Cover Reveal! ‘Japanese Fantasy Drabbles’ (Insignia Drabbles #1)

Check out this amazing cover! I have three 100-word stories in this book about lesser-known yōkai (supernatural beings of Japan). Also, a friend of mine (Carmen Indalecio) has her first ever published stories in this book! I can’t wait to read them! Congrats, Carmen! ❤

INSIGNIA STORIES

Happy New Year, everyone!

I’m very excited to share the cover for our upcoming anthology: Japanese Fantasy Drabbles. It is the first planned release in the new Insignia Drabbles series. I haven’t decided the release date yet, but it will likely be mid-February.

For now, enjoy the cover!

~Kelly Matsuura~

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This anthology includes 80 drabbles (100-word stories) inspired by Japanese folklore and yōkai tales, as well as original fantasy and science fiction pieces. You’ll find wicked cats and dragons; ghosts and monsters; spaceships and time travelers; and much more. This collection has it all!

~~~

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Our Christmas Miracle

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“All I want for Christmas is to see a wolf.”

My research teammate said this repeatedly over the past few days as we braved the ice and snow of central Wisconsin, following gray wolf tracks through the forest. We examined scent markings wolves had used to announce their presence, set up acoustic recorders to collect their howls. We listened with bated breath to the silence under the stars, hoping to hear them sing.

On Christmas Eve, my teammate got her wish.

The night began with a howl survey. Such surveys involve driving a road in an area of likely wolf activity, howling into the darkness and waiting for replies. This was our third night of conducting such surveys, and no one on our team had yet received a response. For the first time, I was the howler, and I was incredibly nervous. I had practiced earlier that day, howling to myself while alone inside our team’s living quarters. I was worried I sounded like Scooby Doo with laryngitis, afraid I’d be the reason we wouldn’t find the wolves.

At the fourth stop along our route, I called out to the wilderness. My broken voice carried through the crisp, cold air. We listened intently to the perfect silence, waiting for an answer.

From across the distance, a chorus of coyotes cried out to us, their eerie, beautiful sounds giving us a glimpse into their wild, wandering lives. For a while, we relished the music.

And then the wolves sang too.

Low, mournful howls sent shivers down our spines. My teammate pointed a microphone in their direction as the songs rang out through time and space, connecting us briefly to a world that will never be ours. My heart soared as I savored the moment. For the rest of the night, I was floating on air.

Based on the direction of the howls, we placed a recorder at a new site in the forest. After a rendezvous with the rest of the team, we headed home. My teammate drove us carefully through the shadows and mist. And then, all of a sudden, she stammered and pulled over.

She’d seen a wolf. A wolf on Christmas Eve. Standing by the side of the road, staring right through her. We turned around and drove back, but we never found the wolf again. It vanished like a ghost. But it was there.

A Blackfoot legend refers to the Milky Way as the Wolf Trail. For the past year, I’ve wondered frequently about my place in the universe, whether I’m walking down the right path. But I think, like the wolves, we forge our own paths, carving trails through the snow to where we’re meant to be.

Sometimes, the stars align to reward us with a blessing that takes our breath away. Some call this God, or else fate, the auspices of the universe, or a mere result of stochastic events. Throughout the world, for thousands of years, humans have celebrated the triumph of light over darkness, the presence of hope and community amidst the loneliness of winter. Life’s myriad ways of persisting against impossible odds never fail to astound me. I will never forget Christmas Eve 2019, when the wolves sang to us. And I’ll never forget how my friend got her lupine miracle.

New game! Red Dog and the Endless Spaceship

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Howdy, folks! I’ve released a new free game (with graphics and sound) on itch.io called Red Dog and the Endless Spaceship. Give it a whirl over here: https://fontainepen.itch.io/red-dog-and-the-endless-spaceship

I made this silly little game with Adam Le Doux’s Bitsy Game Maker. Bitsy is a very accessible game editor; even if you have no programming experience whatsoever, you can quickly and easily use it to make a simple game. Try it out! https://ledoux.itch.io/bitsy

Furry Book Month!

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Happy Furry Book Month, everyone!

