Making Wonder: Metamorphosis

IMG_7369This tiny creature is an Atala butterfly. Once thought to be extinct, due to habitat loss and other human-induced causes, these shimmering bits of wonder have returned to South Florida through a collaborative effort and years of patience. We’d heard this success story, and my son and I wanted to be part of it. Atticus was, I think, mostly fascinated by the plants at first. Cycads, the slow-growing sole food source of the Atala caterpillar, coexisted with the dinosaurs. We were both enthused by the idea of a dinosaur garden. I set out to find plants. Atticus painstakingly chose prehistoric creatures from his collection.

A kindly stranger, met online, mailed to me a geneous number of coontie pups. These were the single-frond offspring of the many coontie in his Gainesville yard, and were meant for my son’s kindergarten class garden. We planted most of them there, but he sent so many that there were a few left over. We tucked those few into our little yard’s native landscaping. With care, three of the baby plants grew.  They do grow slowly, though. Very slowly. We settled in to wait. We bided our time, for a while, by staging elaborate dino dioramas. And learning about butterflies.

I’d travelled several towns over to a garden center that was rumored to have an Atala population. I THOUGHT I spotted one, but it was hard to be sure…they’re so small, and move so fast. And I’d never seen one before, so I couldn’t be sure.

About three years after planting the coontie, I saw the first Atala in the yard. The next year, there were two. The following year, none. A couple of years later, three or four. Gradually, especially after we replaced our ficus hedge with native plants, the butterflies became regular inhabitants. The plastic dinosaurs dotting the garden were eventually retired, and my son left the garden to his mother. But he enjoyed our annual watch over the metamorphosis: egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to adult.

This year, wow! This year saw a week when at least twenty butterflies PER DAY were emerging. We have, in my opinion, an established colony. It’s delightful to walk through the yard and see the Atala so close, so abundantly thriving. We’ve invited small children over to share the wonder, and it IS a wonder. Let me clarify the timeframe, though: it’s my son’s second year of college.

The butterflies aren’t the only ones who’ve gone through changes.

So it hits home. Creating a habitat for butterflies: how very like raising a child. How very like writing a book. Collaboration, with an intent toward a goal that’s not guaranteed,  and an outcome nobody can really predict. But in the end, wonder: a book. A new adult. A great cloud of shimmering butterflies.

You watch them, then you release them into the world with a wish and all the good energy you can muster. Then…you watch, and hope the world embraces them.

SHIMMER, sequel to ALBATROSS, is at the printer. Atticus is away at school, making theater magic. And South Florida has a great throng  of black and scarlet and dazzling blue butterflies. Keep your eyes open for all of them!

ALBATROSS in Print!

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This book is now available in print, as well as digital format. I’m old enough that this makes it seem somehow more real. It sits here on my hearth, soft and solid against the warm brick. An artifact of sorts, documentation of these days. A story of the near future, that is in some ways an attempt on the part of the authors to find their way through a troubled time.

This is the book we needed to write. We’ve have been told by a reader that it’s the story they needed to read. And so Bertie and I, and the good folks over at WordFire, are quietly launching Albatross into the world.

Wishing you all peace, a warm cup of tea, and a quiet spot for reading.

— Nancy Palmer

Parkland Florida, November 2017

Tea and SomeEditsy

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After editing, maybe I’ll have time to polish my kettle.

Greetings from the Land of Eternal Edits! ALBATROSS has had its release date pushed back for Complicated Publisher Reasons. A by-product of this extra time means that Bertie and I get to do a FINAL (this-time-really-for-true) final edit.

Of course, this ms has been so thoroughly edited that there are ZERO changes to be made…right? HA! Of course there are changes to be made! There’s always something that slips past the writers, editors, and beta readers. (Rather like searching for fleas on my very floofy dog. And similarly uncomfortable.)

This calls for tea. (And maybe, since I’m still recovering from July’s auto accident, a standing desk.)

But it’s been a while since I sat with ALBATROSS. More recent work (and a big hunk of steel at mumbletymumble MPH) had rather nudged it from the forefront of my mind. And I confess: I’m rather enjoying my time with Dr. Rob MacAulay. And Thomas Heddiman. I’m looking forward to this book being in the world.

ALBATROSS now set to release in November, with SHIMMER to come out in December.

How His Worlds End

imageHard news tonight.  I found myself last Friday on the receiving end of an auto which was busily demonstrating Newtonian physics in action, with associated rattled brain and body. Reading is hard just now. Writing is harder. Accordingly, I’ve been largely absent from social media this past week. So I didn’t know. Until Bertie MacAvoy messaged me. Details have been following. And I’m wrestling with my accident-addled brain to make sense of it, to find words. Because words are what brought Michael Harper to my page, and are what our strange friendship was built from.

