Skagit Valley in January with Swans


We celebrated New Year’s Day with a drive up to Skagit Valley to look for swans. It was a lovely drive – no rain, not much traffic, a good pause at Donna’s renovated Truck Stop – and yes, we found swans.

There weren’t as many this year as there had been the year before – or maybe the timing was wrong. But we did find two sizable flocks, as well as a few lone pairs flying around and grazing. I think they’re tundra swans, but not sure.

We had a pleasant lunch at a Thai restaurant – one of the few open on New Year’s Day, then walked along the river for a bit. It was pretty cold, so we didn’t stay out long. Lovely way to start the New Year!







My Eligible Stories – 2018


It looks like everyone’s publishing their “eligibility lists” of works first published this year. I have three things published this year. They’re all short stories, under 3K words.


Light and Death on the Indian Battle Station” in Fireside Magazine (2018)

Mom’s turquoise-blue saree morphed into her silver Battle Station uniform. She pulled us in for a long hug before rushing out the door. She’d be needed in the Situation Room with all the other Telepaths.

(And here’s a lovely review of the stories in this magazine on the Quick Sips blog, including one of this story.

Excerpt: “It’s about love and war and loss and bravery. And it’s also a lot of fun, taking some dark elements and still finding its way to a light and joyous end.”)


Chicken Monster Motel” in Monstrosities from Third Flatiron Publishing (2018). Also published as a podcast read by Keely Rew. (Downloadable here: )

Recent college graduate Jerry Patel wants to manage a motel. He and his boyfriend Peter visit one that’s listed for sale. But the Chicken Monster Motel is no ordinary hostelry.

The story originated in a mix of the images and ideas: Baba Yaga’s house, family relationships as children grow up, the generational changes in values among immigrants to the US. What happens with my stories is that layers of commentary get packed into a few words and an often lighthearted plot, and it can take me months or years to unpack what I’ve written. In this story, for instance, whether the mother is a supporter or enabler depends on the viewpoint.

The anthology (and this story) was reviewed in Tangent Online by Victoria Silverwolf. Her take: “…pleasant to read.”


The Churail and the Crow was published in Asian Birds and Beasts anthology  from Insignia (2018).  I’m not sure of its eligibility, though, because it builds on a flash story earlier published as “Lena” in Ruthless People’s Magazine. It’s gone from 1000 words to >2000 words, but it’s built on the same armature.

If you’re reading for awards, I’d be delighted to have mine considered.






On the Cover of Fireside, October 2018!


ETA: It’s not on the cover… but it’s still a gorgeous, perfect illustration!

ETA2: It *is* on the cover, of the E-book edition. (Fireside comes out monthly in e-book, and quarterly in print. So it’s the cover of the October e-book but not the Quarterly. See the last picture below.)

I was thrilled when Fireside accepted my story, Light and Death on the Indian Battle Station, and now it’s out.

I was *even more thrilled* to discover that my story was on the cover, with an the illustration by Saleha Chowdhury!  Thank you Fireside, and Saleha, you nailed it!

I grabbed the kid away as the thing ricocheted against the ceiling, fizzed, and exploded. “Ritika! That’s so stupid!”
But before I could scold her properly, the sound of divine footsteps echoed in the hall and inside our heads. We froze…






There Actually Are Beavers! Seattle’s Beaver Pond Natural Area


In a continuing exploration of the Thornton Creek Natural Areas, we went today to Beaver Pond. It’s actually two patches of preserved wild area in the middle of apartment buildings, homes, and office blocks. There’s  a delightful forest with a nice little trail through it, that starts on 8th near 105th, (Northeast) and across 8th. I wandered through it and saw what I think was a mountain chickadee, also two separate guys who seem to be camping there. (Later, in roadside bushes, I saw a song sparrow that was quite bold.)

Between 105th and 106th, there’s the actual beaver pond. The pond is connected to Thornton Creek via some culverts and a tiny open roadside pond – and that’s where, today, I saw a beaver, around 7 p.m.

I’d met a lady who was clearly looking for the beavers. She lived around there, I think, and had been observing them for a couple of years. It was she who pointed at this unlikely place, and said she’d seen beavers there before.

And while we were talking, and she pointed out where she’d seen them, this beaver surfaced. But before I could take a photo – it heard our voices, and went under in a swirl of water. So the photo I got is of the beaver’s wake, not really the beaver.







