All Panned Out

There are a thousand of them on the rainshadow slopes.

If you follow the landslides and the exposed veins of copper, you can hardly miss them.

They are frozen moments of time, carts and tools left scattered at the base-

As if someone stopped working one morning and walked away-

Never to return.

The miners dreamed big dreams.

Few became rich, but the gold sat heavy in the backs of their eyes.

I could compare their madness to writing.

I do not know if that is fair to either of us.

All I know is when I begin to type, I hold my breath-

And plunge eagerly into the darkness.

IMG_9008We scrabble in the darkness, searching for light


If you would like to see more of own attempts at uncovering treasure, I have also written a fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor. It is available here.

 

Advertisements

The Writing Process Blog Hop

IMG_9660Hop, bloggy hop!

As a change of pace, today is a day for the hopping of blogs! I have been tagged by the talented Heidi Garrett to tell you a little bit more about what is going on inside my writerly head.

For those of you are who are unfamiliar with her, here is a brief introduction to her work.

Heidi Garrett is the author of the contemporary fairy tale novella collection, Once Upon a Time Today. In these stand-alone retellings of popular and obscure fairy tales, adult characters navigate the deep woods of the modern landscape to find their Happily Ever Afters.

She’s also the author of the Daughter of Light series, a fantasy about a young half-faerie, half-mortal searching for her place in the Whole. Heidi’s latest project is a collaboration with B. J. Limpin. They’re cooking up a yummy paranormal romance!

Heidi was born in Texas, and in an attempt to reside in as many cities in that state as she could, made it to Houston, Lubbock, Austin, and El Paso. She now lives in Eastern Washington state with her husband, their two cats, her laptop, and her Kindle.

Being from the South, she often contemplates the magic of snow.

You can find her at:

www.heidigwrites.blogspot.com

www.twitter.com/heidigwrites

Seriously, go check her out!

As for me, I have put on my thinking cap and put together some answers to the pressing question of what exactly it is that I do when I am not writing posts with pretty pictures and cryptic poetry.

My Writing Process

1. What am I working on?

In contrast to the thousand different things going through my mind at any one time, I am very focused in my writing projects. Right now, I am working on the second book in the “Tales from the Virtue Inn” series, With Honor Intact. I am having so much fun finishing this story. It has action, deep friendships, live squid, and naked glassblowers. These are all things that are tremendously fun to write.

Besides its fluffier components, With Honor Intact deepens the mystery surrounding the Virtue Inn and its inhabitants. I love creating and solving puzzles. I have high hopes that my readers will be as fascinated as I am with the little pieces that fit together in the larger plot. Everything is well on track to the story being released at the end of June/beginning of July and I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to share it with everyone else.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I didn’t have a television or a non-work-based computer as a kid. If we wanted entertainment that didn’t come from playing “The Ground is Lava and So Are the Walls”, we had to read.

So I read.

A lot.

There are very few genres I haven’t at least touched on in my lengthy reading career and I have favourites that I read and re-read in most of them.

The thing that all of my favourite books had in common was that they made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up at some point in the story. Other things were negotiable, but that was not.

I wanted to write that.

More specifically, I wanted to write stories that drew inspiration from, as one reviewer put it, “‘The Wizard of Oz’, C.S. Lewis, Dr. Who, Harry Potter, Dr. Seuss, ‘Alice in Wonderland’, and Aesop”. I’d add to that The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, T.S. Eliot, Sun Tzu, Agatha Christie, and a massive dose of world history and mythology.

In spite of what looks like a Frankenstein monster of influences, the core of my writing is very simple.

I want you to care.

I want you to care about my characters, about my world, and about the sad, funny, strange things that weave my stories together.

In the end, my stories are about people. They are about family and friends and the ways we come together and move apart.

They just have a hundred percent more sentient household objects and naked glassblowers than anything else in the genre.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I’ve partially answered this question, but I’m going to dig a little deeper here than the previous answer.

