New Year, New Bird 2020

(In which I ramble on and on about how much I love…)

My first bird of the new year is…

the Blue Jay!!!

I love Blue Jays, I think they’re so sassy. Like Mockingbird level sassy.

And they’re part of the corvid family.

In addition to being determined, brave, and curious, the blue jay is also associated with truthfulness, honesty.

Honesty has been a big personal theme for me over the last few months. I was in a bad slump and I had to take a hard look at myself and get brutally honest with how I want to proceed with the rest of my life. Dramatic, I know. But necessary.

The Blue Jay is a good reminder for me to keep striving for positive change.

When I woke up this morning the first bird I thought I would see and expected to see was a Robin. Tons of them have been hanging out in my front yard recently. But the Blue Jay snagged the title this year. They are a pretty common sight year round at my house.

The second bird I saw was a female Cardinal. One half of the mated pairs in my back yard was killed by something a few weeks ago so it was nice to see another female today.

Bring it on, 2020!

*

Photo by Faye Cornish on Unsplash

Things I Read Aug. Through Dec. 2019

Books. Novellas. Short Stories. Scholarly Articles.

Fifteen Hours: Mitchel Scanlon

Knee Deep: Mitchel Scanlon

Death World: Steve Lyons

The Thing About Shapes to Come: Adam-Troy Castro

Seven Wonders of a Once and Future World: Caroline M. Yoachim

Ruby Slippers: Susan Wade

The Naturalist: Maureen F. McHugh

Serious Moonlight #2: The Razor Thin Edge: JG Cain

Broken: Maya Goode

Redemption Through Sacrifice: Justin Woolley

Made in Abyss vol. 1-6: Akihito Tsukushi

Dark Son: Gav Thorpe

Void Crossed: JC Stearns

The Curse of Shaa-dom: Gav Thorpe

Left for Dead: Steve Lyons

The Strong Among Us: Steve Lyons

Phoenix Rising: The Gift of Hope: Andy Clark

Sabriel: Garth Nix

Half a King: Joe Abercrombie

Pretty Pretty Boys: Gregory Ashe

Transposition: Gregory Ashe

Paternity Case: Gregory Ashe

Off Duty: Gregory Ashe

Battle Angel Alita: Last Order vol 1-2: Yukito Kishiro

Red Lanterns vol. 1-3: Peter Milligan, Miguel Sepulveda, Ed Benes, Rob Hunter

Daughter of the White River: Depression-Era Treachery & Vengeance in the Arkansas Delta: Denise White Parkinson

Favorites

Novella: Fifteen Hours: Mitchel Scanlon

Manga: Made in Abyss: Akihito Tsukushi (seriously cried for HOURS)

Short Story: The Naturalist: Maureen F. McHugh

Miscellaneous Comments

I didn’t read a lot of “deep” literary masterpieces this half of the year (or maybe I did depending on your point of view). My brain wasn’t in it. I needed my comfort literature. Which is Warhammer 40K. Because.

But I have to say my favorite novel of this half of the year is Pretty Pretty Boys by Gregory Ashe, and not just because it’s fresh on my mind because I just finished reading it. This is a self-published book and it is phenomenal. The writing is excellent, the characters are extremely tangible and well developed. The plot pacing and mystery execution are very well done (I’m not an expert by any means in the genre and I can’t tell “good” device formula from a hole in the ground).

But most importantly, this book grabbed me by the collar and shook me very hard. I had to stop and take a break for a minute. I think I even had a nightmare. Because this book also deals with very heavy themes. Bullying, suicide, hate crimes, persecution. It takes serious skill to blend real-world issues with a genre and not have them come together superficially or tacky. I love it when books can grab me in these visceral ways when I’m not expecting it. Ashe is well worth your time. Seriously. Good stuff.

And to the amazing Maureen F. McHugh: a friend of mine and I agree, there needs to be more of The Naturalist. What’s his story? What happened to him? He needs a book all to himself. Thanks.

Blood Tree Literature

Had some brand new words published last month at Blood Tree Literature. I wrote this poem while I was at my last job. A lot about that experience hurt my feelings.

Check out Issue 6, there’s some seriously awesome writing inside. I’m so grateful and honored to share space with these amazing writers and artists.

Thank you so much!!!

*

Photo Credit: Blood Tree Literature

Birding Life List

I am an amateur birder. I know next to nothing about birds but I’m hoping to get lots of practice next year and get better experience. For now, here’s my paltry and very sparse Life List.

Began April 27, 2017:

American Robin

American Crow

Boreal Chickadee

Blue Jay

Brown-headed Cowbird

Carolina Chickadee

Common Grackle

Common Ground-Dove

Cooper’s Hawk (love that dappled, cream colored belly)

Downy Woodpecker

European Starling

House Sparrow

Killdeer

Mississippi Kite

Northern Cardinal

Northern Flicker

Northern Mockingbird

Red-Tailed Hawk

Red-Winged Blackbird

Rock Pigeon

Rose-Breasted Grosbeak (my spark bird)

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher

Tufted Titmouse

Turkey Vulture

My mother-in-law snapped this picture. Gorgeous Greater Roadrunner.

