Publication updates: new poems and CNF out; work long and shortlisted for prizes and forthcoming; latest news on Ethics in the Arthurian Legend!

Hello, all! I’ve been busily grading and getting the Spring semester concluded (and balancing that with cancer treatments) and so have been remiss in sharing some recent publications and good news. Without further ado, if you like what I make and want to read new things I’ve made, here’s a little roundup of the past two months or so:

Now available:

In Star*Line 42, my poem, “Grendel’s Mother”: https://www.sfpoetry.com/sl/issues/starline46.2.html

In Cathexis Northwest Press, my poem, “Nailbiter”: https://www.cathexisnorthwestpress.com/may-june-2023

In Eccentric Orbits 4, my poems, “Three Haiku to Chill the Spine,” “The Quiet Moments,” and “Dream Visions”: https://dimensionfold.com/catalog/poetry-books/eccentric-orbits/?fbclid=IwAR1985L4UaVkBwRwq0-9z9Jp-tqfY8_JWKb7-VC7bp5xegCb70fC8Co2dYg

Up at Miracle Monocle 20, “Dark and Twisty With a Side of Optimism,” my humorous creative nonfiction piece about living with anxiety: Miracle Monocle 20. https://louisville.edu/miraclemonocle/issue-20/melissa-ridley-elmes

Longlisted, Shortlisted, and Forthcoming:

I’m thrilled to share that “What the Old Woman Knows,” one of two of my poems nominated for the Rhysling Award by the Science Fiction Poetry Writers’ Association membership, was selected by the Rhysling Award judges for inclusion on the longlist and publication in the Rhysling Anthology, which will be available in July.

I’m also pleased to share that my short story, “I’m in This Story and I don’t Like It” was shortlisted for the DarkWinter Literary Magazine story contest, and will be published in Dark Winter on June 3: https://www.darkwinterlit.com/

Ethics in the Arthurian Legend update

Page proofs have been reviewed and the index has been compiled and everything is back with the press. Next stop: publication, July 2023! I can’t wait to share these incredible essays with the world, our scholars have done tremendous work. https://boydellandbrewer.com/9781843846871/ethics-in-the-arthurian-legend/

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Get Your Annual Mammograms, and Get Genetic Testing #BreastCancerAwareness

Statistically, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. Per the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, breast cancer is the most common cancer globally and represents 1 in 4 of all cancers in women. It is the second most common form of cancer in women behind nonmelanoma skin cancer. In 2020, about 2.3 million women were diagnosed with breast cancer worldwide and 685,000 died. Every 14 seconds a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer somewhere in the world.

Around 3% of women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer will be diagnosed with a second breast cancer after about seven years. 8-10% of women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer will be diagnosed with a second breast cancer after about 25 years. (Susan G. Komen Foundation, “Personal history of breast cancer or other cancers”)

The lifetime risk of women in the general population getting an initial breast cancer diagnosis is 13%. For women with the BRCA 1 or 2 gene, this jumps to 60%. The risk of a second diagnosis of breast cancer in women in the general population is about 5-10%. The risk of a second diagnosis of breast cancer of women with a BRCA 1 or 2 gene mutation is 10-30%. (Susan G. Komen Foundation, “BRCA1 and BRCA2 inherited gene mutations in women”)

Ladies, when was your last mammogram? And if there is a history of breast cancer in your family, do you know your BRCA status?

