Monday, December 28, 2009

Back in the swing

The holidays are a wonderful time to gather influences and absorb undercurrents - a paradoxical time of action and reflection, a time to look back and reminisce with family and friends, renew old traditions and establish new ones, welcome the floods of memories and create those to savor in the future. There's the hustle and bustle, the creation of foods from family recipes, the handing down of those recipes, the sharing of family recipes and delicacies with friends. What surprised me this year was the flood of memories as Kendall, Beth and I unwrapped ornaments from four different families, some dating back to the 50's. Kendall even had memories this year of where we found ornaments at Tybee, Hampton and Folly beaches, her trip on the Polar Express train in the mountain when she was three, and the traditions of seeking out various routes to see the best Christmas lights.

But this year, we had new experiences which truly brought back many memories. When Kendall danced in her first ballet performance on the stage, tears came to my eyes as she followed her mother's footsteps to the footlights. And as Kendall sang in the Phyllis Wheatley Repertoire (an award winning repertory company) at local programs (one held in a church way out in the country), she established a new tradition for us, treading new ground, since my family are not known for their sining voice. Beth and I were so proud. And it's strange to see how natural Kendall is onstage, doesn't get nervous at all, while Jeff and I, and even Beth, are shy in front of people.

Because I worked so much over the holidays, I'm eager to get back into my studio and do some creative work, either writing, drawing, or art journals. I finished one drawing this morning with the new pencil set my son, Jeff, gave me to add to the sketches for the art show I'll hold at the release of Shaman Circus. I plan to have a number of sketches of the characters, as well as some of the scenes and have already finished seven paintings related to both Shaman books. I'd like to hold a mixed media event like I used to with The Howling. Not sure what that will involve yet.

And while I mention seeing friends as a good part of Christmas, that's barely happened yet. I've been too busy working at the various jobs and watching Kendall. Bethany and I have spoken briefly at each of our work areas at the mall, but that's not getting together in the fun kind of way. So all of that will have to happen after New Year's.

It's been a busy December with acceptances of short stories and poety and my job as arts and poetry writer for The Examiner, an online national newspaper with local sections. Calliope Nerve published three of my poems around Christmas and a short story will appear in Metazen with a poem, The Quintessential Language of Bridges accepted for publication in Full of Crow in 2010. Plus two of my paintings, Wheel of Fortune and Carnivale will appear in the Chronus Confusium show on Jan. 1st and 2nd. This is a show feraturing thee Inner Circkus as well as other circkus acts at the Warehouse Theatre in Greenville, SC. Carnivale is one of the New Olreans street scenes from Shaman Circus.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Shaman Circus edits completed!

