Sunday, October 8, 2017

“The True Feminine”

I am in love with this poem.


 “The True Feminine”

I am not sugar and spice and everything nice.

I am art.

I am a story.

I am a church bell, gonging out wrongs and rights
and normal nights.

I was baby. I am child. I will be mother.

I don’t mind being considered beautiful,
I do not allow that to be my definition.

I am a rich pie strong with knowledge.

I will not be eaten.

πŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œ


http://www.scarymommy.com/third-grader-poem-feminism-twitter/?utm_source=FBIP

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

DragonCon Schedule (actual)

I'm still unpacking -- literally and figuratively -- from DragonCon. I'll post some notes soon, but here's what my panels looked like -- including a few I attended for fun, like the "Extreme Steampunk Makeover" and the "Wynonna Earp" cast panel.

Monday, August 21, 2017

New post on TheMillionWords.Net: Stream-of-Consiousness

Over the years I have found stream-of-consciousness writing to be an excellent tool in my writer's toolbox.

So I talked about it on my latest blog post on TheMillionWords.net



TheMillionWords.net is a shared blog about our journey to become great writers. Join us as we talk about writing advice and our own experiences. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

New post on TheMillionWords.Net: Exploding the small moments

There are lots of ways to think about descriptive writing. I like the idea of "exploding the small moments"...

So I talked about it on my latest blog post on TheMillionWords.net


TheMillionWords.net is a shared blog about our journey to become great writers. Join us as we talk about writing advice and our own experiences. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Prompt: City super powers

Boston speaks to me in dreams. Washington is wary, worn out by lies and broken promises. New York has never said a word, but she can be such a bitch--guiding hopes for one and crushing dreams for another. Paris really is the city of love.

Every city has a super power, a spirit imbued by the human lives that built them, live in them, give their last breaths in them.

But they're becoming quiet. Ordinary. They don't speak to me, and I can't feel them any more.

Someone is stealing their souls.

#

And so, with a loving heart, I offer you
Namaste
I’ve heard many translations. Here’s my favorite:
The light of the universe that shines within me recognizes
the light of the universe that shines within you.


#

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Con Report: ConCarolinas 2017 Art of the Short Story

I moderated this panel on Saturday afternoon, with panelists: 
  • Bobby Nash
  • Robert Bevan
  • JD Blackrose (Joelle Riezes)
  • Melissa Gilbert
  • Tonia Brown 
These are mostly my prep notes.

Hemingway said it was no accident that the Gettysburg Address was so short.

Mario Puzo said, "If I'd had longer, this would have been shorter."

Panel Introductions

I asked the audience: are you all writers or readers?
If all readers, we'll talk more about examples of good writing than how to

What do you see as the critical differences between writing short stories vs longer works?

How do you think about short story structure?
  • Plot has a beginning, middle, end
  • Reversals (backstory), recognitions
  • Tension/pacing
  • Setting
  • Characterization
  • Motivation
Strong opening is even more important than for a novel!
Set the tone
Grab the reader and pull them in
Build curiosity

Roberto BolaΓ±o, Chilean author, said "It is best to write short stories three or five at a time. If one has the energy, write them nine or fifteen at a time."
I asked the panelists: Do you write stand alone or related stories? Do you write several at once, or one here and there?

Let's talk about the short story market 
Can you make any money - significant income - with short stories?

Lots of themed anthologies recently:

Magazines like Asimov's, Fantasy & Science Fiction, and so many more

4-5 or 10 cents a word - not going to get rich, but you *can* get published and get recognition

Look for anthology calls
Examples of great short stories in the genre

Master: Edgar Alan Poe
Gardner Dozois' "The Year's Best science fiction" collections
Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, James Tiptree Jr (Alice Sheldon)
Isaac Asimov
Nine Billion Names of GodArthur C Clarke 

Google "speculative fiction short stories" for links to lists

Resources:


Short Story Writing, Charles Raymond Barrett, 1898






Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Appearance: ConCarolinas, Fri June 2nd - Sun June 4th

It's one of my favorite weekends of the year! So many friends to see again or meet for the first time. Come join the fun at ConCarolinas! Here's where you'll find me:


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Prompt: If you open the door, you are not the only one who goes through

This is all Robin's fault. "Let's go see a psychic for your birthday," she said.

