Paperback preorders are up!

Anyone who wants to preorder the paperback, rather than the eBook, version of the anthology I’ll be appearing in, “Fell Beasts and Fair,” can go do that awesome thing at this link right here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0989191575

If you’re one of the lucky people to whom I sent advance reader copies a couple of weeks ago, you are now able to go leave reviews on Amazon, which is something I would *very* much appreciate.

Upcoming anthology publication!

Just to remind you all, my short story, “Blanche, Bear-Wife,” is coming out in this incredible anthology and it’s available for preorder now!
 
“In this exciting collection of noblebright fantasy, fresh new fantasy voices and award-winning authors explore grief and hope, sacrifice and heroism. Rediscover the best aspect of classic fantasy – the noblebright ideals that made heroes heroic, even when the world grew dark around them.
 
Thieves, dragons, nightmares, fairy warriors, pookas, enchanted bear-men, and other magical creatures will delight you in these unique tales of possibility, courage, and hope.”
 
The paperback can’t be preordered, but it will go up for sale just a few days after the eBook–the eBooks will be available March 20, 2018, and the paperbacks will be available March 26th.
 
Here is the link to a page with the various places from which you can preorder! http://www.springsongpress.com/fell-beasts-and-fair-is-up-for-preorder/
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Kathryn Ann Fernquist Hinds: Writer, Renaissance Woman, and Official Mrs. Weasley

As you are falling asleep, imagine you are a cat. An orange cat–or perhaps calico–lounged on the edge of a marble pool, drenched in just-warm-enough sunlight. In the pool swims a single tasty koi, waiting for your expert hunter’s claws to make short work of it. Everything is soft
and quiet
and peaceful.
You are safe here.
The tape went something like that–some two-sided sleep meditation my parents played for me as a child. The other side turned you into a horse. But this is not a time for horses. This is a time for cats.

I haven’t been able to write this. It’s been too much, too heavy, my hands don’t work, they tremble and twitch from my illness, my head is in a fog all the time–all true, but not why I’ve been silent on the death of my godmother. I’ve been silent because there is simply too much to say. For this, I will never be empty of words. I overflow and drown myself in them, getting caught up in the absolutely absurd unreality of the idea that Kathryn is dead.

In the hospital, waiting for her to die, I had a vision. She reached out one milk-and-freckles hand to me and said, “Hey there, my girl.” They say that their voices are the first thing you forget, but hers was so clear, is still so clear. She smiled, no small smile, but the vast and unabashed smile of a woman who knows who she is and where she belongs and loves it. It was not an uncommon smile from her, but it was, I realized, the last one I was ever going to see. And something small and fragile and very, very important inside me broke a little bit, then. I felt the happy, hopeful child in my heart teeter on the edge, so close to breaking.

But she stood next to me then, bare feet muddy and smeared with crushed greenery as if she’d been in the garden, and she pointed a stern finger at me. “You are better than that,” my imaginary Kathryn told me, and, “you have too much doing to get done. Shoo, girl–shoo!” Then she hugged me in the hallway in the middle of a quiet moment at Dragon*con six months before, but right then, right there in my head, if you know what I mean–both moments at once, like two beads on a beading needle, struck through and pinned together for a moment. Small things–her medical bracelet. The watercolor bleed of teal in her hair. The conspiratorial feeling of eating our lunches sitting on the floor beneath the NO LOITERING and NO FOOD OR DRINK IN THIS AREA signs. In the real event, we talked about nothing and all the important things, like tea and TARDIS costumes and Bruce and how we were short enough to pretend that the signs were too high up for us to have noticed before we sat down. In real life, a security guard told us to leave.
We did not leave.

In my head, though, in the surgery waiting room at four-and-change in the morning where I was having a vision while keeping vigil, there–there, I sat in the flattest grey room where I was the only one except for Bruce (asleep on a couch) and Maria (in the restroom or stretching her legs or something), and I bit my teeth into my arm and let out one very ugly sob.

