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.

The Stories I Don’t Tell

I know a lot of other people’s stories.

Some are told to me, some I hear, some I see as I pass them by.

These are not the stories I tell.

I have always winced a little when told that we should write what we know.

So often I think that we are faced with this command and become tempted to cannibalize the world around us, convinced that our own lives are not nearly as interesting as the secrets we observe.

(Or we write our own lives in endless variation. This has its own joys and sorrows.)

These are not the stories I tell.

These are not the stories I wish to tell.

I have seen and heard stories of heroism and tragedy, terrible loss and unbelievable gain, and none of them are my stories.

Writing our friends, our families, our neighbours, thinly veiled or proudly presented, is a long-standing tradition of literature.

How old is the joke that writers have no friends, only characters they haven’t yet written?

Yet, for myself, I don’t write the people I know.

The truth is, I hear these small pieces of other lives and think to myself how little of the puzzle I hold, how necessarily unfair my exposure would be without the richness of context or experience.

Others can overcome these concerns and write brilliantly and beautifully on the lives around them.

For me, my head contains realms enough that I am little tempted by the incomplete pictures around me.

Even then, I think of the stories I am told and how I am told them.

I think of the stories I’ve heard and known and see how they harm or do not harm those around me.

I think of the stories that have stood on the stage of the world and held the minds of millions.

Some stories are meant to be shared with the world, shone under a bright light and exposed.

Others are conferences of trust, small gifts of love meant to be held quietly, somewhere under the heart.

IMG_0508To tell or not to tell? The branches of choice bear interesting flowers.

I think that this is an interesting choice most writers have to make at some point in their writing career. It is certainly possible to view this in a variety of different ways.


Sentient toasters, potato men, and murderous laundry are NOT based on my life and can be found in my fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor. It is available here.

The Hollow Men

Take a razor blade to your imagery.

Slice out all the words that you think are clever, all the turns of phrase that make your ego purr.

See what you have left.

Create a world from it.

Description should be rooted in the gut as much as in the head.

Are the hairs on the back of your neck standing on end?

If they aren’t-

The words are still the soft scratch of small feet over broken glass.

We can’t all be T.S. Eliot.

Chances are good that our worlds will end in whimpers and not bangs.

But the greatest inspiration I have ever received is to strive for that moment.

The moment the words create a picture that you have never seen before, but that you cannot imagine not having seen.

The moment our hollow heads are filled not with straw, but the fire of living words.

IMG_0481The fuel for our fire doesn’t need to be conventional.

Housekeeping Note: I’m going to be doing a small cover reveal for With Honor Intact¬†on Tuesday. If you liked the cover for The Guests of Honor, I think that you’ll really like the second cover. I’m very excited about this and if anyone wants to join in on the fun or just wants a high-res image of the second cover, feel free to drop me a line at catamesbury@gmail.com. I hope that you enjoyed the week of inspiration!


For my own fire-driven imagery, you can read my fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor. It is available here.

Labyrinth

I do not do well with movies.

Movies sit on the border of visual over-stimulation for me.

The movies that I have not only watched but re-watched are those whose content has grabbed me so completely that the discomfort becomes irrelevant.

Some of these have rooted their way deep into the backbone of my creative inspiration, showing the power of the visual and the audible.

I first saw Labyrinth as an adult, years after it had been released, on a small television in an equally small apartment.

There is something about a creative vision that transcends cheesy ’80’s ballads, groan-worthy dialogue, and Very Special Pants to create something magical, something that skips the brain and cuts straight through to the gut.

I try not to dissect it.

Of all the things I love, I suspect that this would least stand up to cold scrutiny, to an analytical dissection of its pieces and parts.

All I know is that there was a powerful magic, beyond the humour, the less-than-perfect trappings.

Something that took me to another world and pulled me back time and again in a true escape from reality.

I do not know if that is something that can be bottled or quantified.

But like the Goblin King, I can only hope that I make you forget the clock in your pursuit of the magic I lay before you.

IMG_9921I have no peaches to offer, but my fruit has its own brand of magic

This is a week about inspirations, both obvious and otherwise.


For the strange fruit of my own inspiration, you can read my fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor. It is available here.

The Middle of Nowhere

I grew up in quiet places.

While I have lived in cities and towns and small basement apartments with coaster-sized spiders, I am most comfortable and most happy where I can hear myself think.

There is something that sparks the current of creative electricity when I am miles from other voices, other stresses.

The smell of rotting wood, the soft buzz of small insects and muted bird calls, the press and scratch of deep moss against my ankles and my hands-

My head is clearest here.

In these spaces, I can slow down the thousand miles my brain travels every minute.

I can pull out the individual strands of colour and thought, rearrange them into something new and strange.

I am inspired by the sensation of the sun as a tangible hand stretching through the trees.

I am inspired by the opposite of the sound of a slamming door and footsteps retreating down the stairs into the night.

IMG_9169There is a unity in silence, a knowledge in an endless sky

This is a week about inspirations, both obvious and otherwise.


For the thoughts inspired by the silence, you can read my fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor. It is available here.

 

Scheherazade

In another lifetime, I was meant to become a classical musician.

