Tooth and Consequences

A coffee much with the letter "V" sits on a table, with a small gold-filled tooth sculpture placed in front of it. I’ve spent a lot of time in dentist offices. A lot. Yes, I brush. I floss. I go for my checkups, and yet rarely do I leave without something being uncovered. There have been plenty of run-of-the-mill cavities and decay, failing old metal fillings, chipped teeth and damage from stress grinding. Then there were the root canals and crown lengthenings, the abscesses and gum tissue grafts, the bone grafts and problematic extractions, the implants that went in crooked and had to heal and be refitted more than once. (I never did have braces through. Maybe this is the tradeoff?)

One of my dearest friends, Jerry, is the only other person I know who shares a similar tooth curse, and we often commiserate while pondering which God of Oral Hygiene or Patron Saint of Tooth Woes we have offended in this or a prior life.

So I’ve spent a lot of time in the chair, and to make myself feel better (by focusing my attention elsewhere to escape the sounds of drilling and grinding in my skull), I started writing stories in my head that I would continue on subsequent visits. “The Tooth Butcher” is one such story that began with meditations on the tooth fairy and attempts to answer the question, “What happens with all those teeth?”  I’m so happy that it found a home in The Horror Library Volume 7. 

Cover of the Horror Anthology with a golden-bodied, snake-headed monster on the cover. The text says, The Horror Library, Volume 7.Editor Eric Guignard is revealing one contributor a day for the anthology, to be published by Dark Moon Books on March 1, 2022.

You can read an excerpt from “The Tooth Butcher” on the publisher’s website here. Maybe I’ll publish another excerpt here on March 1.

You can pre-order on Amazon here or through independent bookstores on Indiebound.

Until then, may the tooth trolls pass you by.

 

 

Mother Christmas: Coming in 2022!

In the spirit of the season, I would like to announce that I have a new book coming out this year!

Image of a woman with wild, flowing hair in a winter landscape. She is carrying a bag filled with toys and has what look like glowing horns on her head. Her warm, winter cloak is a brilliant blue and covered with stars and she holds a drum in her hand that is adorned with an image of the sun.

This project is what I’ve been putting much of my time and energy into for the past year, but the story has been living in my head and heart for much longer, beginning in 2004 with a trip to Turkey to do research. Almost 18 years later, I finally get to share the characters and their story with you!

A little background:

For those who follow the Julian calendar, today (January 7th) is Christmas. I’ve written about the Ukrainian celebration of the holiday and its traditions in previous blog posts about Sviat Vechir and the twelve symbolic dishes.

Sviat Vechir/Christmas Eve is one of my favorite holy days, centered around family and ritual and food. In my home today, we celebrate several different winter holidays. Growing up, it was “American” Christmas on December 25th and “Ukrainian” Christmas on January 7th. As an adult, my blended family also celebrates the Winter Solstice, as well as Hanukkah.

I love all of it: preparing the twelve traditional dishes, honoring the ancestors with their place setting at the table. Our white tree adorned with its collection of ornaments, the living room transformed by multi-colored lights in the window. Household altars dressed for the season. Eight nights of candles until the menorah is fully illuminated. What a blessing to have several days to celebrate this time of yearthe magic of light in the peace of winter’s darkness.

My love of the holiday and this magical time of year are the inspiration for Mother Christmas. I am so excited to be creating this graphic novel for Rosarium Publishing along with the brilliant Brazilian artist, Victória Terra. What’s it about?

MOTHER CHRISTMAS, VOL. 1: THE MUSE
By Valya Dudycz Lupescu and Victória Terra

It’s the one story of magic and wonder everyone thinks they know—yet the most epic part of the tale remains shrouded in mystery. What actually happened 1,700 years ago to transform a starry-eyed young priest named Nicholas into a winter wizard who circles the globe on a sleigh of hope? Now, the secret is revealed: SHE happened. She is Amara, an immortal Muse with a rebellious streak, trying hard to inspire dreamers in a world full of broken humans, invisible guardians, and ravenous Kobaloi, creatures who feed on fear and chaos. In Nicholas, Amara thinks she has finally found a partner to help light the earth through times of darkness. But binding her fate and her magic to Saint Nick will mean breaking the laws of the Muses themselves—and risking their eternal wrath…

Mother Christmas recasts the myth of Santa Claus as the epic fantasy saga it has always deserved to be. In the first volume of this exciting new graphic novel series that spans centuries, author Valya Dudycz Lupescu (of The Silence of Trees and Geek Parenting) weaves a tapestry of mythic fantasy through the actual historical truth of Saint Nicholas, creating a lush world of supernatural adventure that’s brought to life by the stunning comic debut of Brazilian artist Victória Terra.

This will be the first of three volumes whose story spans two millennia. Volume 1: The Muse will be released at the end of 2022.

We watched a movie at home last month, The Man Who Invented Christmas, a fictionalized account of Charles Dickens writing A Christmas Carol. What I enjoyed about the movie was the way they portrayed Dickens’s process, because it’s pretty close to what it feels like for me when I writethe characters inhabit my imagination and my life in a very real way. I’ve been living with Nicholas, Flavia, Amara, Brother Theo, the Muses and Guardians all this time; and to see them appear on the page by Victória’s skilled hand is such a thrill.

We can’t wait to share Mother Christmas with you. I’ll be providing more information and teasers as we get closer to publication. Until then, I wish you warmth and safety, health and peace. 

Chicago blur: 1995 to 2020

I’m excited to share that my poem “Chicago blur: 1995 to 2020” was published this month in the poetry journal Spillway 29, guest edited by Patricia Smith, who recently won the Poetry Foundation’s Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize; and Lynne Thompson, Poet Laureate of the City of Los Angeles.

As writers and artists, we are constantly being influenced by those who came before us and those who are working alongside us. In the early days of the pandemic, in April 2020, Creative Distancing, in partnership with the Philbrook Museum of Art, published a series of creative project tutorials on YouTube, offering artistic prompts from a number of creators. One of these featured a poet, author, and educator whose work I love, Quraysh Ali Lansana, talking about a form he created, the blur poem.

If you’ve never encountered the form, you can also read Quraysh Ali Lansana’s blur poems “Tulsa blur: 1921 to 2012” and “basement blur: wisconsin“.

I was inspired to write my own blur poem and worked on it during those early months of the pandemic. I’m delighted for it to be included among so many wonderful poems in Spillway 29. The annual poetry journal is not online but is available for purchase through Small Press Distribution.

Valya holding a copy of the poetry journal Spillway 29.