Monday, March 2, 2015

California Dreaming

Although I was born in San Francisco, six weeks later my parents moved back to Florida. Miami was home for eighteen years, then Massachusetts, then New York, and now Washington state, where I hope I'll be for a good long time.

I used to joke that since I've lived in three corners of the US, I'd likely retire to California. It was a joke because I didn't believe it. I visited California a couple of times, but I never quite understood the allure. San Diego was nice, but the parts I saw were touristy. San Francisco was okay, but it seemed so dense, expensive, and hip. Warm weather? Big deal. Ocean? Whatever. The Pacific is c-c-cold. I've still never been to LA. Huh.

But now I get California. Holy smokes, do I get it.

I just spent nearly a week with a few of my favorite writer-people basking in the sun and greenery of Marin County, just north of SF, and I don't think I'll ever be the same.

I had no idea that such a stunning landscape of grassy hills, groves of oak and redwood, wide marshlands, and windswept cliffs would be our playground.

I was amazed by how remote and wild the area felt, given how close it is to a major metropolitan area.

Here's hoping it can stay that way for a long, long time.

Can you spot the two coyote in that last picture? We also saw a peregrine falcon, plenty of turkey vultures, hawks, lizards, deer, elk, and a few bellowing elephant seals! I mean... is this place even real? It IS! I was there! I still have a vague tan to prove it!

Since my return, I've been reading a bit on Terri Windling-Gayton's blog about how magic and nature are bound to one another. I've always felt, as David Abram suggests, that my perceptions and awareness are altered by spending time outside. There's no question for me that certain landscapes evoke a deep peace or even a bright need to create. Marin is MAGIC.

Course, people are magic too. After spending an extended time with these marvelous women, I feel alive in a different way than when I'm muddling through the daily business of my life.

Right now I just want to sit around and think up stories.

I want to stay up all night.

I want to rewatch Velvet Goldmine and Jupiter Ascending, because WHAT JUST HAPPENED THERE?

 I also want to record record record it all so I don't forget. Guess that's my inner packrat at work.

I finished this round of revisions on my WIP during the retreat so now I'll take a break to focus on other projects and hopefully gain some perspective. Then I'll polish it up and prepare for the long and (probably brutal) business of querying. Honestly though? Right now, I totally feel up for it. Thanks to our incredible host, Ysabeau Wilce, and to the fun and fearsome Tiffany Trent, Darian Lindle, and Lola Lindle. And thanks, of course, to my loving partner who held down the fort so that I could go have an adventure.

Can't wait for next time!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Sea Glass & Revision

I’m entering the last phase of work on this draft and trying hard to be patient with my revision process. 

It can feel a little like hunting for sea glass on a wide beach of stone. The sparkling stuff is there, but hiding. When it reveals itself, there’s a moment of hope and excitement. What else might I find here?


Or maybe revision’s more like the making of sea glass itself. A slow sea-tumbling, a grinding and smoothing until there’s something of beauty left behind.

But then, I want my prose to be sharp and clear, so maybe it isn’t like sea glass at all. Maybe revision simply requires something like the frame of mind I’m in when I walk the beach. 

Part looking for something, part exploring what the world offers, part happy just to be where I am.

Trying not to jump ahead to the next phone call or errand or chapter. Trying to be fully inside my own story.

Lucky for me, winter is a good season for sea glass and beach combing. Let's hope my revisions turn out well too!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

My Desk 2014

As 2014 draws to a close, a quick note from my writing desk(s):

You might already know that I travel from place to place when I write. Sometimes I find a table inside a coffee shop, sometimes I wander around outside. Most of this movement is helpful in that it keeps me fresh and wide-eyed. It helps me pause and take notice, even if the view is a stormy parking lot or a soggy street corner.

No matter where I land, I love my work. In 2014, I've been lucky enough to slowly reframe my days so that writing and well-being are at the center. 

I can't say enough how grateful I am for this time.

Writing is what brings me alive. Stories of love and survival matter to me. They help me connect to the people I love. They help me learn. No matter where I perch with my laptop or notebook, stories help me to see what makes this strange and difficult world so precious.

And yes, I want to contribute in some small way. I'm working to shape one place, one corner, one body of work to better reflect the peace and love I feel at the root of all things.

My writing goals for 2015 are about more time and more peace.