The vision-that-wasn’t-and-was-just-imagining-most-likely smiled her other smile, her Mrs. Weasley smile, and cupped my cheek. She pushed her forehead against mine and sighed a long sigh, and I knew then that, for all the prayers and spells and tiny thread magics we’d all done, she was already taking off her shoes and looking up the great winding way to Summerland. I’d never actually believed in it before, for all I was raised with it as my people’s idea of heaven. But there she was, forehead to my forehead and at the same time dancing in a green dress–a green dress shedding flowers as she took each step, both Demeter and Persephone, mother and daughter alike, the sound of bells like new beginnings all around her.
I knew two things with utter certainty in that moment–that she wasn’t going to make it and that, too, she would be just fine.

Since Kathryn died, things have stopped happening to me in order. Billy Pilgrim has, as it were, come unstuck in time. I hover indistinctly between my daily life and a meditation tape about cats coming through the speakers of a mint green stereo that doesn’t exist anymore. I am utterly unsure how to mourn a loss so vast as this small woman. When I try, my thoughts go into the proverbial fetal position and I am a cat. I am a cat, an orange cat, or perhaps a calico, lounged on the edge of a marble pool, drenched in just-warm-enough sunlight. I think it’s maybe a memory she handed back to me so I could survive this. Alena couldn’t handle this, but that cat, well, she can die from grief eight times before she has to worry about that ninth life.
It’s not enough. As Kathryn said often, I am a worrier.

In the hospital that last time she looked like a mermaid. I held her cool underwater goddess hand while she slept and I told her unimportant things so that I didn’t have to ask the important things like why didn’t you say goodbye to me or why didn’t you tell me it was so serious or there are whole parts of me you made from raw clay and tears and I can’t lose you or did you love your new daughter more than me or you’re never going to meet my someday-child or read my first book or read my first book to my someday-child or, most selfish, please don’t leave me, I am already so alone.

So I stood at her feet and anointed my hands with amber oil and did reike until there was nothing left in me. I thought of Briar’s Book and the four children jumping into death after Rosethorn to bring her back and hated myself for not being good enough at whatever that sort of thing is to jump in after her and drag her back, too. I imagined the way she’d cross her arms and look at me with her Look and stare me down until I stopped being stupid and went back to the waiting room.
I stayed an extra minute, just to be stubborn and impossible one last time.

Where am I going with this? My thoughts don’t come in order anymore, either, but that’s the illness that’s still dragging at me. Where am I going with this?

We’ll get together when we’re both feeling better is the very last thing she said to me aloud, alive. But between the two of us, our faulty human machines, we were never both feeling better. I don’t regret it or sit around muttering to myself If I’d just seen her again! I loved her, she loved me, and we both knew it. She was my Mrs. Weasley before there were books to put a name to it.
There was nothing unsaid between us; she taught me more of what I know than nearly anyone, and she believed in me in a way that I could physically feel every time she hugged me. There’s no last miracle to wish for. I just put her ashes in a ziplock baggie, for goodness’ sake, and put them in the mail. I held a piece of her bone, her bone, in my hand. That must mean it’s real, I guess. So where am I going with this? Forward, I guess. There is nowhere to go but forward, always forward.

I should probably wax rhapsodic on her virtues and my gratitude and how much she affected my life. But I can’t. She was too much, too many things, too vast. Even gone, she lingers. She is the sea. She is the small shred of courage needed to do the improbable and demand the impossible. She is my mother-sister-friend. She is a very small Amazon. She is the sound of a harp over water, calling you through the veil on Holy Days. She is a whirlwind of poetry and little-known history and deep, deep, blood-from-the-soul kindness. She is the act of squaring your shoulders and pursing your lips and tightening your fists until you are strong enough. She is the voice in my bones that tells me that I am beautiful but that it doesn’t matter at all if I’m beautiful because I’m clever. She is the act of enduring because there is no choice but to fucking endure. She is every comforting cup of tea in the whole world. She was my shelter when the storms in my life were too strong to weather. She was, and always shall be, my Mrs. Weasley, and I am not lost without her–she taught me too well how to find my way.
And I like to think too, now and then, that she is somewhere being an orange cat–or perhaps calico, yes, calico–lounged on the edge of a marble pool, drenched in just-warm-enough sunlight, and that I will find her there when I, too, take to the winding way.