Furry books are books that feature anthropomorphic animals. These animals could live like humans, with clothes and houses and cars and such (as in The Wind in the Willows) or be similar to their real-life counterparts in behavior and lifestyle, only sharing with humans their intelligence and/or language (as in Watership Down).

As you can tell from these two examples, anthropomorphic animals are prominent in classic literature. However, our history of telling stories about such characters predates even these beloved novels, going all the way back to the fables of Aesop and Jean de La Fontaine—and still farther, to ancient mythology.

What’s exciting about furry literature is that it is timeless. Humans have always wondered what it would be like to slip into another creature’s skin, to see through the eyes of other beings that share our planet. We still wonder this, even today. Over the years, zoologists have given us invaluable insights into the perception and cognition of nonhuman animals, and we are continually learning more. But ultimately, I think a lot about the lives of our fellow creatures will always remain mysterious to us. That’s where imagination comes in.

Furry literature is still here, and in fact there are now several publishers who specialize in furry books, not to mention a Furry Writers’ Guild and awards unique to the furry writing community. October has been chosen as a time to celebrate and promote anthropomorphic animal literature, with the goal of sharing our love for it and making more people aware of its ongoing relevance.

With this goal in mind, furry publishers often run discounts on their books this month. Goal Publications is one of these publishers. Goal Publications is offering 15% off all the books in their online store this month, both print and ebook (excluding bundle deals), if you use coupon code FBM2019 at checkout, from now through the end of October. This deal includes my hyena novelette Beyond Acacia Ridge and two furry anthologies that feature my stories, A Glimpse of Anthropomorphic Literature and The Daily Grind, the latter of which I helped to edit. If you’re interested in getting 15% off on these or other great furry books, please check out their store: https://www.goalpublications.com/storefront.html

This month, I hope to finally read Watership Down and to also read Nexus Nine, the newest novel from one of my favorite authors, Mary E. Lowd. What will you be reading for Furry Book Month?

Break Stuff, a new Twine game for IFComp!

Today is the start of the judging period for the Interactive Fiction Competition! See IFComp’s announcement here: https://blog.ifcomp.org/post/188069134484/the-25th-annual-ifcomp-is-here There are eighty-two entries this year! My entry is a Twine game called Break Stuff.

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Break Stuff cover art

In Break Stuff, you make decisions for a troubled young woman who just broke up with her boyfriend. When your old friend from high school comes over, she invites you to vent your negative feelings by breaking stuff. Who could resist?

Break Stuff is a brief foray into depression, lost love, feminism, growing up, and the brokenness that makes us human. Please see the content warnings listed with the entry on the site before you decide whether to play it or not. Break Stuff can be found among the rest of this year’s games on the ballot here: https://ifcomp.org/ballot I hope you will enjoy it!

Change Your Choices, Change the World: the Interactive Fiction Competition

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You’ve reached a crossroads in your life. A fork in the road. A tipping point. What you do today, this hour, this minute, will change you…and the world.

I think we all can remember an epic moment like this, a big decision we made that altered our course and transformed us into someone new. But what most of us fail to realize on a regular basis is that even the seemingly small choices we make add up to something huge over time.

This is why I love interactive fiction. In interactive fiction, we, the readers/players, are main characters, and the choices we make, even ostensibly small ones, tend to have consequences down the road: for our environment, for our societies, for our relationships, for our personal success and happiness. We get to explore how the priorities we set and the means by which we pursue them affect us–and the world.

Does this sound familiar? I hope so. “An unexamined life is not worth living,” Socrates said. I appreciate how interactive fiction challenges its writers and readers to think critically and live intentionally as we work to solve the puzzles of our lives.