Life happened, in the way that it often does, and my path swerved sharply from that course.

I have never lost that bone-deep love for music.

In my own writing, the rhythm and melody lines are more obvious in my poetry, but make no mistake, my stories owe as much to Allegretto and Andante as they do to adjectives and apostrophes.

Because of the way my head processes sensory information, I’ve always had a more intense reaction to music than other people. It has always been mildly embarrassing to be frozen in place by a melody line or shivering because of the intensity and beauty of a well-built chorus.

It is why, if I am honest with myself, there are more pieces of music that have profoundly affected my life than any other type of creative work.

The first time I heard Scheherazade, I was playing it.

I was in the middle of a group of well-trained, but still inexperienced musicians trying to force their way through a rich, complex interplay of parts.

And I felt like I’d been struck by lightning.

I’d always felt some kinship with Scheherazade the character, her of a thousand stories with an overwhelming force driving her to tell them.

But that melody line…

It felt like someone had reached into my chest and pulled out my heart to display to the world.

I have always carried a trace of that song in the back of my head while I am writing.

I stand naked when I write, whether it is my tale or someone else’s.

All the best and worst parts of myself are spread through the voices I create and the melodies of plot and words.

I can only hope that the song I share carries its notes somewhere in the back of the brain, the bottom of the heart.

IMG_0461Beauty is the song that reaches for the sun beyond the clouds

This is a week about inspirations, both obvious and otherwise.


For the story that sings its own strange song, you can read my fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor. It is available here.

 

 

Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji

There is something about clean lines and imagery cut back to the bone that has always drawn my eye and my mind.

Hokusai’s Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji is probably the best known of the ukiyo-e (floating world) woodblock painting collections. Even so, there are only one or two pictures from the collection that most people recognize outside of Japan.

I could say all this with a certain level of academic detachment. I could not draw the line connecting my first sentence with my second.

This is the problem with writing.

How can I tell you how that moment felt when in the hospital again, for something that would take years to diagnose, I first saw one of the Thirty-Six Views?

Hospitals are such a strange combination of sterility and over-stimulation. It is impossible to be comfortable and equally impossible to find distractions. When I saw those prints, it truly felt as if I was seeing a world that floated separate from the one I occupied, that drew me above the place around me.

The “floating world” is a reference to the ephemeral pursuit of pleasure, a world of the here and now, the moment before us.

The moment I tied this together with my strong reaction to those pictures shaped and shifted the way I share my own stories and tales of the moment.

Perhaps because of this, my favourite of the Thirty-Six Views is not the ever-popular “Great Wave off Kanagawa” but instead “Eijiri in the Suruga Province”.

In this painting I see the story I want to tell.

So many small clean lines suggesting a world of untold possibility, of words carried out of my reach and into the world beyond.

Eijiri in the Suruga Province (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Eijiri in the Suruga Province (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

This is a week about inspirations, both obvious and otherwise.


For the words stripped to their marrow inspired by this painting, you can read my fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor. It is available here.

 

 

The Peasant’s Clever Daughter

When I was very small I read an unhealthy amount of myths and folktales in both bawdlerized and original format.

Luckily, I was very small and many of the less edited stories went thoroughly over my head.

There were a few stories, both edited and unedited, that stuck with me.

One thing that we mention when there is a new re-imagining of these stories is how tragic and grim most of the original tales were.

We never really discuss what that means though.

Life is cheap in the land of tales. Honor and dignity are granted by how far you climb, and underneath that, whose blood you carry. There are a few peasants who become king, but many more who fall for them to rise.  Your original role and position in life will forever shape your future whether that is as a farmer, a woman, or a mule.

There are exceptions to this, like strange flowers on barren soil.

Perhaps not surprisingly, it was to these stories that I was drawn.

One of the few Grimm stories that I thought and re-thought was The Peasant’s Clever Daughter.

The peasant’s daughter has no magical bloodline or fantastical forest animals or physical power.

She wins, again and again, because of her wit, her courage, and her love.

When I sat down to write a story that took its cue from the best and worst of those tales of morals and rigid power, I thought of her.

Because is that not the most insidious, dangerous moral of all?

To grant that the greatest force in any world is the strength that can be mustered by a smart, fundamentally decent human being.

IMG_0596A strange flower amongst the weeds

This is a week about inspirations, both obvious and otherwise.


For the heroine inspired by this story, you can read my fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor. It is available here.

 

Passage and Renewal

As the snow melts, the cannibals become visible.

They sit, deceptively fragile, on the surfaces of their forefathers, slowly molding themselves to the greater bodies of times long past.

I can spend hours staring at rotting stumps.

I love watching those tiny saplings, seeded from the remaining trees, struggle to gain purchase on their dead kin.

This is no horror story.

This is a sharing, a passage of life and strength from the old to the new.

My words transit on the page, drawing from stories and memories, things passed and precious.

Neither I nor the saplings can become exactly as the great ones who stood before us.

But we can plant our roots, firmly, clearly in the strength of the past.

Our arms reaching upwards to a new and unknown space.

IMG_5481The emerging future


In between staring at stumps and saplings, I have also written a fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor. It is available here.