Until then, I will live with her close to my heart, drawing and dancing and writing and demanding the improbable of myself to make her proud.

Please consider supporting Kathryn’s spirit being remembered in the world by buying some of her incredible work.

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political ramblings from an overwhelmed hobbit

Hoo boy. I woke up to some fun shenanigans from the government this morning. I guess– I mean, I guess it’s time to talk about it. But even talking about it is overwhelming, because if you don’t say exactly what you mean in precisely perfect language, you’re opening yourself up to arguments that you’re already too exhausted to have. When I bring it up, I get a lot of stupid comments. Comments like, “If you hate America so much, then leave!”

So let’s start there. I don’t hate America. It would be a little stupid to equate my anger at a political administration/situation with somehow hating some 3.8 million square miles of land– land that’s full of a vast array of people, people who agree with me, disagree with me, people who don’t even have time to think about this shit because they’re barely scraping by. People who are fighting back, people who are too scared to fight back, people who don’t know how to fight back, people whose way of fighting back looks like mine, people whose way of fighting back looks a hell of a lot different. Also, there are some people who are either uneducated (probably because of failings on the part of the system supposed to educate them, not because they’re willfully ignorant, although I’ve met a couple of those, too, and they’re weird outliers and I can’t fix them for you) or angry or misled and don’t understand that what’s happening is bad, is terrifying, that it needs to be pushed back against.

I love America. Not its political administration. Not its weird fixation with fast food and crash dieting simultaneously. Not its upsetting lack of public transportation. Not its double standards in arrests and sentencings. Not its weird fixation with plastering its flag all over everything and acting like that somehow means something. No.

America is a body, okay: its lungs and liver and like, most of its major systems, really– have you looked at our public school system? The system I’m about to be trying to get work in? Aughhh–are infected and failing it, but it’s full of these brilliant, beautiful white blood cells that are fighting that infection. (The idea that white blood cells are white in no way reflects the melanin content of the Rad People of America. We’ve got loads of PoC metaphorical white blood cells.) And I don’t mean that everyone is standing up and fighting back, that they would even categorize themselves as people who are resisting– some of them are immigrants picking fruit in the 100+ degree weather all day so their families can live somewhere just a little safer, or they’re artists and writers living on ramen and cheap wine so they can afford supplies to make things that change hearts and minds, or they’re urban kids with cans of spray paint making expressive art instead of just claiming territory, or they’re little old ladies living on Social Security and still knitting socks for their local group home. While it’s important– stunningly, vitally important– to be standing up and saying, “This shit is just not okay,” that’s not the only thing that keeps the fight going. Small acts of human kindness and dedication are the backbone of the resistance. Tolkien showed us the fundamental importance of the small choices of the small people in the Lord of the Rings. And maybe that’s just my nerdy upbringing talking, but I feel just as good when I’m crocheting or painting a beautiful gift for someone I love or giving a stranger directions or writing a story about intimate moments between human beings as I do when I’m making glittery protest signs or calling my senators or writing angry posts about how our political system is devolving into a steaming pile of excrement that’s poisoning the groundwater of our nation. Which it is, in case that was unclear. Like, wow.

Look, I’m overwhelmed. This post is not a coherent thesis statement followed by points that back it up. My family is imploding in a number of directions, I’m drowning in work for graduate school, I’m on the verge of illness again, and I’m just fucking tired. This post is a ramble. But I’m kind of okay with that. If I did have a thesis statement, I guess it would be:

Pick something wonderful and do it. Even if it’s tiny. Do it well and with as much of yourself as you can muster. Do it knowing that kindness is the best medicine for cruelty.

Don’t bother arguing with people who shitpost your questions and incorrectly-phrased anger on facebook. They aren’t going to agree with you no matter how you phrase it. Some people only know how to feel good by making others feel like crap. Try to ignore them. Make that pair of socks. Post that hastily typed out variation of “wtf is Trump doing, our nation is falling apart.” Make really delicious pasta for dinner. Offer some to your overworked mom or your neighbor that you don’t know as well as you’d like. Even if they have a Trump sign in their yard.

