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.

 

 

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.

Versions

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Dreary. Excellent word choice this morning. I was going to reward myself for diligent work with a visit to the Farmer’s Market. Indulgence postponed on account of cold rain.

Happy to receive a message from Bertie MacAvoy in the wee hours today. She got the SHIMMER version with Developmental Editing revisions that I sent to her last night. Yay!

She hasn’t opened it yet. I’m not quite in the clear. But probably okay.

Awnna Evans, our Wordfire Press editor, was such an invested and thorough reader! She  sent us very useful editing notes. Bertie did the heavy lifting on these revisions, while I was enveloped in Big Life Things. I did my turn at editing thankfully, falling back into the story as a small respite from the outer world. And perhaps as a way of processing, understanding, and finding ways to deal with the larger situations surrounding life right now.

We’re so very careful at this stage, nearing completion, passing the “Master Document” back and forth. Versions are SO IMPORTANT. The book shifts, changes form under our hands. And words matter to us. So very much. Word choices are examined, talked about, chosen or discarded: little things that a reader will likely never notice, but which carry nuance to subtly influence a scene. If you’re not a writer, and wonder how this works, here’s an example: in the sentence above, I originally wrote “choices are looked at.” But “examined” is so much more accurate to the actual process. And then I wonder if I should drop the passive voice, and say “we examine word choices” instead. But I want the sentence emphasis to be on WORD CHOICE, not on the writers. So I leave it in the passive form.

And this is in a blog post. Without Bertie’s opinion to counter. So you can imagine how complex editing an entire BOOK is.

(Not everybody edits like this. Robert Heinlein would be rolling his eyes. Fortunately, I don’t require his good opinion. And he’s in no position to voice an opinion on Shimmer anyway.)

Love and care go into these changes. It’s quite upsetting to discover that your work has been done on an old version, and has to be re-done! Neither Bertie nor I have so much time and energy at hand that we care to waste it. So we are very careful with our versions.

We are nearing the final version of Shimmer. Line edits yet to do. I’m so ready to release this book!

*Note to aspiring writers: this fine-tuning is coming during the pre-publication editing process, at the behest of the editor. If you edit your document like this, to publication standard, on your own before submitting it? You may never actually finish your book. Beware falling into the trap of perpetually re-writing before getting outside input. Those fresh eyes are important, as much for telling you when to stop as for anything else. Kevin J. Anderson over at WordFire Press has some useful thoughts on this. 

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.

Fragment

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Tea and a Tale on a Tuesday: Fragment by Craig Russell

Bertie (R.A.) MacAvoy sent me a book to read, without telling me much of anything about it, or why I should read it.

But I trust her. So I read it: Fragment, by Canadian writer Craig Russell.

Well, I meant to read just a chapter or two. But I ended up reading the whole thing, compulsively. It’s a slender volume. The story, however, is a big one.

Sometimes what’s scary about a thriller is its plausibility. One of the things speculative fiction writers do best is tell the truth sideways.  And there’s a lot of truth here. Craig Russell’s near future ecological and political world are a little too easy to imagine as reality. It was a compelling, but uncomfortable read: I found myself reading faster as the story progressed, hoping there might be some way to avert disaster. Maybe something in the way of hope, that might be carried past the pages of the book and into the outer world. The hubris and political manipulation in Fragment: yes, there are real-world analogs. Seeing the potential outcome as spelled out in this novel? Dread inducing. But I couldn’t look away.

As a key part of the novel, Russell has created  a particularly compelling, and unexpected, major character. No spoilers here … but I’d have liked to see the book return to this character’s unique viewpoint more often.

This book would make a challenging summer movie. It might be difficult to get made in the current political situation. But there are some important messages here. And the visuals would be mesmerizing.

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.

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!

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!

 

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!