Celebrate!

 

Please Understand cover

Last night we went out for margaritas to celebrate the release of my debut novel, Please Understand. My characters are safe within their electronic covers; all decisions have been made about their journey through the plot I set for them. Now my readers will add their own imagination to my words on their Kindles.

It is hard to leave my characters there. We learned so much together from the eighteen months we shared in my mind.

I’ve been asked a few questions about this project. I will focus on answering these questions in my next few posts. Feel free to leave your own questions in the comments section below!

“What’s with the title, ‘Please Understand?’”

I used this phrase several times in the book. The central theme is stated by my character, Tommie: “Please understand. I’m still the same person.”

People who knew me before I “came out” grappled with viewing me as the same person they had always known, loved and trusted. For some, it was too much of an obstacle for the relationship to continue. I miss them.

Everyone has layers of complexity. No one is truly transparent and it takes time to begin to comprehend another person’s history. To understand why they do what they do. This has always fascinated me, and is a concept that is close to my heart. Hence the title, Please Understand.

My novel is available electronically through MLR Press (www.mlrbooks.com) and Amazon. Cover art by Melody Pond, MLR Press

Yet Another Bucket

Wysteria

“One bucket gone!” The backside of our yard has been taken over by buttercups. That side yard once held our legendary woodpile, made up of the split wood from five cedar trees and two huge firs from the front of our yard. The firs were almost one hundred years old and had been topped many years ago. It was time for them to go. So, in the first year we lived here we made the decision. The woodpile from those seven trees filled that whole section of our yard, and took us seven winters of cozy fires in our wood stove to consume. But now, only the twigs remain, and the buttercups that have grown over it all. If I squint, the yellow is beautiful but I want to plant grass this fall, and have the lawn stretch all the way to the alley.

Weeding time is my thinking time. Someone once told me that she would like to spend an hour in my brain. I can assure you, she would not. My mind is in constant turmoil over things I’ve experienced, witnessed and read. There is no escaping from it, it just goes on and on. Perhaps someday I will be able to figure out why I am the way I am, why people react the way they do, why the world is such a dangerous and violent place. No matter how much of a pacifist I am, I still find myself flung into turmoil and drama. Some mine, some not. Either way, it brings up the same amount of unwanted, overwhelming emotion.

A dispute at the gas statin. A checker having a bad day. Neighbors arguing. Police sirens. Yelling, name calling. Conflict in social media. Really? Negativity abounds.

My studio looks out over my garden and present weed removal project. I try to stay in my creative environment while the Weeds of Disharmony try to distract me. People witness to me about God’s love and His desire to save me. Perhaps they need to focus on that love themselves?

Just a thought. But now I must go pull another bucket of weeds and keep my own thoughts positive. I remember a verse I memorized in Sunday School, perhaps the only one that means anything to me now:

“…whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue and if there be any praise, think on these things.” –Philippians 4:8 kjv

Just a thought.

 

Creative Obsession

Studio

I have been asked how the creative process works with me. Where my ideas come from, when and where do I write, and the most basic question of all: why?

You can ask Becky. When I’m not working on a project, when my mind is not engaged in a story, I am impossible to live with. Yes, the nice little lady you know as Fai becomes a bundle of nerves seeking out problems to solve. Becky would much rather see me working out imaginary problems for imaginary people rather than inspecting our walls for cracks, timing the draining cycle of our washing machine, and counting our forks yet again.

But my mind is like that. It seeks things to solve and it ponders what could go wrong. I’m learning to train these obsessive thoughts (since I can’t seem to stop them) into turbines of creativity. I find when I’m working, I don’t obsess. My mind automatically works through my fictional characters’ drama step by step. It’s when I reach the end of the creative process and enter the editing and marketing phase that I drop off into the abyss. But that’s a challenge most creative people struggle with.

