A Letter from the Orchard-Keeper

In which Fourteen Stones‘s matriarch introduces herself. “Orchard-keeper” is only one of her titles, by no means the most important – but she will tell more.

**

My name is Pelayut Silvenis. You’ve met my elder son Ribas, who is the zhinin of our little village, Lida. He is the caretaker, so to speak, of all who live here, and many who are linked to us by threads of all kinds. In a village this size, where everyone knows everyone else, each of us has a particular place. I am the apple-grower.

In truth, my younger son Gedrin has charge of the farm now. He and his family care for the trees as well as I could; as well, in fact, as his great-great grandfather, my father’s grandfather, who first planted them, and who set each seedling into the ground as gently as an egg into a nest. That was long before I was born, but I remember my father’s stories. The orchard has been our family’s work and delight for five generations. I suspect Gedrí’s children, Raulin and Asira, will make it six.

Time often seems to leave a small place like Lida behind. In many ways, the village looks the same now as it did some forty years ago, when I was a girl coming to the eighth-day markets with my father. The square is unchanged. The Circle House, our place of worship, looks much the same as in my earliest memories; although the building behind it is much newer, built since my son’s time as zhinin. He is the reason that trainee priests now come to Lida: many want to apprentice with him. The rhythm of the village itself is perhaps a little quicker, a little busier, than it was when I was young, but the quiet current of it moves along as it always did.

That isn’t to say that nothing changes here. My memories are full of change. I don’t often speak it, especially of the darkest time when I was a young mother, but when I look back along the path of my own years, sometimes I find it hard to recognize that much-younger woman. She lived through a great deal. I could not survive those things again. I wish, for her own sake and the sake of her boys – Ribas was six then, Gedrin only a baby – that when she saw the darkness coming for them, she could have stood up to it. Protected her children. They deserved it, and so did she.

But she survived it – I survived it – and I am still here. My sons are grown, both of them good men. They are very different, so much so it’s hard to see they’re brothers. Ribas – Ribé – has always been quiet and studious, even before the dark time that shaped him so much. Gedrí is active, eager, rushing. My husband died when Gedrí was much too young to remember him, so he always looked to his older brother as a kind of second parent. Ribé and I had our hands full with him, to be sure, but he was sunlight when we found our way out of shadow.

Now I am the elder orchard-keeper, still at work, though slower than I once was. I live here on the farm with Gedrí and his family. Every spring, as I watch the trees come into fragrant bloom, I think of their strength. How firmly their deep roots grip the soil. No matter how cold and dark the winter comes down, and no matter how their beauty fades and withers with the old year, they stand strong until the sunlight comes again.

Now I will close this letter, with my thanks for lending a silver-haired woman your ear. Yours in the fellowship of the Goddess,

Pelayut Silvenis

**

[For more about Fourteen Stones, its world, and its people, visit the book’s page. Please consider subscribing to the blog to receive future letters and posts.]

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The Books Have Landed!

I’ve been looking forward to writing this post for a long time. Yesterday, I finally got to hug my brand-new book, Fourteen Stones.

If there’s anything like the experience of seeing your own story – the one you dreamed of, sweated over, adored and fought with, and gave the best of your energy to for years at a time – seeing that story standing on its own, lifted out of your imagination and captured in ink on paper to go out into the world, I don’t know what that experience is.

They’re here…

In other posts, I’ve talked about what Fourteen Stones meant to me. I’ll be posting more about that again, as I try to give the book a gentle nudge along its way. For now, though, I’m celebrating.

It’s a real book!!

This is my second novel. Getting to see it “in the ink” was even better than with my first book. Jax Goss and Will Thompson at The Patchwork Raven did an absolutely amazing job of realizing this dream. Every detail is beautiful: I couldn’t have asked for better.

Just a little happy. 😉

The start-to-finish process with Fourteen Stones, from first draft to published book, took a little over seven years. Along the way, I learned that though I’d started out as a straight-up-literary, “real-world” writer, I loved to work with fantasy and magic. That’s changed the way I write, ever since. Almost everything I work on these days, from 100-word microfiction to my newest novel in progress, brings in a twist of magic somewhere.

First page of the prologue. So pretty!

In this profession, sometimes there isn’t much to celebrate. There’s a whole lot of rejection, and discouragement, and wondering “why did I sign myself up for this??” For me, the process of storytelling, that delightful experimenting and problem-solving, is full of joy. Sometimes, though, you really need a gift. Yesterday was that for me.

All worth it. 🙂

Fourteen Stones is now available for sale, too! If you’d like a copy, there are a couple of different ways to get one.

E-Copies are available on my publisher’s website, here.

Print Copies are also available on my publisher’s website, here, or:

For readers in the U.S., you can buy one directly from me. I have a small supply of them; first come, first served. 🙂 Email me at kfaatz925@yahoo.com if you’re interested!

As always, thank you for visiting the blog. If you’d like to stay updated about Fourteen Stones, upcoming book events and other events, and other news, please consider subscribing!

Don’t Miss It!

