Escaping

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Began coloring this page from my Naughty Fairies coloring book during a night vigil at my brother’s hospice bedside. Lost myself here for a while in layers of blue.

Last week’s sojourn to be with my brother and sister as they finish up this part of the universal experience was beautiful and devastating and, clearly, as much as my body can handle right now. And the whole thing is Just. Too. Much. I’m sick now, in body and heart, and I cannot return to them as I so very much wish to.

Bless Bertie MacAvoy today, who has flung a double handful of electrons at me today in the shape of her latest round of Shimmer edits. I get to look at them, think about them,  fall into the story and see where it needs to be transitioned.

Exactly what I need at exactly this moment.

Sometimes ducking into another world for a while gives you the break that you need to be able to cope in this one, don’t you think? Even if you’re the one making that other world. Blessings on the artists, the creators, the musicians, the poets, the weavers, and all, who give us respite from our many cares.

 

Looking Forward, Looking Back

 

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Spent New Year’s Eve coloring in my own copy of the coloring book I created because I need the message. Kind of meta, huh.

2016 was a year of Big Transitions for yours truly. There were a number of Hard Things to deal with in 2016. But there were a good many wonderful ones, too, and I’m going to feed energy into those amazing things, rather than dwelling on things I can’t change at this moment.

My home-educated son graduated high school. My daily profession of the past dozen years is complete. Maybe it’s better seen as an epic quest, rather than a job? I’ve been trying to prepare myself for his leaving home since . . . oh, let me see. His birth? But I’ve been actively lining up Next Steps for a solid couple of years. I knew it would be difficult. Not only was I having my kid go to college, a culturally normal step, but I was being professionally displaced. And my peer group was abruptly changing: the folks with kids still in school were still going to be caught up in that world that I was about to leave. Those with similarly launching kids were moving in their own unique directions. I knew I couldn’t wait until the last minute. So I started taking classes, submitting stories, working on projects.

Despite my plans, the changes when Atticus left school felt abrupt.

 

My relationship with my son, somewhat strained as both of us figured out the shape of our lives in our new roles, was restored by road trips we took together. We discovered and explored new-to-us places and experiences. It seemed a fitting cap to our years of educating together, and strengthened both of us before his departure.

He went away to school and, to my joy (and really, I wasn’t surprised) flourished on his own, despite the predictions of certain folks from his babyhood who tried to convince me that holding him so much would make it impossible for him to ever leave home. And we now know the answer to that eternal question thrown at homeschoolers, “What about the socialization?” The answer is, “Well? What about it?” And my husband and I have been able to spend more time together, recognizing that this is an important part of learning to live without our son’s daily presence.

And I launched into being a full-time creative professional. Years of prompting by friends and acquaintance, years of study, and I took the jump. #YesThisIsMyDayJob The structure I’ve imposed for myself has kept me from floundering around in the empty space of my days. I’m so very thankful for the opportunity.

I’ve had the continued rare and wonderful opportunity to work with Bertie MacAvoy on a pair of books. Kevin J. Anderson and WordFire Press have agreed to take Albatross and Shimmer. The books are in good hands and will be available this year. They feel so important to me, now more than ever.  Bertie talks about this on her blog.

Some people can work on multiple writing projects at once. I’m having a hard time working that way. Maybe it’s my memory issues. I just don’t seem to be able to hold all the threads of the story in my head at once if I’m wrangling another novel at the same time. The editing process is slow, though. I needed a really immersive project, to take my mind off missing my son.

I had not been accepting any art commissions for a while, and frankly was feeling too bleak for them. So I made the art book I needed for myself, and published it, and sent it out into the world. And it’s being very well received. There’s something so special about watching people’s reactions to the Naughty Fairies! The laugh, the sharp nod of recognition: these are gratifying things. And I’m told that the book is important. That’s not for me to judge. But people are telling me that they’re find it helpful, or cathartic, or a release. I am grateful for the chance to make something that matters to people.

My art colleagues have pressed me into opening an Etsy shop. I’m slow at it posting new things there, but they’ll be coming. And maybe I’ll be making a big painting soon, too.

The real focus, though, to me, is the writing: Albatross and Shimmer and my simmering-on-the-back-burner fantasy novel series. It’s hard to explain the sense I have of these books, pulsing around in my veins. I feel an urgency to get Albatross and Shimmer out into the world. 2017 is offering the chance for that. And I feel the other books itching under my skin. I sometimes worry that I should be doing more for them at this moment. But then a connection will click over, and I’ll gasp and think “Oh, yes, OF COURSE,” so I know that my subconscious is working on the parts my conscious brain is stuck on. So I’m making notes and holding myself open to that story.

