How Raven got His Shadow

IMG_20140321_172306Remember the stories that Mother used to tell us?  The ones about Bear and Raven and all the others. In the land of Before, that’s how they always started.  So let’s start this story the same way.

Long ago, in the land of Before, in the time when the Humans were new to the earth, Raven had a twin.

Raven loved his twin, and his twin loved him so much that they never were apart. Their devotion became legendary, so much so that they became the favorites of the Humans.

“Look at how beautiful they are,” the Humans would say. “And between the two of them they share such wisdom, all the wisdom of the universe.”

“They are the wisest, the most beautiful, the most kind, most generous…” The Humans could find no fault with Raven and his twin.

And things may have been okay if the Humans had spread their love around, if they had found even one fault with the two. But they didn’t. Even Raven’s trickery became a thing of glory and humor, because the love he and his twin shared was all-encompassing.

Time went by as it does, and the Others grew tired of being over shadowed, of being viewed as Lesser. So they banded together and plotted the demise of the glorious couple.

“I can hold them under water until they lose their wings and grow fins,” Ocean said. “That way the Humans will not be able to see their devotion to each other.”

“I can trap them in a bottomless cavern,” Mountain said. “That way no one will be able to hear their wisdom.”

“I can shine so brightly, that no human will be able to see their beauty,” said Sun.

“I can blow such a breeze,” said Wind, “That they will be forever separated.”

But no one was happy because none of the solutions were sure. For each suggestion there was a chance that the twins would be reunited or that they would escape. And so they decided that getting rid of at least one of the twins was necessary.

Coyote, much like Raven, was a trickster. One night, long after the moon had fallen below the earth, the Conspirators met to listen to Coyote’s suggestion.

“We have to separate them for all eternity,” Coyote said. “Which means we have to send one, or both, of them to the After.”

“How will we do that?” Otter said.

Eagle said, “I suggest we appeal to their sense of greatness. We set them a task, a dangerous task. One they’ll want to complete for the sake of the Humans.”

“And for the sake of what the Humans will think of them.” Coyote laughed. “Because deep down, Raven and his twin are, after all, vain creatures like the rest of us.”

“I could hide,” said Sun. “And they would search for me, because the Humans fear the dark. They would fly too close—”

“No, I have the plan,” said Coyote. “An even better plan.”

And so the Conspirators began playing terrible tricks on the Humans and blaming Raven and his twin. Raven did it became their mantra. And as the years flew by, many foul deeds became attributed to Raven and his twin, so many that some Humans began to fear Raven and his twin.

Humans have short memories. No longer were Raven and his twin thought of as the generous, beautiful twins, as the funny, benevolent tricksters who stole the light and gave it to the Humans. As the two whose thievery benefitted the Humans more often than themselves.

And so, for one Chief, fear turned to anger and then hatred, so much so that the Chief plotted Raven and his twin’s death.

The Chief invited the twins to visit him, said he had planned a grand feast in their honor, but after the sumptuous meal, while they were napping, the Chief threw a bag over Raven and his twin. He tied the bag tightly, and though they struggled, they couldn’t get out.

“What’s this game you’re playing?” Raven said.

“I’m taking you to the mountaintop.”

“Why?” said Raven.

The Chief ignored him, even though the whole time he climbed the mountain, Raven peppered at him with questions.

Sensing some deception at work, Raven warned the Chief that he should be careful, that he should take care to never hurt Raven or his twin because they were loved by the Humans.

When the Chief reached the mountaintop, he threw the bag over the cliff. “You shouldn’t make a Chief mad, like that?” he shouted as the bag tumbled down the mountainside.

As it bumped against the sharp rocks, the bag ripped open and Raven escaped. His twin was not so lucky. The bag caught one of his wings and threw him off balance as he toppled out. Raven’s twin’s head smashed against a rock, and he fell to his death.

Raven gathered up his twin’s broken body and flew.

For many days and months and years, Raven stayed in seclusion because life without a twin made no sense. It was as if half of him were gone.

The Humans, now ashamed, mourned the twins and the light and happiness they had brought. So much so, a malaise fell over the world.

