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.

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.

First Draft / First Chapter … Maybe?

Finally, I’ve been doing some writing on my WIP (work in progress).  I have bits and pieces of it all over the place because I don’t write in chronological order, but the story has to start somewhere. I think this is where it starts. For today, this is where the story starts.

I would love feedback, with the understanding that this is a first draft,  and all that implies. Things could change. This piece could be thrown out completely. Or it may be the most brilliant thing I’ve ever written. Probably not, but writer’s have to think that way, or we’d never commit anything to paper.

~ o ~

How was I to know that this woman was a bigger liar than I was, that she used the same tricks I used just on a different audience?

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It was the tail end of a cold, gray day, the misting rain insisting I pack up and go home early. But the cupboard was empty. Literally. I needed the money more than I needed an escape from the dreary Seattle winter. So, when the woman stopped in front of my stall, I did my job. I looked up at her and asked if she’d like a reading.

Most days back then, if the weather wasn’t too abysmal, I sat at the north end of Pike Market on a blanket under an umbrella telling people what they needed to hear. This woman, though, wasn’t one of my normal customers. She surprised me when she paused and then sat down on my blanket, curling her knees under her and settling in. I thought she must be desperate to lower herself like that, literally. My usual customers weren’t quite so… refined. Seattleites, especially ones perusing the market, rarely dressed as if they’d just walked from the pages of Harper’s Bazaar.

I could tell she was uncomfortable, physically at least, from her constant weight shifts. She was so thin that with each shift I imagined her hip bones grinding into the sidewalk. The blanket provided no cushioning, but what did I care? I laid the sand tray between us, and using a stick off a fir tree in our yard, I drew a circle in the sand, a medicine wheel. The readings I did weren’t true to any Native American tradition, but all the new-agey-tourists who visited the market didn’t seem to notice or care.

I had her draw four stones from a cloth bag, and I placed them at the elemental points of the circle. It didn’t matter which stones she drew, I read people’s body language and then told them what I thought they needed to hear. That was my gift after all, telling people their personal truths. Maybe I should have paid more attention to my own personal truths. But at this point in my life, that’s neither here nor there.

I then shuffled the spirit cards, had her cut them, and drew the card off the top.

“Rabbit would say it’s time to overcome your fear,” I said.

Rabbit fit this twitchy woman perfectly, all soft and fear-eyed, nostrils quivering as if afraid of even disturbing the air around her.

I told her it was time to face her fears, as if she had any real fears. For heavens’ sake, she was bookended by her stuffed-full Nordstrom’s bag and an overly large, funeral home-ish bouquet from a stall down the way. But the real tell was her somewhat sensible and obviously expensive shoes. Sitting on the ground all day gave me the perfect opportunity to notice and critique people’s shoes. Any shoes that ugly had to be expensive, fabulously expensive.

My brother Jeryl would have said I was being unkind. He often mused aloud, as if hinting to me or trying to annoy me, that he couldn’t understand how someone so close to him, how his mirror image could be so angry all the time when he was always so calm and easygoing. I would just shrug and remind him that he wasn’t the one sent away to be raised by rabid nuns. He got to stay home and have a normal life.

I wasn’t just being unkind. I was angry at this woman. She appeared to have every opportunity at a good life, a well furnished life, and here she was shivering, rabbit afraid. I wanted to shake her, tell her to take one of her platinum cards and buy herself a new life, but my income depended on me being empathetic, even if I didn’t feel that way.

What could she possibly need to worry about? Certainly not where her next meal was coming from. Not that I did either. If I had to, I could depend on Father to help out, but I didn’t want to be dependent, not on Father. Not on anyone. It was bad enough that I lived in the guesthouse without paying rent. Jeryl still lived in Father’s house. He wouldn’t move away. So I stayed, in the guesthouse, but I would not allow Father to fund the rest of my life. I would starve first.

The woman seemed to bring out the worst in me, and I wanted her to leave. But I also wanted her money. So I spent the hour with her, reassuring her that everything would be alright. After all, she wasn’t the one with a young man stalking her.