I was diagnosed with Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma in 2011. I was young, fit, and healthy, and so it was shocking, but I cannot say I was entirely surprised–my grandmother had had breast cancer, my aunt on that side of the family had had breast cancer, and my father had had prostate cancer. I didn’t get genetic testing at the time because . . . my grandmother had had it, my aunt had had it, my father had had a related sex cancer; what could a genetic test tell me at that point, that I had a risk of cancer? That ship had sailed. The reason given to me to undergo the testing (which my insurance didn’t cover and which was very expensive for a teacher’s salary)– if you have the gene then your children will know to be vigilant–didn’t seem especially compelling, particularly when, in the United States at the time, you could be denied health insurance coverage for a pre-existing condition. Genetic testing telling you you have a gene that statistically places you at greater risk of cancer seemed like a terrible thing to saddle my children with under the circumstances, and further, seemed like it would serve no other clear purpose–I had already had cancer, and would be vigilant about screening going forward; my kids could start receiving mammograms earlier than would ordinarily be the case. Why test now? I declined because of the expense and the implications for my children regarding their future health insurance coverage (neither of which should have been a deterrent because this kind of screening support should be routinely and affordably available to help people manage their health, insurance companies should want their policy holders to be able to make preventative choices that will improve their health outcomes [and expenses] in the long run, and I’m glad things have changed somewhat for the better in this regard.)

Fast-forward 10 years. After a lumpectomy, four rounds of chemotherapy, and a radiation regimen I had been on the hormone blocker Tamoxifen as a pre-menopausal woman. Tamoxifen is only prescribed for ten years; no studies to date had shown it to be effective beyond that. This past December, exactly one year after I went off of Tamoxifen, I went in for my routine annual screening mammogram, and it came back with suspicious things in both breasts that needed to be biopsied. (My oncologist: but don’t worry, most of the time things are benign. Only 20% is cancer. Me: not in my experience. And what are the odds *both breasts* are benign in someone with a personal history of breast cancer? My oncologist … Me: yeah, there it is.)

At first we thought it was a relatively simple case; the radiologist doing the biopsy thought we were looking at a teensy in situ cancer on the left and a slightly larger tumor at the outer 10:00 position on righty that could certainly be benign, as it didn’t look like a cancer tumor on initial inspection. We learned via the results phonecall that this is because while it is Infiltrating Lobular Carcinoma, which grows recognizable tumors, mine is pleomorphic, which creates strings of cells more than formal tumors, harder to detect–we were lucky mine had formed a mass to one end. This means I have two different cancers, one to a side. One is “”in situ,” “Ductal Carcinoma In Situ,” or DCIS, meaning it never left the milk duct it was developing in. The other infiltrated the regional lymph node system, with 3 nodes of 13 testing positive. So lefty is stage 0, and righty, stage 1A. Both are hormone positive, HER2 negative–the “good” kind, that responds to hormone therapies.

Importantly, this is not a recurrence of my first cancer, which was Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma. I say importantly, because I went off my hormone inhibitor in December 22 after ten years, the recommended course of therapy, and exactly a year later my body is feeding cancer again. There are no studies yet concerning the effectiveness of Tamoxifen past 10 years. My oncologists are unanimous that they believe the Tamoxifen was likely suppressing the development of these cancers, in essence “keeping things asleep.” Because it’s two new cancers and both different from the first time around, before proceeding with a treatment plan my oncologist recommended BRCA testing, which my insurance did cover; and yes, I do have the BRCA2 gene.

After a series of meetings with medical oncologist, surgical oncologist, and two plastic surgeons and a physical therapist to finalize my treatment plan, I underwent a double mastectomy with direct to silicone implants surgery at the end of February, working with HR and my admins to allow me to shift my on- ground classes to asynchronous online the week of the surgery, which I was able to schedule the Monday before spring break, capitalizing on that time off, and then I taught synchronously online the following week, returning to the classroom on week 4.

Reader, it sucked.

(The surgery, not the teaching, which preserved some semblance of normalcy amidst the madness. And not because my surgeons were not excellent, both were, as were their teams. It’s just that this surgery is a beast.)

In March, once I had healed enough from the first surgery, I underwent axillary node dissection because the sentinel node my surgical oncologist pulled during the mastectomy tested positive for cancer. (Me: what are the odds that’s the only one? SO: actually, pretty good in your case, we got clear margins. I’m not expecting any unpleasant surprises. Me: … )

Sometimes I really, REALLY hate being even partially right.