So many of you kind folks have made this year possible for me. Thank you for your kind words of encouragement, thumbs up, smiles and nods, comments and likes. Thank you for your friendship, distant or near. You made this year a wonderful one for me and my family. May your 2015 shine bright. May your stories unfold in surprising and joyous ways.

Happy Holidays and a very Happy New Year!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Other Forms

Sometimes, when I wander the world, I think about the other art forms I could have chosen if I hadn't become a writer. The mystery and grace of music calls to me. The sheer physicality of dance is tantalizing. The essential powers of image and color are so elemental I rely on them constantly in my own language work.

Yesterday, I stumbled on a small exhibit at a rather hoity-toity gallery in downtown Ballard. I don't normally go into this particular gallery because I've had at least one experience with a certain clerk where I felt, errr, out of place and naive for inquiring about the price of an oh-so-expensive piece of antique jewelry. On this day, I'd seen the clerk (also the owner and chief artist) leave the gallery and walk down the street, so when I peered into the window and thought about entering, I felt suddenly emboldened and adventurous. I went in.

The art that I found was so exquisitely beautiful that I wished at once that I'd had something to do with its making. It isn't so strange for me to look at something and think "I wish I'd thought of that", but these sculptures made me ache to learn this art form. They felt both personal and universal. Beautiful and odd. Familiar and alive.

The sculptures I saw were by a local Seattle artist named Patty Grazini. They are made, (I was told by a much more friendly clerk), entirely out of paper. Each figure is an animal, based on a real woman from history. Grazini found articles from 1880-1910 in the NY Times archives that inspired each piece, and they are almost as entertaining as the figures themselves. These articles were carefully printed and framed near by. Please click on this link to visit her site and see more of these gorgeous creatures.

Owl, the Poetess:

Wolf, the Arsonist:

Her exhibit is currently running at Curtis Steiner's Gallery in Seattle, Washington.

Monday, November 17, 2014

World Fantasy Convention

Earlier this month I attended my first ever World FantasyConvention (WFC). I traveled all the way to Washington DC, all by my lonesome, and checked into one of those giant corporate hotels that are mostly comfortable but also vaguely unsettling. (Why, oh why do they insist on carpeting their endless hallways with vertigo-inducing patterns?)

I knew a few familiar ladies would be attending, most of whom I met at Sirens (see this post, or this one) or through the ever-sweet Gili Bar-Hillel on twitter. Otherwise I was expecting a whole lot of strangers and strangeness. It is, after all, a convention for fantasy writers, readers, industry professionals, and fans. I felt sure there would be horns. Maybe wings.*

The other group at the hotel that weekend turned out to be RollingThunder (bikers in support of POW/MIA veterans). In a few short hours, I was lost in a sea of black leather jackets, Technicolor hairdos, prosthetic limbs, and intricate Celtic jewelry. I felt quite small and desperately alone. I ate my first dinner by myself, in a random burrito place, and yes, it was gross and depressing. I began to think I’d made a terrible mistake.

Then, by nightfall, I met one lovely person, and then another, and another. The next morning, after a few more familiar faces arrived, I was in the near-constant company of smart, interesting, kind people who all believe in Story. I spent the next three days talking, absorbing, listening, watching, and learning from some of the most fabulous people in the fantasy business.

Usually, when I attend a conference or convention I blog about the content, about the programming and what I learned there. There were certainly some great panels and excellent readings at WFC, but what I really want to highlight are a few of the real life characters I got to hang out with, because they were, by far, the most powerful part:

Ysabeau Wilce: Supreme Historian of Califa, bone-draped, Wild-Woman of the West, and dealer of barrel-aged brandy, metallic temporary tattoos, and literary wisdom.
Read her work here: "Quartermaster Returns"
(photo: here)

Tiffany Trent: Kung-Fu Mistress, Teller of tales steampunk, redneck, erotic, and rusty, Mother of Doom, and Fire Maiden.
Find her work here:The Unnaturalists
(photo: mine!)

Delia Sherman: Tunafish lover, Riverside Walker, silver ring sister, Fierce Antlered Bunny, generous giver of Heart, Mind, Story, and Time.
Read her work here: "Miss Carstairs and the Merman" or The Freedom Maze
(photo: Lawrence Tamaccio)

Ellen Kushner: Director of Merriment, wise straight-talker, gracious hostess and Reader- nay-Performer! of fancy tales both side-splitting and throat-slitting.
Read her work here: Swordspoint or "The Swordsman Whose Name Was Not Death"
(photo: here)

Kate Arms Roberts: Free Woman, Creator, Player, Mother of multitudes, patient giver of Self, Careful Speaker of Truth and Love. 
(photo: mine!)