It’s no great secret if you look at my list of influences that I am a deep lover of classic children’s fantasy. One of the saddest moments for me as a grown-up was the difficulty of finding books for adults that gave me that same sense of wonder I experienced when I read good children’s fantasy.

I thought about it for a while and I realized that my problem was that I wanted to read contemporary fantasy adventures that were, at their core, joyous. There are tragedies and trials in those classics and in my own story as well.

But there is also a breathless sense of discovery, of wonder, of determination, that I wanted to try and capture in some small part.

I don’t know if I have succeeded, but the pleasure that the writing has brought me has helped me to recapture some of that joy in my own life.

4. How does my writing process work?

I dreamed.

In my dream, a woman with a golden, mechanical bird on her shoulder and a fox in her arms stood in front of a strange-looking inn.

She looked straight at me and said, “Tell my story.”

I listened.

 

***

 

It is my pleasure to tag two other talented writers that I hope you will go visit.

 

First up another fantasy writer with a sense of humour:

William D. Richards discovered writing at an early age thanks to a writing exercise by his fourth grade teacher and since has been bewildering people with his wild flights of fantasy. Yet, it was only recently that he began writing in earnest when the Great Recession forced him into making an involuntary career move. He splits his time between writing, promoting, and coaching others how to take the leap into publishing for themselves. His book, Aggadeh Chronicles Book 1: Nobody, is available through most ebook retail channels.

He can be found at:

http://blog.williamdrichards.com/

 

Secondly, a science fiction writer tackling some of the more intriguing possibilities for our near-future dystopias:

Michael Patrick Hicks has worked as a probation officer, a comic book reviewer, news writer and photographer, and, now, author. His work has appeared in various newspapers in Michigan, as well as several The University of Michigan publications, and websites, such as Graphic Novel Reporter and Leelanau.com. He holds two bachelor’s degrees from The University of Michigan in Journalism & Screen Studies and Behavioral Science. His first novel is CONVERGENCE.

He can be found here:

http://michaelpatrickhicks.com

 


 

If you have reached this far in my blog post and you are interested in checking out my own stories, my first fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor is available here.

Coarse Woody Debris

We classify waterways by obstruction.

I am not speaking of size or speed or beginnings or ends.

I am thinking of the calculation of the value of water.

Where is this stream?

Who does it matter to?

What lives within it?

When I see clear water, not a branch in sight I think-

Poison.

Ponds where salt or chemicals or temperature have stripped life.

Or streams whose speed is so swift and cold that all that would live within it are carried away, helpless.

It is the water with coated rocks, branches haphazardly fixed in murky pools that support the fragile chain of existence.

Life is not pretty.

It is a muddy burst of escaping minnows.

It is a rotting branch releasing itself back to the shoots below.

IMG_8574Death is always the base support of life


If you would like to follow more winding streams, I have also written a fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor. It is available here.

The Imperfect Perfection

The first things I notice when I see a growing flower are the signs of invasion.

Commercial bouquets are always strangely antiseptic-

Freed of signs of struggle or conflict, kept safely vibrant until they evenly fade and whither.

Outside, the browning curl of the petal fades into the aphid’s blemish-

Connects into the scar tissue of a heavy wind, the enlarged vein of viral infection.

Caught in the sun, there is no way to ignore the price of living-

Worn as clearly as the fierce pump of water to the rigid petals.

As complete and perfect as a cloudless day-

A sky with a thousand miles of blue.

IMG_9951The beauty is in the struggle


If you would like to see more stories of the mistakes that make perfection, I have also written a fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor. It is available here.

 

Out of Water

After the rain, a thousand tadpoles flounder on the edges of the ponds.

If there is still a channel, a small connecting vein or artery, they will make their way back to the deeper body.

Most die.

They are eaten or drown in the absence of water.

Adults are more flexible.

They persist in worlds their younger forms could only imagine.

A story sits at the  edge of a rain storm.

We seldom write of calm swimming in cool waters.

Our tales are of frantic scrambling through fading pathways.

Of trying to breathe in unfamiliar worlds.

In the end, if we are very lucky, the tadpole shifts, metamorphosizes.

