Symbiosis

Somewhere cold, far back in the middle of nowhere, there was a single tree at the top of a granite ridge.

That tree was at least a hundred years and it was barely to my shoulders, so scarred and gnarled and twisted that it looked more dead than alive.

It lived.

It held grimly to the ground beneath it, every winter another chance to be uprooted by avalanche or by wind.

Other trees grew together, providing shelter and support.

There are few who can truly stand on their own and their scars are visible, long-lasting reminders of their efforts.

It’s hard to go alone.

In better climates, easier lands, solo living is not so exceptional, so strange and rare.

Here, everything is connected, a fine balance of support and destruction to carve out space and life.

Even a tree that stands alone has a network of life supporting its roots, depends on the death of passing wildlife for its nutrients.

The connections may not always be visible but they are there.

We can see them in the insects flitting from flower to flower.

In the scrub brush forming bulwarks against the wind.

In a single tree, its branches teeming with birds and insects, their sole bulwark against the oncoming storm.

IMG_1782If you can’t see the connections – look closer

Symbiosis is a difficult, amazing process to watch and understand. I have long been drawn to the various connections around me.


I love including symbiotic relationships of all kinds in my writing. To see more of them, you can read my fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor, over here. Its sequel, With Honor Intact, is now available here.

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With Honor Intact

It’s always a bittersweet moment when a goal is completed.

I’ve spent so long living, breathing, and dreaming the second tale from my Virtue Inn series that I feel a little wistful seeing it finally move out into the world.

But it’s here.

With Honor Intact, second book in the “Tales from the Virtue Inn series”,  is now available on Amazon. When publishing this book, I wanted to thank the people who have supported me and provided me with their thoughts on the series. Therefore, both the first book in the series, The Guests of Honor, and the newly published sequel, With Honor Intact, will be on sale for 99 cents before returning to their regular price of $2.99.

So, thank you.

You can see The Guests of Honor here.

With Honor Intact is now available here.

With Honor Intact Cover 11aWhen the Cat’s away…

Honor Desry hadn’t applied to be the Innkeeper of a sentient Inn with magical guests, but her sisters and her right-hand fox-man are making the job a lot sweeter.

Unfortunately, the supreme Cat God has disappeared on Honor’s watch and Honor’s old life is about to interfere with her new life in a major way.

The Naked Glassblower’s Association has booked a holiday vacation at the Virtue Inn, and Honor’s old boss and his partner are coming along to chaperone. Honor needs to find the Cat, keep the strange guests away from the supernatural guests, and somehow hold family and mind together.

But the Virtue Inn hasn’t revealed all of its secrets and Honor will need to summon every last piece of her courage and cunning to save the day With Honor Intact.

Warning: Contains some violence, profanity, innuendo, and homicidal cardigans.


With Honor Intact is available here. To read the first book in the series, you can find The Guests of Honor here.

Tuesday Tidbits: What We Don’t See

What we don’t tell in a story is just as important as what we do.

I think of stories as being set in living worlds, thousands of other lives, other adventures, taking place around the main thread of telling.

Although some authors attempt to chase these many threads into madness, most stories pull one or two and leave the other stories to fall to the side.

But what if the stories that aren’t being told are just as important as the ones that are?

I’ve always been interested in the art formed by negative spaces. The ability to use the shadows and the emptiness around a foreground object to create a more interesting picture is something that has always interested me as a writer.

Stories seldom start on the first page of the book.

They are the product of all the events that have happened before and during and after, connecting at the point the narrator observes them. Even avoiding philosophy, we don’t get always get to choose what narrative we’re thrust into in our own lives. When living, we have to take the scene set before us and hope we make our way successfully across the stage.

The main character of With Honor Intact runs into problems because she is missing pieces of other people’s stories. The “Tales from the Virtue Inn” series is a fast-moving modern fable, but it is also fundamentally a mystery. Honor’s decision to cut ties with her home as a teenager means that she is missing the crucial pieces of information she needs to survive in the strange world of the magical Inn she is managing.

Honor’s story is as much as about what she doesn’t know as what she does.

It is not magic to face an unfamiliar world unprepared.

It is not magic to balance our duties and desires on a swiftly changing stage.

The magic is that we make the attempt in the first place.

The magic is that we succeed.

