable. In high school I worked with someone who had horses, and I went riding with her a couple of times. After I graduated from college, I dated a guy whose parents had horses; I spent a lot of time with his parents and their horses, which I suppose he probably resented. I learned how to lunge a horse and clean hooves, did a lot more stall mucking and grooming, put up hay for the winter, and helped them build an addition to their stable. “My” horse was Glory, a beautiful gray half-Arabian mare. To be honest, I don’t miss the guy, but I still miss Glory.”

Stephanie A. Cain

author of, "To Ride a Steel Horse"

And, if you’ve been following this interview all week you know what I’m going to say next, but I’m going to say it anyway, because it’s my job LOL

If you haven’t done so already, be sure and pick up your copy of Equus today!

Equine Favourites

To celebrate and raise awareness of Equus’ release, some of the anthology contributors participated in a group interview. I sent them all several interview questions and they sent their responses. Instead of sharing one person’s interview each day, however, I’m going to share one question and everyone’s responses 🙂

Today’s question is…

Aside from Equus, what are your favourite equine-related books or short stories?

“When I was a kid, I devoured anything about horses. My early favorites were the books by Maguerite Henry, of course. I also liked the Black Stallion books, but my favorite of Walter Farley’s books was Man O’War. Tamora Pierce, while she doesn’t write specifically about horses, always has great horses in her books–Moonlight in the Alanna books and Peachblossom in the Protector of the Small series. In high school I loved the Mercedes Lackey Arrows of the Queen trilogy.

A few years ago I fell desperately in love with The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, which I still think contains the scariest scene I’ve ever read. I have the audiobook, which is lovely, and also have the paperback–which last year I had signed when I finally got to meet Maggie!

Other horse books I loved so much I still own: Swampfire by Patricia Cecil Hass, The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley, The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle, and The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis (despite the problematic elements).”

Stephanie A. Cain

author of, "To Ride a Steel Horse"

“One of my favourite books of all time is one I acquired in my early twenties called The Unicornis Manuscripts: On the History and Truth of the Unicorn. I absolutely love the blur between reality and myth in this book.”

Angela Rega

author of, "The Horse Witch"

“Sleepy Hollow. The Headless Horseman’s Horse. I’m really thinking the movie here, because THERE’S a horse: black steed, snorting hellfire,literally galloping out of a tree. And the guy who rides him is a headless Christopher Walken? Perfect.” Michael Leonberger

author of, "Eli the Hideous Horse Boy"

“I read Black Beauty until it fell apart when I was a little girl!” Cat McDonald

author of, "The Last Ride of Hettie Richter"

“In junior high I read pretty much every Saddle Club book in existence and made it my life goal to eat ice cream like Stevie Lake; apart from those and Black Beauty, I haven’t actually read too many equine stories. But I did recently read Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races—not at all the sort of horses I was expecting! *Backs away slowly*”

K.T. Ivanrest

author of, "Lightless"

Megan: Bahahaha! Oh no, you don’t have any!

Leslie: [Censored!!] I haven’t even read The Last Unicorn yet because you haven’t given it to me!

Megan: I lent it to my mom first! (Side note: Welcome to the gritty world of co-authoring. It’s basically just this, all the time.) For my part – absolutely, yes, The Last Unicorn is a must-read. The Unicorn Chronicles by Bruce Coville was a childhood favourite. Oh, oh, oh! And The Transfigured Hart, by Jane Yolen! Another elementary school fave!

V.F. LeSann

author of, "Riders in the Sky"

“Oh, the reading list of a horse girl! It’s a long one. Classics such as King of the Wind, my personal favorite Marguerite Henry, are obvious choices, but I’m also a fan of horse-heavy fantasy such as Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce, The Foretelling by Alice Hoffman, Bruce Coville’s Unicorn Chronicles, and Horsemaster by Marilyn Singer, with Audrey Coulthurst’s Of Fire and Stars being a recent new favorite. In nonfiction, there’s no better introduction to the Sport of Kings than Joe Palmer (look for his collection This Was Racing), and The Greatest Horse Stories Ever Told, edited by Steven Price, is a great round-up of tales about racehorses, warhorses, cowhorses, and more.” Diana Hurlburt

author of, "Eel and Bloom"

What are your favourite equine books? Leave a comment to share them, and, if you haven’t done so already, be sure and pick up your copy of Equus today. It might be a new addition to your list! 🙂

Equine Attraction

To celebrate and raise awareness of Equus‘ release, some of the anthology contributors participated in a group interview. I sent them all several interview questions and they sent their responses. Instead of sharing one person’s interview each day, however, I’m going to share one question and everyone’s responses 🙂

Today’s question is…

What drew you to write about the type of equine that features most prominently in your story? If you were suddenly turned into an equine is that the type you’d choose to be?