My ideas come to me when I’m busy doing something else. While I’m washing dishes, I watch Pepe outside stalking a squirrel. Absurd conversations and schemes of squirrel chaos pop into my head and soon I’m drying my hands and grabbing pen and paper to record their dangerous secret plans. Pepe of Noswad and his mission becomes real. Forget Me Not came to me as I was driving home after taking Becky to the airport. The point of inspiration: passing a hitchhiker. Beyond the Black Stump was inspired by cattle stations in the Outback, Australia. Please Understand grew out of a dream I had after I fell asleep listening to a song I liked in the 70’s.

I fall in love with the characters. I write their hopes, dreams, fears, lives onto the page. Words that are strong, words that are weak, words that describe the people and places that populate my mind are woven together. It’s a scary place, my mind. It makes me vulnerable to open it up to you. It’s a very humbling experience.

I’ve carved out a small space in a room that had once been a small attic storage room. I can stand in the center of the room. My table loaded down with computer and printer is under the sloping ceiling. The rain comforts me as it falls, as often happens in Washington State. The guest bed is in there, and sometimes Pepe curls up on the quilt to encourage me. Moxie guards me in the hallway outside the door. She reminds me when I need to eat or go for a walk to clear the emotion out of my heart. It’s good in my studio.

Oh. And the why question. The only answer I have is very simple. I simply must.

On the Subject of Snowmen

Will and snow coyote

I was looking through my old papers, and found an essay I wrote for a class I took many years ago. It was dated January 11, 1987! Since we’ve been snowed upon, I thought it was timely to post it here. This is a picture of my son (around 3 years old), and our snow coyote sculpture.

I believe that the world has gotten into a terrible rut in the building of snowmen. I mean, how many snowmen have you seen in your life? Oh sure, a few brave souls have built a few truly gorgeous snow-women, but is that really breaking away from tradition into new territory? I think not.

One cold, snowy day, I decided to take a survey of this very important issue. I walked around the neighborhood noticing the subject matter of the local snow artists. Out of the 25 yards I passed, there were 11 snow sculptures. Ten of these were snowmen, and one of them definitely a snow-woman. I decided to go home and do something to correct this deficiency in diversity.

My neighbors were shocked and amazed as my snow coyote took shape. Complete down to the button on the end of his nose. In the next good snow, we made a snow rabbit. The next year, a snow lizard.

The technique used in these sculptures are no different that those used in the common variety of snowmen, although special care must be taken in the formation of the muzzle. Ears, also, can be a problem in some species of snow creature sculpture.

Now that the snow season is upon us, I believe it is time for us to break away from the ordinary, and into higher realms of creation. Evolution, so to speak, into a higher art form. It is time to put those mittens on and be inventive!

Authors note: Although I have since retired from snow driven art, I still adhere to the premise of this piece. 

Unravel

Ravelings

When I was a child, I had the most mysterious and unexplainable fear of the loose strings that would hang suspended from my clothes. I suppose I thought they were spiders? Whatever the reason, I would scream at the sight of them as my mother would patiently cut them off. She began saving them. In time, she had a large, colorful pile of these strings she called Ravlins.

One day, I was home sick from school with Scarlet Fever. I was horribly bored. She brought out the Ravlins, a piece of cardboard and some glue. Together, we made a beautiful picture from these variously colored strings. The greens became grass and trees. The blues became sky. The browns, tree trunks and gentle cows in the field. The reds, a stately barn.

The Ravlins, cast off from my dresses, fearful spider wanna-bees, became something beautiful! Finding new ones became an exciting promise of yet a new picture. I began picking and pulling strings (on my clothes and others) to give myself more material to work with. Finally, my mother went to the fabric department at People’s, and bought spools of thread just for this purpose.

For several months I worked on these string projects, going through spool after spool of thread. Landscapes, seascapes, several modern art pieces that I would explain to anyone who asked. At eight years old I had an active imagination. “This piece shows the sunlight filtering through the rain forest.” String. String glued on to the thin cardboard that my mother’s nylons were packaged in.

In time, we moved away and my masterpieces in string got left behind, filling up a landfill somewhere, I suppose. But they served a purpose. Finding joy and artistic expression in whatever lays at hand. Even the strings that hang from a skirt can do magical things.