CRITTER QUIZ for Walking Through Fire

Hello Friends,

  1. My novel releases in three weeks. I’ve been waiting six years for this, so kind of a big deal. You should definitely pre-order a copy here
  2. I’m working on a list of readings and signings and will share soon.
  3. Please, if you are on Goodreads add my book to your “to-read” list.

Why should you do these things? Well, remember THIS post? But, there are other reasons too. The CRITTERS in my novel deserve their own post.

Animals are important to me. That’s why I have my foster-fail pup Gabe. That’s why my oldest daughter is in the Animal Science program at her high school and we experienced the whole Bunny Project. We still have 2 1/2 bunnies, by the way, in case anyone local to Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania is looking for a wonderful pet. The 1/2 is because…well, I digress. We also have a baby horse. She’s a beautiful four-year-old off-the-track Thoroughbred filly who has a ridiculous racing record (like, ridiculously bad. That is also another story…and I’ll post about her with pictures of her doing yoga with the equine osteopath because, you know, that’s my life.)

Anyway, I say all this because OF COURSE animals are going to be a big part of my world-building. Energy follows ley lines and causes changes that… Hey! I don’t want to give too much away, though. There’s a quiz below to tell you who your perfect “pet” would be, but DON’T READ ANY FARTHER IF YOU WANT TO BE SURPRISED WHEN READING.

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You’re still here? Okay, here’s the quiz:

  1. Do you want a pet that requires more or less attention?

A) Every minute with my pet

B) I have a couple hours every day.

C) I want a pet that fits into my lifestyle

D) I want my pet around when I remember it

E) I have no interest in actually interacting with my pet

2. How important is obedience from your pet?

A) Obedience is nice, but love is more important.

B) I need obedience so I can trust my pet.

C) Well, maybe obedience is overrated.

D) Who needs a pet who does tricks?

E) Umm. I need my pet to understand, “STOP.”

3. How important is it that your pet be housetrained?

A) Very

B) Accidents are unacceptable. We can work on manners.

C) Kind of

D) I’m willing to change my pet’s water.

E). Nope. Never coming in my house anyway.

4. How traditional do you want your pet to be?

A) Very

B) Pretty traditional

C) Somewhat

D) That’s boring

E) I want a pet that no one has never seen before

5. Do you want your pet to like you?

A) You said “like.” I think you meant “love.”

B) I want my pet to respect me.

C) I’d like my pet to recognize my voice, at least.

D) It’s okay if my pet doesn’t even know I’m home.

E) My pet and I will be actively avoiding each other.

 

Look, you guys have done magazine quizzes before. You know what to do. Whichever letter you choose the most often corresponds to your perfect “Misbegotten” pet.

A) Dido — a white female wolf who keeps Caesar “in the friend zone.” She’s elegant, maternal, and protective. With the right person, she’s not above snuggling. Dido is highly intelligent, but discerning about who she’ll love. She’s loyal to a fault and will give everything for her special one.  

B) Caesar — a solid black male wolf. He’s an alpha who will keep you safe by attacking promptly and without remorse. He is stoic, but might come across as arrogant. He’s not into being cuddled, but will consent to sit beside you when, and if, he chooses. He’s a soldier with perfect posture. It’s not his fault that he’s so damn handsome.

C) Saki — a penguin-turtle who helps Tamaki hold on to her sanity through many terrible experiences. She excels at being quiet and her fur is soft to the touch, but she’ll retreat inside her shell when she needs some alone time. She needs a lot of alone time.

By artist Amelia Grace

D) Zombie horseshoe crabs — these are kind of the equivalent of those frog kits where you send away for the tadpoles. They don’t require a lot of maintenance because they are already dead, but they do drift through the water, preferably brackish water like that found in the Chesapeake Bay, especially when in the presence of etemuu.  You can have one or a whole swarm. Warning: under the right circumstances they can be dangerous to humans.

E)Two-headed Moose — This guy is often misunderstood, probably because he is truly of two minds. Like a Gemini, this BIG fella has a good side, purely vegetarian. And then he has the other side, devilish side, literally. His second head, the one growing from his shoulder, would like to spear anyone and everyone. He’ll definitely get your friends attention. Warning: Hire a professional animal trainer for this pet.