“Flying horses came about because one of the inspirations for my story was the myth of Phaethon driving the chariot of the sun. The starfire rose out of the setting and needs of the plot, and ended up being my way of connecting the horses more closely to the people than just “we need them for transportation and status symbols.” If I were turned into an equine, I could definitely go for glowing space Pegasus!”

K.T. Ivanrest

author of, "Lightless"

“I guess I wanted to write about a demon because of the combination of emotional and physical power they represent. Although I’d like to say “sure, becoming a demon would be neato!”, I think maybe I and most other people already kind of are.”

Cat McDonald

author of, "The Last Ride of Hettie Richter"

“I’m a huge fan of Irish mythology, probably because my genealogy is mostly Irish-German, but also because there are some awesome critters in Irish mythology. I particularly love the combination of flesh-eating and horse, because I’m a bloodthirsty little monster. I’m drawn to predators in the natural world–wolves, orca, birds of prey, snakes–and I love how the mythology of the each uisca turns an herbivore into a predator. In addition, one of my favorite books is The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, which is basically the same mythology I’m using, even if she calls them capaill uisce.

So yes, all things considered, I think I’d like being an each uisce–especially since they have shapeshifting abilities, so whenever I started missing opposable thumbs, I could take human form. :D”

Stephanie A. Cain

author of, "To Ride a Steel Horse"

“I’ve mostly avoided featuring horses in my work so far–until I saw the open call for Equus which really got the creative juices percolating. As cool as it would be to capable of running on air or water, I think I’d want to avoid any kind of personal connection to Loki. I’m not sure I need my life to be that interesting.”

Chadwick Ginther

author of, "Scatter the Foals to the Wind"

“Growing up in Florida gave me a great love of water, fresh and salt alike. Nixies, kelpies, and capaill uisce popped up in fantasy stories and books of mythology I read as a kid, and caught my horse girl’s imagination. The stories I loved best as a young reader naturally feed my work as an adult creator, and I decided to play around with the idea of water horses local to my own landscapes: thus the limerunner, a water horse found in the marshes and limestone-rich springs of central Florida, was born. Though I enjoyed sketching out their relative trainability, vicious teeth, and cloven hooves, if I could be any equine I’d have to go with a beautiful Lipizzan (who can also be found in Florida!).”

Diana Hurlburt

author of, "Eel and Bloom"

“I have always been obsessed with the Elephant Man, and I think that obsession sort of led me to write about a deformed young man who believed himself to be the son of a pegasus — that that might help explain some of his deformities. Imagination makes the mundane or tragic possibly magical. I love stories about people who imagine themselves into places better than where they are, whose souls burst out of their bodies. The story of Eli asks if that backstory is real or not, but more importantly: does it matter?”

Michael Leonberger

author of, "Eli the Hideous Horse Boy"

“The Australian Brumby is a very special horse. They live in the wild without human interference but their population growth has become an issue and there has been much debate and conflict in their management and population control. On one hand they are a symbol of the wild and form part of the Australian identity; many of them were used as war horses in World Wars 1 and 2 on the other hand they are seen as feral creatures that damage the environment and require culling. It is a very sensitive issue and I found this dichotomy in their representation what I wanted to write about.

If I was suddenly turned into an equine in the real world, I think I might be a stockhorse with a heavy load in need of a shoe change, if I was turned into an equine in my dream world I would be a Pegasus that roamed the night skies and gathered stardust in my mane.”

Angela Rega

author of, "The Horse Witch"

Leslie: I wanted to do something against the grain for Equus, something less frilly and majestic, more fire and rock music. We debated Horsemen of the Apocalypse for a while, but then I remember the Nightmares from D&D and remembered that they were my favourite! Then we found a song – Ghostriders in the Sky – and we had our fire and our rock music.

Megan: That sounds very glamorous and triumphant. She’s leaving out the part where she was flopped over a pint moaning about having no equine inspiration.

V.F. LeSann

author of, "Riders in the Sky"

Honestly, if I were transformed into some kind of equine I think I’d want to go for one of the shapeshifting varieties on account of the fact I’m pretty fond of having opposable thumbs. Aside from that, though, I’ve gotta say sparkly space Pegasus kinda sounds sweet…

If you haven’t done so already, be sure and pick up your copy of Equus today so that you, too, can discover the awesomeness of the equines these authors are talking about!

