Tuesday Creativity 3

Today’s creative prompt is five words:

Lately, while navigating some life changes, I’ve been thinking a lot about my own sense of what I can and can’t do. Historically, the “can’t” column has always been a lot longer for me than the “can.” I’m cautiously optimistic that the balance is changing a little.

Where might these five words take you?

As always, thanks for visiting the blog. See you next week!

Tuesday Creativity 2

Continuing with the series I started last week, and also with the theme of “everyday magic,” I thought I’d share two more photos as creative fodder.

I took both of these pictures on the same morning as the daisy photo from last week. The temperature was exactly right for dew to collect on the leaves and petals of my late-blooming rosebush. By midmorning, the sun was bright enough to bring out each bead.

These photos make me think about transience and transformation. To me, the kind of beauty dew creates is like the beauty of shadows on snow, or the thin coat of ice that turns tree branches briefly into glass: it’s all the more precious because it won’t last. That’s a funny thing for me to appreciate, as a chronically anxious person who generally isn’t great at uncertainty, change, and letting go. Maybe appreciating those things in the form of dew and snow is one step toward appreciating them elsewhere.

What do this week’s images inspire for you? As always, thank you for visiting the blog. See you next week!

Tuesday Creativity 1

I’m going to do something a little different here for a few weeks, combining the regular blog with my Maker’s Day feature, for a Tuesday Creativity series. (I’m starting a new job and figuring out a new schedule, so need to juggle a little less elsewhere for a while. 😉 )

In the back of my mind, I’m percolating ideas that link creative writing and mental health. One of my big goals, as a teacher of writing and as someone with longtime mental health challenges, is to help folks with similar challenges use creative writing as a safe outlet for exploration and expression. I’m hoping that, sometime down the road, this means putting together workshops geared to supporting mental health through writing.

Meanwhile, I’m experimenting with some ideas. Over the next several weeks, I’ll use this space to offer prompts and my own brief thoughts on them, as possible starting points for creative exploration.

Today’s prompt is a photo I took of dewdrops on the petals of a Gerbera daisy:

To me, dew creates magic. I love the way the tiny beads transform leaves and flower petals, and I love how transient the magic is, vulnerable to the smallest shift in temperature and the smallest change in the angle of the light. I wish my photos did a better job of capturing that crystal-on-silk glitter, but this one gives at least the idea of it.

This image made me think of a verse from one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s poems in The Hobbit:

“For ancient king and elvish lord, there many a gleaming golden hoard they shaped and wrought, and light they caught to hide in gems on hilt of sword.”

What might this image, the photo itself or the “everyday magic” behind it, conjure or inspire for you?

As always, thank you for visiting the blog. See you next time!

Maker’s Day 14

A little late, but here! Next week we’ll get back to our regular Wednesday schedule.

Our prompt for this week is a photo. What does this scenery inspire or 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 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!

Also, if you’d like additional food for creativity, check out my online Writing with Musical Inspiration class, offered in partnership with Tiferet Journal. This is a fun and unique six-session class that uses music as a springboard to make art and talk about writing craft. The next session starts this coming Monday, 9/12. We still have a few spaces available! More info and registration here.

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!

New Classes Coming Soon!

Today’s post is a quick “preview of coming attractions.” I have two new online classes beginning soon: Writing with Musical Inspiration, which starts next Monday, 9/12, and Introduction to Classical Music, which starts on Monday 10/3. If you’d like to check out one or both, I’d love to see you there!

1. Writing with Musical Inspiration

This class meets on six consecutive Mondays, 2-3:30 pm EST, on Zoom, beginning 9/12 and ending Monday 10/17. We start each session by free-writing to a piece of music, and then use music as a springboard to talk about particular elements of writing craft: capturing people/personalities in writing, evoking setting, sharing a specific experience, and more. Every week features different pieces of music and a new writing prompt. Sharing of work for feedback from me, and/or the group, is always welcome and always optional.

For a quick sample, listen to this piece of music, by English Renaissance composer William Byrd, and write about whatever it conjures up for you. Each of our classes will begin with an exercise like this.

After you listen and free-write, consider these questions we’ll discuss in the first session of class:

  • When you first meet someone, what do you notice about them?
  • What kinds of details might tell you about the kind of person they are?

We’ll talk about why writing people can be a powerful tool to set your writing apart, and what kinds of tricks will let you draw personalities vividly on the page. That’s just one of the craft elements we’ll cover in the six-week class.

Total cost for the six weeks is $150 per person. To find out more or sign up, click here!

2. Introduction to Classical Music

This eight-week class, for folks who are curious about classical music and would like to learn more, meets on Mondays on Zoom, 10-11:30 am EST, beginning October 3 and ending on November 21.

We’ll explore music from all six major periods of Western history: Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Modern. Composers discussed will include Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, and many more. We’ll listen to and talk about “greatest hits” and lesser-known pieces, and see how the language of music changed over the centuries, what inspired composers to hold onto tradition, and what inspired them to forge new paths. We’ll also talk about how instruments evolved and how some that we take for granted, including the modern piano, came to be.

Total cost for the eight weeks is $120 per person.