I’m ready for this year. Much like launching my son: maybe the reality will be harder than I imagined. But we learn and go forward. Because this is what we do.

Resolute

As a writer and artist, symbols are my daily companions. Symbols are powerful. New Year’s Eve is a special sort of time, when even those who may not look for symbols do so almost unconsciously. A new year is a new beginning. Whether we will it or not, at this place on the calendar change IS upon us. And so the power of the New Year’s resolution: we pause to reflect, to think ahead, to assess. What has been. What is to be. What shape we hope the coming year to take. Resolutions are wishes that we make upon ourselves. Whether we keep them or no. There is power here at the cusp of the year. So I’ve been thinking about this sort of thing, even more so than usual, and looking for a special symbol. A word can be a symbol. Words are my tools. I’m reaching for one of those.

Once upon a time (March 1850, actually) the sailing barque Ptarmigan was renamed HMS Resolute.  Its refitting included extra-strong timbers and a polar bear figurehead. (Note to self: what happened to this figurehead?)  This ship was one of those sent out as a relief vessel to find and succor the lost Franklin Expedition. Or at the very least, to discover what had happened to these men.

The Resolute was eventually trapped in ice. After a long winter, the ship was prepared as best as the crew were able, and then abandoned in her icy bed. Two years later, the ship was discovered, adrift, by an American captain. The Resolute was purchased by the US Congress, restored, and returned to England as a gift of goodwill. (It was also hoped by some that it would be used to search again for Franklin and his men, but this never happened … too much evidence existed that the men had perished.)

The Resolute served as part of the Royal Navy in local waters until being retired and broken up in 1879. Fans of Nic Cage (one of whom is resident in my house) know well what happened next to some of this wood: Queen Victoria had at least three desks made from the remains. One she gave as a gift to U. S. President Hayes, “as a memorial of the courtesy and loving kindness which dictated the offer of the gift of the RESOLUTE a gesture of international solidarity.”

This desk has been used by most of the U.S. presidents since, either in the Oval Office or a different study.

Symbols are powerful. This desk is, note above, a recognition of the courtesy and loving kindness of the United States. As a country, as a people, as individuals: we are flawed. But we can, and have, manifested courtesy and kindness.

Rather than making resolutions this year, I am adopting a word: RESOLUTE.

Oxford Dictionaries definition for RESOLUTE:   admirably purposeful, determined, and unwavering.

HMS Resolute did not succeed in its primary mission. But along the way, its crew rescued and provided shelter for another ship’s crew who had been stranded and on short rations for over a year. Abandoned itself, the Resolute remained upright and largely intact until it worked free, and then was recovered, claimed, and cared for. It made its way home, where it continued to serve; after its useful lifetime it remains still as testament to cooperation and kindness. There is much that is dark in our history as a nation, but this too is our legacy: generosity, outreach, compassion.

Each of us are facing any number of challenges this year. I don’t know yours, but I can see some of what lies ahead for us as a nation. And I most definitely see some of what awaits me personally in 2017. Some of it is going to be amazing. Some of it is going to be excruciatingly painful, because life has its path and its pattern and some things are unchangeable. There are opportunities here: to crack under the pressure, or to withstand, and continue. To become more.

I will celebrate the warmth in the world. I will celebrate, not because of conflicts, but in spite of them. I am purposeful, determined, and unwavering. I will do what is in my power and, when I can do no more, I will still stand. And I will stand FOR something.

I am resolute.

 

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Creativity Intervention, part 1: Suzi Blu

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Artwork copyright SuziBlu. Used with permission. Cool, huh?

 

It’s almost like there’s a script. I’ll be sitting in a public place sketching and someone will wander by, eye my sketchbook with interest and . . . longing. And then tell me about how they used to love drawing, or coloring, or painting, or some other creative endeavor. And how they realized they weren’t good enough, or were unworthy, or made to feel ashamed in some way for the simple act of picking up a pencil or crayon and letting themselves create.

Time for an intervention.

There’s more going on here than a lack of belief in someone’s creative ability. There’s a vulnerability around the SELF. You can feel it . . . grief and regret, a longing for that simple immersion into art. This is someone who used to find such a happiness in art. What happened here? Sometimes, if I ask, they’ll tell me the story. These stories hurt my heart.

Somewhere inside each of these folks the spirit of that happy little kid who was so excited to pick up the crayons is still there, missing the color, longing for the freedom. That little kid needs to be told that IT IS OKAY to make messy, fabulous, playful art. Or serious, expressive art. Whatever they need art to be.

So… how to reach that spirit?

Let’s start with mixed media maven Suzi Blu! Suzi believes that everyone has a right to be creative, and that your work doesn’t have to be revered by the establishment or displayed in a museum to have value. Your art is for YOU, and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of it. The value is in the making of it. If you get a pretty picture at the end, great! But the outcome is not essential. What is essential is your presence.