The results in, we sat down with my medical oncologist, who said with 3 nodes positive of the 14 pulled, that makes her nervous, and even though my Oncotype and node involvement don’t technically meet the benchmarks for chemo, she is just nervous and thinks I should do it. Me: okay but what is the science saying about benefit and deficit, now and long term? Because last time chemo left me with broken teeth, among other effects, and we know it does long-term harm to bone density, etc. And then you want to put me into medical menopause again, which is more long-term damage, right? That was the point where she recommended seeking a second opinion.

The second opinion came from a top-10 nationally ranked cancer research and treatment center significantly closer to where we live, so after a lot of discussion–I really liked my team–in the end, because my case seemed a LOT more complicated than we had thought, and because of the convenience of location, given radiation is every day for multiple weeks, we switched care to the research and treatment center.

My new oncologist agreed with my former one on treatment plan, long-term effects notwithstanding, and laid out the science of it–that while generally ILC doesn’t respond well to chemo, mine was exhibiting characteristics of more aggressive cancers and possibly, even likely, would; more importantly, with BRCA and a cancer history, getting cancer again so soon after after going off Tamoxifen suggests cancer cells were “sleeping” and coming off the hormone therapy allowed them to wake up, and while my scans are all clear they can’t be certain there aren’t other cancer cells hanging out elsewhere, so in my case despite all signs (Oncotype score, number of nodes involved, absence of mets) pointing to not, chemo is in fact warranted as the best option to HAVE long-term effects, because, still alive.

Well when you put it like that …

And so I have just finished the first of six doses of chemo (TC). After that, I’ll undergo a course of radiation, and after that, oophorectomy, throwing me into menopause permanently.

That’s right, folks, I get to experience both breast cancer AND menopause twice and all before age 50. I AM WINNING THE WRONG DAMNED LOTTERY! 不不不不不

And then, Tamoxifen again, followed by aromatase inhibitors, TBD. There is at least one medical trial concluding in the next few months that could inform that choice, and this is precisely why we elected to switch to the research center (well, this and it is only 4 miles away.)

So in all, while I am hopeful in my prognosis, I am also having All The Feels: hopeful yes, but also angry–SO angry!–shocked, stunned, anxious, strangely and preternaturally calm, spiraling into dark and twisty land, overwhelmed, impatient, patient, short-tempered, happy, sad, positive, uncertain, determined, afraid, melancholy, grateful, exhausted, pessimistic, optimistic, frustrated …

It’s been A Lot, and I still have A Lot to get through and A Lot to process; even though I’m a few months into it already, this health journey through this diagnosis is really just beginning. But I am doing it with punk hair (until this weekend, when I’ll shave it off in advance of its falling out), and a really wonderful support system.

Obviously, I have been incredibly busy and at times overwhelmed with juggling surgeries, consults, appointments, and chemo, while teaching throughout the semester, which has all left very little time or energy to write. I am happy to say I have managed to place a few poems and stories, and that this week I have felt substantially better and been able to get back to actively working on a few projects that were delayed over the past few months. I’m learning as I go that I have to be gracious with myself–“I’m doing the best I can, and I’m always trying to do better, and that’s enough,” is the mantra my therapist and I came up with to help me navigate all of this. (I am very grateful for my therapist. There is nothing like a good therapist to get you through the hardest things.)

Where it comes to breast cancer, please, be vigilant in your screening practices. Early detection is essential to successful and positive outcomes, and even a few months can make a difference in prognosis. And if there is a family history of cancer, I strongly encourage you to get the BRCA testing. If I knew in 2011 what I know now, and things operated then as they do now, armed with that positive test I would have done all of this the first time around and maybe–just maybe–not be going through a second bout of cancer a decade-plus later. I truly hope sharing this has made even one reader decide to go ahead and schedule that mammogram they have been putting off, or go ahead and do the genetic testing they have been on the fence about.

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The Rhysling Award

I’ve learned today that two of my poems were nominated for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association’s annual Rhysling Award for best speculative poem in the short category. What a delightful surprise!