The Larger PictureSometimes we miss the larger picture. Sometimes it’s better that we do.

The idea of a living world that the narrator tells of a small fraction of the activity is something that I have wanted to write for a very long time. “Tales from the Virtue Inn” explores the inevitable consequences of missing pieces of the bigger picture in a dangerous, fantastical setting.


With Honor Intact will be available digitally from all Amazon sites on April 23, 2015. To read the first book in the series, you can find The Guests of Honor here.

In All Things, Joy

The air sings still of the weekend’s snow, of colder, darker months, not yet forgotten.

Such a sharp edge for the cresting of the new.

Too soon, and the late frosts will stifle the birthing.

Too late, and the time for frantic growth will be cut short on the other side of the seasons.

It would be easy to see it as a cycle of fear, cold death chasing until it catches and swallows.

I look out now and see the lie in the trail of life before me.

We do not grow away from the cold, from the death that would drown us.

We grow upwards, outwards.

Not fleeing.

Chasing

Light, joy, love.

Those that grow do not cower from what-might-not -be.

Life is not for retraction, for burrowing back into the frozen earth.

Life is reaching, greedily grasping every breath of warmth, every ounce of joy.

For daring the frost, the snow, the unexpected, and shooting upwards-

Buds outstretched, furling into the sun.

 Upright LeafIn all things, joy. In all joy, hope.

The pursuit of joy has always served me better than the flight from fear.


For more of writing on joy and fear, both flight and pursuit, you can read my fantasy novel,The Guests of Honor. It is available here. The sequel, With Honor Intact, will be coming out on April 23, 2015.

Tuesday Tidbits: Singing Without the Music

I come from a cultural and familial tradition of oral storytelling. Singing without the music is how I thought of it, listening to the rise and fall of the stories of my grandmother.

Within this tradition, there is an understanding that some stories are for sharing and others are private. There is an understanding that to share with the larger world means finding your own stories to play out on the page or the stage.

I took these lessons to heart, found some of the stories I wished to tell-

-And found myself instantly in trouble.

It is not so obvious when writing poetry.

There is an understanding, in traditional and not-so-traditional forms, of rhythm and meter.

There is an understanding of the music beneath the words and the demand to arrange the words to meet the music.

My poetry has always had a direct line to the spoken, is meant to be read and shared as songs without music.

In a longer form, it is easy to lose that rhythm, the heartbeat that sits beneath the flow of a spoken story.

I thought about what I wanted to accomplish, what I was trying to do and say.

I wanted to write a story that was meant to be read.

So I read it.

All 92,000 words of With Honor Intact were read aloud, listening for the tempo, the dynamics, the stuttering of rhythms.

It is not the story my grandmother would have told, but it is my story.

I like to think that she would have enjoyed it.

I hope that you do too.

With Honor Intact Cover 11aI translate to the page the rhythm of the telling and hope you hear it beneath the words

The joining of the oral and the written has been a major piece of my work with the Virtue Inn series. I can only hope that I have succeeded.


With Honor Intact will be available digitally from all Amazon sites on April 23, 2015. To read the first book in the series, you can find The Guests of Honor here.

Interface

In a former life, I wound up stranded by a broken bus on the side of a small road in Mexico.

One thing led to another and I found myself up to my elbows in soapy water, washing dishes beside a giant saguaro cactus.

I can still feel the slight breeze and smell that soap.

We were uneasy companions, the saguaro and I.

I’ve never forgotten the sharpness of our meeting – both literal and metaphorical.

It made me aware of the edges of our worlds, the small bubbles we wrap around ourselves in our daily life.

That cactus pricked the edge of my bubble, let the outside world bleed inwards.

A good story works in the opposite direction – expands our interface, edges our bubble slowly outwards into the world.

I am drawn to those edges, where our different unfamiliarities join and overlap.

Where we share the things that are familiar to us and make them understandable to those we meet.

Boundaries are not always as clearly drawn, as distinct as those between myself and the edge of a cactus.

But few things speak as deeply and clearly as a finely-defined edge.

As a curious piece of life pushing upwards into the sky.

IMG_1560The joining of the manmade and the natural is one of my favourite points of connection

Our ability to recognize interfaces and bend through and around them has always fascinated me.


