current events; also, stereoscopic vision really freaks me out sometimes

The second half of this entry’s title was a note I emailed to myself more than 3 years ago under subject “blog not tweet.” Actually, the email’s subject line reads, “blog not twwet,” but Ima chalk that up to typo-ing. As it turns out, there are twelve emails nested under that subject, so I’m sharing their content here. YOU’RE WELCOME.

Blog Not Twwet, Because Clearly I Can’t Spell

It is not a happy thing when the baby eats a dead bug. *SIGH*
(2016 Note: This, too, is a message catapulted into this future from about three years ago. The baby has since turned into a preschooler, apparently suffering no ill effects from having consumed dead insect carapace.)

HEY I JUST MET YOU, AND THIS IS CRAZY
BUT LET’S TELL RIDDLES AND I’LL EAT YOU MAYBE.
(2016 Note: I’m assuming this references Gollum.)

Your choices change the direction of other people’s lives. You are not isolated.

(This one’s emphasized because: important.)

Sometimes you just gotta take a few minutes and shave your legs.
(2016 Note: NO.)

Floor messing with head PIC
(2016 Note: I have no idea what this means.)

And now, it seems, quotes:

“@BenHoward87: If you see a centaur, remember it is not your friend. It is a mythical creature and as such does have the capability for rational thought.”

“@BenHoward87: Peanuts cartoons + Morrissey lyrics = the hilarity of existential despair

“@scalzi: Most nerdy t-shirts just don’t seem that clever to me anymore. Clearly, my next t-shirt should read WHY ARE YOU ON MY LAWN”

Remember when Scully wore shoulder pads?

Remember when desktop monitors were the size of anvils?

Remember when we couldn’t Google anything?

Remember when payphones?

“@LeVostreGC: Siri, wher ys the horse and the ridere? Siri, wher ys the horn that was blowinge?”

Wher in the worlde ys Carmen Sandiego?

Just so you know, kinesio-taping your stomach to pull your abs together is not for sissies. #diastasisrecti
(2016 Note: I have a blog post about this. Search for it if you will. I’m too lazy to link to it right now.)

That awkward moment when you look in the mirror and there’s an ant crawling in your hair.

It occurs to me that I haven’t performed a solo in 7 years.
(2016 Note: It’s now been 10 years. I miss singing for audiences.)

Rain. Thunder. Contented. Sigh.
(2016 Note: Weirdness: As I’ve been copying & pasting the last ten lines or so, I’ve been listening to “Love, Reign O’er Me” by The Who. I didn’t know this line was coming up.)

I own a banana slicer and I am not ashamed.

In other news…

As part of my 2016 endeavor to read only women writers, I am currently in the middle of Naomi Novik’s UPROOTED. It is UTTERLY BRILLIANT. It’s one of those books that makes me want to do nothing but read. I resent Thanksgiving Day tomorrow because it will steal me away from this novel. I need to be working on my own WIP (newly retitled THE ELVEN DEAD AND OTHER LEGENDS OF THE LIGHT-WALKERS), but I’d rather read Novik’s book than work on my own.

DASH IT ALL.

P.S. In addition to random “blog not twwet,” I also ran across various Consortium emails from five and more years ago. I let them suck me into reading them, and now I just feel sad. I miss the Consortium-in-its-heyday so much. Being continually involved and multiple-times-daily connected with other artists was a balm to my soul and a life-giver to my spirit. Author-publishing is a lonely business. I desperately miss all-but-living-with other artists, back when everything was running smoothly. We made magic.

Childhood Memory: Galaxy Express 999

Sometime during the last six months, I read a post about childhood memories on someone’s blog, somewhere out there in the blogosphere. I don’t remember the details. All I remember is that the blogger described revisiting a favorite something from childhood and being pleasantly surprised that reality lived up to the memory. The post inspired me to leave the following comment, which I preserved for blogging here:

Galaxy Express 999

My memory is an animated movie about a boy traveling through space on a locomotive. He’s trying to get to a planet where they give humans cyborg bodies. On the way, he has lots of adventures, including a run-in with something called a “Medusa Cloud.” I must’ve been 8 or 9 when I saw the movie, and it has always stuck with me in magical bits and pieces. I’m afraid that if I tried to watch it again nearly 30 years later, the magic would disappear.