The first of these is a personal favorite of mine, “What the Old Woman Knows,” which appeared at Listen to Her UNF in March 2022: https://lieberman.domains.unf.edu/s22/a-sensorial-what-the-old-woman-knows-by-melissa-ridley-elmes/

This poem was initially submitted to a literary magazine (truthfully, several literary magazines). It was rejected, but one of the readers remembered it and, when launching this new initiative to honor women’s voices, reached out to me and asked if it was still available. I’m grateful for her interest and faith in my work, and thrilled to see “What the Old Woman Knows” receive this recognition.

And the second is “Starfall,” which was published by editor S.T. Joshi in the print journal Spectral Realms 16: https://www.hippocampuspress.com/journals/spectral-realms/spectral-realms-no.-16

This is really quite the honor. There are so many hundreds of eligible works published annually, and out of those, each participating nominator can only select one poem in the short, and one in the long, category:

“Nominees for each year’s Rhysling Awards are selected by the membership of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. Each member is allowed to nominate one work in each of two categories: Best Long Poem (50299 lines; for prose poems, 5001,999 words) and Best Short Poem (1149 lines; for prose poems, 101499 words). All nominated works must have been first published during the preceding calendar year of the awards year. The Rhysling Awards are put to a final vote by the membership of the SFPA selection from all nominated works, presented in the Rhysling Anthology.”

To have my work noticed and nominated out of the hundreds and hundreds of sci fi/fantasy/horror/slipstream poems published annually is just–really humbling. I am certainly counting my blessings today. And I am thrilled to be nominated alongside some of my favorite speculative poets, including Vince Gotera, Jordan Hirsch, Brian Garrison, Mary Soon Lee, Akua Hope Lezli, Colleen Anderson, Wendy van Camp, and Adele Gardner, among others. Wonderful company, indeed. You can see the full list of nominees here: https://sfpoetry.com/ra/rhyscand.html

Thank you so much to the publishers and the nominators of these poems!

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Cover Reveal! Ethics in the Arthurian Legend

My co-editor Evelyn Meyer and I were delighted when our publisher agreed to use the image we selected for the cover of our forthcoming edited collection of essays, and we are absolutely thrilled with this stunning final cover design. Ethics in the Arthurian Legend, published by Boydell and Brewer, will be available for pre-order April 2023, with a publication date July 2023.

Here is the cover:

And here is the Table of Contents:

Jane Gilbert, Foreword

Melissa Ridley Elmes and Evelyn Meyer, Introduction

  1. Melissa Ridley Elmes, Arthurian Ethics before the Pentecostal Oath: In Search of Ethical Origins in Culhwch and Olwen
  2. Evelyn Meyer, Too Quickly or Not Quickly Enough, Too Rash and Too Harshly: The Arthurian Courts Lack of Ethics in Hartmann von Aues Erec and Iwein and Wolfram von Eschenbachs Parzival
  3. Jonathan S. Martin, The Ethics of Arthurian Marriage: Husband vs. Wife in Hartmann von Aues Iwein
  4. Joseph Derosier, Arthurian Ethics and Ethical Reading in the Perlesvaus
  5. Christopher Jensen, Translation Praxis and the Ethical Value of Chivalry in the Caligula Brut
  6. Nahir Ota簽o Gracia, Imperial Ambitions and the Ethics of Power: Gender, Race, and the Riddaras繹gur
  7. David F. Johnson, Lowland Ethics in the Arthur of the Dutch
  8. Steven Bruso, Contesting Royal Power: The Ethics of Good Lordship, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and the March of Wales
  9. Caitlin G. Watt, As egir as any lyoun: The Ethics of Knight-Horse Relationships in Lybeaus Desconus
  10. Matthew D. O’Donnell, Malory’s Ethical Dinadan: Moderate Masculinity in a Crisis of Hypermasculine Chivalry
  11. Holly A. Crocker, Virtus, Vertues, and Gender: Cultivating a Chivalric Habitus in Thomas Malorys Tale of Sir Gareth
  12. Mikayla Hunter, Kingly Disguise and (Im)Perception in Three Fifteenth-Century English Romances
  13. Alexandra Sterling-Hellenbrand, Adventure? What is that? Arthurian Ethics in/and the Games We Play
  14. Fiona Tolhurst and K. S. Whetter, The Ethics of a New Edition of Sir Thomas Malorys Le Morte Darthur
  15. Nicole Evelina, The Ethics of Writing Guinevere in Modern Historical Fiction

Elizabeth Archibald, Afterword

The book will be available both hardbound and as an E-publication. Evelyn and I are excited to share these thought-provoking essays with the world!