If you have questions or would like to know more, please email me at kfaatz925@yahoo.com.

To sign up: submit payment of $120 directly to me via PayPal or Venmo (@Kris-Faatz). Include “Intro to Classical Music” as a note.

As always, thank you for visiting the blog. Hope to see you in class!

We Made It!!

The Fourteen Stones crowdfunder hit its target this morning. Thank you so much to everyone who helped us across the line! My book goes to print very soon: it’s going to be a real book, out in the world. I might be crying a bit right now. 🙂

It’s going to be a real book! Very soon!

I know I’ve said it before, but I can’t help saying it again: this novel means the world to me. I feel very lucky to have found a publisher who loves it as I do. You can listen here to an interview I did last week with Jax Goss, the “dog’s body,” as she says, of The Patchwork Raven. We talked about the inside scoop on my book’s creation, our favorite things about it, and what makes it a mold-breaker in fantasy writing. When Jax asked me what I’d most like folks to know about it – a tough question, when there’s so much! – what stood out most for me was the joy I felt crafting the fictional world, getting to know its people, and stepping into that space every time I sat down to work. I would love for people to share that with me, to visit my beloved Namora and Lassar, maybe to fall in love with the characters the way I did.

Mountains in Asturias, northwestern Spain; this area inspired my country Namora.

Thank you again to everyone who pledged and preordered and supported me and The Patchwork Raven in making this dream a reality. There’s still time to preorder a copy or e-copy, if you’d like: the crowdfunder runs through tomorrow, Wednesday August 31, at 8 pm EST. You definitely don’t want to miss out on this book. 🙂

An excerpt from Chapter 2, introducing my favorite character.

As always, thank you for visiting the blog. See you next time!

Bonus post: Fourteen Stones Suite

We’re coming up on the end of the Fourteen Stones crowdfunder: two days and about six hours to go! We’ve made it three-quarters of the way to our target. Thank you so much to everyone who has pledged and preordered! If you haven’t yet, and would like your own copy or e-copy of this rich, unique, character-driven fantasy novel, you can order it (plus some excellent rewards) here.

Today’s bonus post is a partner for Friday’s character portraits. My husband, jazz musician and composer Paul Faatz, wrote a wonderful suite to capture some of the places and people in my novel. He’s a clarinetist and saxophonist, and I’m a pianist, so the two of us were able to perform his music together. We don’t get to do that often; it was a treat!

Please have a listen. The suite has three movements:

  1. Vatiri’s Dream
  2. Sostavi: A Foggy Morning
  3. The Lasska

A few notes with each video (for more, you’ll need to read the novel 😉 ):

Mvt. 1 – Vatiri’s Dream – At the beginning of Fourteen Stones, a tribal people called the Pala Vaia are placed under grave threat by the ruler of Lassar, the country they live in. Vatiri, a Vaia woman, is a Lamp-Carrier whose dreams can show the future and provide guidance for her people.

Mvt. 2 – Sostavi: A Foggy Morning – Sostavi is the capital city of Namora, one of the two countries featured in Fourteen Stones (and my favorite fictional place ever). It’s a coastal city modeled on the real town of Cudillero, in Asturias, on the northwestern coast of Spain. Houses and buildings cluster on a long slope that comes down to the city’s harbor. In Sostavi, in the early morning, sea fog swirls through the streets in drifts of cloud-white.

Mvt. 3 – The Lasska – The Pala Vaia live in the country Lassar, across the Senai Mountains from Namora. Lassar’s resident people are the Lasska. Centuries of dictatorial rulers have made them an insular, proud, and warlike people, but change may be coming to their country, sooner than they know and from a quarter they would never expect.

Thanks so much for listening, and for visiting the blog! If you’d like to find out more about the story that inspired this music, check out our crowdfunder and order your copy of Fourteen Stones today!

Bonus post: Book Talk and Mood Music

We’re in the homestretch of the crowdfunder for the launch of my novel Fourteen Stones: only five more days! My publisher has put some cool new rewards up in the PledgeMe campaign, and I’d like to offer a little “bonus” too.

Last night, my publisher and I did a live interview, which was so much fun. We talked about the story, and what makes it a different kind of fantasy; and the characters, and worldbuilding, and favorite scenes and most difficult scenes to write. We also got some wonderful questions from the audience. Check out our talk here!

One of the questions we got was about whether/how I used music in the story. While music isn’t mentioned a lot in Fourteen Stones, it definitely supported and inspired the writing process. Yesterday it struck me that some of my favorite piano pieces also work really well as “snapshots” of my four main characters, so I thought I’d share them, for fun. I won’t say too much about the characters (for that, you’ll need to check out the book! 😉 ), but the moods of these pieces fit them well.

My youngest character, a sixteen-year-old girl named Khari, whose unusual skill in reading dreams is both a gift and a great burden.

Valdena Filtraikas, a woman who finds herself in a position of power that she didn’t choose or want, and must choose how she will meet the challenge.

Bereg Orlon, a career soldier on the point of retirement, who is issued orders he knows are wrong; but disobeying them would make him a traitor and would cost him everything he cares about.