Younicorn?

To celebrate and raise awareness of Equus‘ release, some of the anthology contributors participated in a group interview. I sent them all several interview questions and they sent their responses. Instead of sharing one person’s interview each day, however, I’m going to share one question and everyone’s responses 🙂

When I was a kid I used to play a game with my best friend, Linda, where we were both unicorns galloping around the school yard. Every day she described her unicorn self differently but I was always one of two things — a black unicorn with a gleaming silver horn, or a white unicorn with a shiny gold horn. I often imagined roses spiraling around those horns, and sometimes the colours of the blooms would change… but not often.

If you were to imagine yourself as a unicorn, what would you look like?

“My elementary school friend Amber and I used to play that we were unicorns galloping around the school yard, too! I wonder if this a product of growing up in the Lisa Frank era of unicorns.

When we played, I was usually a black unicorn with a white mane and tale and a white horn. I can’t remember what Amber’s unicorn usually looked like, or if she switched every day.”

Stephanie A. Cain

author of, "To Ride a Steel Horse"

” I want to have a candy-red horn! Like a twizzler, but maybe chipped a bit at the end. I love the original “Alien vs Predator” comic from Dark Horse, where the main Predator is called the “Broken Tusked Warrior” because one of his tusks is chipped off? So I want to be the “Broken Horned Unicorn”. But again, I want that thing red as blood – and not real blood, but Dario Argento “Suspiria” paint-blood red. And I want wings! Natch.

(And also maybe an eye patch, like David Bowie, because it would forever beg the question: “Where did you get that eye patch from? You clearly didn’t make it yourself, because you are a unicorn…who gave it to you?” And I would never answer it).”

Michael Leonberger

author of, "Eli the Hideous Horse Boy"

“I definitely played that game as well, with my friends “The Neigh-Neigh Club” (yes, really :P). My unicorn was always the very traditional gleaming white, but she had a purple horn that could make music.”

K.T. Ivanrest

author of, "Lightless"

“I used to play that game a lot! Back then it was an alicorn, because I also wanted wings, but these days I think I’d be something in a kirin style. Something just a little scaly and alien. Either that or just a big old thick-legged draught horse with a horn, like my favorite Magic card (Ronom Unicorn).”

Cat McDonald

author of, "The Last Ride of Hettie Richter"

Leslie: Unicorns aren’t my thing! I didn’t have a sibling close to my age. I would play Power Rangers sometimes…. Ninja Turtles…

Megan: Lucky for you, I used to play unicorns most days at recess in elementary school! I’d read the poem ‘The Lion & the Unicorn’ in a picturebook and thought of unicorns as ferocious, potentially militant critters. So on the playground, it was girls versus boys in a battle of unicorns versus lions. Looks didn’t matter as much as ferocity. So I’d be a battle unicorn; a fully-armoured lion-killer!

V.F. LeSann

author of, "Riders in the Sky"

What about you? How would you look if you were a unicorn? Leave a comment to share your answer–I’m sincerely curious 🙂

And, if you haven’t done so already, be sure and pick up your copy of Equus today!

Corvidae Contributor Interview: Laura VanArendonk Baugh

CORVIDAE blog tour banner

Over the coming weeks I’d like to share interviews that Magnus and I conducted with the contributors to Corvidae and Scarecrow. This week we’ll talk with Laura VanArendonk Baugh. I really probably should have combined this with Laura’s interview for Scarecrow but, uh, well I didn’t. So there you go 😉

Interview with Laura VanArendonk Baugh

What is it about corvids that inspired you to write about them? Corvids are kind of underappreciated. That is, lots of people like them, but they like them for their gothic reputation and associations, like Poe’s poem. Don’t get me wrong, I like gothic associations! but corvids are more than that. (I’m also a big fan of bats and all their vampiric trappings, but bats are also cool for more than just their Transylvanian relatives. Build a bat house!)

Was there one corvid characteristic you wanted to highlight more than others? So here’s the thing – my story features a corvid cognition researcher and a trainer, and yet nothing in it remotely stretches the truth of corvid capability. As far as cognition and behavior goes, the story is pretty boring. So when truth is more impressive than fiction, they must be pretty clever birds.

My day job is in animal behavior, so it was fun to get to write a nerdy behavior story where that stuff was actually plot-relevant. And in fact this story was directly inspired by a friend’s impressive research in counting (in dogs), so I enjoyed that!