 

So, ready to hit the pet store and buy supplies? Post in the comments which pet was right for you.

A couple of notes. The wolves and moose pictures all came from a World Wildlife Fund calendar a couple years ago — and I’m sorry I don’t have the specific photographer’s name to acknowledge him or her.

HOWEVER, I’m very happy to share the artist who created Saki for me: Amelia Grace. Her website is: http://amelia-grace-illustration.com and she has even more artwork on Instagram @Ameliagraceillustration

I’ve ordered bookmarks to give out at readings/signings and they will feature the cover art for Walking Through Fire on one side and Amelia’s design on the other side.

Let me know which pet you chose!

Sherri

 

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Taos Toolbox 2018

This summer I had the opportunity to attend a two-week writing workshop called Taos Toolbox in New Mexico.

This is the longest I’ve ever been away from my family — I think the previous record was four days when I attended a mandatory yoga training — and it wouldn’t have been possible without several factors. First, my grandmother moved in with my parents a few months ago. She paid for my trip as a combined Christmas/Birthday gift. Second, my children are older now. They still need to be driven to their activities and their own camps, to have food prepared, etc., but they are old enough to be okay without me. Third, my beloved niece was home from college AND, because of her own summer commitments, hadn’t taken a job. So she stayed at my house while I was gone, my sister checked in, and my partner…well, of course it turned out that he had to go to France for work during the first week that I was gone.

So, I was not only very excited to attend this workshop, but I was also determined not to squander the opportunity. I think it went very well. I studied with science fiction masters Walter Jon Williams and Nancy Kress. They arranged for guest speakers such as Carrie Vaughn, Emily Mah Tippetts, and this guy that you might have heard of…he’s done this little thing called GAME OF THRONES.

The workshop was exciting, exhausting, and ultimately inspiring. I had the first 15,000 words of my next book (Misbegotten #2) critiqued and came home with a lot of ideas.

I also made friends. This is not the easiest thing for me, but I had three exceptional roommates: Kelli Fitzpatrick, Amanda Helms, and Gabrielle Harbowy. I’m writing their names because these women…wow, they are amazing authors.  I promise that you will see their names all over short stories and novels in the next couple years.

My FRIENDS and I drove to Santa Fe over the weekend to explore Meow Wolf. It’s….an interactive exhibit with a speculative storyline inside of a bowling alley repurposed by a team of about 400 artists. Not that it will make it any clearer, but here’s some pictures:

I flew home at the beginning of July and immediately had to play catch up with work and with the critters and with my kids who were a little angry I’d been gone. And, I’m glad to be home. I missed them all very much, but I’d go so far as to say that Taos Toolbox was a life-changing time for me. I got to be an adult, saturated in reading and critiquing 17 other manuscripts TWICE in two weeks, reading and dissecting published works, dining with guest authors, and being an adult.

I’m going to be pulling on that well of creative energy because my novel WALKING THROUGH FIRE releases on September 4th. Here are some ways that you can help, if you want.

  1. If you’ve considered buying the book, pre-orders REALLY help an author to ensure there will be a second book.  Amazon
  2. Adding the book on Goodreads.
  3. Leaving a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads
  4. Asking your library if they have a copy of the book.

My next task is marketing. This is very much outside my wheelhouse, but I’ll keep you posted.

Love,

Sherri

 

The Never-Ending Bunny Project is finished. (Almost)

My daughter loves animals and is in the Animal Science Magnet Program at her high school. Which is all well and good except for these year-long projects that somehow involve the whole family. This year it was rabbits. I can truthfully say that I’ve learned more about rabbits than I ever planned to know. She submitted the paperwork and essay yesterday and carried the trifold poster out to the bus stop this morning.

Every parent knows this trifold poster, right?

This year’s project had two parts.

1) The science experiment part. In this case she had an adult female rabbit named Storm produce a litter with Butterscotch and a litter with Opie and then compare the phenotype and guess at the genotype. <— See, I’m speaking science already.