My favorite character, Ribas Silvaikas: a priest with an extraordinary skill, great strength and compassion, a chronic illness that presents a constant threat, and a core stubbornness that shapes everything he does.

If you’ve enjoyed these pieces and would like to know more about the story, please do check out the Fourteen Stones crowdfunder. We’ll need all pledges and preorders by Wednesday August 31 at 8 pm EST, so if you’d like to get your book, e-book, or other rewards, please place your order today!

As always, thank you for visiting the blog. See you next time!

Maker’s Day 13

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 post is a photo. What does this scenery inspire or evoke for you?

This photo was taken in northwestern Spain, in the region Asturias. Last week’s Maker’s Day prompt was a piece of music also inspired by this beautiful part of the world, as was my novel Fourteen Stones.

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!

Launching and Looking Back

Today is the beginning of Fourteen Stones‘s Special Launch Week. My publisher is having a week-long online launch party, and we’re also going into the last week of our crowdfunder – which means if you’d like to get your own copy, now is the perfect time. 🙂

That was my little commercial. The rest of this post wants to go in a different direction.

Launching a book is a weird experience. It’s what we hope for and dream about through the long process of writing, and especially submitting the manuscript – but when you get there, you realize it’s also an ending. That part is hard.

Very soon, my project, and the people who inhabit it and whom I’ve come to know and love, won’t be just mine anymore. They will go out into the world and meet other people who will have their own responses to them, put their own spin on this work of my imagination. I don’t know what Fourteen Stones‘s readers will think of the story. I hope they’ll find something to love in it, because I can’t begin to say what it’s meant to me.

At endings, we often look back and think about what we’d like to remember. Here’s what I’ll remember about this particular journey, which started seven years ago.

1 – Visiting Spain in the summer of 2015: crossing the Atlantic for the first time, and once on the other side, feeling as if the ground I stood on wanted to drop out from under my feet. It was so very strange to be on the far side – the “wrong” side – of that ocean. During those first couple of disoriented and yes, panicky days, I didn’t know I’d come home with a story that would reshape things for me.

At Las Fragas de Eume, in Galicia, Spain’s northwest corner

2 – That scenery. Northwestern Spain, its coasts and villages and mountains, provided the foundation for the world of Fourteen Stones. I would never have imagined Namora, my favorite fictional country, without the inspiration of those hikes in Asturias. (“This is the trail? But it goes straight up! And look at all these rocks!!” It was gorgeous, but I will vouch, it put my hiking skills to the test. ;)) I wouldn’t have met my favorite character, a Namoran priest named Ribas Silvaikas, if I hadn’t had the chance to visit churches that dated back a thousand years, where the walls were infused with history and devotion and centuries of prayer. I wouldn’t have imagined a girl whose humanity challenged her world, and laid the foundations of a religious faith, if I hadn’t seen the remnants of Iron Age villages, and felt the most profound sense of home I’ve ever experienced.

Rugged scenery at Covadonga Lakes, Asturias.

3 – (continuing from the above) The northwestern Spanish coast. I will remember the turquoise water, the pebbly sand, the scatterings of sea glass: blue and green and white. I’ll remember the clear tidal pools with their rainbows of crawling and swimming inhabitants. I’ll remember the fishing boats at Noia and the harbor at Cudillero, a town of brilliantly-colored, clay-roofed houses clustering on the hillsides. Cudillero was the model for Namora’s capital city, Sostavi, and I hope to get back to it someday.

On the hills above San Andres de Teixido, Galicia. That ocean!

4 – The writing. I’ll remember that first (awful) draft, written in a whirlwind of excitement after my husband and I came home from our trip. I thought I knew what I was doing and what the story was meant to be. I was completely wrong, but those few months were full of joy.

5 – The rewriting. After a couple of years, in which I learned a lot more about writing and saw the publication of my first book, I came back to the draft I’d called From the Circle House and gave it another look. This time, I could see the holes and messes, but there was a seed there, too. Another year of brainstorming gave me enough of a foundation to try again. The second time was much harder, but worth every moment. That was when Fourteen Stones took shape.

For the past four years, I’ve kept the maps of my fictional countries Namora and Lassar up over my desk, along with my floor plan for a Circle House, one of the most important places in the story. Now I have artist’s renderings of both the maps and the Circle House, turning those figments of my imagination into real places. It’s astonishing.

My Namora, as a real place…

I can’t wait until I’ll get to hold a copy of the actual book. That’s always the best part, and the scariest too. Now it’s real. Now it’s done. My novel takes flight very soon. I hope it’ll have a beautiful journey, and that its readers will too. Most of all, I hope that some of what I put into it, the love and dreaming, the real-world beauty that inspired the book and the fantasy-world beauty I tried to put into it, will come through on the page for the people who will share the story with me.

As always, thanks so much for visiting the blog. If you’d like to find out more about Fourteen Stones, don’t forget to check out the launch party events and the crowdfunder. Also, if you’d like a midweek creative pick-me-up, stop back tomorrow for a Maker’s Day prompt. See you next time!

My rather imperfect rendering of Isaac Albeniz’s piece “Asturias,” inspired by that region of Spain.