Do you think you were successful? I hope so. In the sequel story, in Scarecrow, a character mentions that humans only respect and conserve those bits of nature which fascinate or impress them. As a professional I can tell you that all animals are much more clever than you think – you just don’t generally get a chance to see them in action. If we thought of them as sentient and smart, it would change how we do a lot of things, from industrial farming to environmental conservation.

As you may know, one of Edmonton’s local Twitter personalities is Magnus E. Magpie who haunts Twitter as @YEGMagpie. I invited him to read an advance copy of Corvidae and Scarecrow and offer a short cawmentary on each story from a magpie’s point of view, which he did. When he was finished I asked if there was anything he’d like to ask the contributors. The italicized portions are mine because Magnus didn’t ask straight-forward questions on account of he’s a magpie 🙂 Laura’s answers may sound familiar on account of that Scarecrow contributor interview thing, but it’s too late for me to change that 😉

Mr. Yegpie: I also would sure love to know where they got their ideas from! I caught several familiar references from existing books and mythology and fairy tales; I like seeing people riff off stuff. (What inspired your story/poem?At a training and behavior conference, a training friend (the always-amazing Ken Ramirez) shared some of his research on what I’ll describe simply as counting in dogs. As we sat at the faculty table for dinner the next night, I told him he’d given me an idea for a story. This story ended up being only partly related to that first idea, but that’s how ideas work, right?

Mr. Yegpie: I think I would like to know what people’s favourite corvid is though; and if it isn’t a magpie, WHYEVER NOT?!? (If they come back with some guff about crows using tools, PLEASE LET ME KNOW AND I WILL SEND THEM A COPY OF MY ROGERS BILL. Pffft, crows.) (What is your favourite corvid?Okay, after all my guff about people liking corvids only for their gothic associations…. I confess to liking ravens in particular just because of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic poem. I mean, come on. Vincent Price, enormous black birds, despair, what’s not to love?

But magpies can be very striking, visually. I wish we had magpies locally to admire.

I guessed, but I had to Google to confirm – a Rogers bill is for wireless and internet, so Mr. Yegpie uses a smart phone for all his tweeting! Clever bird. 🙂

 

Laura was born at a very early age and never looked back. She overcame childhood deficiencies of having been born without teeth or developed motor skills, and by the time she matured into a recognizable adult she had become a behavior analyst, an internationally-recognized animal trainer, a costumer/cosplayer, a dark chocolate addict, and a Pushcart Prize-nominated author with a following for her folklore-based stories and speculative fiction. Find her at www.LauraVanArendonkBaugh.com.

Cover for CORVIDAE. Design by Eileen Wiedbrauk

Available Direct from the Publisher:
World Weaver Press

Or Find it Online:
Amazon
Goodreads
Kobo

Corvidae Contributor Interview: Megan Engelhardt

CORVIDAE blog tour banner

Over the coming weeks I’d like to share interviews that I conducted with the contributors to Corvidae and Scarecrow. This week we’ll talk with Megan Engelhardt. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Megan before, but she and her sister also have the rather dubious honour of being the first people I ever took a selfie with ;0)

Interview with Megan Engelhardt

Please share a short excerpt from your story:

A feather is mounted on the wall in Zinnia’s study. It is just over two feet long. The feather is iridescent blue with hints of green, yellow and even a little red revealed in just the right light. It is very soft to touch. I remember how soft.

It is on her wall, Zinnia says, to remind us of our great failure, of the time we were neither quick enough nor clever enough. It is the reason we will never again work for hire. It is the reason why even now, years later, we pay our respects to every magpie that crosses our paths.

We owe it to them. We owe them our lives.

What is it about corvids that inspired you to write about them? They’re so smart — almost creepily so.

Was there one corvid characteristic you wanted to highlight more than others? That intelligence, and their adaptability, as well. Corvids are birds that get the job done, whatever the job happens to be.

If you were a corvid, what would you build your nest out of? Judging from my kitchen junk drawer, my nest would be built of bits of ribbon, slips of paper inscribed with things that I’m supposed to remember, Sharpie pens and small toys I’ve taken away from my children.

 

Despite being terrorized by chickens as a child, Megan Engelhardt still enjoys and respects birds — from a distance. She lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband and two sons and can be found online at megengelhardt.wordpress.com or on Twitter @MadMerryMeg.