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Saying Goodbye to 2022

Folks are posting their year-end wrap ups and roundups across the internet as we begin ringing in the New Year around the world, and so I, too, sit down at my keyboard for this final post of 2022, which has certainly been another roller coaster, though in my corner of the world, mostly good. Deeply sensitive to the ongoing pandemic’s cruel disruption of so many lives (including our own, as I, my husband, and my youngest child all succumbed to Covid at various points this past year) alongside the recent frigid polar vortex that ripped through my country leaving devastating conditions for people to navigate, yet I am on the whole grateful for 2022.

As a writer, I had an energizing year. I opened 2022 with the publication on January 2 of my poem, “Never Was a Princess Girl” in Star*Line 45.1, and the year unfolded with a steady stream of acceptances–17 poems, 4 stories, and 2 works of creative nonfiction, in some really nice venues I have long admired, including Star*Line, Spectral Realms, Illumen, Haven, Liquid Imagination, Black Fox, and Gyroscope Review–and several readings and a con appearance (virtually). I was deeply honored to see Arthurian Things: A Collection of Poems receive a nomination for the Science Fiction Poetry Association’s Elgin Award for best book of speculative fiction, my poem “Riding Down a Dream” (Star*Line 44.4) nominated for the Dwarf Star award for best short speculative poem, and my poem This Risky Business of Mortal Being (Poetry South 14.9) nominated for the 2022 Pushcart Prize. To be nominated for one award is delightful; that my work received this level of attention was deeply humbling and I am greatly honored by the readers and editors who appreciated my work with these nominations. I closed the year out with ten submissions of further work and a chapbook under review. For 2023, I have a few projects up my sleeve I hope you’ll enjoy, and have set myself a goal of writing a story a day through January and a poem a day through April to jumpstart new work. I’m really excited about where my writing is taking me, and looking forward to sharing it with you in due course!

As a scholar, this year was one of my most productive yet. I published an essay I really love, Female Friendship in Late-Medieval English Literature: Cultural Translation in Chaucer, Gower, and Malory, in Womens Friendship in Medieval Literature, edited by Karma Lochrie and Usha Vishnuvajjala and published with Ohio State University Press. I completed and submitted final drafts of four further articles and essays and a first draft of a fifth article, and completed two edited manuscript collections, one currently in production for a summer 2023 publication and one under review, and five book reviews. With two further book projects and a chapter under contract, my monograph requested by a press upon its completion next summer, and a journal special issue under development, 2023 is already completely full so far as research and scholarship are concerned, and I am working on some further developments that could take me in some new and exciting research directions I am very excited about. 2022 also brought back the in-person conference, and while I have truly appreciated remote conference options, which I believe firmly we should continue to support for those for whom in-person remains challenging, I have to be honest that there are few things I love so much as being in the same room as other people who share my intellectual and creative interests and having those face-to-face conversations, and few things I need so much as I do those couple of nights in a hotel room away from my everyday life to recharge and reset. Excited to be off to at least two conferences in 2023!

As a teacher, I taught the Introduction to Global Gender Studies course this Fall, and what a truly fantastic and overwhelmingly humbling experience this was for me. I inherited this course from a dearly beloved professor and colleague whom I admire greatly, and I knew I couldn’t possibly fill her shoes and shouldn’t even try, so I set out to craft a new syllabus that kept some of her incredible assignments but came from my point of view. I spent much of last spring researching introductory gender studies course syllabi and finding that the vast majority of them, even when they have “global” in their titles, really mainly focus on U.S. based scholars and concerns through an American lens. Of course, for our students this is important, but I really wanted the course to reflect that “global” context. So I went beyond gender studies to look at sociology, psychology, anthropology, and cultural studies syllabi as well, and developed a truly global and interdisciplinary course that I am tremendously proud of. The experience of teaching a course so immediately relevant to students’ lived experiences and interests and from which, based on their comments throughout the semester and on the final evaluations, they also learned a tremendous amount of information they found rewarding and important was revelatory, and I learned so much in developing and offering this course that I hope will transfer to how I approach developing and teaching all of my courses regardless of subject going forward. One of the greatest things about teaching is that you never stop learning, and this was definitely one of those experiences you simply never forget and that transforms your outlook. I’m so grateful for that! In 2023, I’m teaching another new course–The Medieval World–and I’m ready to innovate and experiment with it!