2) There had to be an entrepreneur aspect. In this case, selling the offspring (to loving, committed homes with the understanding that babies would be returned to us if something didn’t work out).

She wouldn’t let me read her essay about what she learned this year, but we had some adventures. Remember this? Bunny Soap Opera

I learned a couple of things too.

  1. Even if student starts the project in June of 2017, the student will finish the night before it is due.
  2. Baby bunnies really are that cute.
  3. One orea bunny, two white with caramel markings, one striped with a Harlequinn face, one striped with solid face, and two fawn colored with gray bellies.

  4. There are dog people and cat people…and there are bunny people. And, bunny people are some of the nicest, most generous people you’ll meet. Pam, the alpaca farmer, has been so kind with lending us Opie and giving advice. The young women who lent us Butterscotch. The couple who adopted Clover when Clover turned out to be a boy and then they came back and bought little Luna from us so the bunnies could be a bonded pair (after Clover was altered).
  5. The phrase “herding cats” should be “herding bunnies.” Once they turned two weeks, bunny eyes opened and suddenly seven adorable fur babies were jumping into and out of their nesting box and hopping in seven different directions. This made for a very challenging picture. Also, they have no problem “bunny piling” and there is a brown bunny beneath these six. I think. Either that, or we lost one.

    Three weeks old

     

  6. If you feed a large carrot to a bunny, perhaps as a “thank you for having this second litter so the project is almost done” present, they will have red urine the next day that looks like blood and may freak you out. This time, before rushing to the Bunny ER, you check the internet.
  7. If you need to give bunnies an oral antibiotic you wrap them in a “bunny burrito” with a clean towel and approach from the side, not the front.
  8.  

    Also, pick up a bunny from underneath and support the legs, cradling the animal to your chest — do not swoop down from above because then you will seem like a hawk and they will hop away and they are fast and you will land on your face.

  9. Once you bring hay into your house for the bunnies, you will never get all the hay out again. There will be little pieces stuck to your socks and in your hair. Like Christmas Tree pine needles that you vacuum up until Thanksgiving…and then you start again. 
  10. Perhaps the most important thing I learned (beyond how to battle botflies) is that bunnies are cute, sweet, adorable, cuddly…blah blah blah. I am a dog person.

 

The babies are three weeks old and three have already been reserved. Four more to go and then Storm will return to her owner and this chapter will be over…until my daughter needs to start next year’s project. AHHHHHHHHH!

Love,

Sherri

 

 

Valley of the Voles

The Valley of the Voles, the soap opera of the garden, if you will. A frivolous post, but next week I will return with an interview by author T. Eric Bakutis.

For Mother’s Day two years ago my husband bought me this lovely arch for our patio. We planted clematis and the plants — white and purple flowers — grew in beauty and stature. It was everything I ever wanted.

arch

 

Last year, for Mother’s Day, my husband built a planter to the right of the arch. We put in roses of sharon and hyacinth and talked about strawberry plants. In building the planter, my husband made the planter level with the existing patio, joining on the bottom with the mulch in the bed that creeps around the west side. There was a slight gap between the bottom of the planter and the ground. In little beastie language this means “Come on in” or “Open door policy” as translated by my friend Nancy. Against all intention, we’d designed an attractive rodent condominium. The renters came.

I thought we had a mole. Instead, we had voles.

Mole:  A solitary animal that digs tunnels in your yard and eats grubs.

Vole: A rodent cousin to a mouse. 155 different species. They have litter after litter. If you have an outside cat, you might have been gifted a dead one.

They run paths through your grass until they reach bare dirt. From above, it looks like a labyrinth extending through your yard. I caught my first glimpses of dark gray skittering down the trails, the trails that ended/began at one corner of the planter, but I wasn’t ANGRY. Live and let live.

Then they ate my clematis. The green shoots above ground were chomped off. I dug up what was left.

Here is the root ball. You can see there were about 100 individual roots. Three were left.