The Others took fright that they might all be forgotten. They worried that the Humans would learn of their deceit and shun them into non-existence. After all, the Humans had exiled the Chief who killed Raven’s twin.

So, the Conspirators met again in the dark of the night. They thought and thought, argued and discussed—for so long that the night went on for three days.

At what should have been the first hour of morning on the fourth day, Sun had an idea, and all the Conspirators agreed that it was an excellent solution.

Whenever there was light to see, Raven’s image, his spirit twin would follow him, would be there with him.

And not only would Raven have this twin, this shadow self, Sun would also give it to all the Humans so that no one would ever forget Raven’s twin.

~ o ~

*NOTE: this fable is my own creation, but is referential in style and story to the many Native American Raven stories that I’ve read. It will be used, at least in part, in my Work in Progress.

Asbe & Uvi – The Story Begins

This is the first little bit of a sub-story that I’m writing as part of my Work-in-Progress. There’s much more. In fact I’m working on it today, much further into this story line, but I thought I’d share some of it with you.  It’s still in the first draft phase.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

§

Asbe pretends to be asleep as Uvi creeps toward her. Father won’t let them sleep in the same bed, says it’s not right. So, as soon as Uvi wakes, he sneaks into bed with her. Every day he tries to trick her. He tries so hard to be quiet, wanting to scare her or maybe surprise her, but he has all the grace of a baby bear.

With her eyes closed, she pictures him getting nearer, can hear each tip-toed step across their bedroom’s rugs, first his football rug and then her Winnie the Pooh rug. She can hear his soft intake of breath as his excitement builds, feels him climb up onto her bed. She pretends to roll over in her sleep facing him so that he doesn’t have to crawl over her. Last time, scrambling over her, his knee went into her belly making her nearly pee on herself.

She waits until he’s poised, kneeling on the bed beside her, waits until she feels his warm breath on her face. He has done this a thousand times, yet he is still surprised when she opens her eyes and whispers in their secret language, “<Caught you.>”

Uvi falls down on the bed beside her and laughs. She loves the sound of his laughter. So she reaches her hands out and tickles him until they are both wiggling and giggling, quietly.

After tickling is over, they snuggle together, Uvi wrapping his arms around her, both relishing the moment. Once Father is aware they’re awake, they will have to be separate. It feels unnatural to be separate, but even at age five they know to obey Father.

“<How old are we today?>” Uvi says.

Asbe holds up her hand showing five fingers. “<This many.>”

“<Nu-uh.>”

She hugs him close. “<Hu-huh, our birthday.>”

“<What we do today?>”

“<Don’t know.>”

Uvi pushes her away and clambers his way to his knees, sensing the air like a dog. “<I smell pancakes.>”

“<I hope they’re blueberry.>”

“<Me too. Birthday pancakes.>” Falling back onto the bed facing her, he laughs as if it’s the funniest joke he’s ever heard and then slaps his hand over his mouth.

Asbe puts a finger to his lips, reminding him to be quiet.

He nods.

She tugs the blanket over him. “<Maybe the park?>”

He smiles, his eyes closing. “<Maybe a party.>”

She pulls him closer, breathing in the scent of sleep sweat on his jammies and the Johnson’s Baby Shampoo that Mommy uses on both of them, and allows her eyes to close as well, allows herself to feel how natural it is to have Uvi beside her. Just for a couple of minutes.

Why Raven Doesn’t Sing

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the Land of Before, Raven had a twin Brother. Besides being extremely intelligent and full of trickery, besides having an innate love of games, each brother had specific talents. Raven’s gifts were his guile and beauty, while his Brother was known for his voice and charm. The Humans said that Raven’s beauty could call forth the Sun on a cloudy day and his Brother’s voice could make the Sky weep with joy.

Raven would spend his days preening, admiring himself in the tidal pools while his Brother would fly over the Earth serenading the Humans. And even though everyone recognized Raven’s magnificent features, were beguiled by his handsomeness,  they loved Raven’s twin for his generous spirit.