Finished the Shaman Circus edits and emailed the clean manuscript back to Deb at Alll Things That Matter Press yesterday.
Meanwhile Shadow Archer Press is picking up with Christmas sales, so in between the holiday celebrations, garden work, the new part time job and writing, I'm constantly printing books.
As Shaman Circus moves onto the mock-up stage, I'm writing chapter 15 of Fireworks: Interference Equation but also have this thought in the back of my mind that I should finish and start the rewrite process on Shaman in Exile, while the Shaman Circus book is still in my head. It's odd. We've even discussed this at our writers' meetings, how one character will grab us and not let go.
Jacob snatched Shaman Circus away from Alex, and now Merri is threatening to do the same thing to Sean in Fireworks. A writer relates to each character differently for various reasons. So it's a juggling act to give each one the "page time" they deserve where they can say or do what they need to.
While I do write poetry by hand most times in a notebook, I write novels on my computer. I write quickly and need the advantage of a keyboard. And while I live close to downtown Greenville, I look out on trees, part of the roof of the house next door and a quaint shed from one window and from another look out on my back garden with it's azaleas, camellias, wisteria and flowers as well as my pecan and mulberry trees and an Ent. It's peaceful and always changing.
At the time I wrote Shaman Circus, I worked as a barista at Quarter Moon Cofffee and The Villge Cup, one of the best jobs I ever had. Fun, yet hectic. I was also working part time in the office for a company that served legal papers. I was also painting a good bit, oils mostly and getting involved in the local art scene when it was rapidly growing into one of the main cultural attractions of our city.
At this same time I managed the art gallery at the airport and met lots of artists and was exposed to many types of art. My life was built around work, weekly writing meetings of the Reedy River Rats Guerilla Writing Group, the occasional cooncert if one of my friends were playing, and art openings and even had a few of my own shows, one of which appears in the book. In fact, many of the events in Shaman Circus are based on my real life experiences, while other events were triggered by the headlines in the Times Picuayne after Katrina. I also followed a number of blogs about how survivors were coping.
I'm a huge fan of mythology and alchemy and was a professional astrologer for many years, so many of those influences are interwoven through the plot.
I didn't watch TV while writing Shaman Circus but did enjoy movies. Vanilla Sky, the Serpent's Kiss, Brotherhood of the Wolf were pivotal movies for me at the time. I was reading a lot on alchemy and writing a lot of poetry on the subject, reading The Magus by John Fowles, as well as the Aristos, his book on philosophy, Daniel Martin and Fowles' journals. I'm a sucker for biographies of writers and especially their journals and letters. (Rading Kerouac's and Anais Nin's journals in tandem at the moment along with the rare & wonderful little photographic supplement to aAnais' diaries that j michael niotta gave me.)
Two of the Reedy River Rats, Chris and Brian, are heavily into philosphy so they peaked my interest and for the first time in my life, I started studying philosophy, reading books they suggested, asking questions. There's a lot more philosophy in the second Shaman book, since it takes me a while ti digest all the various ways of looking at humanity, the world, our purpose for being here - all the usual questions. I tend towards the existentialists but am known to flirt with the ideas of other philosophers, as well.
I use a lot of bird omens in my writing both fiction and poetry. So they show up in Shaman Circus as well. I use astrology often, and the Morgan Grier Tarot a good bit as kick-off points for the angles I want to take on a chapter or in character development. These are tools I used for years and find they're great at opening doors to the subconscious where I beleive all our best writing comes from. Like Jung, I fell the subconscious is a storehouse of evry single thing we've ever encountered, even some we barely noticed at the time. And once we let the subconscious percolate on an idea, it will pull together things we would never think of on a conscious level, simply because we don't have time while dealing with the facts and actions we must encounter during day to day life.
That's why, when I say a "passage wrote itself" I'm speaking of when my subconscious pulled it all together while I worked in the garden, cooked, or was involved in some other project. And when I came to sit at the computer, if I was open enough, thanks to visual stimulation, i.e. art or the tarot, aural stimulation with music or even taste stimulation with savored flavors such as a glass of Muscadine wine, a very robust coffee from Leopard Forest or West End Coffee or Ancient Pleasures from Chocolate Fetish - handmade chocolates laced and dusted with cayenne pepper in the ancient Mayan tradition
Back to writing Fireworks: Interference Equation. Here's the music I'm listening to as I write: Din of Theves
and The Embalmers
and In a Lonely Place

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Shaman Circus edits and influences!

First Installment

Just received the copy edited version of Shaman Circus from Deb, the editor at All Things That Matter Press. I was really relieved when I opened the file and the edits were not extensive, mostly punctuation, a little grammar, and thankfully she caught three contiintuity issues, I totally missed. Handled one with an addition of a few lines to one chapter but will have to rewrite part of another. And then will be done on this phase. So now we move forward one more big giant step. I'm very excited and not as nervous as I was waiting for the edits because I feared some large rewrites. You never know.

I still can't believe it's happening sometimes. A dream I've had for more than 20 years to see a first novel published. But I delayed. Started four novels and never finished them over the years until Shaman Circus wrote itself in less than a year in from October of 2005-to May of 2006. This speed and dedication was thanks to my writer's group and our serious dedication to being frank but always offering suggestions, along with critiques. I never would have completed a novel without this constant weekly support and honesty.

Other influences came from music. Jacob's character became part of Scotty T's rendition of Baron Samedi when he was involved in voudou ritual. When Jacob is in rock singer mode, he's based on the lead singer of 10 Years, (Tennessee) Jesse Hasek.
I got hooked on this band in the parking lot of the Greenville/Spartanburg International Airport. The song came on the radio when I was ready to get out of the car and I ended up late at my job as barrister at The Quarter Moon Coffee Shop on the top level of the airport. I had never heard anything like it and had to listen all the way through hoping they would say who the song and band was so I could grab the CD. I was lucky. They did. "Waasteland" On their tour to support the album, 1o years played at The Handlebar here and my friend, Donna, and I went to see them and I was blown away by the lead singer's passion for music and the intonations and emotionality of his voice and his crazy all-over-the-stage-amps-everywhere antics.
I found listening to music helped me a great deal and certain CD's related to the characters, 10 Years, "The Autumn Effect" related to Jacob LaQuerre, the protagonist, while Flyleaf the Middle Eastern flavored music of Niyaz related to Lily (who is an American Tribal dancer influenced by Middle Eastern, Egyptian, Turkish folk dancing). Shrine and(sometimes Flyleaf) also inspired Mavis, who is based on my good friend, Wendy Swearingin (auhor and artist) and author, Brian K. Ladd's character, Candy Cane, in his novel, Trimalchio's Couch.