Infect the nation with kindness in as many small ways as you can. Bleed joy and triumph and glitter all over everything you do.

That’s more than one thesis. Whatever. I’m bleeding glitter onto the internet. Now I’m going to go eat some delicious leftover pasta that I shared with my overworked mother last night and write up my residency responses for grad school. Because the best thing– the very best thing any of us can do in the face of this is to not let it keep us from living. Don’t stop studying. Don’t stop writing or painting or cooking or playing D&D. And maybe, while you’re rolling for damange or hanging with people over that meal or sitting in study group, maybe just remind everyone that treating anyone as subhuman is super uncool and that our president is a golem of chicken dung given life by hatred.

Yeah? Yeah. Go. Do that.

Thoughts on the New Year

It’s a new year! Sort of.

While my new year was supposed to start back on Samhain like it does for most pagans who observe the Celtic calendar, I can’t help but feel like the collective cultural observance of the January 1st changeover gives it a kind of new yearish weight that Samhain lacks for me now that I don’t live in the bubble of paganism I grew up in.

When I was a kid, Samhain was when you collected all your dead and heavy things and gave them up to the fire, to the land of the dead, to the past. This year, most holidays have passed with minimal or no observance– moving, grad school, the passing of friends, the big shifting things, well, they left very little energy for that kind of thing. When I did try to celebrate in normal fashion, things went poorly, so by Samhain, I’d mostly let the holiday observances go. So New Year’s Eve didn’t get a lot of attention, but both Bruce and I woke up the next morning and agreed that somehow even the air felt a little different. A little clearer.

Maybe it’s just that collective cultural letting go that did it. Maybe it was the pink champagne and junk food. Maybe nothing did it, maybe it was our imaginations. Either way, it was a sweet, lovely thing to wake up in my own home with my wonderful man and look out over our land and feel like I had a place in the world. (It’s a small corner of the world, and it admittedly still looks quite raw and new and is soggy with red clay and mud, but when Spring comes, I can’t imagine it’ll be anything less than gorgeous.)

This last year has been rough. You all know it– I could list all the things that have sucked, but yours likely sucked, too, statistically, so you probably don’t want to hear it. Suffice to say, I’m damn tired.

But! This upcoming year comes with a lot of interesting things. My story, “Gorse Daughter, Sparrow Son,” originally published in Strange Horizons this last August, has been selected for Rich Horton’s Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017, coming out this coming Summer (check it out, I’m on a list and everything.)

I’ll be attending my second grad school residency (the first one in which I’m branching out into cross-genre studies, doing popular fiction as well as poetry) in just a few days. I’m looking forward to seeing all my wonderful Stonecoasters again, and to working with the marvelous Jim Kelly and Cate Marvin for my workshops. I just finished up my first semester working with my incredible mentor, Jeanne Marie Beaumont, on poetry. I have no idea what kind of focus I want for my second semester– fiction, poetry, or both– and I’m hoping it’ll become clear during residency. I’m also super looking forward to being in Maine during the Winter– it sounds utterly ridiculous in terms of weather, and being down here in the land of red clay slush, snow sounds pretty awesome, and I do so love the cold.

I got turned down for the Ireland program for this upcoming Summer, unfortunately, but I’ll be applying for the winter program and may even be heading over there for a trip with Bruce at some point in the Fall if we can get things together in time. Either way, I hope to be joining Ted Deppe for the program in Howth come next January.

I’m in debt for the first time, and really excited about it! I’m aware that that’s a little weird, but mostly it just means that my first student loans came through, so I can actually afford to continue to go to grad school. Yay for debt!