One day Old Man happened to be wandering by the tidal pools and noticed Raven gazing at his reflection.  “Hello Raven,” Old Man said. “I see you’re spending your time wisely.”

“Just look at how exquisite I am Old Man,” Raven said. “Who could resist gazing on a visage as pleasing as this? I certainly can not.”

“If only you could sing as divinely as your Brother,” Old Man said. “Then the Humans would adore you too.”

Raven hopped on a rock, cocked his head at the Old Man and said, “What’s this? You think the Humans love my Brother more?”

“Most definitely,” the Old Man said.

It was then, at that very moment, that Raven decided he must steal the love of the Humans away from his Brother. Raven didn’t care about being useful. He only wanted to be treasured, cherished. More than his Brother.

The next day Raven was walking through the Forest when he came upon his Brother, accidentally on purpose. “Hello Brother of mine,” Raven said, but he threw his voice so that it sounded as if he had a bad cold.

“What’s wrong, Raven,” his Brother asked. “You don’t sound so good.”

“I’ve got a tickle in my throat,” Raven said.

“Is this a trick, Raven? You are the only one who loves pranks more than I do.”

“No joke, Brother. My voice has been bothering me for some few days now. Could you take a look?”

Raven’s twin Brother hovered nearby, still wary of some shenanigans in the making.

Raven made himself cough, patted himself on his chest and then opened his mouth. “Take a peek.” He motioned for his Brother to gaze deep inside.

“I don’t see anything.”

“Look closer,” Raven said, opening his mouth wider while pounding his chest with his fist.

Now concerned for Raven’s health, his Brother came even nearer. Near enough that Raven was able to swallow him.

“Now I’ll–” Raven croaked out. He patted his chest for real this time. “Now I’ll have my brother’s voice–” The words came out rough, almost like a real cough. “That and my pleasing appearance. All the Humans will love me.” Exhausted, he sat on a rock and gazed out at the Puget Sound. “I just need to become accustomed—Caw, Caw–accustomed to wielding such a powerful  voice. Caw. It’ll just take a bit of getting used to. Caw.”

But try as he might, not only could he not sing, he couldn’t even talk easily any more. He cawed out every word, as if there were feathers continually tickling his throat.

The next day, Old Man came out to the tidal pools. “Where’s your Brother been, Raven?”

“Caw—Caw—“

“That sounds pretty bad. I can’t really understand you.”

“Caw—Caw—” Raven struggled to sound out the words. But they wouldn’t coalesce in his throat.

“Sound like you’ve got a Brother, umm sounds like you’ve got a Frog in your throat.” The Old Man laughed. “But I guess we’ll never know.” Before he turned to walk away, he said, “I just wanted you to know that the Humans have erected a tribute to your missing Brother, a Mountain pass. Not only will it be useful to the Humans, as your Brother was,  it will also, when the Wind whistles down the tunnel, remind them of your Brother’s lovely voice.”

“Caw—“

“What’s that you say? They still adore him? Why yes they do. Even more.”

“Caw—Caw—Caw—Caw—“

~ o ~

*NOTE: this fable is my own creation, but is referential in style and story to the many Native American Raven stories that I’ve read. It will be used, at least in part, in my Work in Progress.

Character.Interview: Sinclair Clement

Name: Sinclair Clement

Gender: male
Age: 31
Home:  Queen Anne (off W Highland Dr), Seattle, Washington
Ancestry:  Irish (mother) / French/German (father)
Appearance: With fair skin, green eyes, and wavy, reddish-blonde hair, Sinclair gets his coloring from his mother. He’s fortunate that he gets his tall, lanky body from his father. He wears his hair collar length, and his lean face is clean-shaven. He has no visible tattoos or scars.
Favorite Color: Sky Blue
Typical Outfit: Sinclair’s fashion sense appears to be in a state of confusion, somewhere between college yuppie and Seattle grunge. His typical outfit consists of jeans [folded up at the ankle], an untucked button-down oxford style shirt [or a sweater], and a worn leather blazer, accompanied by Dr Martens or lace up leather ankle boots. He always wears long-sleeved shirts. But, if he’s feeling really relaxed, he’ll wear a t-shirt—-under an unbuttoned oxford under the blazer.