Writing is such a weird art form. It’s so solitary, crafting a story. But it’s such an intimately cooperative art, too, because the story never lives without a reader. The story is uniquely THEIRS, their understanding of it shaped by their own experiences and thoughts and ways of being. A writer envisions and shares a world and its people and places. But the reader is the one who actually LIVES in  that world, for a time, shaping the experience of the book by their own essence.

When someone passes, we lose their presence in this world. Also gone, though: their experiences in the fictional arts, the worlds they shaped in their own images. Nobody will ever again read my stories in the form that Michael Harper read them. Whatever his waking walking life was, Michael knew how to read and be present in a book. I so appreciate his bringing his energy to my stories. My head is splitting from the effort of writing this, but I know that of all things, words were what was between the two of us. So I can’t help but share a few in his memory.

Rest, in peace, and I wish you joy amid the stardust, Michael Harper.

 

 

Please Bear With Us

JudyBearwithTeaALBATROSS release date, I’ve learned, is actually going to be September of this year. While you’re waiting, I suggest checking out R. A. MacAvoy’s entertaining tales of her bear encounters, very kindly compiled and shared by Mike Glyer over at File 770! While reading some of these stories, I haven’t known whether to laugh or sit there slack-jawed . . . you should give them a try.

And while you’re over there, if you’re not familiar with File 770, you might as well have a look around. Good stuff to be found.

(Bertie and I have discussed collaborating on a coloring book based on these adventures, and I’ve been sketching. What do you think of the idea?)

 

Turning a Page

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I, like this fairy, read when I’m broken. It’s a good strategy for surviving.

Spring has run its course, rung its changes. Turned into Summer while I was busy looking elsewhere. I don’t know precisely when this little garden sculpture fractured, but I look at its face and find a kindred feeling, and so I keep the little fairy. Momento of a season of transitions.

Summer is starting kindlier. SHIMMER line edits have arrived! Awnna, our editor, has had her time with the pages, and now Bertie and I hold them close one last time before sending them out into the world. It’s hard to let them go, to stop re-visioning the story. But it’s time, and past time, and there are other stories clamoring. So today and tonight and tomorrow, I’m putting some final hours in. Then turning a metaphorical and literal page.

I had telephone call a couple of days ago. Someone I know had been telling another about ALBATROSS, and they’d gone looking for it, and been unable to find it. THANK YOU for the word of mouth, and sharing news of the story! I was very happy to tell them (and I’ll repeat it here, in case you missed it!) that ALBATROSS should be available in June from WordFire Press. And I’ll be posting a link when it’s available.

And now, with line edits in hand, I can confidently say that sequel SHIMMER will be available this Autumn. I’ll check in with you soon. For now, I’m off to lose myself in the story one final time.

In the Wee Hours

A character has been sitting with me in the wee hours. At this time, the hours hung between night and day, my daily preoccupations haven’t yet caught up. The barriers of “should do” aren’t up, and these presences can cross over and make themselves known. At least that’s what it feels like. Annie is showing me her story, and I’m trying to get out of the way and let the words come.

The world is waking. A bluejay is claiming my back yard. The warblers in the palm trees and hedges have their own claims to the space, and the water hanging in the air wraps us all and scoffs at our ideas of space and ownership. It’s difficult to avoid “the pathetic fallacy” when the place is so blatantly itself.

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.

 

Edits for Breakfast

I did my very first Facebook Live video yesterday! It’s a flip-through of my Naughty Fairies Adult Coloring Book Cleaned Up for Company and it is replete with shaky camera, fast talking, and all the other newbie bits! But it’s me being vulnerable and being myself. People seemed to like it. You can see it here.

In other news, I went to bed early and awoke to find Shimmer edits back from our editor in my inbox! So I’ll be having edits for breakfast. Perhaps I’ll take my laptop and sit under the newly-blooming peach tree out back.  A cup of tea, a notepad, and a sequel. Good way to start the day.

I’m looking forward to a flurry of emails back and forth with Bertie as we discuss and compare and suggest over manuscript tweaks. I’ve missed our daily back-and-forth. Collaboration has its challenges, but I do love that woman and her unique, quizzical mind. She’s a fantastic storyteller. I’ve been so privileged to work with her; she has challenged me and encouraged me and I’m a better writer myself for it. Plus: writing, drawing . . . these can be lonely things. I’d gotten used to having a long-distance companion. I’ve purely missed her daily presence in my life. So edits: yay!

And I’m quite eager to get Shimmer on to its next phase. I have this looming sense that this particular story, with its seeds of hope, wants to be out in the world.