Antlered Does

So based on some of the comments over at LJ on yesterday’s painting, it occurs to me that some of you may not be familiar with the phenomenon of antlered does!

Eeee! You get to be among today’s lucky 10,000! This is so COOL!

So it turns out that antlered does are actually not that uncommon in whitetail deer. My guess–and this is only a guess–is that they’re probably found in a lot of species where the males have antlers and the females mostly don’t,* we’re just particularly aware of it in whitetails because they’re a super-common game animal in the US AND hunters in most areas are only supposed to take bucks,** so you get a good amount of reporting on the subject when a hunter drags in a deer and says “Look, I saw antlers, but this is NOT a buck!” (So far as I know the DNR does not yell at anyone about accidentally taking a doe when it’s obviously got a rack of antlers on it–it’s the definition of an honest mistake.) The DNR says that it also happens in mule deer and blacktail deer, anyhow.

You find variable numbers on this, but based on the deer herd culls and the hunting records, the Minnesota DNR think you get about one antlered doe per 1,000-6,000 whitetail does. Apparently there was a study in Alberta, Canada, that had a population throwing an antlered doe at a rate of about 1 per 64 does, which is much higher than anyone expected, but I don’t know any of the details.

Most of the time, these aren’t very impressive antlers–they’re just spikes, like you get in young bucks–and they’re caused by a biologically female deer having a testosterone spike, for all the various reasons that can happen, which are as varied in deer as they are in humans. One source claimed that in a biologically female deer, the antlers generally won’t go out of velvet (apparently that requires a second hormone spike) but here we are getting beyond the limits of what I can say authoritatively about deer biology. Either way, most of those does don’t have very big racks, and the ones that do tend to have very weird racks–they’ll be asymmetric and they’ll keep growing in weird shapes or whatever, so you can get thirty-point does because they never get the hormone surge that shuts off growth.

(Weird antlers happen in biologically male deer too, of course–any time you get a process that complicated, things occasionally go haywire.)

Some deer, however–another source estimated 1 in 20,000 does–are either true hermaphrodites or “pseudo-hermaphrodites,” in this case having female external genitalia and male internal organs, and these deer will grow a full-on rack of polished antlers that lose velvet and everything and which are often not distinguishable from a standard whitetail rack.

As with anything involving sex organs, there does seem to be an enormous range–I’ve always found antlered does fascinating and have been reading about them for years, so I’ve read cases where you’ll get does that have a rack and fawns at the same time, does with antlers that mount other does and even keep and defend harems. There’s some minor sexual dimorphism in whitetails around the head and neck, and you get antlered does on both sides of that spectrum. There is a LOT of variation.

At any rate, other than the minor inconvenience of having to burn calcium growing antlers, none of this seems particularly detrimental to the does. Hunters usually describe them as being perfectly healthy when taken, and in the majority, they’re still breeding successfully, so it’s just one of those nifty things that happens in nature sometimes.

Anyway, that’s antlered does! Isn’t that cool?

(Someday I will do something with the antlered doe character I had kicking around in my head for years, but I’m still not sure how her story should go…)

*Actually, I suspect this sort of thing happens with most species, it’s just that when you’ve got a really clear marker like antlers, AND in a species that has a major economic impact, people actually notice and study it.

**I have Very Strong Feelings about this from an environmental perspective, but that’s another topic and today we’re talking about a REALLY COOL THING! so we won’t spoil it.

Article where most of those figures came from

Writing Poems For Wolves (NSFW)



I have been wandering around feeling itchy, like I need to do something to prove that I can still move pixels around a page into a shape more complicated than hamsters. (This is probably the single worst frame of mind to create good art, but the only way to get through it is to make SOMETHING.)

Of the dozen sketches I started, this one was the least preternaturally awful. It seems to mean something very sincerely–whatever that may be, I’ll leave as an exercise to the reader.

Achievement Unlocked: London & Berlin

We are back from the wilds of Europe!

…wow. That was pretty awesome.

