There’s always one of them – the lost ones. Just before the weather changes, a single bird or a pair, migrating with unhurried ease as the clouds close in behind them.

I try not to think about what happens to them.

This is not a forgiving land.

Mistakes are etched deep into the grooves left by glaciers and those sudden deadfalls across every ridge, every turn of the river.

In the cliff faces by the ocean, I saw a small cave once. Inside was the skeleton of a deer, caught by the tide as it tried to escape a storm.

Its head was bowed in death, facing the inevitable, not with fear, but with resignation.

It knew that knife’s edge of choice and consequence.

It knew when it had fallen on the blade.

I read fiction because sometimes I want mistakes to not be permanent. To know that through the magic of narrative (or through literal magic), that it is possible to err deeply and still rise upwards. To make a late-season flight and arrive at the migration point shaken, but unharmed.

And yet…

In between the snow drifts the remnants of last year’s growth rot in place. They appear almost startled, caught by surprise by the frost, by the snow, by the inevitable grinding of the unrelenting wheel.

Sometimes I want stories that take me away from here.

But sometimes I want stories that remember this-

A deer’s skeleton.

A lost bird.

A dead frond, its roots waiting for spring.

IMG_1487Hope is what comes after everything else has failed

Sometimes we need to talk about consequences in a variety of ways.

If you’d like to see my take on consequences of various kinds, my fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor, is available here.


A Delicate Machinery

Mechanics is a dirty word when it comes to writing. The standard thought is that if the underlying machinery is done well, it should be invisible. If part of the scaffolding peers out from the written monument, it is nearly as embarrassing as flashing a Victorian ankle.

Like the view of the ankle, the value of specific stylistic decisions change over time while the underlying flesh and bones remain.

I am, surprisingly or maybe not, someone who loves a wide range of traditional, formal poetry from a variety of cultural backgrounds. I also enjoy reading through stories that have obviously been transcribed from oral accounts. One of my biggest sorrows is that we do not look enough to lessons learned over millenia of musical and story-telling traditions when writing.

There is a music to our memory.

Phrases and verses that capture us are often grounded in deep heartbeat rhythms designed not only to be easy to remember, but to pull a captive audience along with the flow of the words.

I read my own writing out loud, using years of classical music training to ruthlessly slash the stuttered beats and rough transitions.

When I read, I listen for a similar music reaching up to me, to hear crescendos and diminuendos build to climaxes and fall away to echoes.

This is a delicate machinery – threadbare cogs moving carefully, inexorably beneath the ink.

I look for that machinery, close my eyes to line the words with my own internal clock, a steady rhythm beneath the ribs.

IMG_1511Even thinly veiled machinery has its place… and its beauty

I’m always interested in the intersection of form and music in writing.

To see my own take on a written story-telling tradition, you can check out my fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor, which is available here.

Snowed Under

The thing with snow is that it returns.

The lull between storms is a deceptive deflection, designed to convince poor saps to free their spaces of obstruction, only to be filled once more by the following morning.

Snow makes a mockery of the power of civilization.

It chokes arteries of transport, smothers buildings, deftly eliminates power lines and pipe lines.

As I move with my flashlight through objects rendered useless in the absence of electricity, I am reminded again of the razor edge we live on here.

We live by the grace or the indifference of the land around us.

It is so frighteningly simple to pass from comfort to fear.

A night was all it took this time.

A single night’s worth of snow is beautiful, overwhelming, and deadly.

There have been injuries, potentially fatalities, although we will not know all of them until the weather is fully past.

I value this reminder.

I write of the importance of remembering the weather when writing not because I am a deranged meteorologist.

I write of the importance of weather because the winter lurks always in the background of these places, the burning drive beneath the skin.

IMG_7079A night’s worth of snow

For better or for worse, the land I live in has shaped my thoughts and ideas.

To see my version of the razor’s edge, you can read my fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor, which is available here.

A Sense of Scale

I wish that there were more stories about the rich interior lives of garden-dwelling snails and carabid beetles.

I mean this very seriously.

Often when I read I am looking for a sense of wonder, of discovery, of venturing into worlds I could never have imagined if left to my own devices. Whether I look for poetry, mystery, biography or fantasy, I want to feel that prickle at the back of my neck as I see things in a way I have never considered.

The thing is, too often we associate this discovery with grand, world-shaking adventures.

While I enjoy large-scale epics of all kinds, I think that there are equally valuable stories to told about small things, things that fit between the cracks of our lived experiences.

A beetle trying to conceptualize the sky is something that pulls my mind in ways I would normally never think.

It’s not just the size of the inhabitants though.

Too often, grand stories lose the perspective that allows us to relate to and understand the scale of the events.

After the third or the fourth time the universe has blown up and been reversed once again by the hero, it becomes hard to care enough to conceptualize what the universe actually blowing up would look like.

Smaller stories have their own set of pitfalls of becoming so entwined in minutia that it becomes impossible to work out what is or isn’t important.

It’s not that one type of story-telling is better than the other.

It’s that I want a wider range of stories, full of events and insights that make my eyes open in wonder.

I want a grand, world-shaking hero striding across the land.

I want a garden-bound insect trying to eat enough cabbage to reproduce.

I want them both to look up at the sky-

-and be awed.

IMG_1412The sky is always so much larger than the scale we live in

I really am fascinated by carabid beetles and wish there was a much larger branch of story-telling that incorporated them.

For my own take on small versus large stories, my fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor, is available here.