Pocket Jungle in Seattle – Thornton Creek


In Seattle today I wanted to go into a forest, but didn’t want to go too far. That’s how we ended up at Thornton Creek – specifically, the section called Licorice Fern natural area. It was a delightful creek valley, quite small (less than a half mile from the trail entrance to where it climbed up – via a metal ladder – to the road). But it was a veritable jungle, full of all kinds of plants at every level, and going through it felt like an adventure. Aside from a few too many insects near the actual creek, it was lovely.

It was definitely a hike, though, with paths uneven and marshy (logs and planks had been put in to help keep shoes dry) and plants trying to take advantage of the opening and obliterate the trail. I’d recommend jeans rather than shorts and long-sleeved shirts, mainly for insects.

I didn’t see many birds, though I think they’re there. One bird I heard and then saw was a Steller’s Jay, yelling its head off I guess about this hiker in its woodland. (Which may be why I didn’t see any others!) I thought I heard a woodpecker, and I found a feather which may have come from a barred owl.


“The Churail and the Crow” in Asian Birds and Beasts anthology from Insignia


There’s a new anthology in the Insignia series of Asian-flavored speculative fiction: Asian Birds and Beasts. Here’s the cover, with the same styling as the previous five anthologies. It’ll be coming out August 20th, 2018 as an ebook.

I’m thrilled that one of my stories will be in this one. Here’s the table of contents:


‘Reborn’ by Nidhi Singh

‘The Star Ball’ by Amy Fontaine

‘Raising Words’ by Stewart C. Baker

‘Apsaras’ Dance’ by Kelly Matsuura

‘Ravens’ by Russell Hemmell

‘The Azure Dragon’ Lorraine Schein

‘The Churail and the Crow’ by Keyan Bowes

‘Vermillion Nights’ by Joyce Chng

My story is a sort-of-reprint – it’s a greatly expanded version of a flash piece first published as Lena. I’ve always wanted to flesh out that story, and I’m happy it found a new home.


More of Shakespeare’s Thumbnails


Some years ago, I started an experiment – making little graphics representing each of Shakespeare’s plays in a 400-pixel square. The idea was to make an image that would represent the play to people who knew it, in a minimal way. Some are more minimal than others…

The first three, which I published on my then-Livejournal and have copied over to this blog, were Macbeth, The Merchant of Venice, and Hamlet. Those are here: Shakespeare’s Thumbnails.

Now I’m uploading a few others.


Richard III – African American Shakespeare Company


I’ve been watching the African American Shakespeare Company’s productions when I can for some years now. They used to operate out of a building on Filmore, a small intimate theater which gave a sense of being in an art theater. They no longer have that space, and this year they did Richard III, starring L. Peter Callender, in the War Memorial Opera House’s Taube Atrium theater. It’s a more traditional space, at least as it’s set up now. Tickets are $30. It attracted a pretty big audience, I think every seat was taken.

I thought I knew the play, but apparently not well enough. I found the first half a bit confusing and had trouble keeping track of who was who and what was going on exactly (though of course the broader action and themes were quite clear). It wasn’t helped by the acoustics.  After the intermission, though, it came together very well indeed, and I found it gripping.

The set included a sort of catwalk parallel to the stage edge, which, with the front of the stage, was the area of action. The setting was projected onto a back screen and a movable screen mounted on this catwalk, so scene changes were effortless… a picture of a stone wall representing the tower, a palace interior, and outdoors sunset scene for the battlefield. The ghosts that appear to Richard and to Richmond the night before the battle were in video projected on these screens.

I tried to take a photograph of the first scene to include in this blog, but the ill-mannered woman sitting next to me slapped down my hand. I’m not clear why. The announcement had prohibited flash photography and video, but I was doing neither. Anyway, I didn’t pursue it. It wasn’t that important. (The picture I’ve included is the latest in my “Shakespeare’s thumbnails” series.)

For me, the standout performance was that of Queen Margaret (played by Beli Sullivan), the widow of the late king Henry VI. Her fury and curses  formed the backbone of the play, even though she actually appears in few scenes. In fact, something about the production tilted the emphasis toward the royal women: Queen Margaret; the Duchess of York, the mother of the Edward IV, George Duke of Clarence, and Richard III who caused the death of both his brothers; Queen Elizabeth, the widow of Edward IV and mother of the murdered princes; and Anne, daughter-in-law of Henry VI and later Richard III’s reluctant wife. Their stories carried the real emotion of the play.

All in all, a worthwhile evening.