Bonus pictures from the con: 
 Ellen during her reading.
 Ysa and Ellen signing books together.
 Books by brilliant ladies = TREASURE, my pretties 
 Ysa's panel on REBELs in YA.
Delia's book that I love love love so very much. 

There were SO MANY other cool people too! Mike and AnitaAllenNicole Kornher-StacePatty Templeton, Claire Suzanne Elizabeth Cooney, the folks at SmallBeer Press, Casey Blair, and Django Wexler. I can’t possibly list them all here. If we said hello at #WFC40, or shared a story, please consider yourself thanked and appreciated! Yes, YOU!

I left on Sunday realizing that once again, I’d been incredibly lucky to meet such good folk, and to survive staying up ‘til 3am three nights in a row. I know who I want to be when I grow up. I know why these stories matter. I know why I journey. 

When life gets hard, when I feel slumpy and tired, when I’m running out of story ideas, I’ll think about WFC. I’ve got work to do.

*There were no wings this year, that I saw, but there were most definitely horns.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

777 Challenge

This Twitter challenge brought to me by the kind and funny Casey Blair. From her site: "The rules are to start on page seven, seven lines down, and post seven sentences of your work."

Challenge accepted! This excerpt is from my novel, RAIN MUST FALL which follows the lives of three psychic friends living in a small town in the Pacific NW. For more info, look at my projects.

She flipped the last of the pancakes onto a plate and walked them to the table. She knelt beside me, and studied my face. She had kind, blue eyes like Valerie’s, but her brown hair was shorter, and her nose was longer. She frowned. “How do you know that?” Her voice turned sharp, accusatory.

     “Know what?”

I am tagging Lola Lindle, Darian Lindle, and Emmie Mears, if any of them would like to play. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Sirens and Spirits

This past weekend, Darian, Lola, and I traveled to a land of ghosts, spirits, slayers, and mediums. It was an incredible journey (no pun intended) and I can’t thank the Wise Women who organize the Sirens Conference enough.

Happy to be back at Sirens.
For those of you who might not know, Sirens is a conference dedicated to women in fantasy literature and this year’s theme was Hauntings. The conference this year took place at Skamania Lodge in the heart of one of Washington States most beautiful natural areas, The Columbia River Gorge.

Writers, readers, fans, and industry professionals interested in this topic traveled from far and wide to discuss a wide range of related spooky topics and texts over the course of three days.

Darian the Free
Part of what I love about attending conferences is that I meet amazing people, and sometimes, just sometimes, I find the kind of human connection that endures and enriches my life. I can honestly say that this year’s Sirens made many of those connections possible and I’m still giddy and glowing from the rush of finding so many sisters, role models, and advocates.

Lola the Brave

I’ll use this space to transcribe a few of the most poignant take-aways, questions, and moments that will (dare I say it?) haunt me for quite some time. Oh, and post pretty pictures of course.

Kendare Blake’s Keynote:
She described it as a “rambling journey down my [her] Google hole”. The results made me laugh harder and longer than I have in months. My take-aways: Horror is a celebration of fear and life’s messiness. It also may be an ideal vehicle for strong “unlikable” feminine characters to get their due.

Haunted Women Panel: Andrea Hairston, Rosemary Clement, Kendare Blake. Moderated by Amy Tenbrink.
All three authors described writing as a process that can mirror possession. A book, or a voice, or a story “calls out” and the writer responds. Hairston spoke about theater as “embodied experience”. We must use our lives and bodies to know what we write. Clement spoke about capability vs. power and permission to write about a love that is “back to back, shoulder to shoulder” when push comes to shove. Blake spoke about landscapes like The Suicide Forest, and how the Anna books “wrote themselves”.

From the left: Clement, Blake, Hairston, Tenbrink
Back to Bly: Ghosts and Lovers in “Turn of then Screw”: Paper by Meg Belviso
Ever since this paper I’ve been pondering how what isn’t said in a text might be scarier than what is. I’ve also been thinking a lot about what a boy’s “natural” place might be, as opposed to what was once assumed about to be a girl’s “natural” place.