 

Cover for CORVIDAE. Design by Eileen Wiedbrauk

Available Direct from the Publisher:
World Weaver Press

Or Find it Online:
Amazon
Goodreads
Kobo

Corvidae Contributor Interview: Mike Allen

CORVIDAE blog tour banner

Over the coming weeks I’d like to share interviews that Magnus and I conducted with the contributors to Corvidae and Scarecrow. This week we’ll talk with Mike Allen.

Interview with Mike Allen

Please share a short excerpt from your story:

A spider with a leg span wider than my outstretched hand squeezed out from the space behind the light switch, and spread its wings.

I froze, my finger still on the toggle. Behind me the dust-draped ceiling fan hummed to life, the light bulb beneath it flicking on to paint the monster with my shadow.

The marks on its body formed a single staring eye above a screaming mouth.

What is it about corvids that inspired you to write about them? In this case a little bird approached me, heh, heh, and asked me to consider creating a corvid story that didn’t involve crows, ravens or magpies. I was intrigued with the idea of writing about a bluejay, because I have a thing for blue, and the more I read about these birds, the more inspiration I found. I had already written two short stories (“The Hiker’s Tale,” “Follow the Wounded One,” published) and a whole novel (unpublished) that take place in a world where certain special people have spirit animal forms possessed of immense power. I didn’t start out intending to set “The Cruelest Team Will Win” in that universe, but the elements just snapped into place unbidden.

Was there one corvid characteristic you wanted to highlight more than others? 
In the case of the bluejay, the ability the bird has to smash open acorns with a single peck of its beak.

If you were a corvid, what would you build your nest out of? The scalps of my enemies.

What’s your favourite ‘shiny’ thing? For me, there’s nothing shinier than a wickedly good story.

As you may know, one of Edmonton’s local Twitter personalities is Magnus E. Magpie who haunts Twitter as @YEGMagpie. I invited him to read an advance copy of Corvidae and Scarecrow and offer a short cawmentary on each story from a magpie’s point of view, which he did. When he was finished I asked if there was anything he’d like to ask the contributors. The italicized portions are mine because Magnus didn’t ask straight-forward questions on account of he’s a magpie 🙂

Mr. Yegpie: It would be cool to know where all these stories came from, I mean geographically – like I think I could tell who was from Edmonton and who was from Vancouver! (Where do you live, and did that affect your story/poem at all?I live in the Appalachians, and though “The Cruelest Team Will Win” isn’t explicitly set there, all the other stories in the series most definitely are.

Mr. Yegpie: I also would sure love to know where they got their ideas from! I caught several familiar references from existing books and mythology and fairy tales; I like seeing people riff off stuff. (What inspired your story/poem?At its heart, my fear of flying spiders.

Mr. Yegpie: I think I would like to know what people’s favourite corvid is though; and if it isn’t a magpie, WHYEVER NOT?!? (If they come back with some guff about crows using tools, PLEASE LET ME KNOW AND I WILL SEND THEM A COPY OF MY ROGERS BILL. Pffft, crows.) (What is your favourite corvid?I’m a raven man, myself.

 

Mike Allen edits the digital journal Mythic Delirium and the critically-acclaimed Clockwork Phoenix anthology series. He’s a three-time winner of the Rhysling Award for poetry; his short story “The Button Bin” was a Nebula Award finalist. His newest poetry collection, Hungry Constellations, offers a 20-year retrospective on his career, while his first collection of horror stories, Unseaming, debuted in October to starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal. By day he’s the arts columnist for the daily newspaper in Roanoke, Virginia, where he lives with his wife and frequent project co-editor Anita Allen, as well as a dog named Loki and two sister-felines, Persephone and Pandora.

 

Cover for CORVIDAE. Design by Eileen Wiedbrauk

Available Direct from the Publisher:
World Weaver Press

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Corvidae Contributor Interview: M.L.D. Curelas

CORVIDAE blog tour banner

Over the coming weeks I’d like to share interviews that Magnus and I conducted with the contributors to Corvidae and Scarecrow. This week we’ll talk with M.L.D. Curelas whose story allowed me to check off the ‘Steampunk corvid story’ on my TOC wishlist for this anthology 🙂

Interview with M.L.D. Curelas

Please share a short excerpt from your story:

“Right.” Hanna leaned forward and adjusted the knob of the gaslight lamp, brightening the alcove where they sat. “Let me see her up close.”

He lowered the bird to the table, and she hesitated, then stepped down, wings held aloft for balance, croaking irritably.

Jenny was mostly black and white, with streaks of blue on her wings and tail–a magpie. One of her legs was artificial, brass, by the look of it, with miniscule gears and cogs serving as joints. One eye was also clockwork. It click-clacked and a telescopic lens protruded from the socket.

