Saturday, January 29, 2011

An eerie Neil Gaiman moment

Today I read one of the most bizarre disturbing things I've ever read.
I read Neil Gaiman's blog often. He is one of the writers who inspires me to write over and over. And in his fiction there are often disturbing moments. But this is not fiction.  This is not fantasy or horror.  This is disturbing because Neil was disturbed. As an author, I could feel viscerally what he felt.  If you are an author you will too. I will never forget this.
  I quote the experience here because I'm afraid you might not take the time to read it if you have to click a link.  Every writer should read this. Every reader should read this - in fact every human being should read this. 
From Neil in Australia:

"I wandered past sushi shops and backpacker places and Thai takeways and tobacconists in the hot Sydney summer evening sun. Last night Amanda (who is vastly amused by my complete lack of hooker recognition skills) had pointed out the hookers to me, and I saw a couple of the ladies she had pointed out to me coming on duty, looking wary in the daylight.

There were a couple - a man and a woman, both in their twenties at a guess, both shorter than I am and dark-haired, looking into a shop window, with their backs to me. The woman had a tattoo on her shoulderblade - writing - and because I cannot pass writing without reading it, I glanced at it. Part of the writing was covered by a strap.

But I could still read it. And I knew what the words covered by the strap were.

The tattoo was a lot like this (which is to say, the same content, and similar typeface, but probably not the same person. I'm already trying to remember if it was the left or the right shoulderblade):

(I took that photo from here. (Thank you Google Image Search)

I read the tattoo, read words I had written to try and exorcise my own small demons eighteen years ago, and I felt like a ghost. As if, for a moment, under the hot Sydney sun, I was only an idea of a person and not a real person at all.

I didn't introduce myself to her or say anything (it didn't even occur to me to say hello, in all honesty). I just walked home, through a world that felt flimsier and infinitely stranger than it had that morning.

I don't know why it affected me like that. But it did."  -- Neil Gaiman, January 25,2011 2:12 am

Is this something you would like to encounter as a writer?  Or is would such an experience totally unhinge you, as it seemed to do to Neil, and alter your perspective on your place in or out of reality?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Upstate Steampunk dining out at Fitzy's and more

Busy weekend, getting to see Mark at the new
Coffee to a Tea, attending the Upstate Steampunk dining out at Fitzpatrick's where we had a turnout of 44 people and I hung out with lots of friends, Cindy, John, Lindy, Bethany, the irrepressible Ben of IFB, Tara and Elizabeth, Gypsey, Marla, Sarah and Braxton of Valentine Wolf and met new friends as well, including, Shelby and Eddie.  Lots of great Irish food and good conversations, talking about books and science, music and the upcoming plans for the Upstate Steampunk Con next November at the Garden Hilton Inn in Anderson,SC.  Gypsey is already setting things in motion for indie films, a late night Victorian costume swimming party in the indoor pool.
Gypsey is hard at work setting things up and has already planned our next Upstate Steampunk dining out for March 5, 2011 at the new hotel so we can check it out and see how to use every inch of it's space to our advantage.Check the hotel out - it looks lovely in the photos.
Beware all!  Ben and I are putting our off-kilter heads together and plotting the crazy tea party, picnic, scavenger hunt,for some day in the spring at a park.  Ben has experience with a mad hatter tea party and I have scoured the steampunk empire for ideas, so it will be a jaunt into Wonderland for sure!  Details to come!
 It was wonderful to see so many people at Fitzy's dressed up in new and amazing new costumes. These people are dedicated. We freaked the mundanes downstairs and inspiration was offered all around. I came up with something at the last minute. It was cold outside! So I stuck with a sweater skirt and corduroy jacket. I did wear my poisonous plant necklace and the watch fob watch I made with copper and beads, and had fun fixing up the hat with the goggles I won from Nick Valentino. He offered them in a contest for tweeting etc. about his book Thomas Riley.  Which I didn't even know I'd entered, I was just tweeting because it's a fun book. I jazzed the goggles up at the last minute out of desperation and for fun used butterflies.
And while it was fun playing on facebook, more plotting, exchanging book ideas with new friends, I had to settle down and focus and finish writing the article I'm writing on the psychology of steampunk for the Upstate Steampunk Anthology, Gypsey is editing to be published by Cambridge University Press in England.
I think it's written, may need a bit more organization and some copy edits.  So I'll put it aside for a day or two and then check it over and hopefully have Brian do a critique before I submit it.