2022 was definitely not all work and no play (although I have to point out that a lot of my work is a form of play for me, as a creative.) With vaccinations and masking, we definitely took advantage of the ability to attend live concerts, performances, and events again. Our eldest child competed in their final year of Robotics, and our youngest, in her first year of competition dancing, so there was a lot of proud parenting at their competitions. I watched the Six Nations tourney live in a pub, like a proper fan, for the first time in two years and we attended a few Cardinals games (because, baseball!) We saw some great concerts, including Santana and Earth, Wind and Fire, the Black Keys, Train and Jewel, Korn and Evanescence, and The Head and the Heart. We went to the Festival of Nations and several mead, beer, and whiskey tastings; attended live outdoor performances of Midsummer Night’s Dream and the Saint Louis symphony at Forest Park, and I saw Rent, Riverdance, and resumed my annual tradition of seeing The Nutcracker performed live–I don’t mind sharing that I teared up at those performances and immediately vowed that there will be much, much more live theater, dance, and opera going forward. And maybe even a return to the stage for myself–I do miss performing.

And of course, our lives are immeasurably enriched by the continued presence and love of our pets. My Raven celebrated her 16th birthday this year (which Google tells me is the equivalent of 80 in human years). she isn’t as active as she used to be but she still eats, purrs, and snuggles with all the zest of a cat half her age. So grateful she is still with us as we close out 2022!

Not bad for 80! Our beloved black cat Raven, sleeping in her favorite snoozing spot on my youngest daughter’s pillow.

Korra, our beloved corgi, continues to thrive in her agility classes and make the world a better place just by existing. I am a complete convert–I can’t imagine life without a corgi in it now! I have it on good authority that we owe Korra to Tik Tok, as my youngest daughter pestered us for years to get a corgi because of Tik Tok videos with corgis in them, and we eventually capitulated–so, thank you Tik Tok! Which is a thing I never thought I would write.

As these sorts of posts typically come across as conveying perfect, ideal lives with nary an issue or problem in sight, let me be very honest with you that there were many roadbumps. One of our cars died and we bought a new one, only to learn after a heavy rain that the sunroof drains had not been connected, oopsy-do. It was a fun couple of days of scooping the water out of the footwells in the backseat and from the trunk, then wet-vacuuming the car, then putting charcoal into the car to soak up the rest, all the while hoping to heaven it wouldn’t wind up going all moldy and that we hadn’t fried the electric board in some way because we couldn’t figure out how extensive the flooding was until we were able to get it into the shop. Thankfully, it was salvageable and no further issues arose, because I promise you we barely had the funds to cover buying this car, much less a second one. Also, car insurance does not cover flooding. GAH. Then, despite being vaccinated and extremely careful with masking everywhere in public, only attending outdoor concerts, and otherwise not being in crowded places beyond my classrooms, I contracted Covid in July, and my husband and youngest daughter also contracted it (likely from me), leading to several weeks of quarantine in this tiny, three-bedroom apartment, a deeply unfun experience for all involved. My case was the worst, and to be honest I’m still not fully recovered–it definitely did a number on my stamina and blood pressure, both of which I am still navigating. And I had some other health things that so far have turned out not to be serious (knock on wood) but that have been worrying, leading to an uptick in doctor visits and tests, which of course sends me into anxiety overload. There have been many adrenaline baths this year.

But, in the end, we’re all still here, mostly healthy, and very happy.