The kick start of the book was a poetry reading/music show held at Coffee Underground, by Wit's End poetry. It was the first time I saw Scotty T. and The Disease perform.

It was the night before Halloween and they were all in costume and Scotty was Baron Samedi (although I didn't know who that was at the time, I just figured it was a personage from Voudou culture.) And I was so mesmerized by the whole five senses experience I had to write it down. It ended up as the first pivotal chapter in the book from the main antagonist's point of view. I was also reading Nick Tosches, "In the Hand of Dante" at the same time and this gave me the freedom to be radical. At a later time, Nick would play a pivotal role in Fissure and in my gutsiness as a writer. We e-mailed back and forth for a while and he sent me a poem to publish in fissure #2. But it was when he wrote "be a leopard." I got even more gutsy with pushing the envelope in Greenville and beyond with my small press, Shadow Archer Press.

Also at the time, I was painting madly and had already painted Lily in a couple of different forms. so she was already formulated in my mind as a figure, for figure painting, although not yet as a character. And the Shaman popped up in a painting I did of New Orleans.

Other inspirations came from visiting the local art galleries, reading lots of anthropological books on shamans in every culture, constantly haunting the blogs of authors, Neil Gaiman, Poppy Z. Brite and Caitlin Kiernan for writing and publishing pointers or criticisms. Reading everything I could on Katrina and especially seeing the damage first hand in New Orleans afterwards.
This was after the novel was actually written, but the experience came into use during the extensive rewriting and revisions from 2006-2009, while I wrote the sequel, Shaman in Exile, at the same time. New chapters were added, some chapters totally cut, other portions totally rewritten.
I tend to write a very fast and sloppy first draft to get the plot and dialogue down, then do extensive rewrites. It's not how most writers like to work, since the revision process is torture, but I'm ADHD and this process works much better for me. I like to see results and will work more diligently when I do. I'm old enough to be old school and wrote my first unfinished novels on a typewriter so got used to seeing that stack of pages on the side of my huge turn-of-the century walnut table. Seeing the page count on a computer is not nearly as satisfying. But typing on a computer where white out and an eraser ribbon are unnecessary is easier. Maybe I never finished those first four novels because I ended up spending a forutne on paper and typewriter ribbons and retyrped every page many times.
more to come later - must go back to finishing the final edits

Monday, October 12, 2009

Back to work on "Interference Equation - Fireworks" today. Listening to a switch off of Din of Thieves and IAMX. I need to read more Fissure submissions, but Monday's are my days for my writing. I do need to go fill out more job applications, but may do that tomorrow. Procrastinating isn't my usual way of operation, but I don't want to look like a drowned rat.
High Time I stepped off the ego train and went back into the world of my confused and bizarre, but spiritual, quantum physicist, Sean O'Connor, as he stumbles through his erratic life in Greenville, SC. He looks a lot like the man in my painting, "The Philosopher," except he has black hair. Haven't painted any other of the characters but need to.
Spending a weekend with my granddaughter, doing fun real world little girl things, brought me back down to earth. I kind of slid up into a freakish bubble after the art show and poetry readings. so time to get grounded in my little world that I know the best, where Carl Jung and John Fowles whisper warnings, tests or answers, and I struggle to make a little bit of sense of it all in my cozy nest.
Of course, Halloween month is our favorite month and as Kendall says, we get to play with all of our October friends, who are: ghosts, witches, black cats, skeletons, gargoyles, vampires pumpkin-headed creatures and werewolves. Most of them are now living on our porch advising on which October movies to watch which night. We watched Corpse Bride, Saturday and I'll also have to work in Bram Stoker's Dracula, Frankenstein, Mirromask, Nightmare Before Christmas, The Crow, and other faves within the next few weeks. Some of those are not for Kendall, but I mustn't forget my roots either.
Books will be Coraline by chapters, Wolves in the Walls, and the Graveyard Book which I've been saving for her (and for myself to savor) for this month.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Poets in the Forest