She teaches that your art journal is a safe space for you to explore and play.  I think I first saw her videos (*gasp* — Really, it’s been that long?) NINE years ago. (Youtube link to an early one here! I STILL sing the art journal club song from this video. It makes my husband look at me funny.) I used an sketchbook before that, and sometimes took art supplies with me when I took my son to the playground. But Suzi helped me stop judging my work so harshly. I started carrying an art journal with me nearly everywhere. And the confidence and practice, those two things made a huge difference in my daily art experience.

Seriously. Go watch a couple of those early videos.  (If you’re in a creative slump, it might help you.) Warning: you may not be able to start, once you’ve started.

It’s okay. I’ll wait for you here.

Since those first videos, Suzi has helped thousands of people hand the crayons back to their inner child. She teaches classes, “playshops,” and leads online groups. She’s not just teaching technique. She’s leading people through an experience of making art in a joyful, exploratory way. And along the way, she helps them find their belief in themselves.  As fun and free-thinking autonomous individuals. As creators of their own life’s paths. Suzi believes, and demonstrates, that art is not something you do, but rather a way of living.

There’s something about her approach that is especially appealing to women. Some guys like Suzi, too. But her message resonates particularly with women. So many of us are broken in the same ways. And art can help us heal. Suzi’s walked that particular path, and it’s a topic she revisits in her art and in her videos. Sometimes we may need a little guidance in how to start that healing journey. Suzi can help with that.

Whether she’s showing you how to make a messy, ecstatically freeform multi-layer background, demonstrating how to shade beautifully with colored pencils, or dancing around in a tiara with puppets while singing, Suzi’s real gift is helping you discover your authentic, creative self. And that’s all kinds of awesome.

Suzi’s Patreon page is a great place to find cool monthly classes, and an involved creative community to help the seeker. Suzi has led me to take my art in directions I may not have thought to try years ago, stretching my ability, and helping me learn to trust myself. It’s been a lot of fun. Check her out!

(Plus, her dog is Very Cute. Bonus.)

 

Cleaned Up for Company

cleanedupcoverpromo2forwebSome folks were requesting The Naughty Fairies Coloring Book, sans swearing. If you’d like to color without risking your job or the ire of the Dowager Duchess, I am happy to provide!

The Naughty Fairies Adult Coloring Book CLEANED UP FOR COMPANY is the same images from BAD WORDS AND WORSE ATTITUDES . . . just minus the “bad” words.

Click here to go to the Createspace store!

Click here to find Cleaned Up for Company on Amazon

 

Fairies on the Loose!

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Just arrived home from a week-long journey which included (you’ll have to imagine the trumpet fanfare) receiving the proof copy of my new coloring book! Photo above taken in Charleston, South Carolina, where I was trying out the images with #Staedtler colored pencils. Their hard leads made for wonderfully subtle layering. I’ll post more photos after I’ve caught up on sleep. Meanwhile, you can get your very own copy from Amazon.com! 

Bertie and I are also expecting publisher edits back on our novels at any moment, so hoping for news on that front soon as well.

But first: time to pet the cats and get some zzzzzzz’s.

Coming Soon … Adult Coloring!

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Inspired by Real Life Events.

What do you do when waiting for edits to come back from the publisher? Well, write more, obviously. This time around, though, I needed something a little more immediately distracting, to keep my mind off my empty nest. So in addition to working on the next novel, I Made a Thing. This is it.

Waiting to get my proof copy back; should be available to order within the week. It’s been fun sharing draft copies with people and watching their reactions. I’m looking forward to seeing the test volume. I’ll keep you posted!

Meanwhile, I’m working hard at NaNoWriMo. Although it looks a bit like NaNoWriLess at the moment . . .

Hands Off!

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Are you pissed? Because I’m pissed. So I made this. Click the picture or the FREEBIES tab above to find a free download of this image.

I have a lot of friends and family who are on the more conservative end of the spectrum than I am. We get along because we choose to seek out and celebrate the things we have in common, rather than focusing on our many differences.

This past week we had found unfortunate common ground when a public figure bragged about committing sexual assault. It’s dismaying to realize how many of us have had to deal with this kind of attack, and how little we’ve been able to do about it in so many cases.

When I get upset, art gives me an outlet. Making this drawing helped me process my anger and frustration. I know not everyone is comfortable with their ability to get their feelings out on paper, so I made this drawing into a PDF for you or a friend to color. Just click on the FREEBIE tag above for more info, or click the picture at the top of this page. If you color it, I’d love to see your work! Feel free to tag me @moonsownsister on twitter or Instagram, and let me know if it’s okay for me to re-post your work!

