The Lion and the Aardvark Available in the UK

The Lion and the AardvarkJust a quick note today to let you know that copies of The Lion and The Aardvark (Aesop’s Modern Fables) have been spotted on bookstore shelves in the UK.

I’ll have more information about when this tome will be available in the U.S. soon, or you can check the publisher website at www.stoneskinpress.com/ for updates.



Success! Page Proofs for “The Button”

My next Lovecraftian tale, following “The Dig,” is titled “The Button.” This is a very special tale, not only because readers voted on the type of disaster story I would write, but because I had the ability to twist the idea of nuclear holocaust into unmentionable shapes with a more traditional Lovecraftian voice.

Here’s an excerpt:

    There was something else, though, another impolite description he used
    that so unsettled my contemporary sensibilities I’m surprised I forgot his
    condescension. He had watched me, he said, and knew that I, like others of
    my weakened kind, were not strong enough to withstand curiosity’s siren
    call, just like Eve all those eons ago.

    I do not view myself to be a modern-day Eve bent on betraying Adam.
    (Though, in my case, I suppose my expertise as a nuclear physicist would
    frighten any Roman man, imagined, fish-like, or not.) Newsflash for ye olde
    fish god priest: if Eve hadn’t taken a bite out of that apple, then Adam surely
    would have, and no woman should ever feel punished for the arrangement
    of her chromosomes.

    Ah, but what do the trappings of our society matter now, when I should
    be focusing on this button? Haven’t I already bitten that luscious apple?
    Don’t I already know a way out of this predicament?

Can’t wait to share the finished version with you!

New Short Story Release: The Dig at Lovecraft eZine

Lovecraft eZine Issue 19 November’s issue of The Lovecraft eZine features a sordid tale of madness and persistence penned by yours truly. Titled “The Dig,” this is a gender-neutral story about a person and something (or someone) known only as “It.”

You can read and listen to The Dig for free online.

If you have an eReader, there is an Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook version you can download straight to your device. That format is not free, however, and requires payment of the monetary sort.

I do hope you’ll drop by and experience this particular tale, for sometimes. . . Well, it’s not always a good idea to listen to the voices you hear inside your head — is it?

Happy Reading!

Seriously, Ladies. A Discussion About Clothes.

Shiva Final Fantasy X Avatar

Writing The Red Door has forced me to examine feminist issues I normally take for granted. There are a few pieces, like sexuality, which are embedded beneath the plot. Or, in other words, it’s not a story about feminist issues but I felt forced to address them because of the story. And that, as they say, is all I’ll say about the writing portion.

One of the issues that came up is the difference between what we, women, feel we have to do to make ourselves attractive to the opposite (or even same) sex in a traditional sense. And, on the flip side, what we stereotype or envision our potential partner feels is attractive.

Sexuality? Really? Yes, really. This is often where I feel the arguments for/against make-up, for/against dressing in revealing clothes, for/against wearing something other than sweat pants all day comes into play. And, many times, it’s based on stereotypes of mate attraction rather than what women really dress up for. It’s a fascinating issue, really, which is part of why I’m exploring this with you today. (Please understand, too, that I’m *trying* my best to not define a woman’s sexuality as “just” woman-man here. I may not have succeeded in all concepts, so forgive me.)

When I was younger, sure, there was the recommended attire to go out to a bar. Girls would wear the black body suits and tight jeans; the guys would wear flannel or polos. Sometimes I went with the flow; often I didn’t. Now-a-days it’s the daily wear of Ugg boots with the sweat pants or tights tucked in and the baggy sweatshirts and the variety of 80s or vintage attire — but almost always, almost always, clothing had something to do with how visible one was to a potential mate and what social tier/group/class you belonged to. For me, the only uniform I have now is the one I put on because I want to. (Once I figured that out, it was very freeing to be able to do that in all situations.) Mind you, I still consider myself to love fashion, perhaps even more than most, because if I gotta wear clothes, might as well like and appreciate ‘em — especially the ones I feel look good on me.

As I write this story, I’m also exploring the possibility that for some? Clothing is also worn as a shield to avoid getting hit on, to be protected from potential threats. (For example, when I used to drive alone at night, I’d often wear a baseball cap to hide the fact I was female.) In some cases, yes, women are afraid and I think it’s something that isn’t really talked about very often. I feel this underlying fear is what’s causing new and interesting discussions of sexual harassment — sometimes at cons, sure, but also at work and whatnot. How scary is it, after all, to be in a position where you could die if you didn’t abort and be told that you have no control over your own body? (That happened not too long ago, too.) How frightening to think that you’ll be labeled a whistle-blower and unhireable because you didn’t want to constantly hear about how tight your abs were? Or how big your boobs were? Or how you weren’t attractive enough?

I have to wonder if the issue is exacerbated by the social acceptance that comes from sexy women’s attire/poses often lauded in the media. We see people whose careers are based on how in shape they are; so many believe that they have to be them in order to be attractive or desirable. (Which isn’t realistic at all.) So some women just give up after a while because they don’t have to dress up anymore; they have a husband or wife, right? They had the career and maybe they’re working-from-home now. (Mind you, what clothing women wear is cultural, too, depending upon where you live in the country and in the rest of the world.) Well, they got their “mate” and now they don’t have to dress to impress anymore. Or maybe they’re too tired to always dress up or nicely (a sign of depression/low self-esteem in some cases). Or they can’t afford good-fitting clothes. Or they are too proud to fit their current body shape.