Bucket List

1. Get a job I don’t hate.

2. Find the scariest haunted house EVER.

3. Do an escape room.

4. Get an RV and travel across the country.

5. Get a boat and live on the river.

6. Go to Comicon.

7. Go to Dragoncon.

8. Have nice cosplay ideas for 6 and 7.

9. Cultivate a yoga practice.

10. Learn Tai Chi.

11. Meditate regularly.

12. PUBLISH MY BOOKS.

13. Visit the Grand Canyon.

14. Be a better birder.

15. See all the birds on my Life List.

15. Learn how to sing. Like, properly sing, not in-the-car-sing.

16. Write a crown of sonnets (sonnet corona) and do it properly…following all the rules…(kill me).

17. Learn how to ballroom dance.

18. Go to a ball and wear a big, floppy princess dress.

19. Grow my hair long. The last time I had long hair was in 1997.

20. Learn how to play a musical instrument and play at shows with all my favorite artists.

21. Join a prestigious writing association.

22. Hitchhike or just walk across the country. Or live in my car.

23. Become an “extreme” minimalist.

24. Be invited to talk about poetry at AWP.

25. Have one of my books nominated for a Locus, Nebula, or Hugo. Just the nomination, I don’t have to win, just tell me you love me.

Reindeer Monster

I’m at my in-laws’ house for Thanksgiving and Mr. J’s mom wanted to put her Christmas tree up early and have us decorate it together. As I was passing her the ornaments (I do not decorate trees–I will hand you things and stand there being helpful, but I do not decorate) I found this strange triangle-shaped creature.

Me: Neat.

Mr. J’s Mom: Mr. J. made that when he was a kid.

Me: Oh, okay. Some kind of upside down monster…

Mr. J’s Mom: It’s a reindeer!

*

Happy 1st of December Everyone!

The Librarian: Short Story

(for Suzie, my best librarian friend)

THE big table makes you look smaller than you are. Like a little morsel, a macaroon, a petit four alone on a dinner plate. You twitch, fidget. You curl your spine protectively over your phone screen despite the towers of books that surround you. Ponderous tombs of science, philosophy, and madness.

The World Atlas Extraordinaire sits on a stand older than this building next to you, propped open to the Pacific Islands, resplendently corralled by the cartography of the currents, dancing whorls of sacred scarification.

Each time the door slides open your eyes dart around in your skill like scared rabbits. You’re looking toward the door now; the shining glass, the herald of the morning sun. You are waiting for someone.

I like to pretend you’re waiting for me—but the girl walks in. (Besides, I’m already here.) The girl with the navy blue sweatshirt and hair the color of milky oil sliding off a dead whale. Her face is younger than mine. Of course, she is younger. All of you are. Her uniform skirt bisects her thighs perfectly, exposing her beautifully formed knee caps and the lacy pattern of veins and arteries flowing under her skin. Her sock-less feet are so dainty that her sneakers could easily be mistaken for ballet slippers.

She should be a ballerina with long, tangled hair. But she is a student and so are you. But you are not wearing a uniform. What day is it? Sunday? Monday? Where is the nearest school?

More importantly, what time is it? It must be near Lunchtime. I’m beyond famished. Even when I eat Breakfast and Second Breakfast I’m still a bottomless pit.

She sits as you stand. You do not hug like I expected you to but you do touch her shoulder as you lean over her chair. You ask her if she needs anything. She doesn’t. She pulls out a notebook and her headphones from her pink polka-dotted tote bag. (I have a bag too but it is not made out of polka-dots.) You walk away and she begins to scribble viciously across her blank page, her ears full of music I cannot hear.

Maybe she is a poet. Poets are delicious. They taste like burnt sugar and apricot pipe tobacco. (As opposed to artists, who usually taste like soggy, fermented herbs.)

When you return her head is bowed as if in prayer and your arms are bursting with books. Paris, Venice. Belgium, Madrid.

Travel or History?

What war, if any?

What’s your poison?

And why ignore the atlas? It’s been sitting right next to you the whole time. Just like I have. Surely maps are not obsolete. I know GPS exists now-a-days but you need more than travel diaries to travel. You have to know how to get where you want to go before you even think about going there. (I speak from personal experience, of course, but rarely does anyone listen to me…listen and survive, anyway…moving on.)

She plucks her headphones out of her ears and gives you one of the most dazzling smiles I have ever seen one human give to another. Her pink-frosted lips form the shape of the softest thankyou I have read anywhere, on paper or on flesh.

Maybe you’re planning to run away together. She’s already ready. Her tote has extra clothes and a very sharp knife hidden at the bottom (a gift from an overprotective mother, no doubt. Mothers should be overprotective). And you look like you have the money to buy anything else you two might need for a—what is it called? Funny, after all this time I still don’t know your words for it.

Getaway? Suicide?

When you only live from one meal to the next? No worrying about where to sleep, what to see next? Vacation?

No, you will have nothing to go back to. When you leave it will be for forever. Your family will disown you, will harry you through the halls and hedgerows, mazes and ballrooms and strip the skin from your sorry carcass if you ever return—no wait, that’s me. Not you. Sorry.

I’ve been living from one meal to the next without worrying about where I will sleep or what I will see next, unless it’s food. I eat food, dream food. I always look for food. But my version of you abandoned me long ago.

How long will you wait before you change your mind and leave her?

Good thing you’ll never find out. You’ll never get the chance to betray her. As you sit and study the geography of possibility I creep closer.

The shadows ebb and flow around your feet.

She doesn’t have time to dig out her knife.

(Copyright 2019 by Jessica Halsey)

The Librarian isn’t interested in working today. Don’t bother her.

*

The Librarian (short story) copyright 2019 Jessica Halsey

Photos by Oladimeji Odunsi on Unsplash