I need lip balm, so I bought the supplies for making it

I *may* have been online a little too late last night and bought $100 of supplies for making body butter and lip balm. (Mango butter base, shea butter base, beeswax, rosehip seed oil, little containers.) This *may* be related to the fact that my skin was so dry and itchy yesterday that I basically stomped into the bedroom and demanded that Kevin drop everything he was doing and slather my back with lotion.

I complained throughout the slathering about Chicagoland (which I love) having both bitterly dry winters and miserably humid summers. Excuse me, I must stop this posting now so I can go re-apply more lip balm, which is apparently all I do these days.

This is my life now. I am a a machine for applying lip balm.

(On the plus side, new essential oils have arrived, and I am dying to try those scents. Ginger. Clove bud. Rosewood. I am going to do a soap with ginger / clove / cinnamon and call it Amma’s Kitchen.)

(It’s sort of funny that I am fine smelling like ginger, but I don’t want to smell like garlic. :-))


I’m not over my cold, and I want to garden

I keep thinking I’m over this cold and I start doing stuff and nope, not over it yet, hello another evening of exhausted couch-sitting. Just driving home from teaching made me want to fall down when I walked in the door. Bah, humbug.

I’ve just given up on any hopes that I’ll be able to do 2-3 hours of heavy yard work with the break in the weather, and grudgingly signed up to try Task Rabbit. I will grumpily watch someone else clear up my garden, while I sit my butt in a comfy chair and try to write the last two scenes of my Wild Cards story. Pfui. Want to garden!


SLF art contest

Hey, artists — the SLF is having a little art contest, to choose our signature artwork for the next year! It comes with a $500 prize, which I know isn’t a lot, but it might be a good opportunity for a student artist to bulk up their portfolio?

We’d just be licensing a non-exclusive right to use the work on our website and promotional materials; you’d hold the original and all other rights. Contest starts basically now, and ends in a month — we plan to announce by the end of the year!

Do tell your artist friends! Could be fun!

Photos of previous years’ work below, but please feel free to go in a completely different direction!

– Mary Anne



The Speculative Literature Foundation announces an open call for a piece of original artwork, ideally combining fantasy and science fiction themes, to be featured as its cover art (Illustration of the Year or Artwork) for 2020.

Artwork will be displayed on the Speculative Literature Foundation’s (SLF) website and social media accounts. Artwork will also be used as a visual element of SLF’s marketing material and swag, including but not limited to, bookmarks, pins, posters, etc., and may be cropped or otherwise minimally altered to fit these different formats. The winning artist will receive $500.00 (USD) and will be announced, along with the selected Artwork, on SLF’s website and in a press release.

This is the SLF’s first open call for Illustration of the Year, and the third consecutive year that it has featured an illustration. The SLF, founded in 2004 by author and creative writing professor Mary Anne Mohanraj, is a global non-profit arts foundation serving the speculative literature (science fiction, fantasy, and horror) community. It provides resources to speculative fiction writers, editors, illustrators, and publishers, and aims to develop a greater public appreciation of this art.

Submission Dates: November 20, 2019 at 12:01 a.m. through December 20, 2019 at 11:59 p.m.

Criteria: Each artist (Artist) may submit one (1) artwork for consideration. The artwork may be created digitally or by hand (no photography). The subject matter must combine fantasy and science fiction elements as well as incorporate SLF’s literary focus. All artwork must be submitted in both jpeg and pdf formats. Aspect ratio must work for the website banner, being at least 1500 points wide, and 400-500 points high. Final resolution for print must be at least 11 inches wide and 300 dpi. Files are limited to 10MB.

Submit artwork to development@speculativeliterature.org, including your name, email address, phone number and short bio.

Terms: Artist must represent that the submission is wholly original art and warrant full ownership of artwork. In submitting art, Artist agrees to indemnify and hold SLF harmless with respect to any challenges or claims regarding ownership of the artwork.

The artwork may not have been featured in any other fantasy and/or science fiction genre prior to submission or pending the announcement of Illustration of the Year.

If chosen, Artist grants SLF exclusive rights to print, publish, display, copy, distribute, and otherwise use the Illustration of the Year for the duration of 2020.

Commencing on January 1, 2021, SLF relinquishes exclusive rights to the Illustration of the Year, but reserves the right to print, publish, display, copy, distribute, and otherwise use the Illustration of the Year in connection with any materials created during 2020, for historical purposes, and for an anthology of Illustrations of the Year updated as needed.

For more information about this Call for Artists or SLF, contact Carly Grant at development@speculativeliterature.org.


Good progress (for an overdue draft)

It’s pretty dark in the shed at night, and when I say night, I mean 4:30 p.m., because it’s that time of year around here. Chugging along on the Wild Cards story — I’m up to about 5000 words, which is good progress. Or it would be good progress if I weren’t so far behind. I just e-mailed George and said he might get the draft tonight, but if not, DEFINITELY tomorrow morning, so that is my deadline, come hell or high water. You don’t want to break promises to George R.R. Martin. That’s surely bad juju for writers!


I just finished writing a midway-through-the-story fight scene, which honestly, I sort of dreaded drafting. I think it came out okay; I’m just not used to this kind of action-adventure writing. I am much better at writing people angsting about their lives and not talking to each other while they silently simmer. Bodies in Motion was basically an entire book of people doing that!

That doesn’t work for Wild Cards, though, and in general, I’d like to learn how to do more commercial-ish fiction. Tobias Buckell and Paolo Bacigalupi were talking at World Fantasy about hiding the broccoli in the brownie, and the problem is that I totally know how to write broccoli; I’ve got that part down. Brownies, though — they bewilder me.