A pedicure would have been great--a chair massage and pretty toes. And I wouldn’t be standing on this porch staring at the rain and wondering what the hell to do now.

I went to a psychic once at my school's fall festival. There were three generations, and I got stuck with the teen granddaughter. She puzzled over my hand and gave me some generic nonsense. I figured she just didn't know how to fake it well yet.

When Robin and I walked into this psychic's drawing room, she came out in a welcoming swirl of silks and patchouli. As Robin was telling about my birthday, her daughter Nina's custom Hamilton ringtone sounded from her purse. She fished it out, handed the psychic a few bills, excused herself and stepped outside. The psychic turned her attention to me, motioning me through the curtains into her reading room.

"Come now, sit and give me your hands," she said as she waved her fingers in a flourish over the table. But as soon as she touched my hands, she paled. She gripped my palms and stared with widening eyes, then snatched her hands away and jumped up from the table.

Annoyed, I asked, "What are you doing?"

She didn't answer as she picked up a pen and notepad and scribbled something on it. Returning to the table, she sat and  laughed ruefully. "Ordinary has never sat well with you has it?"

I drew back and wrinkled my brow, trying to make sense of all this. What was this act all about?

She tore off the piece of paper from her notepad and slid it across the table. "Go. He will tell you what you need to know." She hesitated. "If you really want to know."

She reached her hand out over mine, then pulled back without touching me. "Because once you do, you can't take it back."

"What do you mean?"

"If you open the door, you are not the only one who goes through."

She jumped up and swept aside the curtains, motioning me to leave. "Now, go. Latcho Drom. Be careful."

#

And so, with a loving heart, I offer you
Namaste
I’ve heard many translations. Here’s my favorite:
The light of the universe that shines within me recognizes
the light of the universe that shines within you.


#

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Prompt: The sun doesn't shine here anymore

Carolyn walked along the dusty road, fingers trailing through the still air. She remembered flowers blooming, dogs barking, breezes blowing, sun shining. None of that here. Everything was gray, and still, and there was no sun in the sky, just then even dim light of day after the absolute dark of night.

A tiger swallowtail fluttered close, veered and landed on her outstretched hand. She held it close to her ear, then swept her hand up as it flew away. "Thank you, my friend," she called after it.

A bluejay squawked noisily as it swept across the road into a tree near her. A few more loud cries, then it chased after a crow that flew overhead.

"Yes, I heard, thank you, dear one!"

Further down the road, though how far she could not say, because the road had no beginning and no end, she simply walked its unchanging length every day, she stopped short and squatted like a child. A desicated frog sprawled against the margin. Carolyn touched it with her fingertip, and the stiff body jumped like one of those plastic toys, red and green and blue and yellow…Carolyn touched it again, wondering when she had last seen those colors. She flipped the frog into her palm and stood, bringing it close to her mouth. She blew on it gently, and the frog's body began to plump up, as if she were blowing air into a tiny frog balloon. It quivered, then jumped onto her wrist. She smiled and nodded. "Yes, little one. Go on now," she encouraged it, leaning close to the road as the frog jumped down and hopped away. It stopped and turned to look at her, black eyes unblinking. She waved it on, and as it turned and hopped away, she said in a small wistful voice, "Come and visit me sometimes…"

###

Notes:
The idea for the story was a girl the walking along and a butterfly flies up to your head lands on her and she asked like she's listening to it in and says thank you and then a bird flies up and twitters at her and she responds and then I suddenly had the idea that she is in fact a wraith

The title could be resurrection, but I do not know if I want it to be that obvious

#

And so, with a loving heart, I offer you
Namaste
I’ve heard many translations. Here’s my favorite:
The light of the universe that shines within me recognizes
the light of the universe that shines within you.

#

Monday, April 17, 2017

Writers Journey Podcast with John Hartness


While at MystiCon, I sat down with John G. Hartness for an interview on his Writers Journey's Podcast. We chat about upcoming projects like the Lawless Lands anthology, this website, Ed Schubert's terrific analogy of $100 credit from reader to writer, and all sorts of other stuff about writing. And hey, I don't sound like a complete idiot, so that's a plus.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Prompt: I'm afraid of ending.

