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Writers Learn Everything

Writers Learn Everything

by Laura VanArendonk Baugh

I write fantasy, so I have to do more research than those who write real life.

“Wait,” some protest, “there’s a lot of research required for historical, or military thrillers, or other real stories. But in fantasy, you can just make everything up!”

Well, I could, but you wouldn’t enjoy it as much. My job in speculative fiction is to make you believe something could be real, even when it clearly isn’t. That you know of. Yet.

If so much is real, and what is new fits so closely with what we know is real, then maybe, just maybe….? And thus, speculative fiction.

This is why my story about mermaids required research into fox genetics and amazing corpuscles in elephant trunks. And for my D is for Dinosaur entry, I plunged into the following diverse topics:

  • the extremely rare Devils Hole Pupfish, found in a single geothermal pool
  • the history of Chinese bronze casting
  • the natural history of Kazahkstan
  • cassowary attacks
  • the horrifically destructive “Cultural Revolution” in China

Many of these were reduced in final editing so that the submitted story contains now only a reference or a quirky fact, but they are still the foundation for a more cohesive, structurally sound piece of totally-made-up fiction.

When the apocalypse comes and libraries are burning and you have to choose your team for survival, make sure to include a writer. Their brains are full of hidden and potentially useful information!

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Laura VanArendonk Baugh overcame the dubious challenge of having been born without teeth or developed motor skills to become an award-winning writer of speculative fiction, mystery, and non-fiction. Her works have earned numerous accolades, including 3-star ratings (the highest possible) on Tangent‘s “Recommended Reading” list. Her latest novel The Songweaver’s Vow releases February 21 and taught her about ninth century clothing dyes and building construction in Northern Europe. Find her at www.LauraVanArendonkBaugh.com .


D IS FOR DINOSAUR is available now!

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Amazon (US) (CA) (UK)

 

Photo by Gage Skidmore

We’ve Got Loki All Wrong

We’re going to take a short break from dinosaurs today to help celebrate a different book. The Songweaver’s Vow is by Laura VanArendonk Baugh. You should recognise her name by now (and not just because it stands out LoL) because I’m a pretty big fan of hers and have been lucky enough to work with her on several occasions. On this occasion she wants to talk about Loki. I’ve been reading a lot about Loki (in particular because I just finished putting together Equus and Loki has that whole ‘turned into a horse’ thing goin’ on), but also because c’mon! It’s Loki!

 

We’ve Got Loki All Wrong

by Laura VanArendonk Baugh

Photo by Gage Skidmore

Photo by Gage Skidmore

Loki is kind of a big deal.

From Diana Wynne Jones’ Eight Days of Luke to Neil Gaiman’s American Gods to Marvel’s Avengers films and comic Agent of Asgard, Loki has captured the modern imagination like no other Norse figure. And yes, Thor, sorry, but I’m including you in that. You may be Marvel’s nominal hero, but do you have your own imagine-pr0n Tumblrs? (Okay, you know what, you probably do, because Tumblr. Let’s just move on.)

Because Loki has been so popularly reimagined, however, it can be hard to get an authentic take on him. Even when he is the villain, he usually ends up something of an anti-hero, or at least a sympathetic and attractive villain. (See the Marvel cinematic universe for Exhibit A.)

A playwright friend who adapted Treasure Island for the stage commented to me on how difficult it was to “translate,” because the original audience viewed the pirates as villains while today’s audience (influenced by Pirates of the Caribbean, etc.) views the pirates as the heroes. That’s much the same thing here. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Tom Hiddleston too! but this is not that Loki.

In the source material, Loki is not an anti-hero. He is a – what’s this blog rated? – he’s a turdblossom.

A Force of Destruction

1280px-Loki_taunts_BragiThough Loki is often canonically found in Asgard, he’s not a god. The word Jötunn is often translated “giant,” but that’s not terribly accurate; Loki and his kind are actually “devourers.” They are destroyers. They are the chaos to counter the order of Asgard.

And so all the crazy antics for which we know Loki best are not merely amusing tales – turning into a female horse and getting pregnant by a stallion, tethering a goat to his testicles, insulting all the gods and their guests in order – but a deliberate overturning of everything the original audience would have held as honorable and just and comprehensible. And Loki isn’t doing it to make a point, not seeking social justice or questioning social norms, he’s doing it because it’s his nature to tear down and it is fun – even when it has dire personal consequences.