    Photos by Pher Reinman of Touch of Grace Photography

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Shaman in Exile finished!

On January 16th I finished my magical realism novel, Shaman in Exile, which is a follow up to the novel Shaman Circus which was released by ATTM Press last January. I think the anniversary release date was what influenced me to settle down and finish the book. 
Here's the stats
Took 4 1/2 years to write
106,000 words
61 chapters
Music I listened to: Ten Years, Apocalyptica, Temple of Thieves, IAMX
Writing influences:  John Fowles, Carl Jung, the journals of Anais Nin, Doris Lessing, A.S. Byatt, Heraclitus, Nietzsche, Brian K.Ladd, B. Miller, j.m. Niotta, Poppy Z. Brite, Neil Gaiman.

It takes place in  a variety of locales, New Hampshire, the Alsace region of France and Folly Island, SC with flashbacks to Africa, Haiti and New Orleans. 
When I cam back to Greenville, South Carolina, I had to move into my art studio at the Village Studios and Gallery, in the Pendleton St,. Arts District.when pipes burst at my home requiring a lot of renovations. I lived there eight months.  Then I returned to my home near downtown Greenville. During that time, my mother passed away, my daughter was married, and two years later divorced, she was also very ill for three years, I went full time with my small press, Shadow Archer Press and after publishing,      books, was forced to almost completely shut down the press due to the recession.  It is now limping along to the dismal point of producing only one issue of Fissure magazine last year.  Also during that time, I had many good friends move away, some who have been friends for over 20 years. These included my main writing buddy, Brian K. Ladd, my great friend and art mentor, Donna, my Shadow Archer Press technical advisor, Shaggy Randall, my ex-lover and friend, Kevin, and my confidant and dear friend from the music industry, also a talented artist, Cindy Woods. Some moved quite far away, which was very difficult. All of these comprised my support system and served as inspiration for both writing and art.  Perhaps it's why I focused on the concept of "exile" in this book, even though I remained in my own town much of the time. Perhaps a sense of "home" is not a physical place but a state of mind.
I had book signings and art openings, and started a new job as a Rehab Support Specialist and art facilitator for individuals with traumatic brain injuries.  I spent many hours with my granddaughter, now 7 years old, since her mother was ill and works nights.  I have become much more of a hermit than I was when I wrote Shaman Circus to the point I no longer hold parties or fire pit gatherings, writers groups or staff meetings at my house.   

  There's always a few down days following my ending of a project.  Now that I've finished Shaman in Exile and will wait a week or so to being the editing process, I find myself at a crossroads.  There are tow projects I have deadlines for one a bio for the band Temple of Thieves and another an article on the psychology of steampunk.  Both of these are kind of twisting my brain right now.  And then there's the temptation to do art with Tim Holtz and Graphic 45 coming out with new amazing product lines.  What to do, what to do.   I plan to complete at least the two writing projects this weekend, try and spend some time with friends I didn't get to see over the holidays and let my subconscious figure it all out.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sandy Ang's Victorian/Steampunk Art Challenge #2