I'm finally counted among the Poets in the Forest. While, I've been out to Leopard Forest Coffee Co.'s monthly poetry readings sponsored by The Trillum Arts Center before, I've never had the guts to read. But after seeing Justin Blackburn read, I got brave. He is such a gifted poet, a philosopher wiser than his years and a fun, open, inspiriational performer poet. It was a fun night all round, I laughed a lot, (think I kind of rained on the fun mood with two of my poems, one of them about the neglect of New Orleans post Katrina. ) But I learned a lot, laughed a lot and am getting a bit better at readings. Still a wreck, still can't look at the crowd, only strangled on a few words this time.
I met lots of cool folks, talked to Barbara Allen and Gil Allen. Gil is a professor of creative writing at Furman, veyr active on the poetry scene and has a small press too - 96 press.
So it's been a good week, what with my story "Creggie and the Coat of One Color" a disappearing shop story (dark fantasy -psychological horror) based on the dream of a friend, coming out in Dark Gothic Resurrected this month. Can't wait to get my copy. It's a gorgeous award winning magazine stuffed with goodies. And the cover is right up my alley. And following the dark themes of Halloween, Virgogray Press accepted my poem "Fear Not" for their death theme anthology.
Some weeks (like two weeks ago before I started this blog) are nothing but rejections, handfuls of them. I hate the days more than one comes in the email box, but they're par for the course, will always outnumber the acceptances by 80-90% and give me the impetus to either re-write the piece or send it back out into the publishing cloud of chaos.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Status report and musings on the writer's dilemma

Completed a number of necessary items this week. Some in response to my editor at All Things That Matter Press. As the owner of a small press, I knew the pages necessary to include in a new book.
I have a long list I send out to all Shadow Archer Press authors. But when it came to my own novel, Shaman Circus, I realized how difficult it can be to write a long and short summary, a long and short bio that's not just a list of credits, but has some interesting facts as well, along with deciding on a dedication and remembering everyone to acknowledge. It took me longer than I expected to pull all of those elements together and email them to him, while they work on copy-edits.
And in addition, I'm taking his suggestions regarding blogs and marketing, which is a whole new learning curve in some of the blogging realms and web aspects, as well as learning how to publicize without a "toot your own horn" aspect going on all the time. I've discovered it's a very fine line I haven't mastered yet. Already people like B. Miller, Brian K. Ladd, Joseph Goosey, Leigh Green are teaching me how to do this effectively.
And now I'm onto working out cover concepts with an overseas artist and we'll have to wait to see if they match with my publisher's ideas.
And then to balance that off, there's been so much to do with my press, printing many copies of Justin Blackburn's book as he travels all over the country, selling books like crazy at organized readings as much as spontaneous readings at places like Starbucks. The guy is amazing on how he can sell books and needs to teach the rest of us.
Also, j michael niotta's book is in the works and I've completed printing on Enzo Marra's book, and am working on books to be released early 2010.
So that's a lot. But that's not all. Even as a writer or handles marketing, works their everyday job (right now mine is Shadow Archer Press (SAP)- a demanding mistress) and write blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Myspace (which has proved a touchstone for SAP) etc., the main thing is to keep writing.
Writers must switch off the administrative side of the brain and go back to the creative - something I've had a hard time doing lately, only averaging 500-1,000 words per session as opposed to 3,000. In addition, a writer can't play hermit all the time. They must get out and be flooded with influences, observe people, society, local and current events, mayhem, conversations, - all the fodder we need to develop characters, construct complex plots and make our stories or poems vividly alive.
Hmmm... a balancing act to be sure. A teeter-totter always ready to toss us in the mud, a paradox inviting all our archetypes to run wild.
Such is the life!

The Submission Process

It was nice to see Neil Gaiman on Twitter sweating over whether one of his stories was going to be accepted. Granted he only waited one day, but still, its good to know established writers, well rock star status writers, still have to sweat it out.

Which brings up the whole issue of submissions, rejections, acceptances. As a writer, I still get a little bummed out when I get a slew of rejections, as any writer does (maybe not folks like Gaiman) but as an editor, knowing the other side, I want to writers out there, especially writers new to the whole submission process, to not take rejections personally.