Wiscon 42 is Over – 2018


As usual, Wiscon became a whirlwind of panels, friends, conversations, activities. I took notes at some of the panels I attended (and may add them to this post later).

On Saturday, I joined a group for a reading at Michelangelo’s. I read my currently unpublished story, The Liverwood Conspiracy. Cath Schaff Stump made this poster to let people know about our reading.

At a panel I didn’t get to (I’d planned to, but in the end couldn’t make it), there was a kerfuffle when one of the panelists expressed compassion for Nazis. (The Third Reich ones, not the current day wannabes.) I was impressed by how quickly Wiscon reacted to manage the situation.

The Tiptree auction was a hoot. I always attended when Ellen Klages was the auctioneer in a spirit of stand-up comedy, and after she retired, the role was taken over by Sumana Harihareswara. Sumana’s made it her own, and it was a lot of fun. Best item: An inflatable pink vinyl fish skeleton, where the bidding started at $2 and made it to… I don’t recall: $200?

The Guest of Honor speeches were wonderful. Saladin Ahmed spoke about his grandmother, who was an activist, matriarch, and the heart of the family. (His speech is posted to his Patreon page, here.)  Tananarive Due spoke of Afrofuturism, activism, and literature as a way of fighting for a better world – together with regular activism. (That speech is on Youtube.)

Look forward to next year!

First Day at Wiscon 2018


Here I am, at Wiscon 42! Yesterday, I met with a friend who’s moved from the Bay Area to Madison, where the lower cost of living allows for a transition from biotech to full-time writing. We had a pleasant dinner and ended up in a smoke shop run by a delightfully nerdy guy who stocked some splendid glass and fabric art. (There were dragons. And a Rick and Morty version of a thangka.)

Today was the Wiscon kick-off with the guest of honor readings at the wonderful bookstore, Room of One’s Own. Unfortunately, Tananarive Due couldn’t be there because between her teaching schedule at UCLA and the flights from the West Coast, she’d need a time-turner. Saladin Ahmed was there, though, and gave a warm and self-deprecating introduction. Then he read a short story that was a comical yet moving play on the Indiana Jones trope.

After the reading and the Q&A, I wandered around the bookstore for a while. It’s the kind of place I’d love to be accidentally locked into for the night – room after room, filled with carefully selected books. As I was leaving, I saw a copy of Rati Mehrotra’s book, Markswoman, in the wild. (I already have a copy, so didn’t buy it. It’s an Asian-flavored fantasy with some marvelous world-building and good characters, and I enjoyed it a lot.)


Power, Beauty, Qing Dynasty at Minneapolis Institute of Art


A friend recently took me to an amazing exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia). It was called Power and Beauty in China’s Last Dynasty, and the concept and design were by Robert Wilson.

What was special was that the display was presented as a series of 10 rooms, each one themed to a particular experience with the wall coverings, especially composed music, and customized lighting. It started in a darkened room painted all black, displaying one perfect – black – vase. It was meant as a space for meditation, and the music was punctuated by what sounded like a falling pencil, but I was later told was Wilson himself dropping a chopstick.

The next room was wallpapered with a customized design of evenly-spaced precious objects such as vases and pins and other beautifully-made luxury products. In a chicken-wire enclosed space, the pictured objects were displayed in the center of the room.  Room 3 was a display of court robes, including the emperor’s own robe. They were exquisitely woven and embroidered. I am into textiles and textile art, so I spent some time just trying to understand the artistry and techniques here.

Room 4, painted a dull blue, had a glass case with a 2000-year-old bronze statue representing the common man. He faced the Emperor’s throne in Room 5, painted red with a dramatic and fearsome dragon. This might have been my favorite room.

The rooms on either side had religious art – Buddhist on one side, with five statues; and Daoist on the other with three hanging scrolls in a darkened room that represented a cave.

Room 8 was a contrast, representing the decorative role of women. In a room lined with silvered mylar, the central display was of more gorgeous robes, head-dresses, and furniture.

It also had a pair of “lotus” shoes that went on a woman’s bound feet. A little child’s coat, delicately embroidered, was a reminder that the children also lived in this environment of beauty and constraint.


The next room, Mountains of the Mind, contrasted mountains carved of jade with a custom wallpaper that at first glance looked like the spectacular limestone mountains of Guilin (which I’ve actually seen, many years ago). But on a second look, the mountains are made up of apartment blocks, office towers, and factories, some functional, others dilapidated.