The Interactive Fiction Competition, an annual event to celebrate and promote interactive fiction, is allowing IF authors from around the world who registered (for free) to submit their entries for the 2019 competition until 11:59 pm Eastern Time tonight. If you’re curious about the world of interactive fiction games, please consider becoming a judge! Anyone, no matter their level of past experience with IF, can create an account to play and rate games during the competition. Judging goes from October 1 to November 15. If you’re interested in judging IFComp entries, please read the rules (https://ifcomp.org/rules#judges), guidelines (https://ifcomp.org/about/judging), and FAQ (https://ifcomp.org/about/faq#judginggames) for judges and make an account on the website here: https://ifcomp.org/user/register. I hope you, like me, will fall in love with these fun and thought-provoking games. And I hope you will consider how whatever you choose to do after you finish reading this blog post will impact the rest of your life.

Whiskey and Cats, Sans Pants

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I recently found some much-needed writing inspiration and encouragement by way of a book by Jeff Somers called Writing Without Rules: How to Write & Sell a Novel Without Guidelines, Experts, or (Occasionally) Pants. As you might guess, this book is often silly and irreverent, filled with asides about whiskey and cats, self-deprecating jokes, and rambling footnotes. However, I found good advice and interesting food for thought in it, as well as some welcome motivation to pick up one of my unfinished novels and finish it. Plus, it’s a very entertaining read.

I must warn, however, that this book is not for everyone. Jeff’s humor and long-winded anecdotes worked well for me, but may not for others. More importantly, beginning writers should take some of Jeff Somers’s more unconventional tips with, not merely a grain, but heaps of salt. For example, in a section of the short story chapter (which is actually, cleverly, a short story itself), Jeff seems to imply that the guidelines of short story markets are flexible and needlessly complicated and can be safely ignored. As someone who has worked as an editorial assistant and slush reader for a short story magazine, I beg you, DO NOT IGNORE GUIDELINES! Doing so makes you look unprofessional and generally ensures a swift rejection. Please, please read and follow guidelines.

Luckily, as an experienced reader and submitter of short stories, I was able to see through the untenable surface implications of this passage to the point I think Jeff was trying to make, as shown in this excerpt: “One simple fact of life is that people tell you the things they wish to be. When someone tells you they’re tough, a no-nonsense person, that’s what they want you to think of them; whether it has anything to do with reality is another matter altogether. It’s the same for fiction markets. An editor will tell you they want X, but as often as not, you show them Y and they go for it.” For me, this was the takeaway: not that guidelines for genre, word count, formatting, specific details about content/themes, etc. should be ignored, but that philosophical statements in some guidelines–i.e. “We want intricate, experimental stories and poems with gorgeous prose, verve, and imagination that elicit strong emotions and challenge beliefs” (Uncanny Magazine, one of my favorite SFF short story magazines)–are more subjective and nebulous, and one need not necessarily self-reject because of them.

All this being said, Jeff states from the beginning of the book that there are as many unique paths to being a successful writer as there are writers themselves, and he mentions repeatedly that you should take any writing advice proposed by self-styled gurus, including his own, with a grain of salt, taking what works for you and leaving the rest. Personally, I adored Writing Without Rules, and it helped give me the confidence boost I needed to work on novels again. Check out my Amazon review here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R3LIELKXVTGWIR and the book itself here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1440352925/

The Lying King

Today marks the official theatrical release of the live-action remake of Disney’s animated film The Lion King in the United States.

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Check out these majestic jerks.

I have a bone to pick with The Lion King. As a kid, it was one of my favorite movies. It remains a beloved, classic film, using a wonderful score and beautifully animated talking animals to tell a tale of self-discovery and social responsibility. I still enjoy the original movie, to a certain extent. There’s just one problem: The Lion King did (and continues to do) deplorable damage to the reputation of my favorite creatures, hyenas.

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Tell me I’m ugly. I dare you.