I still don’t feel quite like myself– the displacement that came with leaving my apartment and moving back in with my parents for those couple of months really affected my mental state. I’m grateful I had a place with them, but it was very regressive for me, putting me back in this weird place of having to check and ask permission before I did anything and let people know where I was and– it was just very weird and I don’t quite feel like I’ve gotten back to center yet. Hopefully residency up in Maine will hit a reset button for me; I love being around those people, and I love the way Stonecoast challenges me to be the best version of myself, and hopefully that’ll mean that I at least feel like SOME more centered version of myself by the time I come back home. Probably a frantic, excited, somewhat exhausted version, but, well, it’s grad school. That’s kind of the point, right?

Overall, I’m looking forward to seeing what I can become in this year (whether it’s actually new or has been going on since November) and what good things I can get done. And maybe, when I get back from residency, or even while I’m there, I can figure out how to collect all the dead and heavy things that have accumulated in my heart over the last year and do something with them– write them out or give them to the fire, I don’t know, but I can feel them sitting heavy in my heart as I try to find my way back to center.

I’d love people’s thoughts on what you think I should focus on this upcoming semester– poetry, fiction, both, whatever– and any advice you have for getting back to yourself after a big shift. I hope you’re all well and that the new year brings only the best for us all.

Moving, growing, crafting, packing…hoarding?

Long post ahead. Oops.

I’m moving! Hoorah!
At the end of this month, my lease on my Decatur apartment is up, and I am moving out.

I’m moving back in with my parents!

For a couple weeks.

Then, as soon as it’s ready and painted and such, I’m moving into a brand new home with the man I have been in love with for eight years! It’s pretty awesome.

On the downside, I’m leaving a job I adore. I work as a nanny for an amazing family with two brilliant little girls, and I really do love my job. I’m giving up being close to my godsister, who is something not-just-family and not-just-friend– she’s one of the most important people in my life, and it’s going to be really, really hard not to see her a couple of times every week. It’s going to be hard when one of us is having a bad day and I can’t say, “Hey, want me to get you from work? We can binge on tea and crafting!” My heart breaks over that one, no joke.

On the upside, I’m going to be focusing on grad school, training as a high school English teacher (in my old high school, no less), and living with my incredible boyfriend. And, while I have loved this city, it stopped feeling like home a while ago. When I got back from Ireland, really– I found a home there, and when I came back to Decatur, it had already begun to feel hollow and strange to me. Now, every time I visit my family up in the mountains, I hate coming back to the city at the end of the weekend. Yes, there’s magnificent Indian food, a multiethnic population, and nobody here cares that I’m queer or a witch. But in the mountains, there are mountains, roadside stands with fresh fruits and vegetables, and I’ll be close to my family, including my grandmother, which will be wonderful. I’ll be able to go home every night and see the man I love and actually get real sleep, because I can actually rest when he’s in the house. I’m going to have land of my own– land for gardens, for weird sculptures, for singing strange songs to the moon on cloudless nights. There will be endless expanses of stars. I’ll be five minutes from my parents’ land– including their standing stone circle and their lake where I can swim in the summer. I’ll have a proper kitchen. 

Dahlonega is a beautiful little town with a lot of character. Granted, much of that character is incredibly conservative, but there’s a niche folksy art scene and good music and a lot of good people tucked away between the white supremacists and the fundamentalist religious nuts. It’s a town that treated me pretty badly, I’m not going to lie– my life was endangered more than once in that high school because I was too fat, or too queer, or too dark (hard to believe after living in Atlanta, but I got more than one horrible kid asking me if my “daddy was a n***er), or too opinionated, or not Christian, and not ashamed of it– but it’s also the town that holds the Sanctuary I grew up on, that holds the coffee shop where I had my first real (and disastrous) date, the little town square I know like the back of my hand. I hope to work at that high school someday, to help other teenagers who are too loud or too quiet, weird or scared or awkward or faking it or whatever else find their way through words and books and writing, just like Ms. Whitt, Mr. Purdy, and Ms. Tripp-Smith did for me.