Today, I’m interviewing Sinclair Clement, the antagonist in my latest–yet to be named–novel. Thank you, Sinclair, for letting me pick your brain, for letting me allow potential reader to understand who you are.

[Sinclair smiles, blushes a bit]

So what do people call you?

Sinclair, or if they’re close friends, of which I have a few, they call me Sin.

My notes indicate that you live on Queen Anne. Do you like it there, what with all the old mansions and such?

I live with my parents. So don’t go getting any ideas that I actually can afford to live on Queen Anne.  

Were you born there?

Actually, no. Until my mo-mother became famous, we lived in a nice part of Renton near where my father works.

So your mother’s famous. How so?

You know that show Frasier? My mo-mo-mother is kind of like that. Sh-she’s a radio psychologist. For awhile it was just a local show, but then one of the LA stations picked it up and it went nation wide. You’ve probably heard of h-her. A-A-Amanda Yesler.

Yesler, as in Yesler Way?

You got it.

For those of you who don’t know Seattle history, in the mid-1800s Henry Yesler brought the first steam-powered sawmill to the region, allowing the Seattle area to dominate the lumber industry at the time.

So what’s it like to have a famous mother, famous in multiple ways?

[shrugs]

It’s okay.  

Wow, that was an enthusiastic response.

[shrugs again]

Okay, next question. What do you do for a living?

I teach at Seattle Central. While I’m finishing up my degree, my PhD in literature.

So what do you teach, and how did you decide on a degree in literature?

I mostly teach rudimentary literature classes. You know, the classes you have to take in order to graduate. I do have one class that’s sophomore level, a class in modern lit. We read and analyse really modern day authors, anyone from Margaret Atwood to Vonnegut. We even did a Stephen King short story. Heinlein’s probably my favorite. I find that young people can often relate to someone like Heinlein or King better than they can to Shakespeare or Faulkner.

You sound enthusiastic. I’m really glad to hear a teacher who’s excited about working, one who hasn’t burned out yet.

[smiles]

It’s okay.

So what made you pick literature for a degree?

It’s something I’m good at. I love to read. And I do a bit of writing.

[pauses]

I wasn’t supposed to be a literature major though. My father wanted me to be an engineer, like him, and my mo-mother wanted me to be a doctor, a medical doctor. But I suck at math, which pretty much eliminates both of those. Neither of them is too happy with me. My mo-mo-mother especially.

I don’t mean to be rude, but do you have a speech disorder? I notice you stumble on certain words.

Sorry. I hadn’t noticed. 

No problem. So, if I may ask, you said you’re working on your PhD. What’s you’re thesis in?

Dissertation. You do a thesis for your masters, a dissertation for your doctorate.

Oh, okay. Sorry. What’s your dissertation in?

No. I’m sorry. That was rude of me.

[Sinclair pulls at the cuffs of his shirt sleeves, pulling them down over his wrists]

I won’t give you the title because it sounds so pretentious, but it’s about the disparity between a book and its movie. About why and how screenplays can move so far from the origin of the written story.

Care to share some examples?

My favorite one, although when I talk about it in class I have to do a history lesson with my students before I explain it to them, is Howard Hawks’ production of To Have and Have Not. You know, the one with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Well, Hemingway wrote the story, but Hawks didn’t really like it the way Hemingway wrote it. So he used the title and most of the characters… and the beginning of the story, but brought in an out-of-print and financially-strapped William Faulkner to help write the screenplay. The movie is drastically different that the story. And Hemingway wrote it. Can you imagine telling Hemingway I don’t like the way you wrote it? Of course, Faulkner was certainly no slouch either. Imagine having Faulkner help write the screenplay for a novel you wrote.

[pauses, pulls at his cuffs again]

And of course there’s The Shining, the one with Jack Nicholson–at least most of my students know that one–which was a really, really bad production of King’s book by the same name.

Wow, I didn’t know that about To Have and Have Not.

[shrugs]

I have a lot of theories. Hence, my dissertation. Soon I’ll be the leading expert on why stuff like that happens. 