Join me next Monday, December 12, at 5 pm EST for a wonderful Zoom talk with my friend and colleague Dr. Julia Lee Barclay-Morton! Julia and I have both recently had books published: her hybrid collection The Mortality Shot is her first, and Fourteen Stones is my second.

Our books are very different, but Julia and I have a lot in common. Both of us came to writing “sideways,” as we call it, from other fields. We’ve gone at it in non-traditional ways; neither of us has an MFA, and we both work with indie presses and have found unique paths to publication. We’ve engaged a lot with questions and challenges relating to mental health. As middle-aged women, we’ve found ourselves navigating that tricky period in midlife where the sense of self can shift, and we run up against a real sense of our own mortality (Covid of course contributed to that a lot).

In our talk, we’ll share readings from our books, and talk about our experiences of the writing life and how our work as writers has been shaped by the other circumstances we have in common. As the publishing world continues to change, growing in some ways and contracting in others (especially with respect to traditional “big press” publishing), we think it’s important to highlight the many ways one can build a writing life, and emphasize the idea that there’s no single “right way.”

Because of that, we’re calling our talk “How Not to Get There Directly.” We think there’s a lot to be said for the roundabout, adventurous kind of path that lets you see a lot of the world. We hope you’ll join us on Zoom on Monday 12/12 at 5 pm EST!

Registration is free but required. To sign up, please click here. When you come, please also bring any questions you have; we’ll have an open-ended Q & A period at the end of the session. See you then!

Writing talk December 12!

I’m very excited to share a wonderful upcoming event. In a couple of weeks, on Monday December 12, at 5 pm EST, I’ll be giving a Zoom talk with my friend and colleague Dr. Julia Lee Barclay-Morton. Julia and I have both recently had books published: her hybrid collection The Mortality Shot is her first, and Fourteen Stones is my second.

Our books are very different, but Julia and I have a lot in common. Both of us came to writing “sideways,” as we call it, from other fields. We’ve gone at it in non-traditional ways; neither of us has an MFA, and we both work with indie presses and have found unique paths to publication. We’ve engaged a lot with questions and challenges relating to mental health. As middle-aged women, we’ve found ourselves navigating that tricky period in midlife where the sense of self can shift, and we run up against a real sense of our own mortality (Covid of course contributed to that a lot).

In our talk, we’ll share readings from our books, and talk about our experiences of the writing life and how our work as writers has been shaped by the other circumstances we have in common. As the publishing world continues to change, growing in some ways and contracting in others (especially with respect to traditional “big press” publishing), we think it’s important to highlight the many ways one can build a writing life, and emphasize the idea that there’s no single “right way.”

Because of that, we’re calling our talk “How Not to Get There Directly.” We think there’s a lot to be said for the roundabout, adventurous kind of path that lets you see a lot of the world. We hope you’ll join us on Zoom on Monday 12/12 at 5 pm EST!

Registration is free but required. To sign up, please click here. When you come, please also bring any questions you have; we’ll have an open-ended Q & A period at the end of the session. See you then!

Upcoming Events!

This week I interrupt our Tuesday Creativity series to mention a couple of upcoming events…but the first one is also a creative boost, so that counts. 😉

  1. Free workshop!

Next Monday, October 24, at 6 pm EST, I’m giving a FREE workshop on Zoom: “Writing with Musical Inspiration.” This fun, no-stress workshop uses musical prompts as a springboard for writerly creativity. It also offers a taste of the multi-week workshop I offer in partnership with Tiferet Journal. If you could use a dash of inspiration, this free session is for you! Writers of all experience levels and styles welcome. To sign up and reserve your spot, click here.

2. Book event!

Monday November 14, at 6 pm EST, my friend and colleague Julia Lee Barclay-Morton and I will offer a talk on Zoom: “How Not to Get There Directly,” about our newly-published books and our unusual paths in writing and publication. Join us for readings from Julia’s fascinating collection The Mortality Shot and my brand-new Fourteen Stones, discussion about our unique paths as writers, and a Q & A session. I’ll be posting more about this event and our books as it gets closer. To sign up, click here.

Hope to see you at one or both events! Stop back next Tuesday for another installment of Tuesday Creativity. As always, thank you for visiting the blog!

Tuesday Creativity 4

A musical prompt for today. This piece is an old favorite of mine that I’ve recently started re-learning (slow process!): Frederic Chopin’s Nocturne in C sharp Minor, Op. 27 no. 1, performed by Artur Rubinstein.

I first learned this piece when I was thirteen. The name “nocturne,” “night music,” gives us a sense of the atmosphere Chopin had in mind when he wrote it. Chopin often delves into storytelling in his solo piano pieces, especially the nocturnes and his four Ballades. Each of them takes the listener on a journey, exploring emotional contrasts and conjuring up all kinds of images and ideas.

I love this particular nocturne because of its excitement and drive, and the arc of tension that gradually builds to a catharsis. When I first learned it, I created my own stories to go with it, imagining that the music was the soundtrack to a movie and thinking about what the action would be.

As you listen to this piece, what does it conjure up for you?

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

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!