I do ask that you not sell this work. If you repost, please mention my name and this website.

Tuesday: Tea and a Tome 9/13/16

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In my studio today.

My happiest time is when I stand in front of a white empty board: the space is full of hope.

— Kinuko Craft

Too much wrestling with tech yesterday left me irritable. Today is a new beginning! So I had a lovely cup of chai tea with a friend to start my morning. Cinnamon and ginger, allspice and cloves, quiet conversation: all warming and life-enriching. These things will soothe.

As will a peek into the visually delicious Kinuko Craft: Drawings & Paintings. I purchased a copy in New York recently. You may not know Kinuko Craft’s name, but you might recognize her paintings: ethereal, yearning,  ambient pieces that cup narrative in an enchanted, wordless space.

If you know her work, then like me you probably saw her paintings first on a book cover. I looked into her art after discovering her wonderful illustration for The Bards of Bone Plain by Patricia McKillip, and realized that many of these paintings were familiar to me. Generally, yes, via book covers. A good cover stands alone as a work of art, but also serves as a sort of gateway, inviting a reader to come step through into the story.

An ill-suited cover can suffocate a book, but the right cover can make it sing. Craft and McKillip are well suited. As are Craft and Ellen Kushner, at least in the case of the wonderful Thomas the Rhymer. I read this story in 1990, when it was a new version of an old wonderment, and have revisited it since. I loved the Thomas Canty cover back then, and thought it couldn’t have an equal, but the US and Kindle reissues are graced with a Kinuko Craft cover that will likely draw in a new generation of readers. (You can see more about it on Terri Windling’s wonderful blog post over at Myth and Moor.)

But back to the book at hand. This volume (available through her official gallery for $25 at the time of this post) is a lovely production. Gleaming gold ink, lavish borders, and vividly printed illustrations. Worth the space on your bookshelf.

Kinuko Craft’s words give insight into her process and motivation.

“The stories invite me into a world the author has created. I start living there and let my own dreams and imagination explore and guide me.”  — Kinuko Craft

The art, though, is the main reason for picking up the book. Line drawings let us see pieces of the creation of the finished works. She has a very great technical skill in art, but as with the best writers, she transcends technique and takes us into worlds of her own creation. Dense, layered, rich with detail and color. Her paintings are so narrative, they don’t have subjects: they have protagonists.

Once a painting is finished I never look back. The journey is done, and I go on to the next adventure. — Kinuko Craft

Visit Kinuko Craft’s official website for more wonderment!

That Telling Voice

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From my 2015 bedside sketchbook. Not a Pokémon, but I did catch this fox. Easier to make these little scribbley notes if your tools are handy!

Tired today. I was up too late last night.

I had a perfectly reasonable-for-me bedtime chosen, and the cats and dog and family even cooperated. But as my head hit the pillow, I heard that voice.

Do you write? Or draw? Or do anything creative? If so, then you know that voice. Or, if not the specific voice, then something from its family.

That voice that tells you Something Important that you needed to know about your story, or describes that line or stroke of color you need for that visual art, or hums out that accompaniment you’ve been looking for in the bass line. THAT voice.

In my case, last night I was visited by a character (notably NOT from the book I’m currently revising, which I suspect is a very good thing, because it’s nearly done and I couldn’t handle that kind of major upheaval in it) giving me the details of her death. I had known that she was going to die. I had thought it would be sudden, and offstage. Between stories, even. I had never intended to show her passing, just her companion showing up living the aftermath, later.

I should have known better. Best laid plans of mice and writers, and all that.

This character and her partner were both meant to be very secondary persons in a large story arc I’m working on, and they showed up and demanded their own story — actually, their own STRING of stories — be told. This woman’s very strong-willed. So I have a history with her. I should have expected her to show up, but I didn’t, and this is why I had to scramble out of bed and out into the living room so I could let her dictate the means of her passing, and her instructions for after. I am a reasonable touch-typist, so I didn’t even put my glasses back on. Just fired up the laptop and wrote what she told me, saved the document, and went back to bed when she finally said I could.

Three lessons here:

1) make sure you’ve got something to write (or draw or make musical notation or whatever your flavor) with at all times, because the real characters inhabiting your world will stop by unannounced. Don’t trust yourself to remember it in the morning, because there’s no promise this person will show up and repeat themselves.

2) be kind to the writers and other creative people in your life. You don’t know who’s been riding them. In the non-demonic-but-still-a-kind-of-possession way.

3) creative people, keep your friendships with other creative people. Because they’re the ones who go, “Uh-huh, uh-huh!” and nod in agreement when you start talking about fictional people showing up and telling you things. Instead of trying to have you locked up. And that’s a priceless thing.

Be ready for that Voice!