[smiles, then shrugs again]

As useful as that is.

May I ask if you have a girlfriend? 

 No, no one. There have been a few, a long while back. They didn’t last.

No one you’re interested in now, though?

Well, there’s someone I like, but she doesn’t know I’m alive.

I find that hard to believe, a good looking guy like you. I would think you’d have a girlfriend. Or three.

Sorry, but it’s true.

How did you meet her?

I haven’t yet. I’ve seen her at Pike Market. She has a stall there, reads spirit cards or something like that.

So why haven’t you approached her? Sorry, am I being too forward?

It’s okay. It’s just [pauses for a long time, as if gathering his thoughts] she’s so beautiful. And a bit mysterious. 

[pauses again]

I just know that she would find me wanting.

I think you should ask her out? Worst she can do is say no.

Sure.

I think I just got dismissed. [I smile to let him know I’m teasing.] So let’s do a couple of fun questions. If you were a tree, what tree would you be? 

[thinks for a moment]

Maybe a sequoia. Because they’re so big and imposing. 

Hang on. [I look it up on my phone.] It says here that sequoia trees symbolize long life and attaining your dreams.

Sure. If you say so.

[smiles]

I hope you’re right.

Okay, one more, and then I’ll let you go. If you were a rock star, who would you be. And why?

Kurt Cobain because he was a genius with the soul of a poet. He made profound statements while, at the same time, often poking fun. I love his music. Although his taste in women was crap. Maybe that’s why I can relate.

Care to elaborate on that last statement?

Nope.

You do look a bit like him, except way more clean cut. 

[Sinclair smiles]

One more question. I know I said that last time, but just one more. What smell do you associate with the kitchen from your childhood?

My father is the cook in the family, believe it or not. But even so, he’s not a good cook. So I’d have to say burnt toast. I always knew it was time to get up for school when I smelled burnt toast.

So I’m about to wrap this up. Is there anything you would like everyone to know about you, something I haven’t asked already?

Nah, I think you covered it pretty well.

So do you have any questions for me?

Why me? Why pick me?

Because you’re interesting. Don’t give me that look. You are interesting.

Sure. Keep telling yourself that.

Gluing the Frog Back Together

IMG_20140809_111612Did you ever have one of those moments when you’re trying to glue something back together and you realize that you’re missing a piece?

Last week, I had a new sofa delivered, and in the process of moving things so the delivery guys could get in the door, I broke a frog figurine. Yes, I said it. It is a frog figurine. A Jim Shore frog figurine. And quite expensive. And because I love all things whimsical, it is one of my treasured items.

So I’m trying to glue it back together, but I realized last night that I don’t have all the pieces. That a couple of large pieces are hiding somewhere just out of sight. I’ve moved furniture and looked under the fridge. Nada. Still looking.

For me, writing is like that. I don’t write in chronological order. I usually don’t write in any type of order at all, unless it’s a very short story. And sometimes the hardest part of writing for me is finding that piece that has somehow slipped under the refrigerator or is hiding behind the sofa, mentally that is.

This past Thursday, I was thinking about a prior job and the people who worked there. And there she was, my inspiration for Sinclair’s mother. I won’t say her name. Anyone who really knows me will likely guess, but it could be messy if  I announced to the world that X is the model for Y. Especially since Sinclair’s mother isn’t a great/nice/likable person.

This means I have one more piece of the story, a huge piece that I’ve been struggling with, a piece that’s been hiding behind the chest of drawers. I have a mental sketch of her character and possibly her physical appearance. No, it won’t be her exactly. That would be cheating. But it gives me a good start on her character.

Now if I can just find the other pieces, I can glue this frog together.