What is it about corvids that inspired you to write about them? They’re so intelligent! Recommended reading for everyone: In the Company of Crows and Ravens. And I love Charles de Lint’s stories that focus on the Crow Girls and Lucius the Raven.

Was there one corvid characteristic you wanted to highlight more than others? I wanted to have the magpie muttering and participating in the conversations. I remember a few years ago hearing people talking in my backyard. It sounded almost like a cocktail party! I went outside and it was a magpie, having a conversation with herself.

Do you think you were successful? I think so. Jenny has opinions!

If you were a covid, what would you build your nest out of? Goat hair.

What’s your favourite ‘shiny’ thing? New books.

As you may know, one of Edmonton’s local Twitter personalities is Magnus E. Magpie who haunts Twitter as @YEGMagpie. I invited him to read an advance copy of Corvidae and Scarecrow and offer a short cawmentary on each story from a magpie’s point of view, which he did. When he was finished I asked if there was anything he’d like to ask the contributors. The italicized portions are mine because Magnus didn’t ask straight-forward questions on account of he’s a magpie 🙂

Mr. Yegpie: I also would sure love to know where they got their ideas from! I caught several familiar references from existing books and mythology and fairy tales; I like seeing people riff off stuff. (What inspired your story/poem?Calgary, not too far from you!

Mr. Yegpie: I also would sure love to know where they got their ideas from! I caught several familiar references from existing books and mythology and fairy tales; I like seeing people riff off stuff. (What inspired your story/poem?Corvids are known for their attraction to shiny things. It seemed that a magpie would be a good thief. Crows will often help wolves locate carcasses, so the magpie’s partner had to be a wolf.

Mr. Yegpie: I think I would like to know what people’s favourite corvid is though; and if it isn’t a magpie, WHYEVER NOT?!? (If they come back with some guff about crows using tools, PLEASE LET ME KNOW AND I WILL SEND THEM A COPY OF MY ROGERS BILL. Pffft, crows.) (What is your favourite corvid?Obviously, magpies.

 

M. L. D. Curelas lives in Calgary, Canada, with two humans and a varying number of guinea pigs. Raised on a diet of Victorian fiction and Stephen King, it’s unsurprising that she now writes and edits fantasy and science fiction. Her most recent short fiction, an Old West set steampunk story, can be found in the anthology Kisses by Clockwork. She is also the owner of Tyche Books, a Canadian small-press which publishes science fiction and fantasy.

 

Cover for CORVIDAE. Design by Eileen Wiedbrauk

Available Direct from the Publisher:
World Weaver Press

Or Find it Online:
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Goodreads
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Corvidae Contributor Interview: Michael M. Rader

CORVIDAE blog tour banner

Over the coming weeks I’d like to share interviews that Magnus and I conducted with the contributors to Corvidae and Scarecrow. This week we’ll talk with Michael M. Rader.

Interview with Michael M. Rader

Please share a short excerpt from your story:

“He worked late on Tuesdays, perhaps rushing to meet some unknown deadline on Wednesday. His motivation doesn’t matter, his location matters, the solitude of the university matters. I padded softly through the darkened, echoing brick hallways of the animal sciences building. It was cold. This antiquated edifice is incapable of capturing heat; every wisp of warmth seeps through the crumbling mortar into the crisp October evening. I heard creaks and rumblings and voices and footsteps ricocheting through the building, but I knew we would be isolated in the ornithology wing, which is cast so, so very far away from the civilized lands of the grant-laden Primatologists and Herpetologists. I crept slowly down the hall, so very slowly, the minute hand of the steadily ticking clock in the old man’s office moved faster than my feet. In time, I noticed my heart joined the clock tick in synchronization, the clock and I had fused in purpose; it conspired with me to steal the old man’s time. This was a good omen, a sign my cause was pure and just. Time is reasonable, time is order and I am an orderly, reasonable woman.”

What is it about corvids that inspired you to write about them? I read a lot about animal behavior, and I’m particularly interested in animals that use tools and exhibit higher intelligence like mirror self-recognition. Naturally, most of these animals are great apes, but there are two fascinating outliers: cephalopods and corvidae. Cephalopods have giant brains, so that’s maybe less surprising. However, the phrase “bird brain” exists for a reason. Birds have physically small brains, and anyone who has spent a lot of time with your average bird is not going to be terribly impressed with their intelligence. Except for corvidae. Ravens can use tools, Eurasian Magpies can recognize themselves in mirrors (the only non-mammal capable of doing that), and crows can recognize faces and communicate descriptions. No other family of bird can do that. They’re not just weirdos in the animal kingdom, they’re weirdos in their own class. I guess I just have a soft spot for that.