So much happened that I feel like I have no chance of talking about all of it. It was Kevin’s first trip out of North America, so it was awesome to be able to take him there, and it was only my second as an adult. Loncon was actually fantastic, and there is just no comparison to the Worldcon in San Antonio. And Eurofurence was amazing and I had so much fun. They took very good care of us.

Since I have absolutely no way of breaking down everything, here is a partial list of interesting things I did or discovered or saw or thought or whatever.

1. It is super weird to take the Tube in London and see all the station names and know that they are attached to places that you’ve read about. I never disbelieved in Hyde Park or the Tower of London, you understand, but it existed in my head in bookspace rather than realspace and thus on some level was lumped with Narnia and Pern and New York and other questionably existent places.

2. The ravens at the Tower of London are enormous.

3. I got to meet Terri Windling and talk to her for awhile and tell her that the Wood Wife is one of my great comfort reads and that was really wonderful. Also Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman and Amal El-motar and Terese Nielsen Hayden and SO MANY OTHER AWESOME PEOPLE. And a bunch of them knew I existed! What’s up with that? How did they know that? These are real people with names on books! I draw honey badgers on the internet! How is this my life, again?

4. Aardvarks are much bigger than I thought they were. They’re like the size of pigs. Holy mackerel.

5. I still vaguely regret not buying the T-shirt with the Underground logo that said “Mind The Gap” on it.

6. Crosswalk signs in Berlin are very strange.

7. The British Museum goes on forever. Every single Brit I spoke to about it uttered some variation on “Oh, yeah, that’s where we keep all the stuff we stole!”

7a. We spent about two hours at the British Museum and it pretty much destroyed our sense of age. You walk in and look at paintings painted when our country hadn’t been founded yet, you think “Old.” Then you go down and there’s the Rosetta Stone and statuary from 1500 BC and you go “Really old.” And then you wander into the room where they’ve got ancient Chinese jade and there are pieces from 5000 BC and you go “These were really old when they were carving those statues downstairs.” And then you go through another room and another room and hey, look, it’s artifacts from Jericho. And those were ancient when the jade pieces were carved.

Kevin sort of gave up at that point and started clutching his head and heading for the gift shop. Unfortunately for us, on the far side of the gift shop was a library with stuffed hoopoes. Great! And also hand axes, which were dated at something like 400,000 BC, and at that point you are standing on a fractional sliver of the vast sweep of human history and you realize that if civilization were pounded into dust tomorrow, it would be the eradication of an exceedingly brief anomaly.

And then you go buy a hot dog stuffed into a hollowed-out baguette, because really, what else can you do?

8. Hot dogs stuffed into hollowed-out baguettes are awesome.

9. Both hotels, in London and Berlin, did these massive breakfasts like they expected we were preparing for a nine-day siege.

10. The Brandenburg Gate is amazing and I am a terrible person because all I could think for a minute on seeing it was “Hey! I built that in Civ 5!”

11. It is very surreal to walk through Berlin and keep seeing this meandering double line of bricks. It’s where the wall was. Every now and again that realization would kind of grab me by the throat. That happened in my lifetime. I watched that wall come down on TV as a kid. And here I am, many thousands of miles and over two decades away from being that kid and I am actually standing here staring at the place where the wall was and a whole city that has basically put itself together in the aftermath and things grind in my head between real and unreal.

12. I just don’t get currywurst.

13. The European way of living with WWII is a lot different than the American one. A very nice German woman in London gave me directions to an old Templar church, which she said was the best in London. “Of course, we blew out all the stained glass in the Blitz,” she said cheerfully. “Pity we didn’t get [German train station],” muttered her (British) friend. “Yeah,” said the German woman, “if you had, we could have built something that actually worked.”

There is no possible response an American can make to any of this, beyond smiling and nodding. This is a far greater culture shock than little things like lack of public restrooms.

14. There is a near-total lack of public restrooms.

15. German coffee is mediocre. British cream is amazing. I am told that German beer is basically the greatest thing ever.