The woods nearby.
Rosemary Clement’s Keynote:
Rich exploration of the history of gothic fiction, differences between terror and horror, and the relationships between insanity, grief, and hauntings in women’s history. Memorable questions: Are women hard-wired to seek permanence of spirit and perpetuation of blood-line? How are the heart and whole related? How do we haunt each other by becoming part of the people we know? Hauntings are personal, private, experiences… how does that relate to the feminine domain? How do feminine spirits inhabit the space between worlds of expectation and worlds of individual identity?

Haunted Landscapes Panel: Kathryn Cottam, Roberta Cottam, and Kate Tremills
Beautifully architected panel on questions of how settings and land influence what stories we tell. I left this one thinking about the landscapes that “call” to me and wondering about whether they haunt me, or part of me haunts them. How do we bring expectations to certain places? How do we find and feel the spirit of place?

Photographs by Killian Schoenberger provided the inspiring backdrop of the panel:
Brothers Grimm's Homeland

Film Viewings: Selected by Andrea Hairston


OLDER THAN AMERICA: a haunting film I highly recommend.

*sidenote: Dinner on Sat night (at a local diner) was some of the grossest food I’ve ever seen. This was Darian’s vegetarian baked potato that better resembles regurgitated ectoplasm.

An unfortunate experience
Bedtime Story: Andrea Hairston and Pan Morigan 
Morigan played the banjo and sang. Hairston read about pirates, the Georgia Sea Islands, and a child named Rainbow. Magick happened.

…and then the hot tub happened.


The Importance—and Business—of Diversity in Fantasy Literature by Women Panel: Faye Bi, Amy Boggs, Joy Kim. Moderated by Amy Tenbrink.
Vital discussion around the continued role of books and publishing in fostering equity, justice, and understanding. What barriers exist that prevent diverse folks from achieving publishing careers? What responsibilities do white and privileged advocates/writers have to work towards social and creative justice? How do we as a community boost the signals of diverse authors and books? How are book covers a landmine?

Hoping to bust through boundaries and open gates.
Butch Bitches and Daft Damsels: Sexism in Fantasy Literature: Facilitated by Artemis Grey What does it mean to have “incidental gender”? How is the masculine gender “unmarked” and the feminine gender “marked”? How can we respond to “micro-agressions” in meaningful, powerful ways to stem the tide of mass erasure and sexism?
I wonder what spirit sits here.

Andrea Hairston’s Keynote
This keynote blew me away. I took six pages of notes. Hairston spun poetry around past spirits that spook us into the future, the false divide between emotion and logic, the truth of our world’s ongoing apocalypse as we drown in consumables, the artist’s work of reanimating the world. A few (of many) memorable quotes: “I’m a futurist, speculating on the disappeared past…Ghosts spook the living into changing the world…Ghosts are sacred and profane, restless guardians of our humanity…. Liminal beings, the presence of an absence…. America is a haunted house… Everything is personal… Life is a global phenomenon. All is one…It’s we who have to keep it alive.”

How I felt after Hairston's keynote.
Demystifying Social Media: Faye Bi
Frank and generous presentation about how writers can use social media to establish a meaningful identity and presence online. This woman knows her stuff. I can only hope I get to work with a publicist of this caliber someday.

(I have a lot of work to do!)

The Shadows Ball
Sirens celebrates the final day with costumes, dancing, murder mystery, and more inspiring conversation! My “Grey Lady” dress was made by the incredible Erynn Moss… in under an hour... with no prior design. We also placed newspaper feathers in my hair in honor of Andrea Hairston.

From left: Me, Andrea Hairston, and Erynn Moss the maker of my "Grey Lady" dress.
The Headless Horseman and the Grey Lady
Darian dressed as DJ-Pon3, a My Little Pony, and Lola dressed in haunting 1920’s garb. Highlight of the night had to be when the Headless Horseman rode Dj-POn3. I'm not kidding. You can check  #sirens14 on twitter for proof and more info on the conference.

Flapper and DJ Pon3

After breakfast, the Sirens Auction, and purchasing more books than is sane, we bid a fond farewell to Sirens and took a short hike up Beacon Rock, a local landmark. From the heights of the rock we could see for miles and through time. A fitting end to a weekend rich in spirit and soul.

Thank you Sirens, guests, and attendees!

As we climbed Beacon Rock, we saw and heard Raven call from the skies.... perhaps an omen of good things to come. 
Next year's Sirens Conference will focus on Rebels and Revolutionaries and will take place in Denver, Colorado. Can't wait!