Was there one corvid characteristic you wanted to highlight more than others? Definitely the concept of the corvidae family’s higher intelligence, and also how some members of their family (blue jays) aren’t quite as impressive. 

Do you think you were successful? I set out to tell a story about intelligence, how it differs from sense, and how just being in the right bird family (or academic setting) doesn’t make you intelligent, practical, sensical or sane. I believe the characters in my story, and the corvidae they study, really highlight that  characteristic.

If you were a corvid, what would you build your nest out of? Memory foam for comfort, pages from Discworld novels for entertainment and strips of political manifestos just to be edgy.

What’s your favourite ‘shiny’ thing?  Love? No, that’s far too sappy. I’ll go with bits of broken glass instead.

As you may know, one of Edmonton’s local Twitter personalities is Magnus E. Magpie who haunts Twitter as @YEGMagpie. I invited him to read an advance copy of Corvidae and Scarecrow and offer a short cawmentary on each story from a magpie’s point of view, which he did. When he was finished I asked if there was anything he’d like to ask the contributors. The italicized portions are mine because Magnus didn’t ask straight-forward questions on account of he’s a magpie 🙂

Mr. Yegpie: It would be cool to know where all these stories came from, I mean geographically – like I think I could tell who was from Edmonton and who was from Vancouver! (Where do you live, and did that affect your story/poem at all?I’m from Colorado, right on at the foot of the rocky mountains. You’ll be happy to know we have the same sort of Magpies here as in Edmonton, although perhaps less handsome and sophisticated.  I believe my location did affect my story a fair bit since I based my descriptions on local flora and fauna, and the university in my story is very heavily based on my own.

 Mr. Yegpie: I also would sure love to know where they got their ideas from! I caught several familiar references from existing books and mythology and fairy tales; I like seeing people riff off stuff. (What inspired your story/poem?My story was stolen very blatantly from a story called The Tell-Tale Heart by some guy named Edgar Allan Poe. Fortunately he’s dead and can’t do much about it. Well, he could haunt me, but I’d be far more flattered than frightened if he did so.

More personally, I wrote this while struggling through a very difficult project at my university that ended up delaying my graduation by a year, so more than a few of my feelings and frustrations inspired this story. My professor is still very much alive, though, and I wish him no ill will.

Mr. Yegpie: I think I would like to know what people’s favourite corvid is though; and if it isn’t a magpie, WHYEVER NOT?!? (If they come back with some guff about crows using tools, PLEASE LET ME KNOW AND I WILL SEND THEM A COPY OF MY ROGERS BILL. Pffft, crows.) (What is your favourite corvid?While I did write about blue jays in my story, it was only to highlight how silly and stupid they are in comparison to the far superior members of their family: crows, ravens and magpies. While this may sound ingratiating, I do think magpies win out over the other corvids since they can recognize themselves in mirrors on top of being able to use tools. That’s gorilla level intelligence there, and we humans will likely be subservient to your kind in a century or so.

 

Michael M. Rader lives in Colorado with his wife and two children where he does dad things, engineers electrical things and writes spooky things.

Cover for CORVIDAE. Design by Eileen Wiedbrauk

Available Direct from the Publisher:
World Weaver Press

Or Find it Online:
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Scarecrow Contributor Interview: Laura VanArendonk Baugh

Scarecrow Blog Tour

Over the coming weeks I’d like to share interviews that I (and Magnus) conducted with the contributors to Corvidae and Scarecrow. This week we’ll talk with Laura VanArendonk Baugh. Laura is one of my favourite short story writers and I’ve been honoured to include her work in Fae, Corvidae and Scarecrow.

Interview with Laura VanArendonk Baugh

Please share a short excerpt from your story:

“He’s right,” said Frank. “It’s all over, but you’re worse now than during the trial. What’s wrong with you?”

Everett wasn’t looking at them. “Those birds,” he said. “They’re watching me.”

The others turned to a wire drooping beneath the weight of a dozen crows. Most wore university ID tags. None were looking at the table. “Really, man? Come on, Everett.”

He shook his head. “They’re watching me. All the time. My apartment, out here, everywhere. And there’s more of them all the time.” He swallowed, his eyes still on the birds. “They’re gathering.”

Frank turned to look at them. “Not much of a gathering. Or a murder, I guess it is.”