I never planned for this book to give Loki a major role, because so many Norse-based stories are Loki-centric. But in the end, he had more to do with it all than I’d intended, because the one thing you can count on from Loki is that he will do whatever is least intended and most inconvenient.

When Euthalia’s father trades her to Viking raiders, her best hope is to be made a wife instead of a slave. She gets her wish – sort of – when she is sacrificed as a bride to a god.

Her inhuman husband seems kind, but he visits only in the dark of night and will not allow her to look upon him. By day Euthalia becomes known as a storyteller, spinning ancient Greek tales to entertain Asgard’s gods and monsters.

When one of her stories precipitates a god’s murder and horrific retribution, Euthalia discovers there is a monster in her bed as well. Alone in a hostile Asgard, Euthalia must ally with a spiteful goddess to sway Odin himself before bloody tragedy opens Ragnarok, the prophesied end of the world.

The Songweaver’s Vow released Tuesday, February 21, and is available at Amazon and wherever books are sold.

 

Elemental-5252-webLaura VanArendonk Baugh overcame the dubious challenge of having been born without teeth or developed motor skills to become an award-winning writer of speculative fiction, mystery, and non-fiction. Her works have earned numerous accolades, including 3-star ratings (the highest possible) on Tangent’s “Recommended Reading” list. Laura speaks professionally on a variety of topics throughout the year, including writing, fan costuming, and her day job as a professional animal trainer and behavior consultant. Find her at www.LauraVanArendonkBaugh.com .

 

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Laura VanArendonk Baugh Reading

We’re going to be launching D is for Dinosaur here in Edmonton this March:

D is for Dinosaur

(Details here)

But because the D is for Dinosaur contributors are spread so far out across the globe (and there are twenty-six of them!) we couldn’t possibly include everyone. So I asked the other contributors if they’d like to record themselves doing a reading from their story and I’d share it on my blog.

Laura VanArendonk Baugh responded with a video reading… and she got a little bit more help with it than she’d anticipated. Check it out:

 

Laura VanArendonk Baugh overcame the dubious challenge of having been born without teeth or developed motor skills to become an award-winning writer of speculative fiction, mystery, and non-fiction. Her works have earned numerous accolades, including 3-star (the highest possible) ratings on Tangent’s “Recommended Reading” list. Laura speaks professionally on a variety of topics throughout the year, including writing, fan costuming, and her day job as a professional animal trainer and behavior consultant. Find her at www.LauraVAB.com.

Pre-order D IS FOR DINOSAUR for only $0.99!

(prices go up when it’s released tomorrow!)

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Amazon (US) (CA) (UK)

E is for Evil

E is for Evil

I’m excited to announce the theme for the next volume in my Alphabet Anthologies series will be:

E is for Evil

Oh man, I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am about this one. The contributors to this anthology series never cease to amaze me with their clever and diverse interpretations of a theme and this one… well, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a doozie!

Speaking of those contributors. For this volume the contributing authors, in random order, are Michael Fosburg, Lynn Hardaker, KV Taylor, Andrew Bourelle, Suzanne J. Willis, Samantha Kymmell-Harvey, Hal J. Friesen, C.S. MacCath, Michael B. Tager, Jonathan C. Parrish, Amanda C. Davis, Lilah Wild, Sara Cleto, Alexandra Seidel, Mary Alexandra Agner, Cory Cone, Jeanne Kramer-Smyth, Beth Cato, Laura VanArendonk Baugh, Megan Engelhardt, Gary B. Phillips, Brittany Warman, BD Wilson, L.S. Johnson, Pete Aldin and Michael M. Jones.

E is for Evil will be hitting shelves spring of next year, so we’ll all need to be patient while we wait for it, but people had been asking what the next letter was going to be and I was getting tired of saying it was a secret 🙂

Previous volumes in this series include A is for Apocalypse, B is for Broken, C is for Chimera and — coming out in less than three weeks! — D is for DInosaur.