The brochure for the exhibition suggests that mountains represent the divine and spiritual in China, and the idea of retreating to the simplicity of the mountains was a dream of courtiers and Emperors. The wallpaper seemed to contrast that idea with the impacts of economic progress and perhaps the opposing dream of material prosperity.

At the center of the room was a glass case with a simply exquisite very long scroll, apparently woven of silk and enhanced with paint and maybe embroidery. I pored over that for a long time.

The final room I found anti-climactic. Set up in contrast to the darkness of the first room, the idea was “Lightness” and it was painted white with bright even lighting. A single exquisite white jade vase was on “display.” I put display in quotes, because it was behind what seemed to be lightly frosted glass, and was high above my head. I could barely see it; it was like a ghost of a vase. Which was a shame, because by the picture in the brochure, its detailed carving is part of its beauty.

Birds, Fighting


Recently, I was reminded that birds are descended from dinosaurs. It’s easy to imagine pterosaurs mixing it up after watching birds attacking other birds…


I’ve often watched crows harassing owls and hawks, using their maneuverability to stay out of reach. Usually the larger bird’s trying to get away while the crow chases it.

But the other day, I saw a crow harassing a gull. The gull was about as nimble as the crow, so instead of a pursuit,  it became an aerial dogfight, with the gull after the crow as often as the other way around.

It went on for quite a while before the gull dropped down to a rooftop.


I was visiting friends in Minneapolis in their lovely lakeside home. We were sitting on the dock at sunset, when we heard series of loud harsh squawks. It was a great blue heron perched in a tree, being attacked by an osprey.

We watched the osprey diving at the heron, the heron trying to spear the osprey (with sound effects). At first we thought the osprey was after a nest, but no, when the squawking heron gave up defending itself and took off across the lake, the fighter plane osprey followed it. They landed in the trees across the lake, and we lost sight of them. (And I didn’t even think to take pictures…)

When I googled it, it turns out the ospreys do attack herons, though I’m not clear if as prey or as rivals.

A Strange Moth in Seattle


I was hanging out in someone’s backyard on a recent afternoon when I noticed some tiny moths flying around. One settled on a small tree, and I got a photograph.

And because the internet is wonderful, sitting right there I could search for a match on my phone. It’s Oecophora bractella, a European moth that seems to have established a population locally. It was first seen in the US in Seattle in 1998. It lives on decaying wood and fungus. That seems right; a tree was cut down in this yard a few years ago, and the logs are still there, gradually decaying.

Listen to ‘Chicken Monster Motel’ Podcast


My story, Chicken Monster Motel, was recently published in Third Flatiron’s anthology, Monstrosities. Now they’ve published a podcast, which you can listen to over here:

There’s also an interview with me:

Thanks, Third Flatiron!

The Mystery Nest Demystified


The other day, in Seattle, I saw a woven nest hanging in a bare tree. It wasn’t very high off the ground, but probably when the tree was in leaf, the nest would be well hidden.

It was quite large, and I wondered what kind of bird made it. Had it been in India, I’d have suspected some kind of weaver bird. But in Seattle? My usually reliable Google-fu failed me. So I posted the picture on Facebook.

One of my FB friends came back with a prompt reply: Bushtit. (Thanks, Rebecca!)

That’s these cute little birds, about 3.5 inches long.

Bushtit in Glen Canyon, San Francisco. (c) Janet Kessler

Bushtit – Copyright Janet Kessler

(Click on the photo to go to more bushtit photos by urban wildlife photographer Janet Kessler – and the context for this photograph.)

Skagit Valley at Tulip Time


A few years ago, someone took me to Skagit Valley, Washington State, at tulip time. (It’s usually the whole month of April – though this year they think it will continue into the first week of May, 2018).  Last Saturday, I took someone else to Roozengaarde, one of the two major flower farms in the valley. It was spectacular.

We chose Roozengaarde over Tulip Town (next time!) for two reasons – it’s open later, upto 7 pm compared to 5pm for Tulip Town; and it has a brilliant display garden. They mix different types of tulips in every color.
Tulip bed in Roozengaarde display garden 2018

Then we walked around the fields – each one planted in a different color. That’s where they get the bulbs you can order from their catalog for Fall delivery. They appear in bands of color.

It was overcast, even drizzly on Saturday, which made for dramatic skies.

The paths were *so* muddy, it was one step at a time – especially the paths that were not graveled. They’re like clay slip (emphasis on “slip”).