16. The British version of Indian cuisine lives up to all the hype and is incredible.

17. You can sell alcohol at a dealer’s table in Berlin. We were seated next to the schnapps dealer. One of them spoke very good English and helped me navigate a phone tree to figure out where my laptop had gone to (answer: left on plane flying into Berlin) and the other spoke virtually no English. He and Kevin, with a mutual vocabulary of perhaps ten words, managed to have several lengthy discussions of techno music. Apparently “oontz” is universal.

18. Losing my laptop was very stressful, but I tried to make the best of it. “We will go in early on Monday,” I said, “and check with lost & found. I am sure the airport is run with typical German efficiency!”

“….No,” said one of our German hosts sadly.

Despite this, after a lengthy wait in a line full of increasingly angry people, I got into the Lost & Found and said “I left my messenger bag on this flight, it had a laptop–”

“Brown leather, Macbook Air. Wait here.” Two minutes later, I was reunited with my laptop. So that was nice.

19. There is this moment where you are standing in an electronica dance party full of furries and somebody hands you a straw and you are drinking Cuba Libres out of a gallon bucket with a group of fursuiters and you think “How is this my life, again?”

20. When the con sends a limo to pick you up that is made out of five Trabbis welded together and the limo driver is explaining that these cars are made primarily out of pressed wool and incidentally, that’s the Reichstaag over there and you think “How is this my life, again?”

21. I would love to go back.

MythCon & Other Awesomeness

Back from Mythcon! Which was fantastic!

Seriously, if you told me I’d enjoy an academic conference that much, I…well, I am generally too polite to call anyone a liar to their face, but I would have been deeply skeptical. But it was awesome! (Collaborative Beowulf readings. Who knew?* Also there is something deeply surreal about being in a room where everybody else can recite the opening to the Canterbury Tales in Middle English.)

It was a great honor to be able to present the Mythopoeic Award (“The Golem and the Jinni” won) and I’m trying to get the text of my speech edited to post here–it’s the usual thing where you write the speech and then you spend the hours beforehand scribbling margin notes and cutting bits, so what I wrote is not exactly what I said. Will try and badger it a little closer and then will put it up here. (I mean, it’s mostly about the revelation about Aslan being Jesus, and some of you have heard variations on it before, but there’s also a lot about how I wanted to be Smaug when I grew up. Anyway, everybody laughed–a lot–which is what I ask for in a speech and they did not repo my Aslan statue, so it’s all good.)

Also, while I was gone, we cracked 500 copies sold of Toad Words! (We’re actually closing in on 600, at the time of this writing!) And how cool izzat?

And my ARCs of Castle Hangnail arrived and oh my god, it’s finally a real book. That one seemed to take forever–it’s the witch book–although it was actually a pretty fast turnaround as these things go.


(I’ll try to do a giveaway or something–AFTER I get back!)

Now I get basically two and a half days to prep for London. Madness! Bunnies!

*The organizer laid out the Anglo Saxon version and the translation and asked people to come up and read if they were moved to do so. Kevin said “Oh my god, it’s English major altar call!” And it totally was. And it was pretty darn awesome. The con-chair is apparently an authority on the subject, judging by the young man who read in the original language, then collapsed in his chair behind us, panting “I read for Drout and he didn’t throw me out of the room!” as if he’d just won a gold medal. It was pretty delightful.

Toad Words Launch Day!

And we are live, gang!


(I’m including the cover again so we all remember what I’m talking about…)


An ePub version only is available via Smashwords.

Amazon Kindle

It’s Kindley!


Impressively fast turnaround from Draft2Digital for this one. (If anybody grabs this one, please let me know if the formatting transferred okay–I checked the D2D draft, but it’s not quite the same as having an e-reader of that type!)


One day turnaround for Draft2Digital here–still impressed!


Okay, Draft2Digital is getting a tentative mega-thumbs-up from me. We’ll see how they do on the payouts, but so far…holy mackerel.