Character.Interview: Beryl Ward

Name: Beryl Ward

Gender: female
Age: 27
Home:  upper Queen Anne, Seattle, Washington
Ancestry: Native American (mother) / German (father)
Appearance: It’s obvious that Beryl gets her looks from her mother’s side of the family. Her caramel coloring, round face, almost almond-shaped eyes and high cheek bones betray her Native American heritage. She wears her hair long and straight, usually pulled back in a loose pony tail or braided due to its thickness. Her eyes are a dark chocolate-brown that matches her hair. She has no distinguishing facial features, no tattoos, no scars.
Favorite color: black, of course
Typical Outfit:  She appears to be the epitome of Seattle Grunge, with her jeans and a plaid button down over a tank top, worn laceless Vans on her feet. Her outfit looks like a hodge-podge of clothing she found at Value Village.

Today, I’m interviewing Beryl Ward, the protagonist in my latest–yet to be named–novel. Thank you, Beryl, for spending some time with me, for letting me expose you, who you are to potential readers.

[Beryl shrugs.]

So what do people call you?

[rolls her eyes at me]

Beryl

No nickname?

Nope.

You live on Queen Anne, right? Must be nice, living in that part of town. Lots of beautiful old mansions up there.

If you say so.

You’re not very talkative.

You’re the one who wanted to do this interview. Wasn’t my idea. I agreed, but I don’t have to be overjoyed about it.

Were you born there?

Yes. My father has owned that house since before I was born. I live in the guesthouse out back now, though.

You don’t live in the house with your father. May I ask why?

You can, but I don’t think it’s any of your business.

Okay. Let’s see… [check my list of questions] Who are the people you’re closest to?

That would be my brother, Jeryl.  And maybe Mr. Denny across the street. He’s blind. Mr. Denny, not my brother.

Funny. Beryl and Jeryl.

We’re twins. I guess my parents thought it would be cute. 

[another eye roll]

And your parents, you didn’t mention them when I asked about people you’re close to.

You’re right. I didn’t.

Would you care to elaborate?

Not really, but I know you’ll just keep asking if I don’t. My mother died when I was very young, five or six maybe. I can’t even remember now. To say that my father and I aren’t close would be an understatement. Let’s just leave it at that.

This Mr. Denny, how long have you known him?

He’s lived across from us since I can remember. I think he’s one of the Dennys, you know, the family that founded Seattle.

What is it you like about him?

He listens to me.

[almost laughs]

Well, I guess he has to since he’s blind. But, you know, he treats me like a person. He’s old, and loves to tell me stories, like my…

You stopped. You were going to add something.

I was going to say like my mother.

[pauses]

My mother told us stories when we were little. Me and Jeryl, she told us stories about Raven, the trickster. About Otter and Orca and Mink. Native American stories. If we were bad she’d tell us that The Woman of the Woods–a giant cannibal woman–was going to get us. But she never let us be afraid for long.

Was there any story in particular that she told often?

There is the Nootka legend of the twins, the Kwe’kustepsep who changed the world. I guess I remember that because of Jeryl and I being twins. But if I remember correctly, she always started her stories–  Once, many many years ago, there was a Nootka chief who had a beautiful daughter, that was how most of my mother’s stories began.

[pauses again, turns away and looks out the window]

She didn’t mean to imply that she was good-looking or even a handsome woman—I came to understand that, only later—but she understood that the best stories are always about the beautiful daughter.  She knew that girls are capable of getting into so much more trouble but as storytelling goes, an ugly daughter, especially a child of a chief, was not worth considering.

[still looking out the window, pauses, this time for so long that I almost ask another question]  

I am the ugly daughter of the beautiful daughter of a Nootka chief.  I wanted to be beautiful, but I only ended up being troublesome. 

Beryl, you’re not ugly. 

It’s not what you see. It’s what I see.

[pauses, turns back toward me]

Let’s talk about something else

Okay. [pause to look at my notes] So what do you do for a living?

IMG_20140608_134306

I have a stall down at Pike Market. I draw medicine wheels and read spirit cards.

Medicine wheels?

What? I have to teach you everything? Let me Google that for you.

[big sigh]

In general a medicine wheel is a physical structure. I create a very small one in a sand tray with stones to act as the elemental points. It’s an introspective way of connecting with, with–  That whole circle of life thing new-agers are so crazy about. You know, the elements and totems and such. I figured out a way to make money off of it. It’s not true to Native American beliefs, but it’s good enough for a bunch of wannabes.