The kids were having a great time, though. One dad was trying to be careful not to get his toddler’s feet wet. Kid stared thoughtfully at a puddle, and stomped in it. Then she did it again. He scooped her up, but unless he was going to carry her the whole way, that kid had many puddles in her future. Overheard from another little girl: “I’m mudskating!”

There were visitors from all over, especially from Asia. (I guess Europeans can find tulip fields closer home!)

The most unusual flower I saw was a  giant orange variety of tulips.

I didn’t think they were very pretty, but they were certainly dramatic. That boot is in the picture for a size comparison!

Revived my Archived Blog


Like many other writers, I killed my LiveJournal when it went into Russian hands and had terms and conditions in Russian. Unlike many other writers, I didn’t move my archive to Dreamwidth – and of course regretted it. Today, LiveJournal sent me a message allowing me to revive my acount. So I did, and set up an account on Dreamwidth, and brought my archive over. I had posts starting from 2007, including all my posts about Clarion.

So here’s the link for the Dreamwidth archive. I still need to fix the internal links, many of which link to LiveJournal. But at least all those entries still exist.

Ten Things That Changed in Ten Years – The Speculative Fiction World


Ten things that I’ve noticed have changed in the last ten years:

1. Nearly every major market now accepts electronic submissions. (The Big Three were paper-only until just a few years ago, prompting this essay by John Scalzi in 2009.)

2. It’s so easy now to write and submit (in a physical sense) that there are thousands of writers out there. For short-story magazines, an acceptance rate of under 1%  is not unusual. (It used to be much higher.) Most magazines now have “reading periods” or “submission windows” during which they accept story submissions, so that they’re not deluged continually and have a chance to clear the backlog.

3. The converse of that is, even if you’re a good writer, rejections are usually a lot more common than acceptances, even with semi-pro magazines. (The Science Fiction Writers of America uses 6 cents/ word as a cut-off for “professional” rates. Below that is “semi-pro”, token payments, or “for the love” meaning no payment at all.

4. With a low cost-barrier to entry for an on-line magazine, there are a lot of small markets. Many of which are single-person efforts. Some of them evaporate quickly, others survive for years and get quite well-known.

5. For novels, Amazon has been a complete game-changer. The stigma against self-publishing has evaporated, with Amazon and e-publishing being a possible route to success. (Self-publishing short story singles except tied into a novel series is mostly pointless.)

6. With the advent of successful e-publishing of novels, the series cycle is much tighter. The conventional wisdom used to be that you should aim for one novel a year in a series, because that’s what publishers want. Now, according to successful self-published novelist Annie Bellet, you ideally want one a month. Or hold off until you have six books ready to go, so you benefit from reader momentum.

7. People are always trying to game sales algorithms, and the owners of those algorithms are always fighting the games. This means the rules continually shift, and non-gamers can get caught in the cross-fire.

8. In traditional publishing, just selling a book doesn’t mean you’ve made it. Publishers are more and more impatient with books that don’t take off. They may cancel a series that’s selling, just not as well as they’d hoped.

9. TV possibilities may exist even for short stories, and definitely exists for novels series.

10. Podcasts are no longer a marginal medium, and are increasingly interesting.

Anyone with further thoughts – your comments?

“Chicken Monster Motel” in Monstrosities Anthology


My story, Chicken Monster Motel, is being published in the Monstrosities Anthology… and it’s got cover art! (Thank you, Juli and Keely!)

I love the table of contents – those titles! I’m so looking forward to reading the other stories. It’s coming out in March 2018, and you can preorder it on Amazon now if you want. (When I looked, it was priced at about $5 for the e-book.)



Chicken Monster Motel by Keyan Bowes
Five Billion Pounds of Soul by Larry Hodges
Sacrifice Needed, Alcohol Provided by Carl R. Jennings
#Notalltigers by Mark Pantoja
The Doomsday Machine Retires by Ray Daley
Alien TV Shows Are Bad for Your Eyes by Brian Trent
Got Them Wash Day Blues by James Dorr
This Tyrant Crown by Liam Hogan
The Great Mall by Salinda Tyson
Skywalker by Jennifer R. Povey
Eaten by Ville Meriläinen
Into Xibalba by Sita C. Romero
The Emerald Mirage by Martin M. Clark
TidBits by Sharon Diane King
The Catacombs of Constitutional History by Julia August

Grins & Gurgles (Flash Humor)
New Shoes by Robert Bagnall
Kismet by Barry Charman
They Saw Me Coming by Russell Hemmell
Bigger and Better Things by Joseph Sidari

Plus a special reprint by Edward Bryant.