Maker’s Day 9

Each Wednesday on the blog, I’ll share a small prompt as food for reflection. Maybe you’ll also find it inspires you to make some art.

Today’s prompt, like last week’s, is a single word:

This word could take you in many directions: music-related, thinking about doors and locks, thinking about solutions to puzzles or codes…etc. You’re invited to go in any direction that inspires you.

If you’d like, please feel free to share thoughts and responses to the prompt in the comments. On Facebook, I’ve also started a “Maker’s Day Sharing Group” where we can talk about the prompts and support each other’s creativity. New members are always welcome!

You can find all the Maker’s Day prompts together here. If you’d like to receive the prompts weekly, please consider subscribing to the blog. Thanks for visiting!

Playing Favorites

Last week on the blog, I posted a teaser reading from the beginning of my novel Fourteen Stones. I’ve got another teaser today, this one introducing my favorite character from the book.

Fourteen Stones follows the stories of four major characters. Three of them were pretty easy to write, especially the “bonus one” who got added only after I started writing the book, when I realized I’d need his take on the action. The fourth one – my favorite – was incredibly tough.

He’s a priest named Ribas Silvaikas. Even as I put together words for this post, trying to come up with a few to sum up who he is, he’s giving me a hard time yet again. He’s contradictory and challenging. He cares profoundly about other people, but very seldom lets them get close to him. He would always rather listen than talk, always rather help than be helped. He has weaknesses, one of them crippling, and is very much aware of that; but although he doesn’t lie, he’s rarely fully honest about his weaknesses even with himself. I explored his life more thoroughly than I did with any of my other characters, digging back into his earliest memories. He was damned hard to get to know. At the same time, I came to love him deeply.

A view from Sotres, a village in Asturias, Spain. My husband is playing clarinet on the porch of the house we stayed in. Asturias inspired Ribas’s homeland, Namora.

The book alternates perspectives by chapter. During the writing, I looked forward so much to Ribas’s chapters. I couldn’t wait to get back inside his head and spend those pages in his company. Every time, though, I’d arrive in his mind and feel as if I’d hit a roadblock. There he’d be, as warm and kind and generous as ever, and as elusive and stonewalling as ever, all at once. As one of my other characters put it, Always so stubborn, Ribé.

Having a favorite character created a particular challenge in the writing. I wanted my portrait of Ribas to do justice to the man in my imagination. I don’t know if we can ever be sure we’re doing that, and it’s especially hard when that imagined figure seems to draw us close with one hand and push us away with the other.

Even now, with the book finished (?!), I’m not entirely sure I drew him the way he deserves. When he got especially difficult to write, I held onto specific things I knew: his smile, the way his voice sounded, the heart trouble that left him vulnerable and how he felt as he struggled against it. I went back to sketches I’d done from his childhood and revisited the young boy who was forced to grow up much too fast. With all of that in my head, I tried to stay connected with Ribas even as he seemed to “want” to push me away. Don’t write those things, I could imagine him saying; I have to be the strong one here, the anchor for everyone else. I pushed back as well as I could: But this is what’s true of you, my stubborn friend.

This has turned into a longer post than I meant to write. I’ll close it with the teaser I mentioned: a short reading from Chapter 2 of the novel, the first paragraphs in which you’ll meet my beloved and difficult priest.

If you’d like to stay updated on the release of Fourteen Stones, especially our crowdfunder coming up in August, and also receive weekly Maker’s Day prompts on Wednesdays, please consider subscribing to the blog. As always, thank you for visiting!

Maker’s Day 8

Each Wednesday on the blog, I’ll share a small prompt as food for reflection. Maybe you’ll also find it inspires you to make some art.

Today’s prompt is a single word:

You’re invited to take this word in any direction that inspires you. What thoughts/images/story/etc. might it evoke for you?

If you’d like, please feel free to share thoughts and responses to the prompt in the comments. On Facebook, I’ve also started a “Maker’s Day Sharing Group” where we can talk about the prompts and support each other’s creativity. New members are always welcome!

You can find all the Maker’s Day prompts together here. If you’d like to receive the prompts weekly, please consider subscribing to the blog. Thanks for visiting!