The eaten clematis

The eaten clematis

After examination, I followed the underground tunnel back the planter and collapsed the tunnel, backfilling with my gloved hands. I replanted the clematis.

By now I’d seen at least two voles. They liked to do their morning labyrinth run at the same time I came down to check my hyacinths after putting kids on the bus. One was gray and slinky and the other was fat and brown like a gerbil. They appeared to be friends. Maybe more than friends, if the gerbil was pregnant.

I read up about voles. How, if you don’t have a dog or cat, you can buy fox, coyote, or dog urine on Ebay and hunting websites. Huh. What’s to stop someone from peeing into a container and selling it as ‘predator urine.’ Seriously. And how was I supposed to spread it around.  No.  This was not a feasible plan.  I was, however, willing to give my neighbor’s dog a lot of water to drink and let her run around my yard. Conclusion: No discernable vole exodus.

But, at least my hyacinths were blooming. Three purple flowers of miniature bells all in a row, strong and fecund in their second year of blooming.

And then this.

They dragged it down into their hidden lair.

They dragged it down into their hidden lair.

Not okay, voles.  This is NOT OKAY. Again, I dug up their tunnel, tracing the litter of hyacinth bells and little bits of green. They’d pulled the whole thing down, leaving only that one green leave behind.

The next day the second hyacinth was pulled down into a hole. Not even a leaf left behind.

My husband stepped in. “This is enough,” he said. He brought home mouse traps, baited them with peanut butter, but the ants ate it all up.

He pulled up the third, and last, hyacinth. The tunnel was evident underneath. They’d been working on it. I imagined the little rodents in prison white and black stripes. Maybe taking turns, one popping up for a smoke break, before tunneling again. We put the hyacinth leaves in a mouse trap and laid it across their labyrinth paths. The trap sprung, but didn’t catch anything.

My husband went shopping again. He came home with two things: mouse poison and CLEMATIS LEAVES.

The voles had misinterpreted my tunnel collapsing behavior. I was saying, “Move on.”  They thought I meant move to the other corner of the planter. New trails appeared in the grass on that end.

My husband and I set the clematis leaves in the traps. We caught a vole. We set out the poison near the gap.  It was nibbled.

We set out another trap with clematis leaves.

Leaves plucked from somone else's clematis plant and kept on ice because that's how our voles like it.

Leaves plucked from somone else’s clematis plant and kept on ice because that’s how our voles like it.

In the morning, I saw a vole wandering in circles.  My husband shoveled it. I did not take a picture. Two gray voles dead, but nothing doing with the fat brown one. I’d started calling him/her Gus.  Worried that Gus couldn’t get to the poison (it was inside a plastic container), my husband removed the top.  More poison nibbled.

Then, in checking the mousetrap, we found it deconstructed all over the lawn.  Our guess is that a vole (Gus?) was caught in trap and a hawk flew down and picked up the whole thing, then dropped it and it flew into pieces across the yard.

Finally the traps sat there with shriveled clematis leaves. No more poison nibbled. We threw away the traps and the poison. Last weekend — Mother’s Day — we dug up the mulch and top layer of soil, dumping it on a tarp. Didn’t see any voles. Didn’t find any lair. We mixed around the soil, took out the end plants, put the end plants back in, put the top layer and then the mulch back on. We planted grape vines on either side of the arch. Voles are not supposed to like grapes vines.

Digging up the vole tunnels, looking for the hidden lair (which we never found).

Digging up the vole tunnels, looking for the hidden lair (which we never found)

Clematis transplanted to front yard, hopefully to climb up the lamp post on the right and cover with flowers.

Clematis transplanted to front yard, hopefully to climb up the lamp post on the right and cover with flowers.

If I had been faster to post this, that would be the end of the saga about voles. But, after Mother’s Day I went down to the patio. Laying at the bottom of the stairs with no visible wounds?  A dead vole.

 

Baltimore Riots

Baltimore has been in the news because of Freddie Gray’s death. Because of the rioters who burned down the CVS. Because of decades of simmering anger.

There are other places to read, comprehensively, about why the riots happened and what should be done and whether the National Guard was called in too soon or too late. Plenty of sources for finger pointing and blaming.

