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.

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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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 . . .

Future Home of Epic Hat Battles

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Tower of Geek at SuperCon in Miami. See if you can spot the Truly Impressive Hat.

If you saw my post on visiting Supercon in Miami, you might remember how much I liked the WordFire Press extravaganza, the Tower of Geek. Writers smiling, interacting one-on-one with fans. Happy volunteers helping people find their next great read. Where I had my awesome (if one-sided) hat battle (which I lost) and met some very cool people.

It reminded me of my old bookstore days. I didn’t have to look very far to find interesting people with sparkling minds back then … they just came walking into the shop. And then I got to talk to them about some of my favorite things: reading, and books, and art Star Trek and gaming and oh by the way if you like that have you seen this author. I didn’t make a lot of money, compared to some in other fields, but the quality of my hours was matchless.

The Tower of Geek is the kind of thing that makes you want to be part of it, whether you’re buying books — which I did — or being part of the crew. And I told Bertie.

And Bertie did what Bertie does, and wrote Kevin Anderson an e-mail. And sent him a book. And told him about the other we were working on.

And Kevin Anderson said yes.

So Albatross has been revised, the better to have a companion volume, and will be coming out in print and a new e-book, likely within the year. And Book Two, for now called Shimmer, is ready to be looked at by a pro Editor as well. And Bertie and I have signed both contracts with WordFire Press.

And I have purchased a new hat.

To celebrate.

Prepare for Epic Hat Battle, part Two!