"I'm afraid," I wheezed into the dark room, barely louder than the machines tirelessly pumping air and blood and medicines to keep me alive.
She turned her head, resting her cheek on the sheet next to my hip. She couldn't hold my hand or lie next to me anymore. The slightest pressure tore tissue and broke bones. I pushed my hand closer to her head and slipped my fingers into her hair. That didn't hurt. Much. 
"I'm not afraid of dying. I'm afraid of ending. Being dead. Confined in a box and buried in the earth. Or burned." I shuddered.
She nodded silently, rubbing her head gently against my fingers. 
"I don't know what's going to happen next. I hope my spirit or consciousness will stick around to haunt you, baby girl."
She smiled, a slight twist of the lips that once laughed so freely.
I huffed once and felt the choking threaten deep in my chest. I stilled and focused on even breaths so I wouldn't tear my lungs up any further. 
"But I promise you, whatever I might be after this body dies, I will never. Ever. Want to be in it again."
She did laugh then. And cried. She nestled her head against my hip and closed her eyes, humming the lullabies I used to sing to her every night. 
"Come away with me in the night..."
I closed me eyes and felt her voice on my skin, sliding down my ears. 
I would miss this. Living. 
#


#

And so, with a loving heart, I offer you
Namaste
I’ve heard many translations. Here’s my favorite:
The light of the universe that shines within me recognizes
the light of the universe that shines within you.

#


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Appearance: MystiCon, Roanoke, VA, Feb 24-26

Come join the fun at MystiCon! Here's where you'll find me:

Fri 3pm Welcome to the Hellmouth: Buffy’s 20th Birthday
Fri 4pm Weird West
Fri 10pm Fangs for the Memories: Has Vampirism hit its Twilight? (Moderator)
Sat 7pm Author Showcase
Sat 8:30-9:30 Broad Universe RFR
Sun 2pm YA Lit Insanity

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Prompt: Avoiding an ambush

Amber listened for noise over the crow caws and squirrel chatter that echoed through the trees. The trail was faint--there wasn't enough spring grass left this late in the year to draw grazing deer this deep into the forest.

She was expecting to flush an ambush, not to stumble upon one in progress. Men shouting and the dull thumps of fists and boots on flesh, but no steel. Hiding behind an old sycamore, she peered around to see half a dozen men attacking one man, his comrades fallen and unmoving.

Don't get involved, she admonished herself. You don't have time for this. She ducked past and crept through the underbrush, cape snagging on thorns that hadn't held her back until now.

The man cried out, and the heavy thud told her he had fallen. She stabbed her staff into the hard-packed dirt and bowed her head, huffing out a harsh breath.

Dammit.

Whirling, she raced back, the path now clear as she charged into the clearing. The men glanced up and one even laughed before she flicked her fingers and they flew up and back, crashing into the trees behind them.

She stood over their final victim and spun her staff, building a wind tunnel that continued to push them away until they turned and ran. Holding her star high, she looked down to find him staring up at her wide eyes wide.

"You're a Power!" He coughed, left arm clutching his side.

She sighed and reached out a hand, pulling him easily to his feet.

"Come on," she said, disregarding his statement of the obvious. "Let's get out of here before they return. And before dark falls."

Without looking back, she turned back to the faint trail and walked on. After a moment, she heard his faltering steps behind her...

#

And so, with a loving heart, I offer you
Namaste
I’ve heard many translations. Here’s my favorite:
The light of the universe that shines within me recognizes
the light of the universe that shines within you.

#

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Lawless Lands Kickstarter is funded!

So excited and proud to announce that the Lawless Lands Kickstarter has successfully funded and is still going strong. We have great stretch goals and one more day to go.

We can't wait to bring you this outstanding slate of authors, new and familiar, with all great stories:

  • Dave Beynon
  • Aubrey Campbell
  • Gunnar DeWinter
  • B S Donovan
  • Jo Gerrard
  • Jeffrey Hall
  • Matthew J Hockey
  • Pamela Jeffs
  • Margaret S McGraw

We're all rip-roarin' ready to bring you some fine reading for those long nights on the trail. Saddle up, pilgrims, because the thrills are on the way!