Fourteen Stones sneak preview

My novel Fourteen Stones is shaping up into a real book. 🙂 We’re working on the proofs, and yesterday I got my first look at the official maps of my fictional world. Four years ago, I drew sketches – I’m no visual artist – to help me keep the places straight in my head and more-or-less consistent on the page. It’s amazing to see how those sketches (like Exhibit A, below) have turned into beautiful images.

My rough original sketch. Real map coming soon!

Fourteen Stones has had an unusual path to publication. When I first wrote it, I’d planned to try for the super-traditional route of agent and “regular” publisher. The challenge is that if you want to go super-traditional, you’ve also got to get used to thinking of yourself and your work mainly in terms of saleability. I’d thought at first that Fourteen Stones could be a commercial venture, but figured out pretty fast that it meant something else to me.

My publisher, The Patchwork Raven, is doing a beautiful job bringing this venture of my imagination to life. My book is the first novel they’ve published. All along the way, I’ve been so grateful for their love of the project and their belief in it.

It’s wild to think it’ll be out in the world in just a few months. Writers can’t help but dream of finding lots and lots of readers, but when I think about what I really hope for this book, my biggest hope is that it’ll find people who escape into its world the way I did, and love what they find there. In the writing, I wanted to offer some food for thought, sure; but I also wanted to carve out a space of peace and beauty. I hope readers looking for those things can find them in my pages.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be talking more about the novel and offering a few more “teasers.” Today, I wanted to share the opening couple of pages. The story begins with a folktale, “Fourteen Stones,” which gave the book its name. Here’s the beginning of it:

The peninsula in the story, where Klaya’s homeland is, was inspired by a place in Spain called the Castros da Barogna. Located on a peninsula off the northern coast of Galicia, the Castros are the ruins of an Iron Age village. You can still see the village’s guarding wall and the foundations of houses.

View of the Castros da Barogna

Over the coming weeks, I’ll also be sharing more pictures of the places that inspired the world of Fourteen Stones. If you’d like to stay updated, please consider subscribing to the blog. Meanwhile, thanks so much for visiting!

Maker’s Day 7

Each Wednesday on the blog, I’ll share a small prompt as food for reflection. Maybe you’ll also find it inspires you to make some art.

Today’s prompt is explained in the video. 🙂 Short version: you’re invited to experiment with using magic, or something surreal that breaks the usual “rules” of the world, in the context of a real-world setting. Breaking rules can be a wonderful way to inspire creativity and story.

Today’s Maker’s Day prompt in more detail

As mentioned in the video, I’ll also be teaching a generative workshop this coming Saturday, 7/16, which more extensively explores writing with magic and the surreal. My friend and colleague Tina Marie Johnson and I will talk about using magic in both poetry and prose. If you’d like to learn more, visit this link.

Meanwhile, if you’d like, please feel free to share thoughts and responses to the prompt in the comments. On Facebook, I’ve also started a “Maker’s Day Sharing Group” where we can talk about the prompts and support each other’s creativity. New members are always welcome!

You can find all the Maker’s Day prompts together here. If you’d like to receive the prompts weekly, please consider subscribing to the blog. Thanks for visiting!

Line Magic Reflections (and teaser)

In a couple of weeks, the blog will be shifting gears to talk a bit more about Fourteen Stones and preparation for launch. I’m so excited to share more about my long-beloved, first-ever fantasy project, which pretty much changed the course of my writing. (And I still can’t quite believe it’s going to be a real book soon!).

Today, though, I’m in a reflective mood, having last week finished revisions on another brand-new book project. I’ve posted a little bit, in previous weeks, about this book, which I originally titled Nicky True after its protagonist, but I think now is going to be called Line Magic. Set in Philadelphia in the last months of World War II, it’s about an artist who can change the subjects he draws by drawing them, and how he uses this magic to change the wider world.

“Petunias,” by Georgia O’Keeffe. O’Keeffe is one of my protagonist’s favorite artists.

I’m usually a big fan of planning projects ahead of time, especially anything as long as a book. I can spend months or more mulling over my characters, their day-to-day lives, and whatever sense I have of the conflicts that might drive their stories. In the case of Line Magic, I was seat-of-the-pants-ing (new word?) for the first time. I didn’t have anything more than a protagonist I liked but didn’t know much about, and a very vague sense of what he was up to. And I learned something. Writing it that way, going along and seeing what happened from one page to the next, was a blast.