PDF version

If you can only read PDFs, don’t despair! I will happily sell you one directly for 3.99 via Paypal! E-mail me at ursulav (at) or use the contact form on the site and we will make it happen!

Review Copies

If you’re a book reviewer and would like a free copy of Toad Words, shoot me an e-mail at ursulav (at) with a link to your site and the format you’d prefer, and I am delighted to send one out!

But Where Do You Get The Most Money?

I love you guys. I get the most money via Smashwords, at the moment, followed by Amazon, though Amazon pays it out a LOT faster. However, we’re talking a matter of a couple cents and I really want you to get it in the format that is most convenient to you. If you’d like to support me, the best thing you can do is leave an honest review (and by that I actually really mean “honest” because I don’t read my reviews, so you can say anything you want and my feelings won’t be hurt) on whatever platform you like to read on. Reviews may lead other people to buy the book, and that’s worth way more than the nickel or so between various platforms.

I Found A Problem

Thank you for letting me know! Comment here and let’s see if it’s something I can fix. (Formatting between devices is occasionally wonky and not always within my control, but I will do my best!)

Will There Be A Print Volume?

Not at the moment. If somebody in the small-press world wanted to make me an offer, I’m totally willing to entertain the option, but it’s not something I’m currently set up to do myself, and I’d rather not do it than do it badly (and oh, but the internet has made it easy for someone like me to do it very, very badly!) I could (and may be forced to!) learn the pre-press ropes to do a POD version, but I suspect it would cost a lot more than 3.99.

Cover Reveal and a Question!

Okay, gang, we are looking at releasing–very soon!–the fairy-tale anthology I’ve been promising you for awhile. In fact, here’s the cover!


(Was I supposed to do a big reveal there? Errr…play a little drum roll on your desk, maybe?)

(Also, Twitter told me to do that jacket quote. When I get some more blurbs, I may change it to something slightly less meta.)

Now, this is not the annotated fairy-tales, which I can’t actually sell for copyright reasons–those are best treated as weird fan fic–but stuff like “Toad Words” and “The Sea Witch Sets The Record Straight” and “The Wolf And The Woodsman.” Basically, most of the short stories and weird little things I’ve posted here over the last few years* plus–excitement!–an all new novella called “Boar & Apples” that has been seen nowhere before!

There is poetry, but not much of it. Hopefully not enough to damage your enjoyment.

Depending on proofreaders and my own mad schedule, I am hoping to get this out sometime this week. However, here’s the thing…

Smashwords is…well…frustrating and very slow to push out to vendors and in a number of ways behind the times. And there is a service called Draft2Digital that will get the book into iBooks, Kobo, and B&N, and do it much faster than Smashwords and without the various griefs, which I’d kinda like to use. (Plus Amazon, on Kindle, obviously, but I want a non-Amazon alternative as well, because eggs, baskets, etc.)

The only thing that would be lacking here that Smashwords does is offer various formats, like .pdf, .rft, read online, etc, which would not be available if I don’t go through the Smashwords Meatgrinder.

So my question is—is anybody using those formats here that will be completely unable to access the book if I don’t do Smashwords? (If you want to read on your actual computer, there’s a free program called Calibre that will take an epub, and the book would be in all the various stores.)

I’d kinda like to skip the Smashwords step, now that Draft2Digital is an option, but I don’t want to lock anybody out of reading if I can help it, so I want to hear from you guys!

(Alternate possibility–skip Smashwords, and if you cannot do any of those other reading methods, e-mail me and I’ll sell you a file directly–trying to avoid direct sales because I don’t want to be tech support for that, but I could probably manage a couple if people really need .pdf or .txt!)

As always, Toad Words would be completely DRM free (or as free as I, as creator, can manage it–can’t swear that various services don’t get shady on the back end, but I’m opting out wherever there’s an opt out.)

Anyway, let me know your thoughts, everybody!

*Except “Elegant and Fine” which is fan-fic for another five or six years, until the first Narnia book falls out of copyright.