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D is for Dinosaur cover reveal

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For the fourth installment of Rhonda Parrish’s Alphabet Anthologies, contributors were challenged to write about dinosaurs. The resulting twenty-six stories contain widely different interpretations of the dinosaur theme and span the spectrum from literal to metaphoric.

Within these pages stories set in alternate histories, far-flung futures and times just around the corner, dinosaurs whimper and waste away, or roar and rage. People can be dinosaurs, as can ideas, fictions and flesh. Knitted dinosaurs share space with ghostly, genetically engineered and even narcotic ones.

Teenagers must embrace their inner dinosaurs in order to find peace and belonging, a dying woman duels a God in a far future city that echoes aspects of our past, an abused wife accompanies her husband on a hunt for an ancient power and finds more than she could ever have imagined and a girl with wonderful magical powers stumbles across the bones of a giant long-dead lizard. And so much more!

Features stories by Alexandra Seidel, Pete Aldin, Beth Cato, Michael Kellar, Cory Cone, Simon Kewin, Samantha Kymmell-Harvey, C.S. MacCath, KV Taylor, Laura VanArendonk Baugh, Michael B. Tager, Gary B. Phillips, Michael M. Jones, L.S. Johnson, Brittany Warman, Hal J. Friesen, Megan Engelhardt, BD Wilson, Michael Fosburg, Jonathan C. Parrish, Suzanne J. Willis, Lynn Hardaker, Amanda C. Davis, Andrew Bourelle, Sara Cleto and Jeanne Kramer-Smyth.

This cover was designed by Jonathan C. Parrish using original artwork by Janice Blaine.

D is for Dinosaur will be available in February 2017. In the meantime, don’t forget to add it to your ‘Want to read’ shelf on Goodreads and LibraryThing!

 

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Chimeric Contributor: Laura VanArendonk Baugh

It’s kind of become a tradition that I interview the contributors to my anthologies and share those interviews on my blog. It’s also kind of become a tradition that it takes me a very long time to get them all posted. I plan to continue the first tradition but I’m hoping to avoid the second. Just to be different.

We’re continuing the Chimeric contributor interviews with a familiar name on my blog–Laura VanArendonk Baugh. Laura is a talented writer who I’ve had the pleasure of working with on three of my Magical Menageries titles. This was her first foray into the Alphabet Anthologies but with a little luck she’ll stick around for a good, long time 🙂

 

C is for Chimera-Interview

What letter were you assigned?

N.

Did you struggle with the letter you were given?

Not really, but….

I was a late addition to the anthology, and I had to come up with an idea on short notice. I kept thinking, Chimera, N, what word starts with an N and goes with chimera? And I remembered Nina, from the manga and anime Fullmetal Alchemist.

If you’re not familiar with this story, you can find a fairly dry and unemotional spoiler here (http://fma.wikia.com/wiki/Nina_Tucker), but trust me, much like a certain pivotal gut-wrenching scene in the Firefly ‘verse (“too soon!”), this is an incident which still draws cries and wails from fans over a decade later. It’s made quite a few Top Ten lists of most heart-wrenching anime moments.
I posted on social media that I needed a chimera association with the letter N and linked an image of Nina, and then I sat back to enjoy the flood of emotional-devastation reaction gifs. Because writers are basically sadists.

I did have to work a bit to clear my mind for a new idea, and I had a false start involving genetically-modified bees and GMO crops, but I really like what eventually came.

What was your favourite idea for the ‘word’ to use in your title that you didn’t use?

I didn’t have any other ideas than what I submitted. I wrote the entire story without the title word, and thank God the final scene suggested a word to me. (As I said, I was a late addition and wrote the story in a week. There was more panic than leisurely mulling in my process.)

What kind of chimera is your story about?

I took a fairly literal approach, using the Khaimara of Greek mythology.

What, other than the letter you were assigned, helped inspire your story?

I’d been researching geologic phenomena for another story, earthquakes and tsunami, and I’d found some new reports on a massive crevice opening far more rapidly than science had ever thought possible, and I thought – well, what I thought would be a spoiler. But that was the germ of this story.

Lion, goat or snake–which are you more like?

A Harry-Potter fan friend insists I am the Gryffindor, so I suppose that makes me the lion. Though I think I can have serpentine aspects at times. Don’t tread on me.