I enjoy exploring points of friction and connection. If you’d like to see more of those points, they can be found in my fantasy novel,The Guests of Honor. It is available here. The sequel, With Honor Intact, will be coming out on April 23, 2015.

Tuesday Tidbits: A Shared Humour

All jokes are in-jokes. The humour that appeals the most to me is the humour that makes sure that everyone is in on the joke.

As I draw closer to the release of my second novel, With Honor Intact, I’ve decided to do a series of weekly posts about some of my thoughts about writing this novel and its larger series, “Tales from the Virtue Inn” (spoilers will be minimal to non-existent). This week, I want to touch on one of the fundamental aspects of this series – humour and how it is written.

Humour can be wielded as a sledgehammer or a stiletto, but the direction it aims can do more to bring people in or push them away than the jokes themselves. While there is a lot of strange humour in With Honor Intact, the core motivation behind most of its jokes is that life itself can be ridiculous. The fantasy world that the Virtue Inn inhabits often seems wildly over the top, although it has its own internal logic. The humour in the story is meant to be grounding, a reminder that even the most awe-inspiring or madly strange things can have roots in the familiar, in a shared experience of a ridiculous world.

It would be easy, I think, to make my heroine, Honor Desry, the butt of the jokes. She doesn’t understand the world she has entered and is frequently at the center of situations that should make it easy to mock her. Instead, I have tried to allow those experiencing her adventures to laugh with her – at the perils of doing laundry, at having awkward conversations with family members, at discovering that, grand cosmic power or not, cats will still be cats.

Above all else, I tried to root the humour of With Honour Intact in empathy. We may not be able to meet the supernatural Guests of the Virtue Inn in our day to day lives, but I hope that shared moments of laughter will bring understanding and commonalities to even the strangest and most fantastical of characters.

I value humour as a celebration of our shared humanity, our shared experiences of the often ridiculous business of living.

I hope that the humour of With Honor Intact will not only amuse but also bring shared moments of understanding, of brief glimpses of other worlds through foreign eyes.

With Honor Intact Cover 11aComing April Twenty-Third!

Honor Desry hadn’t applied to be the Innkeeper of a magical Inn with magical guests, but her sisters and her right-hand fox-man are making the job a lot sweeter.

Unfortunately, the supreme Cat God has disappeared on Honor’s watch and Honor’s old life is about to interfere with her new life in a major way.

The Naked Glassblower’s Association has booked a holiday vacation at the Virtue Inn, and Honor’s old boss and his partner are coming along to chaperone. Honor needs to find the Cat, keep the strange guests away from the supernatural guests, and somehow hold family and mind together.

But the Virtue Inn hasn’t revealed all of its secrets and Honor will need to summon every last piece of her courage and cunning to save the day With Honor Intact.

Warning: Contains some violence, profanity, innuendo, and homicidal cardigans.


With Honor Intact will be available digitally from all Amazon sites on April 23, 2015. To read the first book in the series, you can find The Guests of Honor here.

Every Dog His Day

Dogs like to be of use.

It’s in the bones for them, that need for concrete action.

(I think of that drive sometimes when I write. There are few characters more compelling and terrifying than those who need to serve.)

We do not always do well by them, those dogs of service.

Their need is so far beyond our ability to provide, our ability to give them the purpose they seek.

(I’ve seen dogs who’ve run flat for a week and only grown stronger.)

Sometimes they can overcome it, the wiring that drives them, that makes bright lights into enemies and moving objects into beasts to be herded.

Sometimes they find entire days where their needs lie satiated and quiet.

I like to think that these are the days they remember, the old dogs, fading and frozen.

Days of lazy sun and bright laughter.

Days of purpose served through an ever-rising joy.

IMG_1598Sometimes happiness is as simple, or as complicated, as a good yawn.

 

I’ve been keeping it under my hat until the process was nearly finished, but my second novel, With Honor Intact, is in the final stages of formatting now and will be available later this month. I’ll have more information about that later this week and a new weekly counterpart to the Sunday Ramblings! So, if you’ve been enjoying these strangely focused perspectives on the North, the outdoors, and writing, there will be more of that coming up.


While I currently am not writing about dogs, there are certainly canids and discussions of the perils of service to be found in my fantasy novel,The Guests of Honor. It is available here. The sequel, With Honor Intact, will be coming out later this month.