Anyone who knew me in high school is probably shocked I’m going back– I know that my high school best friend, Gilly, definitely was. But look. The reality is that being a teenager is hard and horrible and most of them were just echoing the crap their parents taught them as a way to establish their identity when they have no idea who they hell they are– a lot of the worst of them are good people now: people who, if I met them for the first time at this point, I would like. I was pretty horrible, too– I got a thick skin and became aggressive and loudmouthed as hell. It was a defense mechanism, sure– I got mean because I had to get mean or just cry all the time and never move– but explanations aren’t excuses. I was mean. I’d like to think I’m not mean anymore. There were a few years of pendulum-ing where I was too nice and then too mean and back and forth, but I think I’ve found my middle ground now, where I can stand up for myself and people I care about without standing ON other people. You know how it goes. It’s a process. We grow continually or we wither.

Regardless, I’m REALLY excited for the move. I can’t wait to be living with Bruce again, can’t wait to get up in the mornings and make tea in a proper kitchen, can’t wait to have a dishwasher again. God, a dishwasher. A washing machine! (My current apartment was built in the 40’s. It lacks some…modern amenities.)

So yeah. Then we come to the crafting, and, in turn, packing and the idea of hoarding.

At the start of October, there’s a festival called Hemlockfest held on my family’s land. You can google it; it’s open to the public and it’s pretty fun. I’m a vendor! I sell arts and crafts with my godsister, and my boyfriend sells delicious (non-GMO, sometimes GF or vegan) baked goods. There’s awesome folk music, tasty food, cool shops, good people, and a general fun time! I love vending. I make a decent bit of money to put aside for the winter (or, in this case, graduate school) and I get to have fun doing it. I get to craft a ton and sell my work to people who usually appreciate it!

The problem there is that I have to craft. Normally, not so much a problem. I LOVE crafting. However, I’m also moving the weekend before the festival. So I can box up a portion of my life, but the crafting portion is… not small. My friend and neighbor, Marie, pointed out to me that, at first glance, my apartment looks like it belongs to a hoarder. My boyfriend is a little more circumspect, usually just saying that I “have a lot of stuff.”

Well, yeah. Your options as a mixed-media crafter are either to collect old magazines, beads, paints, markers, pens, canvasses, boards, brushes, yarn, fiber, fabric, and other stuff and store them so they’re on hand when you want to craft, or…buy them all brand new every single time. So either you “hoard” or you spend a fortune every time you want to create something. These things don’t usually box up neatly– what do you do with the few hundred words and pictures you cut out of old Sage Woman magazines when you’re not decoupaging them onto sketchbooks and notebooks and jewelry boxes? How about the tissue paper scraps? Little end bits of yarn that you’ll turn into adorable scrap hats? If you’re me, you don’t have the money to buy a billion adorable matching bins at Target. You keep them in whatever you’ve got– shoeboxes, tupperware, a couple old tea tins, cardboard boxes, big ugly bins, whatever. And, when you ARE using them, they’re EVERYWHERE. Your friends love when you give them gifts! “Oh wow, how did you MAKE this, it’s so beautiful!” But then they come to your house and look askance at your piles of, well…crap. Because until it’s art, it’s just scraps of stuff. Everywhere. There are little scraps of paper and little rolled up bits of dried mod podge on everything you own. You are buried in a sea of craft detritus. But it leads to beautifully manifested pieces of art! It’s a worthwhile thing, this ocean of stuff. It’s not hoarding, it’s keeping the supplies you need on hand– you’re not just living amidst stacks of weird stuff out of an urge to keep it all, you’re making things. You’re making useful, beautiful things, and when you’re an artist professionally or even semi-professionally, you’re using them to make money.

This is sort of a concept at odds with the idea of tidily packing up all your possessions and moving them.

It’s being a tricky process. My current balance seems to be to pack until I’m tired and sweaty, then sit and craft until my eyes hurt and I need to move, then get up and pack some more– lather, rinse repeat. It’s sort of working, except that I don’t have enough hats to sell and my house is still a mess.

So, from under the chaos… hi, everybody. Happy Fall. ❤

Also, P.S., make sure you vote. For Hilary. Trump is a crazy person. Save us, please.

ALSO also, if you’re wondering what I craft? Some of the answers are below:

Alena’s 25th Birthday Wishlist of Gloriousness!