If you were going to be magically transformed into a chimera composed of three different creatures, what would you want them to be?

Oh, man. I suppose horse, hawk, and hound, but I think I’d prefer to be able to shift as necessary than to share aspects of all at all times. Or a sea mammal might be nice, too, to explore the oceans….

What if it wasn’t limited to creatures? What three things would you want to be composed of?

I can’t help but start to think of this in superhero terms. Adamantium? Diamond? Elastic?

But I think I would get in my own way, if I were composed of three different materials. A watery torso couldn’t slip through a tight space if held back by inflexible metal legs. Dazzling golden skin would look incongruent next to silken skin, even if both were gorgeous. And if I were made of dark chocolate I would really struggle wi—nom nom nom nom.

Unrealizable dreams have been called chimeras. Taking the ‘unrealizable’ part out of the equation, what is one of your fondest dreams/goals?

I’ve achieved a number of my goals already! But of course there are always new dreams. I’d love to be an author guest of honor at a major convention; I have several in mind. We’ll see.

Can you share a short excerpt from your story?

“This is the way,” Casta said, her voice low in the dark. “A labyrinth to enlightenment.”

Anastasios lifted the lamp, showing the rough stone wall’s curve darkly golden in the lamplight. Concentric circles, again. “Do you know the way?”

“I know there is a way. That is not quite the same.” But she took the lamp, pressing past him in the narrow corridor, and started down the passage.

There were no branching paths, for which Anastasios was grateful. This was a labyrinth, then, and not a maze. Troughs ran along the floor, deep and narrow grooves parallel to the curving walls, and Anastasios could not guess their purpose.

The path doubled back on itself, working back and forth but ever inward. He kept close to Casta, and she stayed near him, as if they somehow needed each other’s warmth in this warm dark.
The curves became tighter and tighter. And then the passage opened into a wider space and Casta stopped so abruptly that Anastasios bumped into her from behind and jostled the lamp. She did not look back at him or speak.

Beyond her, something was in the dark. He could feel it, sense it, a disturbance in the air and a presence against his skin. Casta lifted the lamp, and eyes shone green back at them.
They leapt backward, Casta stumbling against Anastasios, and he caught and steadied her.

Anastasios steeled himself. “Who’s there?” he called, and his voice wavered only a little. “Your prince asks.”

There was a rustling sound, as of leather or scales brushing stone, and a soft laugh. “Not my prince,” came a low voice, resting just a bit longer than usual on the final consonant.

Anastasios swallowed and took the lamp from Casta. Be confident and assertive, the queen had admonished him, and demand their respect. They cannot refuse you. He put a hand on Casta’s shoulder and stepped past her, raising the lamp high. “Who are you, then, if not my subject?”

Light spread forward, and a lion’s face stared steadily back at him from the shadow.

Anastasios flinched backward, but Casta’s hand caught him between the shoulder blades. “Stand still,” she whispered, her mouth close to his ear. “Quick movements enrage or entice. Be still, and offer no threat.”

She would know how to face dangerous animals. He froze, his knees nearly trembling with their rigidity, and waited.

The lion’s lips curled in a cat’s smile. “Your female is clever,” it said, its mouth forming about the words as no lion’s mouth could do. “But you live by my forbearance, not by her wisdom. I have something to say to you, prince.”

Anastasios swallowed. “How can a lion speak to me?”

“A lion.” The cat sounded disdainful. The big head turned, showing a thin mane which did not conceal the ears. The mouth opened, and the beast spat forth a stream of fire.

Casta and Anastasios screamed together. Fire lit the passage, making them shield their eyes, but Casta against Anastasios’ back kept him in place despite his fear.

When they looked again, the floor trough was full of fire, burning invisible fuel in a long line about the outer edge of the round chamber. In the center stood a creature, a beast beyond comprehension. It was a lion, or at least the front part of it was. A goat’s head rose from the withers and watched them over the lion’s thin mane. A long tail moved restlessly behind the lion body, but it was not a tail, it was a serpent with its own head for the tail’s end, eying them.

Trikephalos,” breathed Casta.