It did mean that revision was way more work than I expected. The first half of the book pretty much needed to be reconstructed, in light of what I figured out as the story went along. The best thing, though, was that by going into it without much of a plan at all, I felt no pressure to live up to any ideals or goals in my head. The story didn’t have to turn out in any particular way: it just had to be what it wanted.

“Still Life with Parrot and Flag,” by Frida Kahlo – another of Nicky’s favorites

I think I’ve mentioned before that in my book projects, I always need to feel super-invested in, and connected with, at least one character. In this case, since Nicky was also my first-person narrator, liking him was pretty much make or break for the project. Luckily, he was a delight. And the funny thing was, by the time I wrapped up revisions, I also realized how much he and I have in common. He’s a visual artist, while there are few things I’m worse at; but he’s an anxiety survivor like me, and he’s the first character I’ve ever written who wears glasses (which I’ve done since I was five). I didn’t intend to put myself on the page, and in a lot of ways I didn’t do it, but it’s pretty easy to imagine him as the older brother I don’t have. As a friend pointed out when I mentioned this, it’s a short step from being as fond of him as I am to actually thinking sort of nice things about myself. 😉 Astonishing!

I don’t know what will happen with Nicky in the long run, though I hope someday he’ll make his way out into the world. Meanwhile, the project was a wonderful adventure and an unexpected gift, and a reminder that writing is my best anchor, but it’s also okay to let it take me in new directions.

As always, thank you for visiting the blog. Stop back tomorrow for our weekly Maker’s Day prompt!

p.s. If you’d like to hear a little teaser from Line Magic, here’s a reading of its first few pages. This prologue was a delight to write. 🙂

Maker’s Day 6

Each Wednesday on the blog, I’ll share a small prompt as food for reflection. Maybe you’ll also find it inspires you to make some art.

Today’s prompt segues out of last week’s “color green.” This is a short piece of music, “All in a Garden Green,” by English Renaissance composer William Byrd (1540-1623). Apologies for my less-than-perfect recording; this piece is a recent study for me. 🙂

What does the music inspire or evoke for you? If you’d like, please feel free to share thoughts and responses in the comments. On Facebook, I’ve also started a “Maker’s Day Sharing Group” where we can talk about the prompts and support each other’s creativity. New members are always welcome!

You can find all the Maker’s Day prompts together here. If you’d like to receive the prompts weekly, please consider subscribing to the blog. Thanks for visiting!

News and Updates

I don’t often do blogposts like this, but realized today that I have a bunch of things coming up, so today’s post is a Preview of Coming Attractions. 🙂

First, I’m very excited about two classes I’ll be teaching soon. Next Monday, 7/11/22, I’m starting a six-week session of Writing with Musical Inspiration, an online class offered in partnership with Tiferet Journal. This is a generative class where we use music as a prompt for storytelling and as a basis to talk writing craft. It’s fun, different, and inspirational; folks who have taken it have told me how it’s gotten them writing in ways they never expected. You can find out more and sign up here. Space is limited, so check it out!

A taste of the music: one of the pieces we listen and write to in Writing with Musical Inspiration.

Second, on Saturday 7/16/22, I’m co-teaching Magic and Transformation in Poetry and Prose with my wonderful friend and colleague, poet Tina Marie Johnson. This is a single-shot online workshop where we’ll experiment with one of my favorite things: using magical twists in storytelling. We’ll look at how other writers “sell” readers on their wild and surreal ideas, and play around with using fantasy elements of our own in real-world stories and poems. Whether you’re like me and love to write fantasy, or whether this is new for you, you’ll find ideas and inspiration here. To learn more or sign up, check out this link.

Third, and speaking of storytelling with a magical twist, my story “Coreopsis” is online now at The Los Angeles Review. If you’re in the mood for a short surreal WWI-era read, please have a look!

Coreopsis: the flower behind the story

More updates will also be coming soon on the release of Fourteen Stones. Our crowdfunder for the launch will begin in August.

Tomorrow there will be a new prompt up for Maker’s Day. You can find all of the weekly Maker’s Day prompts compiled here. Check back tomorrow for some creative inspiration.

As always, thank you for visiting the blog!