We closed out the year, as has been our custom, at my parents-in-law’s home on top of a mountain in the Virginia Appalachians, and as usual, my happy place did not disappoint–despite the frigid temperatures, I was able to get out for a late-afternoon hike that definitely restored my rumpled spirit. This truly is a sacred place, and how fortunate I am that I can return year after year to its restorative and inspiring peace and beauty. I will never take this for granted.

So, while it was most definitely not all happiness and sunshine and glitter and rainbows, on the whole 2022 brought more positive than negative in our lives, for which I am grateful. I hope you have also had a more good than bad year, and that 2023 brings with it possibilities and promise, hope and enjoyment, and opportunities for as much happiness as you could want.

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Black Friday Sale through Sunday 11/27: Arthurian Things is 40% off!

Hello all! Just popping in to let you know that Myth Mart is having a Black Friday sale through November 27. All titles are 40% off with the code blackfriday2022 . That means Arthurian Things is currently 40% off now through Sunday. If you’re looking for a stocking stuffer or Jolabokaflod gift for your King Arthur/ fantasy lover, consider this Elgin award nominated collection of poems!

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“The Haunted and the Possessed” now available!

If you’re not quite ready to let go of spooky season yet (or, like me, firmly believe every day is a good day for a good ghost story or tale of demonic possession–or hey, even better, why not both at once?!) check out the anthology Unwelcomed: Stories of Hauntings and Possessions, out now from Zombieworks Press. Between these covers my story “The Haunted and the Possessed” is a dark comedy among the spine-chilling tales of several talented writers brought together by Stephanie J. Bardy in this volume, now available: https://tinyurl.com/44vs4zd6

Here’s the cover:

Hope you enjoy it!

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Part 3 of “When the Elves Are Gone” now available!

If you have been reading “When the Elves Are Gone” over at World of Myth, I’m happy to share that the third and final part is now available! you can read it here: https://jayzohub.com/darkmythproductions/theworldofmyth/112/fantasy/when_the_elves_are_gone/when_the_elves_are_gone.html?fbclid=IwAR2ErKkUK3-w0L_RztIEQMG_qLBl2XQT638cal_-MCtQXJ9x_xItQAl5zls

And here are parts 1 and 2 as well:

Part 1: https://jayzohub.com/darkmythproductions/theworldofmyth/110/fantasy/when_the_elves_are_gone/when_the_elves_are_gone.html?fbclid=IwAR2ZplbjSuh6B6440HMuw07J-_GBpCFNUYXZ6jnZuWD3PBKxPnq58_axyWs

Part 2: https://jayzohub.com/darkmythproductions/theworldofmyth/111/fantasy/when_the_elves_are_gone/when_the_elves_are_gone.html

I’m really happy that the whole story is now published and out in the world. Hope someone has really enjoyed reading it, as well!

And if you’re an artist and you think this story would make a great graphic novel, now that all 3 parts have been published, developing a graphic novel edition of the story is definitely something I’d be up for . . . !

In other publishing news, I also have a poem, “Evolution of a Younger God,” now out in Issue 3 of Penumbra: https://www.hippocampuspress.com/journals/penumbra/penumbra-no.-3-2022?zenid=8c7osnu65jdlfi3jbc27mv6p94

And there are several other things in the pipeline–stories, poetry, academic articles, book reviews. It’s been a busy year! But not too busy to stop me getting out once in a while; today, for example, was a perfect autumn day at Hunter Stadium, watching the Lindenwood Lions in action with husband, child #2, and some colleagues. Our stadium is really lovely this time of year, no?

Hope your October is going well, and that you’re able to get out and enjoy the weather, especially in the northern hemisphere where the trees are at the height of their autumn glory. Bliss.

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Lost Notebooks and Second First Pages

About a year ago, I lost nearly 100 pages of drafting towards a project I had been trying to lay track for for many years, when the notebook I was writing it in went missing.