“Flock,” snapped Everett. “Only poets call them a murder.”

Still, thought Jun, the term had to come from somewhere.

“But they’re flocking around me, more and more.”

Jeremy snorted. “If this is a joke, dude, you can drop it. We get it. You do a good crazy act.”

“I’m not joking, man!” Everett’s eyes looked as if he’d had his espresso as a tall. “They’ve started to bring things.”

“What do you mean, bring things?”

“Scissors, needles, clips.” Everett dropped his voice, embarrassed to speak but needing to confide. “Weapons.”

Jeremy looked as if he wanted to laugh but was afraid to. “Weapons, man? Seriously?”

“They use tools!” Everett jabbed a finger toward the crows. “You know what they can do, how they think — they use effin’ tools!” He slammed his hand down on the table, making a spoon jump to the ground, and screamed.

Even Jun jerked back from the table as Everett leapt up, clutching his hand to his chest. Jeremy and Frank looked at each other and then at Everett, inexplicably cradling his hand and swearing. But then Everett turned on them and shoved his hand at them. “See? See what I mean?”

A tiny drop of red blood marked the exit point of the fishhook, barbed and glistening and snaked neatly through the flesh of Everett’s palm.

Frank boggled. “Why was there a fishhook on the table? How does that even happen?”

“The crows put it there!” Everett snatched up the flatware from the table and hurled it, piece by piece, at the birds on the wire. They exploded into the air, screeching annoyance. “Get away from me! You freaking monsters! Keep away!”

If you were a scarecrow, what would you look like? What would you be stuffed with? I can tell you I’d definitely not look like those “country kitsch” hyper-trite things with big eyes and dopey grins that are so popular in the faux-country crowd. Those are some of the most annoying inanimate objects…!

...like this

…like this

Nor would I be a gruesome over-the-top Arkham escapee. Hm. I’d probably have a fairly classic silhouette, all denim and flannel, and I’d really like a pumpkin head, and I’d look very appropriate in the slanting autumn sun, and then you’d notice that the pumpkin eyes seemed to follow you as you passed, just a little….

What is it about scarecrows that inspired you to write about them? My scarecrow story grew directly out of the backstory of my corvid story. It seemed plausible that a crow cognition lab would have a scarecrow mascot – why not? – and that provided not only an interesting visual for an important bit of history but a bookended resolution, full of vengeance and fury and righteous comeuppance.

As you may know, one of Edmonton’s local Twitter personalities is Magnus E. Magpie who haunts Twitter as @YEGMagpie. I invited him to read an advance copy of Corvidae and Scarecrow and offer a short cawmentary on each story from a magpie’s point of view, which he did. When he was finished I asked if there was anything he’d like to ask the contributors. The italicized portions are mine because Magnus didn’t ask straight-forward questions on account of he’s a magpie 🙂

Mr. Yegpie: I also would sure love to know where they got their ideas from! I caught several familiar references from existing books and mythology and fairy tales; I like seeing people riff off stuff. (What inspired your story/poem?At a training and behavior conference, a training friend (the always-amazing Ken Ramirez) shared some of his research on what I’ll describe simply as counting in dogs. As we sat at the faculty table for dinner the next night, I told him he’d given me an idea for a story. This story ended up being only partly related to that first idea, but that’s how ideas work, right?

Mr. Yegpie: I think I would like to know what people’s favourite corvid is though; and if it isn’t a magpie, WHYEVER NOT?!? (If they come back with some guff about crows using tools, PLEASE LET ME KNOW AND I WILL SEND THEM A COPY OF MY ROGERS BILL. Pffft, crows.) (What is your favourite corvid?Okay, after all my guff about people liking corvids only for their gothic associations…. I confess to liking ravens in particular just because of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic poem. I mean, come on. Vincent Price, enormous black birds, despair, what’s not to love?

But magpies can be very striking, visually. I wish we had magpies locally to admire.

I guessed, but I had to Google to confirm – a Rogers bill is for wireless and internet, so Mr. Yegpie uses a smart phone for all his tweeting! Clever bird. 🙂

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Laura was born at a very early age and never looked back. She overcame childhood deficiencies of having been born without teeth or developed motor skills, and by the time she matured into a recognizable adult she had become a behavior analyst, an internationally-recognized animal trainer, a costumer/cosplayer, a dark chocolate addict, and a Pushcart Prize-nominated author with a following for her folklore-based stories and speculative fiction. Find her at www.LauraVanArendonkBaugh.com.

 

Scarecrow edited by Rhonda Parrish

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