It is not the butterfly that we should hope to emerge.

The greatest symbol of survival, of balancing the worlds, is a toad.

IMG_8554A champion of life and literature


For more tales of straddling the divide, I have also written a fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor. It is available here.

Uprooted

Currents don’t shift all at once.

Sometimes, when it floods, there is a quick new channel that displaces what passed before.

Most changes to the waterways are gradual.

A slow peel of the bank.

A deposit of gravel.

A diversion from one side of a boulder to the other.

It is easy enough to sit at the side of the water and feel secure.

To miss the bank dissolving beneath you.

To find yourself exposed, off-balance, your gravity shifted.

The words on the page work as well as any current.

A slow, steady pressure and the core unravels.

Leaving only the bare skeleton exposed-

Washed away by our changed direction.

IMG_9314Standing firm has its price, in both stories and life


 If you would like to follow some more shifting channels, I have also written a fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor. It is available here.

Clouds in the Sky, Soil in My Fingers

“So why did you decide to self-publish?”

I wrote a lot of stories.

Some were beautiful, some were ugly.

I shared those stories in a lot of different ways with a lot of different people.

Then I got sick.

I spent a long time being sick and a longer time being aware that I could be sick if I stepped one foot out of line.

I decided that I didn’t like lines.

Something I realized when I shared my ugly-beautiful stories was that not everybody liked them.

But some people did.

Sometimes people just want to stare up at the sky while they work on the ground.

Life is too short for me to tell stories for making people unhappy.

Life is too short to do things that make me unhappy.

I like telling stories.

I like taking people into the clouds while our feet stay on the ground.

I like shaping my story into the vision of my heart as well as my head.

These are the stories I wanted to tell, but were just outside the line I was trapped in.

I’m not afraid to fall upwards now.

I hope you’ll come with me.

IMG_9227I can have the clouds and the ground on the path I’ve chosen


If you want to see my cloud-catching in action, my fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor, is available here.

 

Sedimentation

We don’t see the layers beneath us.

There are stories, with fixed beginnings and endings, but they are hidden.

Until the storms.

When the water has washed past and the wind has settled, they leave a map in their wake.

A perfect record of the passing years, etched into exposed soil.

Fires, drought, flooding are all written there if you know the language.

Even in the corner- a fine bone, a small tale of passing of something too tiny to notice on a grander scale.

This is the joy of a retelling.

As narrator, we can make the death of a field mouse be the tragedy we speak.

In the background, the forest is a shadow.

We can regret the smallest-

Even as the smoke rises.

IMG_5197The unraveling layers


If you would like more layers, raveled and unraveled, I have also written a fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor. It is available here.

Whitewater

The corners are always deceptive.

Rivers are not static passageways.

A stretch of slow, even current is likely to round a corner on jagged rocks, on churning undertow.

We watch for the whitewater.

Once you know the river, some dangers are fixed.

But others hide beneath the surface, rising fallen trees and stumps to surround you.

Distraction is dangerous.

Complacency is fatal.

Writing should capture that feeling.

The sweet-sour taste in your throat as you round the corner.

As the whitecaps carry you through-

Or dash you against the rocks below.

IMG_0265A beautiful passage, an unforgiving pathway


If you’d like to chart some rougher waters, I have also written a fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor. It is available here.

Afterimage

There were houses once.

Sometimes you find them when you walk through the thick tangle of second-growth.

A foundation pit, or for the older ones, the base of a frame, tied together by moss.

When people write about the post-apocalypse, I wonder if they have ever wandered through the places where the human world has passed.

I startled a garter snake once.

The way he fled through the shattered window frame reminded me of a maggot exiting an eye socket.

In the world where all life balances on the edge of a razor-

We encroach.

We recede.

Our passing marked only by a claim marker, half-felled by snow.

By the words to describe a fire hydrant-

Balanced on the fine border of nowhere.

oldhydrant1A memory and a warning


If you want to travel with me to unabandoned places, I have also written a fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor. It is available here.