Still, if I can write an action-y sex scene (and trust me, I can), I really OUGHT to be able to write action-y fight scenes. Right?

But, um, I’m a little lacking in real world experience of the latter, which might be part of the problem…

Anyway. The next scene is a fabulously emotional betrayal scene, and that’s something I do know how to write. Sucker punch to my character’s gut, coming up. In a strictly emotional kind of way. Sorry, buddy. (Not sorry.)

There’s a BIG fight scene coming at the end of the story, though. Sigh. Well, I’ll deal with it when I get there, I suppose. But every time you read a fight scene of mine, know that I worked really really hard to give it to you!

Bam! Bang! Pow!

(The comics folks knew what they were doing. I could TOTALLY write that.)

Coming together beautifully in the Portolan Project

Cleaned up from yesterday’s Daly Bagel event (there’s something about a forest of champagne flutes that I just find so lovely; I don’t even mind hand-washing them out afterwards, because then I get to set them up again, upside-down), so now I have no excuse for not writing.

Except I do, because I FINALLY did a comprehensive first post about the SLF fund drive, which I’ve been meaning to do forever, a sort of end-of-year, this-is-what-we-do-and-plan-to-do post, which is complete enough that I can do what I’ve been meaning to do for something like two months now, which is actually tag in lots of people and ask them to spread the word.

It is time-consuming, looking at my friend list and tagging in people individually, and of course, I don’t want to bug people *too* much, so I try not to do this kind of mass tagging in more than once or twice a year. But the SLF is my baby. I was talking to someone at another foundation this past week about the Portolan Project, and she said it sounded like a huge undertaking, and I said yes, that it probably was going to be the main nonprofit project I spent the next decade of my life on.

It’s good, actually, coming to a peaceful acceptance of that. I feel like I was flailing for a while the last few years, not really sure what I wanted to do next. I had tendrils tossed out here and there, trying to assess what was really needed, where I could be of most use. I think my academic background and my intersectional space in the writing world (as a queer, brown, sort-of international, genre AND mainstream writer) are going to come together beautifully in the Portolan Project, and in the SLF’s activities overall.

Now I just need to fundraise a little bit more, and organize a host of volunteers, so we can grow this into something amazing. It’s exciting. 

The plan for today — I’m going to spend another twenty minutes working on the fund drive and SLF stuff (I just confirmed our three Chicago chapter co-chairs for 2020, and will be telling you more about Chris BauerJeremy John, and Dain Broadbent very shortly, once they get all their initial chapter info organized). I have some volunteers in my e-mail that I need to connect with Karen.

At 10-ish, Stephanie Bailey is stopping by, and will work on printing out labels for Feast, and will take some more completed orders out to be shipped, yay. I’m going to make sure she’s set up, but then I plan to retreat to the shed to FORCE myself to write. I’m also going to use tech (the Focus program) to turn off the internet on my laptop, and leave my phone in the house. No wibbling, Mary Anne.

I’ve been severely avoidant the last few days, and also atypically exhausted; I’m not sure if it’s the tail-end of the cold that knocked all of us out last week, or if it’s that I ran out of my ADHD meds on Thursday and haven’t had a chance to get them re-ordered yet. I suppose I’d better call about that next, actually.

But I have no real schedule for today; I’m trying to keep both Monday and Friday free of appointments for the rest of the year. So write, Mary Anne. Do the necessary things, try to wrap that up by 11 AT LATEST, and then write write write.

This is the current queue (it will not all be completed today, but maybe the first three….)

• finish drafting the Wild Cards story

• revise food essay that workshop critiqued and send to Pooja for advice on where to submit it

• revise gardening essay and start researching where to send it (no idea who publishes that kind of thing! Just garden magazines? creative nonfiction places?)

• open big SF novel again and remind self where we stand on that

• start organizing gardening memoir stuff into book shape

SLF’s fall membership drive is taking off!

The SLF’s fall membership drive is coming along very nicely — we’re now at $238 / month, aiming for $625 / month as a goal for this quarter. If we can get to that by the end of November, that would be very delightful, as we could then take December off from fundraising and concentrate entirely on getting the Portolan Project up and running.

I have so much I’d like to do! Interviews to edit, an author / text database to start building, volunteer transcriptionists to get organized, and much, much more….onwards!

(For much more detail on what we do, including our grants for writers, the new Portolan creative writing Project, and more, see this post: https://www.facebook.com/mary.a.mohanraj/posts/10160146553849616)


Ruby-Passionfruit Bark, with Pistachios

Ruby-Passionfruit Bark, with Pistachios

These are pretty perfect. I love that I’ve found a good use for the off-cuts from the trays of passionfruit marshmallows, and the way they complement the tang of ruby chocolate? Mmm…. I did these with cashews before, which are tasty, but I love the tiny little edges of green contrasting the pink and white on the pistachios. The pink-green-white colors make it very tropical-Christmas appropriate, I think.  I didn’t really measure, so this is only an approximate recipe, but hopefully enough to give you a sense of it.

1. Melt ruby chocolate chips in a microwave at half power, stirring until liquid and smooth.

2. Gently stir in chopped passionfruit marshmallow bits and chopped pistachios. (Recipe for passionfruit marshmallows at the Serendib Kitchen site.)


3. Spread on a sheet of parchment paper and let set (faster in the fridge). Cut into pieces, sprinkle with flake salt, and serve!