Friday, January 13, 2017

New post on TheMillionWords.Net: I love deadlines…


My new Million Words blog post is available here:

I love deadlines…

http://themillionwords.net/2017/01/12/i-love-deadlines/





TheMillionWords.net is a shared blog about our journey to become great writers. Join us as we talk about writing advice and our own experiences. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year, New Prompts

To be honest, my prompt-writing has fallen by the wayside over the past couple of years. Granted, I've been doing a lot of reading and editing for Weird Wild West and now Lawless Lands, and I've written a story or two. But I haven't pushed myself to keep up the practice of prompt-writing, and actually, I've missed it. It's satisfying to meet the challenge to write about something unexpected, and it's almost always surprising what comes out. Sometimes it's even good.

So, for 2017, I plan to dive back into this practice, and I encourage you to do it with me. If you're new to prompt-writing, the idea is that you take a prompt and write for about 10-15 minutes - whatever comes in your head. If you want to make it an exercise in stream-of-consciousness writing (which can be exceptionally valuable as well), that's fine. If a story idea pops up, then go for it. Don't expect it to be *good* -- this is first draft 101! You have to start somewhere in order to end up somewhere good!

Here's our first prompt. Ready?

From the often silly Amazing Story Generator:

While writing an autobiography, a licensed cat-hair stylist joins the mafia.

Say what? See, this is the kind of thing I would have skipped past, and then choosing the prompt can take longer than writing to it, but in the spirit of the exercise, I'm going for it!

I don't think I'm funny, but people are always telling me I should go on stage or write a book. Well, I don't stutter when I write, so here we are. I never stutter when I'm working with cats either. But a human walks through the door, and my tongue trips all over itself before I can even say "Hi." 
Especially good looking men with long-haired angoras. When Angelo first brought in Diablo, the poor thing was a tatted mess. Diablo, not Angelo. Angelo had heard him mewling in a storm sewer and promptly abandoned his afternoon meetings to lure him out with a can of tuna. I fell in love before he finished talking. With both of them, I think. I didn't know what kind of meetings he'd missed. Yet.
He warned me that Diablo didn't like anyone but him to touch him, but I've always had a way with cats. I held out my hands palm-up on the counter, and Diablo crept out of Angelo's arms in straight into mine. Angelo looked a little peeved, and I tried to tell him it was only because Diablo already felt safe because of him, but my tongue swelled and my jaw locked and I couldn't get the words out. 
So I smiled and blushed like and idiot and held his cat, and he raised his eyebrows and shrugged and walked away. At the door, he said, "You close by six? I'll pick him up then." He looked back, and I nodded. I was already carrying Diablo into my workroom when the doorbells jingled and he was gone.
And just like that, I could talk to Diablo. "Well now, let's see who's hiding under there, shall we? I bet you're a handsome fellow..." 
OK, so this doesn't really feel like it's going anywhere, and I still think the prompt was exceptionally silly. But I could see this working into a romance between her and Angelo, then she feels betrayed when she finds out what he does and who he works for. Or a thriller, where she becomes the mob's top assassin when she discovers that killing people releases her stutter...for awhile anyway. And I haven't really written a romance -- or a thriller -- so it could be fun to run with this and see where it goes. I already know he's taking her to dinner when he comes to pick up Diablo and sees what a gorgeous black cat was hiding under all that mess. If you see Angelo and Diablo on a cover some day, you can say you saw it here first!

If you're so moved, write to the prompt and share in a comment here!

Happy writing in the New Year!




Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Launching the Lawless Lands Kickstarter!

Well, I've been pretty quiet here and on social media lately. Partly that's been life, but it's also been gearing up for this:


Join us for all new adventures in the Weird Wild West! We have an outstanding slate of authors, new and familiar, with all great stories:


And yes, you did see my name in there. I am very excited to announce my short story "Rainmaker" will join this wild crew!

Please take a look at the Kickstarter and consider backing this great anthology, to be published by Falstaff Books in mid-2017.