I don’t know that I have anything to add.

I love Baltimore. Pivotal moments in my life are intertwined with this city.

I was born in Baltimore. Two of my children were born at Mercy Hospital. My first ‘real’ job (a company check rather than a personal check from, say, a babysitting job) was at the Maryland Science Center right in the Inner Harbor. I’d drive down on Friday afternoons, right after school, excitement building as I went ‘into the city’ while everyone else was on the other side of 95 driving away. After work, at night, I’d stand on the roof and look out over everything (until someone called the police about ‘a jumper’ and I was reprimanded). Then I crouched on the roof to survey and wonder.

Before grad school I lived over by Morgan State — a white face floating in a solidly black neighborhood. That was the same year that I taught 9th grade English at Catonsville Alternative School. It was, I believe, good to experience these things together.

My husband and I had our first date at Pazza Luna in Locust Point, a gourmet restaurant operating inside a row home.

After marrying, I moved in with my husband to a 1200 square foot home in Federal Hill. My husband rehabbed the inside in his spare time, ripping out the stairs and rebuilding them when he got home from work around 11 pm. (Sorry, neighbors).

We moved to the ‘burbs, but soon we were back, driving down Pulaski Highway to Hopkins. I’d do that drive countless times over the next three years. I still make that trek every 3 months. Here’s a picture from our first window (before the new Children’s Center). The cupola is, to me, civilization. It is within the chapters of my novel about Baltimore burning because of that.

Hopkins view from room 833.

Hopkins view from room 833.

So when I began writing, again, it seemed natural that the critique group would be down in Baltimore. Parallel parking and walking past liquor stores, Natty Boh neon, Ravens logos.

I love Baltimore. Rioting is wrong. Destructive. Painful. I don’t condone the looting and the throwing and the burning.

But.

I also do not condone slapping a quick Bandaid on Baltimore and trying to shove this problem under the rug. It’s out. National news. International even. Decades of history erupted in poisonous lava. While our sore is open, I invite our leaders, our citizens, our neighbors, to clean it out. Make changes. Create good from this angry outburst. Address the root of the problem, beyond the temper tantrum.

Love,
Sherri

Bewildering Stories

My story “Two Sides of a Triangle” is now available in Issue 548 of Bewildering Stories.  Follow the link and let me know what you think.

I’m grateful for the magazine editor’s suggestions and my friend Amanda Hart Miller’s critique of the story.

http://www.bewilderingstories.com/issue548/triangle1.html

Four days into NaNoWriMo and I’m WAYYYY behind, but tomorrow is a writing day…

Thankful

I’ve just updated my Stories Tab because I’ve had some wonderful news lately.  I’ve had short stories accepted by Bewildering Stories, by Abyss and Apex Magazine, and my story “Tamaki and the Fox” — set in the same Post-Firestorm world as my novel — has been named as a finalist in the Baltimore Science Fiction Society Amateur Contest 2013.  I just submitted a story to a magazine that might be the first chapter of a sequel to my novel.

Then, today, I received the e-mail that knocked me out.  An agent wants to read my full manuscript.  I’m not even putting that in all caps because I can’t quite believe it.  Don’t get me wrong.  I realize this is a baby step.  But, I’ve NEVER GOTTEN HERE BEFORE.  And, I’m so thankful.   Seriously, this feels like a miracle to me, like God gave me a wink (and some super-duper readers to help me).

My friend Amber gave me a book titled one thousand gifts by Ann Voskamp.  It’s been changing my life.  Normally I’m a fast reader, but this is taking me months to read because I’m trying to grow through her words, to look with fresh eyes on my daily life.  If you haven’t read this book, I challenge you to do it.

I don’t need fresh eyes to be thankful for this request for my novel.  To be thankful to my critique group and my friends who spend time reading my drafts.  To Isabel who catches caterpillars with my twins so that I can send off more query letters.  To my husband who goes to work every day so I can write — especially through the years that nothing happened.

I don’t know that this is it, but I’m thankful to experience this joy and hope.

 

Love,

Sherri