Many of the stories I reject are not simply due to quality, but more due to how they fit into the way a magazine is shaping up. If I get a slew of Sci-Fi stories and no horror or fantasy, I'll have to reject good Sci-Fi stories just so I'll have a balance. If I'm doing a seasonal issue such as a Halloween issue I might go heavy on accepting horror. But new writers always feel like its their fault their story is rejected and often that's not the case. Sometimes its a matter of style, sometimes a simpler matter of space in the publication.

The best thing I advise, as many writers before me have advised, when you send a story or poem or manuscript off, forget about it and go write more. Don't keep checking your e-mail box. Use Duotrope to keep track of your submissions, follow the markets' writers' guidelines and develop a thick skin. Research your market and make sure your work fits.

When an editor rejects your writing - they are not rejecting you as a person. Step away from your writing. When you get to the submitting point you've turned it into a business.

Magazines are innundated with hundreds, even thousands of stories per issue and only have room for 4 or 5. Many rejections are perfectly good stories. If an editor makes a suggestion for changes, even though rejecting the story, don't take it as a slam, but as a helping hand from an objective reader. After all that's what editors to - they present your work to their readers and they know better who they are than you do.

If an editor accepts your story, but suggests changes, don't blindly accept them, if you can argue a valid reason why you don't want a change or edit, a good writer will listen. Afterall, we are limited in our scope and writing evolves quickly. New styles of writing may stymie an editor who hasn't been exposed, but its often that kind of writing which ends up becoming classes, winning awards like The Pushcart Prize or The Booker Prize. So editors need you - the adventurous writers to teach us these new developments.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Last week was frenzy, this week is calming down and I'm getting more into a pattern. Work on the press in the morning, two books this week, j m niotta's "The devil's doing the same damn thing he's always done" trying to get the cover right and checking edits on Michael Casare's The Winter King. j michael and I are working on the book as he traverses Europe ( alot by train). So far he's written from Ireland, and he's now in Prague. It sure makes our emails more interesting.

Then second part of the day is taking care of Shaman Circus details for All Things That Matter Press. Yesterday, I sent off the long and short summaries and bios, dedication page, acknowledgements. I'm working on the cover art for Shaman Circus, back and forth with Steve Viner in the UK, a marvelous artist. I'm so honored to work with him as he tries to interpret my vision from my vague rambling descriptions. It's like magic working with Steve, like having my own personal artistic genie on hand. He can interpret night time dreams and a few weeks later amkes them real. His work is so much like Dave McKean's of Sandman fame, one of my favorite artists of allt imes. My mind sees things like he does, but my skill level simply can't pull them off. Steve can. Steve's work takes my breath away and also touches me on emotional levels. Besides, he's such a generous, kind humble individual.

Then, I must print some books for folks and mail off Enzo Marra's contributor's copies. Justin will come by today to get his and he has a reading this Friday at Leopard Forest Coffee House (I may even read if they have open mike). Well that's just what's on the agenda this morning. Time to turn up the IAMX and get cracking.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Art Show and Book Release at Vitti Gallery

So here's the first installment... a little bit about writing, a little bit about art, a little bit about publishing. I've paid attention to all three this week, having just come off a weekend art show at the Vitti Tile and Pottery Gallery in the Pendleton Street Arts District in Greenville, SC. It was a busy show, with waves of viewers where I displayed some of my paintings and showcased the catalog of chapbooks and six issues of Fissure magazine which I publish under my micro press, Shadow Archer Press. Suzanne Vitti was kind of enough to let me hang paintings and display books alongside her diverse collection of Asian influenced, Mexican Day of the Dead and funky pottery and tiles. Kay Larch was on hand with her amazing mosaic-style paintings of rock icons, fantasy figures and street scenes of Greenville. Mark also displayed his contemporary abstract painted windows.
I chose a Halloween theme since my work is rather gothic and dark anyway and I love October: Skeletons and carnivale scenes, the River Styx and other ghoulish paintings were on display, including one of the Francois Burgougne, a character from my Shaman series. Shaman Circus, the first book in the series is to be published by All Things That Matters Press in Maine.I've been invited back to show at Vitti gallery and hope to bring out more of the paintings and assemblages from both Shaman Circus and Shaman in Exile, the second in the series. Shadow Archer Press featured 19 books by 16 writers from all over the world with original cover art and photography by ten local and international artists.More info can on Shadow Archer Press can be found here http:// for a peek at my original artwork, photography and weaving, check here:
Web Analytics