The idea that clothing is worn specifically to attract a mate is very interesting to me from a storytelling perspective. We’ve lost a lot of other “mating rituals” over the past century. I think one of the ones that survived is the “ring” in the sense that it’s a promise of a deeper commitment, but there really isn’t anything outside of that to my recollection and even that’s not a requirement anymore. Still, wearing an outfit “to” signal you’re available fascinates me — because that’s assuming a LOT about women and a LOT about potential partners, too — especially since the “rules” of what’s proper to wear are so relaxed now. Remember, jeans started out as tent material and were only worn on farms. Sweatpants were for sweatin’ in. Not anymore!

Makes you think, doesn’t it? Why women wear what we do and how it relates to what we feel about ourselves, the Tango of Looooove, and social pressure? Be interesting to hear your thoughts, below. If we get a good discussion going, I’ll follow-up with another post about this.

Cheers!

    Mood: Back hurty.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Caffeinatin’ on up!
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: A walk. Some necessary housework.
    In My Ears: Body Paint from the Buffy soundtrack.
    Game Last Played: Dragon Age: Origins
    Movie Last Viewed: Spiderman the new one.
    Latest Artistic Project: In progress!
    Latest Release: “Fangs and Formaldehyde” from the New Hero anthology through Stone Skin Press

On This All Hallows Eve, For You a Free Tale

Provided just for you, dear Readers, is an atmospheric tale to get you in the mood for Halloween. May your trick-or-treating yield fantastic results, and may the spirits be kind. . .

A Different Kind of Treat

Written by Monica Valentinelli

Blood-red shafts of sunlight filter through a dirty cabin window, kissing a row of colorful glass bottles. One by one the bottles shine with anticipation as they reveal their grisly contents. Three eyes spin in a green flask; a pair of wings beats urgently in another.

“What’s that, Momma?” A child’s finger points to a jar of wrinkled entrails sitting high on a kitchen shelf. The boy, who stands about three feet tall, is covered in dust and flour. His skin is marred with muddy blisters.

Halloween Night | Courtesy of sxc.hu“Oh nothing special, Alwin,” Belinda replies airily as she pulls a frilly apron over her head. “Just something I cook with now and again. You hungry?”

“Want candy.” Alwin rubs his bloated stomach. “Chocolate, ‘specially.”

The witch flashes him a crooked grin and picks a small book off the burnished wood counter. Has it really been a year since she last made her favorite recipe? Lately, it seems like all of her time has been devoted to nursing Alwin. No matter what she gives him — cinnamon, tincture of licorice or willow bark roots — nothing seems to help him get any better.

“Maybe I missed something,” Belinda whispers as she scans through the book. Her gnarled fingers turn the pages gingerly, as if each leaf of paper is a cherished family heirloom.

“What’s this, momma?”

Belinda rolls her eyes. She has to concentrate and she can’t think if he keeps talking. Of course he’s lonely, but there’s nothing she can do about that. Born under a harvest moon, Alwin’s only friends were the ravens that often circled the skies above their cabin. His insatiable curiosity was the only thing the witch didn’t like about him. Still, empathy was never her strong suit. He was dying and she wasn’t sure her magic could cure him.

“What’s what, honey?”

“This.” Alwin shows her a fistful of waxy hair. “It’s from my head.”

Belinda’s paper-thin lips crumple into a disapproving scowl. She can’t afford to babysit Alwin while she mixes and measures the necessary ingredients for tonight’s confection. Either he’s going to help her in the kitchen, or she needs to find something else for him to do. Thinking quickly, the witch pulls a red bottle off a shelf. “Just put those strands in here and we’ll figure out where they belong later.”

Alwin ignores her and yanks more hair from his crusty scalp.

“ALWIN!”

Dark splotches bloom all over Alwin’s pasty neck; the witch now knows for sure what they mean. Her last spell was a total failure. Thinking quickly, she tries something else, and asks: “Why don’t you grab your costume?”

Alwin runs around the room in a circle chanting at the top of his lungs. “Trick-or-treat. Smell my feet. Give me something good to eat.”

Belinda crosses her bony arms and regards him sternly. She has to get him out of her hair, does she have the heart to kill him? The boy doesn’t have that much time left, but she still feels responsible for him.

“You can collect some firewood for the oven first.”

The witch knows the boy won’t stray very far from the cabin. If the trees and the corn fields don’t confuse him, the owls will. Just last night, Belinda had awakened to the sound of a screeching owl perched above his bed. It was as if the entire forest not only knew what Alwin was, they were eager to share the secret. Lost in her thoughts, Belinda barely hears her son’s whimpering plea.

“Outside, momma. Outside.” Alwin moans softly.

Leaning forward, Belinda looks at him straight in his copper-colored eyes. “Do you think you’ll back by supper?”

“Yes, momma.”

The witch knows Alwin won’t last that long. His skin is crumbling and his fingers are starting to dry out. If that isn’t bad enough — he’s beginning to reek of mold.

To take her mind off of Alwin’s predicament, Belinda turns back to her favorite recipe. She can’t help but smile as she gathers the proper ingredients and dumps them into her cauldron: tiny snails, fat slugs, pumpkin seeds, a virgin’s eyes.

Dropping a pulsing heart into the thickening dough, Belinda stirs it once, twice, three times. “This’ll turn out right this time, I just know it.”

Alwin pulls a rubber mask over his crumbling face. “Can I help?”

“Not this time, Alwin, but you can watch Berthold rise.”

“Who’s Berthold? Is it candy?”

“No, he’s a different kind of treat, Alwin. The kind that’ll stay fresh forever.”

“Sounds tasty, Momma.”

Belinda licks her lips. “Oh, I hope so, Alwin. I hope so.”

© Copyright 2010

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