 

Laura VanArendonk Baugh was born at a very early age and never looked back. She overcame her childhood deficiencies of having been born without teeth and unable to walk, 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 chocolate addict, and of course a writer.

Cover art and design by Jonathan C. Parrish

Find C is for Chimera online:

Amazon

Kobo

Barnes & Noble

OmniLit

Payhip 

Barnes & Noble

Smashwords

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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

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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

Amazon: (CA) (UK) (US)
Kobo: (CA) (US)
Direct From the Publisher: World Weaver Press

D is for Dinosaur

D is for [Drum Roll]

It’s time to announce the theme for the next Alphabet Anthology. I am really stoked about this one. Like, really, really stoked. I’ve been looking forward to the D anthology since I first decided to do this anthology series–in fact, more than once Jo has had to talk me out of releasing books out of alphabetical order because I was impatient to get to D.

So what is the theme?

Well, Demons seemed like a good fit–a collection of dark and diverse stories would be a lot of fun but not quite as fun as–

Dragons. Dragons seem the obvious choice, right? I mean, I love dragons. I used to collect them, I even have a dragon tattoo. And there’s no doubt that dragon stories could be diverse in theme, voice and tone… but dragons were actually kind of too obvious. Plus I have a vaguely dragony anthology in the works and I don’t want to duplicate efforts. Much. Still gargantuan reptilian creatures are pretty amazing and so I am excited to announce that–

 

D is for Dinosaur

–because c’mon! How cool is that?

The dinosaur theme will be interpreted in a wide variety of ways for this anthology but my authors assure me that there will, indeed, be at least a handful of prehistoric critters within its pages. I’m super stoked!

Speaking of those authors, contributors to this anthology include some veterans to the series and some new faces too. In no particular order, story contributors to D is for Dinosaur are:

~ Alexandra Seidel ~ Pete Aldin ~ Beth Cato ~ Michael Kellar ~ Cory Cone ~ Simon Kewin ~ Samantha Kymmell-Harvey ~ C.S. MacCath ~ KV Taylor ~ Laura VanArendonk Baugh ~ Michael B. Tager ~ Gary B. Phillips ~ Michael M. Jones ~ L.S. Johnson ~ Brittany Warman ~ Hal J. Friesen ~ Megan Engelhardt ~ BD Wilson ~ Michael Fosburg ~ Jonathan C. Parrish ~ Suzanne J. Willis ~ Lynn Hardaker ~ Amanda C. Davis ~ Andrew Bourell ~ Sara Cleto ~ Jeanne Kramer-Smyth ~

Janice Blaine will be contributing the artwork.

D is for Dinosaur will be coming out in 2017 but you can pre-order the third installment in the Alphabet Anthologies series, C is for Chimera right now.

Nottaway Plantation house

Cajun Christmas

giftmas_rectangle

All month long I’m going to be hosting the posts of other people as part of my 2015 Giftmas Blog Tour. All the guest bloggers are welcome to write about anything they’d like so long as their post touched on a December holiday in some way, no matter how tangentially. The blog tour extends beyond my blog as well, and I will do my best to link to each external post from the here and share them on social media using the hashtag #GiftmasTour.

But wait! There’s more!

We’re also giving away a whole whack of prizes (check out the list here) which you can enter to win using the Rafflecoper code below. Whatever December holiday you celebrate (or don’t) winning a stack of books will make it better!

Cajun Christmas

by Laura VanArendonk Baugh

Nottaway Plantation house

Let’s be clear, I am a Yankee. I was born north of the Mason-Dixon Line, I speak with a Hollywood-perfect mid-American accent, and my poor cat’s tongue cannot abide spicy food. I am a Yankee.

But I write this post from Cajun country, as I am spending my Thanksgiving holiday in the Mississippi Delta. And once Thanksgiving dinner was over, Christmas preparations began in earnest.

No, seriously, I mean once dinner was over. We had our turkey feast at midday, and at nightfall the first Christmas bonfire was lit.