Quite by accident while viewing images of paper arts on the Graphic 45 Ring, I found Sandy Ang's Challenge #2. It's a very cool and lively  Victorian/Steampunk Challenge.  And since this era is my millieu I couldn't resist. I'm heavily involved in steampunk with the Upstate Steampunk Group in Greenville, SC (having hosted a panel on creating art, selling my handmade books, collages and paper arts as a vendor and facilitating a panel for authors who I featured in Steampunk Fissure, a magazine I publish with my small press, Shadow Archer Press.)
Wow, you need to check out Sandy's work.  She is so talented. 
So this is one of the pieces I'm entering to Sandy's challenge.  Twist of Soul and Heart- it's a mixed media beeswax collage using Graphic 45 sand other papers, a vintage Victorian photograph, metal embellishments from my stash of things I pick up from the side of the road when walking  (my eyes are just drawn to anything metallic on the ground) and one of my statements devised to make viewers think of the Victorians as more than a bunch of stodgy folks in stiff clothes.  I also added some gold leaf, Perfect Pearls, Golden Interference metallic paint and chalky blue oil pastels for that dash of glamor.

Book Making Again - Bird mini album

I've mostly been writing lately, but did have some time to make a mini photo album with a bird, butterfly, magnolia theme for my friend Mark for Christmas. Her house is called Magnolia Cottage so that's why this particular southern flower is predominant.  I'm still working on taking photos - the first set came out blurry because I had to shoot inside during the snow storm, but I'll add more later.  I used a lot of new techniques on this one, including the Perfect Pearls from Ranger inks and beeswax collage.  It was a lot of fun!  She and I both love birds, both in the wild and in art so it was a fun theme to try. 

Like my other books, I made my pages from cereal boxes etc and the front and back cover from the hard cardboard found on the backs of paper packs.  I used a lot of Botanicabella papers from Graphic 45, one of my absolute favorite paper companies. K & Company, Tim Holtz, 7 Gypsies are also featured throughout as their styles fit right in with the kind of vintage look I want in my books.  This book is a bit more whimsical than most of my books but birds are like that, aren't they.  I've filtered in some of my own sketches as well as photos of my garden to give it a more natural feel and I've already started putting photos in of Mark and her husband Mike, who is a Harley rider, so there's even a page with a Harley theme in here!  Quirky I know but Mark and Mike are a very unique couple. There are also some ocean themed pages because Mark and I spent time together on Folly Island, off the coast of Charleston, SC.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Brian K. Ladd - Their Dark Masters

If you're into intelligent horror, if you like to be scared, if you want a different take on the vampire mythos,  head over to Amazon and check out the new horror anthology, Their Dark Masters, from Red Skies Press.  This one features Durham, North Carolina (formerly Greenville, South Carolina author) and a previous contributor to Fissure magazine, Brian K. Ladd, wit his short story, "Leandros and the Raki.".
In addition, editor Mark Crittendon, has nominated one of Brian's short stories to Ellen Datlow for Year's Best Horror 2010.  Brian has had short stories published in previous anthologies edited my Mark as well.
Brian's story is intelligent, terrifying, highly unusual and well researched. On this story which takes place in a monastery in Constantinople, during the 1821 Greek Revolution, Brian utilizes his amazing ability to create complex, unpredictable characters, miss, them up in his cache of plot twists while touching upon his fascination with philosophy, ethics, history and philoogy. Take it from me - this is a most unusual story. I had the luck to read it during one of our writers meetings and found it most delightfully disturbing.

Description of the contents from Red skies Press: When vampires have outlasted eternity, their dark masters will rise from their ancient slumber. What evil games will they play? Find out in these fourteen tales of dread by Lee Hughes, Brian K. Ladd, Lily Childs, Erik Boman, Paul Anderson, Erin Cole, Gregory Miller, Marissa Farrar, Henry Brasater, Tyree Campbell, Rebecca L. Brown, Barry J. Northern, and Mark Anthony Crittenden, and featuring the art of Marie-Claire Graham. Warning: horror content is extreme.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Novel Approaches: Underlying Themes