Back when I studied spotted hyenas, I wrote a whole post for the research project’s blog about The Lion King‘s misrepresentations of them. That blog post can still be read here: http://msuhyenas.blogspot.com/2016/09/the-trouble-with-lion-king.html Please don’t hesitate to share it with your friends who’ve been blinded to the truth about hyenas by The Lion King, as I was for so many years.

I for one will not be buying a ticket to the remake of The Lion King. If you’d prefer more hyena-positive media instead, please check out Sy Montgomery’s award-winning nonfiction book The Hyena Scientist (and not just because I’m in it!): https://www.amazon.com/dp/0544635116/ And if you have an interest in anthropomorphic animal fantasy à la Watership Down, feel free to also take a look at my hyena novelette Beyond Acacia Ridge: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1949768899

I hope you will do your best to spread hyena love, not hyena hate. I will step down from my soapbox now. Thank you for your time.

Research Blogs About Hyenas:

http://msuhyenas.blogspot.com/

https://hyena-project.com/

Drunk Rabbits, Foster Foxes, Jackalope Wives, and More — The Cóyotl Awards Anthology Now Up for Preorder!

The Cóyotl Awards Anthology is now available for preorder from FurPlanet Productions! Here is the preorder link: https://furplanet.com/shop/item.aspx?itemid=1060

This anthology features stories that won or were nominated for the Cóyotl Awards, which are voted on yearly by the Furry Writers’ Guild. The Furry Writers’ Guild, of which I am a proud member, exists to support, inform, elevate, and promote quality anthropomorphic animal fiction and its creators. In this spirit, the Cóyotl Awards were founded to recognize quality anthropomorphic literature.

Having read and enjoyed several of the stories in this anthology, which were written by some of my favorite authors, I can attest to their excellence. The editor of this anthology was the late Fred Patten, who unfortunately passed away before it was published. As an editor, reviewer, writer, and fan, Fred’s contributions to the field of anthropomorphic literature were invaluable. I am so grateful for all he did to support me and other writers. He will be greatly missed.

The amazing writer and editor Mary E. Lowd is the current Awards Chair for the Cóyotls. Her passion and hard work have kept them running for the past several years. Many thanks to Mary for her service to the FWG community.

My story in this anthology is “The Moon Fox,” which was first published by Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores and was my first Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America qualifying sale. It was illustrated beautifully by Fran Eisemann, as seen below (stock used in her photomanipulation: “140” by m-everham-stock and “Full Moon” by raven2663; rights for this content remain with the creators):

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“The Moon Fox” was nominated for the 2017 Cóyotl Award for Best Short Story. You can read “The Moon Fox” for free at Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores at this link: https://cosmicrootsandeldritchshores.com/fiction-all/stories-for-young-people-from-4-to-400/the-moon-fox/ But be sure to check out The Cóyotl Awards Anthology for other award-nominated and award-winning furry stories!

Reference Links:

The Cóyotl Awards website: https://coyotlawards.org/

The Furry Writers’ Guild website: https://furrywritersguild.com/

King Arthur…is a Crow? ROAR Volume 10 Available for Preorder!

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Yes, it says “Just Raven” not “Just Crowing.” Shh.

While perusing online pages about Arthurian mythology one day, I stumbled across an intriguing bit of folklore: the rumor that King Arthur, rather than dying at his final battle, was reborn as a crow and would return one day to reclaim his throne.

As an avid lover of corvids (such clever birds!), this idea captured my imagination. I pictured Arthur, with all his kingly memories and chivalrous ideals, returning in modern times as a crow—to a world that had all but forgotten him. Thus, my story “The Corvid King” was born.

“The Corvid King” was accepted for ROAR Volume 10, an anthology of anthropomorphic animal stories published by Bad Dog Books, edited by Mary E. Lowd. This anthology, centered around the theme of “community,” is now available for preorder! It is also for sale at FurPlanet’s table at the Anthrocon convention in Pittsburgh, if you happen to be there today or this weekend. Excluding a story in an out-of-print college anthology, “The Corvid King” is my twentieth published short story!

Here is the print preorder link: https://furplanet.com/shop/item.aspx?itemid=1061 Eventually an ebook version should also be available.

I hope “The Corvid King” will enchant you and rekindle your belief in magic. I look forward to reading the stories from the other fabulous authors in this book!