Bonfires are a longstanding Delta tradition, brought by settlers from French and German Christmas communal fire customs. Children were dispatched to collect driftwood, and wood was stacked in efficient towers which would burn bright and hot. The children were told the fires guided Papa Noel to their houses, but these fires may have also helped to guide travelers along the river – always dangerous to navigate at night for many reasons – and to indicate a landing for family and friends.

bonfireLike many things, the towers grew as the years passed, until forty-foot and taller cones of wood were being lit in shared conflagrations and celebrations. Due to one collapsing structure, local towers are now limited to twenty feet, which is still a heck of a blazing pyramid. Some of the bonfire celebrants take weeks to build their neat structures of wood. Sometimes fireworks are tucked inside!

It’s a writer’s curse, but I am incapable of travel or even writing about travel without touching on local history and culture (this makes me either the most delightful or most heinous of traveling companions, depending upon your own preferences), so here’s just a bit of Cajun background. The very word Cajun is a corruption of Arcadian, French exiles from Nova Scotia who began arriving in the bayou country in the 1760s. They kept their French language and their French traditions well into the 19th century and remain a strong subculture in the Mississippi Delta region today.

By the way, what we call the Mississippi Delta region is actually an alluvial plain, not the delta itself, though that rolls a bit less smoothly off the tongue in local music. Levees and river control projects have (mostly) contained the mighty Mississippi and the regular floods which made this area so fertile are now decades apart, but the effects of millennia of floods remain, making this agricultural region famously productive and giving rise to the stereotypical Greek Revival plantation houses and endless fields of cotton or sugarcane, as well as the many smaller farms.

I write a lot in and about folklore and legend and history, and folk traditions fascinate me. But some are easy to understand – fire has long mesmerized us, warmed us, guided us, and protected us, even as it can endanger us. And let’s face it, gathering about fires in the dark is a fun departure from our sanitized, locked-thermostat-controlled lives. Fire circles have been a social bonding experience from the earliest caves to the latest Scout camps, and they’re not going to stop any time soon.

(By the way, the danger of spreading flame is pretty minimal in a region known primarily for its humidity and moist soil. Readers in California and other drought-stricken areas should heed the perennial advice, “Don’t try this at home.”)

So as Christmas approaches – and not just Christmas, as there is a long Jewish tradition in the Delta as well, another celebration of light – let your celebratory bonfires blaze, even if just metaphorically.bonfire at Nottaway Plantation house

Elemental-5252-webLaura VanArendonk Baugh 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 and award-winning animal trainer, a popular costumer/cosplayer, a chocolate addict, and of course a writer. Her holiday authorial achievement was bringing about a sweeping loss for The Little Drummer Boy game players by titling a Christmas book So To Honor Him, but she hopes it was worth it. Find her at http://www.LauraVanArendonkBaugh.com.

Enter the Rafflecopter for cool prizes!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

I nicked this from Kate Wolford at http://www.fairytalemagazine.com/

Menagerie-related News

I nicked this from Kate Wolford at http://www.fairytalemagazine.com/

It’s Friday, and around here that usually means it’s Fractured Friday but we’re going to skip that this week because I have several bits of interesting Magical Menagerie-related news to share.

We’re going to have a Facebook party on Tuesday to celebrate CORVIDAE and SCARECROW. You can join myself, my publisher and several of our contributors while we hang out, talk about the anthologies and also all things corvid and scarecrow. It will be super fun and casual… oh, and there will be giveaways as well 🙂 The party is scheduled for 5 – 8pm Mountain Time and Facebook will happily convert that to your own time zone. I hope to ‘see’ you there!

Also, Kate Wolford from Enchanted Conversation is giving away three e-books. You may have heard of them, their titles are FAE, CORVIDAE and SCARECROW. It’s super easy to enter (you just have to guess a number) but entries close on September 26th so be sure and get yours in before it’s too late — Three E-Book Giveaway.

Oh, and the image at the top of this blog post? I nicked it from Kate, so thank you Kate!

Finally, Edmonton writer and blogger Hal J. Friesen is interviewing some of the contributors to Corvidae and Scarecrow. He interviewed Laura VanArendonk Baugh at the beginning of the month about her stories and animal training and then just today he shared his interview with Kat Otis about her story (which re-imagines WWII with magical creatures like corvids, frost giants and sea serpents added into the mix) and also about flying.

Check out the interviews and the giveaway and I hope to see you at our Facebook party on Tuesday! 🙂