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sharing my writing journey on TheMillionWords.Net


My new Million Words blog post is available here:

Slowly, slowly, said the sloth...


http://themillionwords.net/2016/11/13/slowly-slowly-said-the-sloth/

TheMillionWords.net is a shared blog about our journey to become great writers. Join us as we talk about writing advice and our own experiences. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Book Review: Dearest by Alethea Kontis

Title
Dearest (The Woodcutter Sisters, book 3)
Author
Alethea Kontis
Genre
Fantasy 
Publisher
HMH Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition
Pub Date
February 2, 2016
Source
Purchased hardcover via Amazon

Friday Woodcutter is as simple and as complicated as her infamous patchwork skirt. She loves truly, feels deeply, and cares passionately--and these are all very different things. And she may be the key to saving the bespelled princess and her seven brothers, including Friday's dearest…

Publisher’s Description:

Readers met the Woodcutter sisters (named after the days of the week) in Enchanted and Hero. In this delightful third book, Alethea Kontis weaves together some fine-feathered fairy tales to focus on Friday Woodcutter, the kind and loving seamstress. When Friday stumbles upon seven sleeping brothers in her sister Sunday’s palace, she takes one look at Tristan and knows he’s her future. But the brothers are cursed to be swans by day. Can Friday’s unique magic somehow break the spell?

What I liked

I really love the characters in the Woodcutter family tales! Not just the sisters, although every one of them is wonderful, and I cannot wait for all their stories. But their mother and father, their brothers Trix and mysterious Jack, and so many secondary characters -- Alethea does a terrific job of bringing them to life in quick, vivid ways. And the weaving of so many classic fairy tale elements throughout the stories themselves. Friday is the most unlikely "hero" of the sisters so far, and her own self-doubt and discovery make the story feel personal and meaningful.

One of my favorite scenes is when Friday falls off the tower…

The descriptions and characterizations of the brothers as swans are wonderful, bringing them to life in a way the fairy tales never do.

What I didn’t like

To be honest, this story didn't have the depth of Enchanted or Hero, but it is also much shorter book. You have to pay attention to the quickly-swapping POV characters, or you can lose track of what's happening. There are a lot of threads being woven into this tapestry!

Summary

If you already know (and love) the Woodcutter family, then Dearest will be another charming adventure with them. I would advise picking up Enchanted or Hero before this one, though, so you don't get lost in the cast of characters. I've already continued with Trix, and I cannot wait for more Woodcutter tales!

I give Dearest 4 out of five “sparks”.

#

And so, with a loving heart, I offer you
Namaste
I’ve heard many translations. Here’s my favorite:
The light of the universe that shines within me recognizes
the light of the universe that shines within you.


#

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Appearance: Congregate in High Point, NC, July 15-17, 2016

I'll be a guest at Congregate in High Point this weekend! 
My panel schedule:

JULY 15 • FRIDAY

  3:00pm
Writing Urban Fantasy Beyond Werewolves And Vampires And Witches )
Victorian A 

Moderators: Misty Massey 
Guests: A.J. Hartley, Margaret S. McGraw, Tamsin L. Silver
  4:00pm
Steampunk, Victorians and the Occult 
Victorian A 

Moderators: Gail Z. Martin 
Guests: Tally Johnson, Margaret S. McGraw, Valentine Wolfe
  6:00pm
The Woman Unscorned
Provincial A-B 

Moderators: Misty Massey 
Guests: Laura Haywood-Cory, Nicole Givens Kurtz, Emily Lavin Leverett, Margaret S. McGraw
 11:00pm 
From Who's Perspective 
Suite 215 

Moderators: Margaret S. McGraw 
Guests: Alexandra Christian, Darin Kennedy

JULY 16 • SATURDAY

 10:00am –  10:50am
Java and Pros
Suite 207 

Guests: Misty Massey, Margaret S. McGraw, Janine K. Spendlove
 11:30am –  12:20pm
The Daily Lives of Fans 
Provincial A-B 

Moderators: Janine K. Spendlove 
Guests: Renee Hill, Margaret S. McGraw, Gary Mitchel, Chris Shrewsbury

JULY 17 • SUNDAY

 11:30am –  12:20pm
The Fandom Awakens 
Provincial A-B 

Moderators: Janine K. Spendlove 
Guests: Jason Gilbert, Todd Lacey, Margaret S. McGraw, Edward McKeown

Looking forward to spending time with good friends, sharing panels with authors I admire, and also meeting a few new people!

More chatter on Facebook and Twitter, if you friend me there :-)
Namaste,

Margaret S. McGraw