That sounds a little cynical.

I give the customer what they’re looking for, a feel good session. Basically, I listen to their problems. And say supportive things. I think I actually have a gift for knowing what people need to hear. And for them, it’s cheaper than a psychotherapy session. I only charge $60 an hour.

Do you get a lot of customers?

Enough to support myself. 

But you live on Queen Anne.

I live in my father’s guesthouse, okay. I would have moved away a long time ago, but Jeryl won’t move out of the big house. So, I stay there. And no, before you ask, I do not have to pay rent. But I pay for everything else I need, food, clothing, stuff like that.

I’m really not trying to be confrontational. Just to prove it, if you were [laugh] a tree, what kind of tree would you be?

Wow, that’s original. Who are you? Barbara Walters?

Aren’t you a little young to know who Barbara Walters is?

[no response]

Alright, let’s try something else, something that will hopefully give us a view of who you are. What’s your totem animal, or your astrological sign, or whatever you follow?

Leo. And my totem animal changes at times, depending on what I’m trying to accomplish. But usually it’s Raven.

Leo is interesting, all fiery and loyal, fierce and egotistical at times. [smile] I know because I’m a Leo too. But most of us know a bit about astrology, enough to recognize the signs or how to find more information if we want it. Because I don’t know as much about Native American mythology, I have to ask what it means to have Raven as your totem animal?

Raven is the keeper of secrets. But is also the trickster. With Raven, you  never know if what you’re seeing/feeling is real. You never know what you’re going to get.

Okay, how about another one, one a bit more esoteric this time? What smell do you associate with the kitchen from your childhood?

[scowls, and then very slowly smiles]

Pancakes. My mother used to make pancakes for me and Jeryl. His favorite– our favorite, blueberry pancakes. 

That sounds nice. So how about another easy one? What’s your favorite novel?

I don’t read.

May I ask why?

You may.

[sighs]

I’m dyslexic. Reading is difficult for me. But if I had to guess, something I’ve had to read in the past, I’d say Jane Eyre.

Ok. Just for me, let’s do a silly Barbara Walter’s type question. Please?

[sighs and then nods]

If you were a rock star, who would you be?

[gives me a look of long-suffering]

Ummm. Lady Gaga.

You don’t seem all that flamboyant, at least not from physical appearances. You remind me more of Sarah McLachlan, well with Native American coloring. So why Lady Gaga?

I want to be like her, unafraid of being who I am and showing it. Maybe she’s not like that at all, but she projects that.

So I’m about to wrap this up. Is there anything you would like everyone to know about you, something I haven’t asked already?

Yeah, tell them to mind their own business. No one likes their life being on display for everyone to dissect. Your life must be pretty boring if you have to examine mine so closely.

Alrighty then. So do you have any questions for me?

I do. Why are your words in bold and mine aren’t. What, do you think you’re more important than I am?

Well, I did create you.

Sure, keep telling yourself that.

Ask the Author: Where did you get the idea for your most recent book?

Goodreads goodreads_icon_100x100-86359711e159b24740d60683e79eec45recently added a feature called “Ask the Author”.  To get the author started, the Goodreads Team listed some typical questions. Prompts like “How do you deal with writer’s block?” and “How do you get inspired to write?”

I thought I’d start with an easy one. “Where did you get the idea for your most recent book?”

Everyday I see something or read something, and I think, that would be a great story. For awhile I kept a list of story ideas, but it got to the point it was frustrating to note down another idea and not do anything with it. I’ve sat in movies and halfway through thought, if this doesn’t end the way I think it’s going to end, then I’m going to write that story.

With Couillon, I was under pressure to write a short story for a literary fiction class I was taking. On the web I had recently seen an image of Jesus and Mary painted in DayGlo colors, and in my head, I immediately saw that painting hanging in a voodoo shop in New Orleans. I love all things mystical and spooky. That image of the voodoo shop gave me the theme and led me to write the first section [20 pages or less for the class], the scene where Janice purchases the voodoo doll. I later turned that short story into a novella.