There are a series of tests I believe writers encounter involving what underlying themes or  perhaps even, purposes and meaning,  unfold in the course of writing a novel. We may not, in fact, until a novel is finished or cl0ose to be finished realize how many themes we address.  For me, at least these have arisen while working on Shaman in Exile: Spiritual, Metaphysical, Philosophical, Scientific,Psychological Creative.
 I've written a good bit over the unexpected long weekend, close to 5,000 words now and am  close to the end of Shaman in Exile. I've had a lot of weird dreams - perhaps thanks to reading a number of books all at the same time in fits and starts, The Thunderer by Felix Gilman (steampunk/fantasy novel), Wicked Plants by (nonfiction, a compendium of poisonous plants), The Disappearing Spoon (nonfiction a tale of the world through the period table) and Man's Search for Meaning by Carl Jung(nonfiction - psychology, metaphysics). 
So this reading list is a straight forward invitation to dip into not only my own subconscious, but perhaps even the primordial universal mind proposed by Jung.  Strange weird dreams -which in fact are quite helpful, as this part of Shaman in Exile has a great bit to do with mysticism, prophecy, ripping the veil and tapping into something larger than ourselves. Its a bit strange, but all three current novels in progress have been veering into spiritual/metaphysical/philosophical waters - lots of correspondences with Jung, Nietzsche, and Heraclitus - so obviously there's some need for me to examine these writings.  

I've had little to no social life since The Upstate Steampunk Con due to the holidays and family stuff and in fact, have seen only one friend over the entire holidays except friends from work.Otherwise, I'm in major hermit mode, rethinking a lot about my life, feeling overwhelmed at times and wondering how to make it all go hand in hand. Work, family, writing, art, social life. So the social life falls by the wayside since I have few hours of alone time. I don't particularly feel the need for influences at this time in my life. There are times when I'm desperately hungry for them, the need to attend concerts, go to art shows, engage in writers meetings, see people and have experiences.  But it seems I'm in one of those consolidation stages, where I need to pull inward, organize the inner swirl of thoughts, concepts and visions and put them out on paper, canvas, mixed media, metal.

I'm not complaining, just thinking out loud, because some of the directions of my writing have surprised me even more than when a character takes charge.  This is a bigger picture than one character's approach.  A broader expanse seeking observation.  
I'm actually able to switch gears from the steampunk book I was writing to first draft Shaman in Exile with little effort and that was a surprise - there's the rub. What do I do then? Edit Shaman in Exile, finish Foxglove Broadsides (which will have a new title) or both at the same time?  I'll decide when at a later time.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Close to Finishing Shaman in Exile - one chapter left!

I'm doing 50/50 on my New Year's Resolutions, didn't fare too well with the attempts at becoming more social or in bringng my lunch to work instead of eating out, but did do much better on the others.
I am now one chapter away from finishing the first draft of Shaman in Exile, the follow up novel to my magical realism foray, Shaman Circus, which was published by ATTM Press one year ago this month.
I started Shaman in Exile in July of  2006, and lived part of those early months in New Hampshire so part of the novel takes place there, but it also wanders to France and then Folly Island, South Carolina, following the trail of Jacob La Querre, the voudou shaman. The book picks up with him a year or so after an accident in which he becomes partly disabled and has decided to leave the temple, his lover, and friends. The second novel incorporates more magical realism than the first and  its a good bit more free wheeling due to the fact its not tied to a large real event, but rather a series of smaller events.
I wrote Shaman Circus in 8 months. Shaman in Exile over 3 1/2 years.  I could never come up with an ending, because the earthquake in Haiti took place before I finished it and Jacob's family is from Haiti.  So I had to decide whether to incorporate the earthquake aftermath or not.  I realized, returning to Haiti would have to be another book.  There are too many complications with family, let alone the earthquake devastation or how Jacob would handle it. Jacob grew quiet for a while, couldn't tell me which way he wanted the book to go and so I started a other projects.
Now I'm glad I waited and didn't rush it.  It's working, and its another of those life lessons for writers to stand back from their book and let the characters tell their story.  This time, Jacob, Max, and Lily are doing the work.  I'm just a transcriptionist. At this point, the novel is running over 100,000 words and 59 chapters.  Not sure if that's how it will stay. 
Once It's finished, I plan to launch immediately into editing since there may be things that need changing due to the ending.
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