(I know, I know. In this day of The Cloud, why not just compose in Google docs? The simple answer is, often I do, but never for longform fiction. There is something deeply important for me as a writer in seeing the first draft of my own book-length fiction in my own hand. I handwrite the first draft, or large portions of it, and then type the second and subsequent revisions. Many writers share this approach. The hands have intelligence, the connection is important.)

But of course, sometimes that means a massive loss and setback on projects when the notebook goes AWOL. Usually, you mourn the loss, maybe cry a little, feel terrifically sorry for yourself, and then square your shoulders, take a deep breath, and start over. But in this case, I couldn’t bring myself to attempt to recreate what I had done. I was terrified I would screw it up, leave something out, starting all over again seemed so overwhelming. I just couldn’t find the heart even to try. Not across the board–I’ve been writing regularly ever since, completing several shorter projects without issue–but I was wholly blocked on this project.

And then, this past week, I had the sudden, intense urge to buy a new notebook and start again. The compulsion so strong, I just…had to. And this time, instead of warning me not to try because I would just screw it up, the little voice in my head acknowledged the truth of it, which is that you can’t screw up a first draft; the thing just needs to be written so you have something to work with. Or, as Anne Lamott so perfectly puts it, the first draft is merely the down draft–you get the writing down. The next and subsequent drafts are the up drafts, in which you fix up what you laid down in that “shitty first draft.”

So, here I go again. The second first page in this second attempt at a first draft for a new longform project.

Feels good. Feels familiar. Feels happy.

What about you–have you ever lost an entire first draft of something? How did you handle it?

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“When the Elves Are Gone” part two now up at World of Myth! And other writing updates

Hello!

Last month, I shared the publication journey of my short story, “When the Elves Are Gone” along with the link to the first part, published in the August issue of World of Myth magazine.

I’m happy to report that part two is now available as well! Here’s the link:

https://jayzohub.com/darkmythproductions/theworldofmyth/111/fantasy/when_the_elves_are_gone/when_the_elves_are_gone.html

And, if you like poetry more, my poem “Army Brat on Oahu, 1980-1982” was published in the Black Fox Literary Magazine 2022 summer issue, available here: https://www.blackfoxlitmag.com/current-issue/

This was an exciting publication for me, as Black Fox is one of my favorite literary magazines.

Hope you enjoy these, and don’t forget to check out the other great writers in these issues!

Beyond these recent publications, I just inked a contract for my dark humor short story, “The Haunted and The Possessed”featuring a late-night mugging endangering the life of the demon in possession of the mugged body now haunted by its former occupantwhich will appear in the anthology Unwelcome: Tales of Hauntings and Possessions, forthcoming from Zombie Works Press. I’ve just completed the draft of a poetry chapbook. And I recently finished the third in seven planned stories for a collection of tales featuring Dr. John S. Watson, the amiable and anxiety-riddled great-grandson of Dr. Watson of Sherlock Holmes fame, who finds himself in the midst of chaotic mysteries after unwittingly taking on the family business of treating the supernatural beings who help solve unsolvable crimes.

And don’t worry . . . I’m also hard at work on the scholarly things! My co-editor and I submitted what I have affectionately nicknamed “The Beast”–an edited collection entitled Ethics in the Arthurian Legend, comprising 621 pages, 175,621 words, and eighteen contributors, now safely in the possession of our publisher and on its way to production. I completed revisions on and returned to the editors a teaching essay for an upcoming issue of Year’s Work in Medievalism, and I am working on revisions to another article and a proposal for another edited collection (already completed, just need a publisher). And I’ve submitted my monograph proposal to an interested university, press, so fingers crossed!

And finally, no I’m not all work and no play! We also made time last weekend to head out to Centennial apple farm to pick apples, and you know what that means: fall baking! Here’s the recipe for the tarte aux pommes I made: https://www.thespruceeats.com/french-apple-tart-tarte-aux-pommes-2394428

And here is what it looked like before my family wolfed it down and demanded I make a second one:

tarte aux pommes

Let me spare you some grief if you decide to take my lead: make sure you get enough apples and have enough ingredients on hand for at least two tartes. You’ll need them. This thing is deeeeeeeeeeelish.

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