An Untold Want had no such immediate inspiration, no ah ha moment. I had finished my literary fiction class and helped form a short-lived writing group with some of the members of said class. They were all working on A Novel, and I thought I should be working on a novel too. Again, I love anything arcane. But for me, a novel can’t just be about witches or spooky stuff. Yes, there are a lot of novels out there about witches and ghosts, but I don’t write urban fantasy. I’ve tried to write genre, because it sells better, but I just don’t think that way when I’m writing. Then I thought about Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic, and I decided to try my hand at a story like that. It ended up being nothing like Practical Magic, except it has witches, but that was the key factor in how An Untold Want started. I pulled the last name from one of my favorite songs, Ode to Billie Joe, but spelled MacAllister differently. I took the setting from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. You don’t get spookier than Savannah. And from those key factors, I built a small town and an unhappy woman who is a bit too much like me.

For my latest project [working title: Twin Story], I decided that I did not want to invent another small town. It’s a lot of work to create a world, from the street grid to the geography [Is it a swampy area? What are the trees/flowers like? What does it smell like? What are the buildings like?] to the town’s personality/attitude. I’ve lived in Seattle long enough that I thought I’d try my hand at writing a novel based in Seattle. But my novels have to have that bit of the esoteric, or they wouldn’t be mine. So I decided to incorporate Native American mythology into it.

But the key factor, what really started the project was an article I read in the Weird News on some newspaper website. I can’t tell you what the news story was because that would give away a large part of the story I’m working on. But those three things — Seattle, Native American mythology, and weird news — gave me the premise for my new novel. I’ve since read a lot about Native Americans, about the residential schools [which disturbs me greatly], about the different tribes, and about the myths especially those of Raven. I didn’t realize how different the Pacific Northwest tribes are, but I’ve grown to love the Native American mythology. I’m still not sure how I will pull it all together, but I’m working on it.

With that said, I should be writing the book instead of writing about it. I wish it were as easy as writing a blog post.

Finding Time to Write

Most of us who are just starting out as authors have to hold down a job that pays the rent.  So when do we find time to write?

During the week, I find that by the time I get home from my computer geek 9-5 job that my brain has turned to cheese, and not the good cheese. No, by then, my brain is more like the cheese you find at the back of your refrigerator, the hunk of Gouda or Camembert–hard to tell at that point–you don’t remember buying. So I tell myself that it’s okay to sit on the sofa like a giant wilted celery stalk, that it’s okay to do nothing, but I feel guilty about it.  See, I’ve already broken my resolve not to have to produce.

Anyway, as I’m sitting here feeling guilty about not writing, I tell myself that I’ll write this weekend.  But you know what, my weekend is the time when all the stuff gets done, the house cleaning and shopping and the big to-dos like re-sealing the grout in the bathrooms or installing the new range hood.

What I need to do is find some discipline. I need to write for an hour everyday. But discipline, like patience, is not one of my virtues. Procrastination and self-deception, now those virtues I revel in.

IMG_20140608_135745 (2)The problem is that Beryl–the protagonist in the novel I’m currently writing, or not currently writing if truth be told–has been bugging me lately.

And Sinclair, the antagonist and pseudo-love-interest, has decided he doesn’t want to be a teacher at a Seattle community college. No, he has changed professions. Sinclair’s new profession fits more with his personality, or maybe his new profession is a large part of what shaped his personality.

Last weekend I even went to Pike Market to scope out the territory, where Sinclair sits as he watches Beryl. And you thought I just dumped a couple of random pictures into this post. The one jpeg is potentially where Sinclair would sit [a coffee shop across the street from the end of the market] and his view from said coffee shop.

IMG_20140608_135725

So I ask myself, does this count as writing? Does building characters and walking around, photographing their life, their microcosm count as writing?

For now, I’m telling myself yes, this does count as writing. I’m building the characters in my head, building their stories. And to be honest, this is the fun part of writing. I love creating people. I love investing enough of the thought process in them that they become real, at least in my head. I can see both of them, can hear their voices, can feel their pain. Because you know if I write it, it isn’t going to be some fun beach read.

Did I mention that self-deception is one of my virtues?