Of course, I didn’t mention to her that this young man had been watching my every move for the past week or so. The reading was all about her. I always gave the customer my full attention during a reading. They got their money’s worth. But with him watching me, I felt like Rabbit, soft, weak. Easy prey. Like her. And it made me mad. At her, but mostly at myself.

That day he sat at a table in the little Turkish coffee shop across the street from my spot at the market. He tried not to be obvious about it, but even the old biddy in the next stall had noticed him as he strolled by for the fourth or fifth time. On the sixth or tenth time, she rolled her eyes at me and mouthed, “It’s him again.” I had no idea who he was or what he could possibly want from me, but it had become obvious that I, not the old biddy, was the focus of his attention.

The two days before, I had snuck out, walking down through the market to Pike and then back around on First, just to avoid walking past him. But that day, I decided Rabbit was right. It was time to face my fear.

But I didn’t get that chance.

After the reading was done, ‘Fraidy Rich Bitch pulled herself up from my blanket, dusted herself off, grabbed her Nordstrom’s bag and bouquet and headed his way. Something made me watch her. Sure enough, halfway across the street, she waved to him.

And he waved back, not a cheery wave like hers, more of an acknowledgement.

My mind started spinning out a hundred different scenarios. It was obvious that they knew each other.

As I stored the sand and tray in a plastic baggie, I watched her stride up to his table, watched her bend and kiss him on the cheek before sitting down across from him. Watched them lean in toward each other as if whispering some arcane secret.

With a snap, I shook out my blanket—my eyes never leaving their table—and, for once not bothering to be neat about it, squashed the blanket into a tight bundle that would fit into my backpack. Anger swelled inside me, smothering me. The woman hadn’t been afraid of anything. It was all an act. Her shivering, her twitchiness was likely an adrenalin rush coming from the pleasure in the lie.

For the price of a reading, I was sure she had found out more about me than about herself. She didn’t need me to reassure her, to tell her about herself. She knew herself all right. Being able to act like that, to put on someone else’s face took a lot of self-control. And guile. In that moment, I hated her. She made me look the fool. And she was right there, right in front of me, sharing the joy of her deception.

What did they want? To make me look ridiculous? If so, it worked.

My face burned with the pure stupidity of my actions. I took the woman at face value. She used me, more than I used her.

And just as I decided to leave, to just walk away and try to forget, I noticed something between them change. I dropped my backpack on the ground and took a few steps closer.

His body language, something I had become familiar with the past few days, changed. When he got up and went to the counter, gone was the lazy stroll. At that distance, I couldn’t see that well, but I would have bet money he was frowning as he strode to the counter. His body was rigid as he waited for the coffee. His gait hardened when he returned and placed a cup of coffee in front of the woman.

She clasped his hand before he could pull it away, said something to him as he sat. The stiffness went out of him. Pulling his hand from hers, he slouched down into his chair. As if he’d given up, as if it was too much effort to maintain the anger or fear. Or whatever he was feeling.

She, in turn, leaned even further, palms flat on the table on either side of her cup, and said something that, of course, I couldn’t hear.

His chin dropped, and then she sat back and laughed. She was laughing at him? No, I was sure she was laughing at me.

Someone shouldered past me, and said, “Hey, if you’re just going to stand there gawking, don’t block the aisle.”

I stepped off the curb and eased out into the street between two parked cars.

Gesturing with her hands as if telling a funny story, she was doing a lot of talking. She made a circle as if drawing it on the table, and then laughed again. He said nothing.

And then, and then he turned and looked right at me.

I froze, rabbit still, for a moment and then backed up onto the curb, my heel catching the uneven concrete. I nearly fell backwards. Someone said, “Watch it.” Someone else said, “You okay?” But I didn’t see who.

Then the woman also turned to look at me. I felt my throat close up as she smiled at me, a Red Riding Hood wolf-like smile.

I swung around, ran to my stall, grabbed up my belongings, and fled up the sidewalk toward the bus stop that would take me home.

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?

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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.