I should perhaps add that I’ve been in love with my memory of this movie ever since I saw it. In the Medusa Cloud scene, the boy meets a young man who’s defending the statue of a girl against thieves. Turns out that the Medusa Cloud passes through the skies of planets and turns all the inhabitants to stone. The thieves come to this particular planet and steal the petrified forms of people in order to sell them to collectors. The young man who’s fighting them is actually protecting the petrified form of his wife.

That’s how I remember it, anyway. I remember thinking it was beautifully tragic and romantic. It probably played a great role in forming my personal concept of romance and is likely the reason I’m a sucker for good ol’ “Boy Rescues Girl” romantic drivel. ; )

galaxyexpress999I’ve never seen the movie again, and I’m not sure I ever want to see it again. I’m just afraid that viewing it with adult (and, let’s admit it, somewhat jaded) eyes would shatter the beauty, the romance, the thrill. The magic. I don’t want to lose the magic. Magic is hard enough to hold on to as it is; it doesn’t need me to go digging up the past so as to examine it in critical detail.

Yes, part of me is Peter Pan and always will be. : )

Do you remember Galaxy Express 999?

What’s a favorite childhood memory you’re reluctant to revisit in case it got ruined?

Advance Reading Copy of Rethana’s Surrender!

Cover art by the cramazingly talented Adele Lorienne

NOTE: Some of you have been expecting this book to come out under the title Schism or Schism’s Daughter. After much debate and debacle, my publisher, our marketing director, and I have finalized the title as Rethana’s Surrender. But it’s still the same story, I promise! : )

Dearest readers!

As you might already know, my newest novel is coming out within the next two weeks! This one is epic fantasy: another world, magic, intrigue, danger, swords, and fantastical creatures. I’ve been writing stories in this universe for twenty years, and this particular novel has been in the works since 2003.

So you can probably imagine how close this story is to my tender little writer’s heart. ; )

But in spite of my possessiveness, I am excited to let you read it. Early. As in, before it’s published.

That’s right, dear inklings! I have Advance Reading Copies available!

If you’d like to get an ARC of Rethana’s Surrender, leave a comment (with a valid email address) on this post before the end of the day Wednesday, June 20th. You don’t need to say anything besides, “Me too, please!” in your comment — unless, of course, you want to tell me how excited you are to get your ARC. : )

I only have digital copies available, but they should be readable on whatever you’re using to read this blog post. On Thursday, I’ll send review copies to the first hundred people who comment below. All I’d ask in return is that you write me a review at the digital vendor(s) of your choice. Blog posts are welcome too, of course.

Aaron is going to send his horde of fantasy readers over here to get their ARCs from me, so get your bid in early!

For those of you who want to know a little more about the novel:

Legends of the Light-Walkers: Rethana’s Surrender is the story of 20-year-old Rethana Chosardal who can use fun and visually cool magic, but she’s not supposed to use it. For one thing, it freaks the natives out. For another, her family has spent the last ten years in hiding from the ruling class of magic-wielding clerics.

When the magic-wielding clerics show up and take Rethana and her sister captive, this is not a good thing.

Also, Aaron recommends that I tell you: In grand The Princess Bride tradition, *this is a kissing book*.

Finally, a shout-out to Adele Lorienne for the lovely cover art that completely blows my mind every time I look at it. Adele, thank you for your stunning work!

UPDATE: The ARC request deadline has passed. But if you want to get your hands on a copy of Rethana’s Surrender, it is now available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes & Noble!

If you’ve read the novel, you can also post your reviews at those two links as well as at Goodreads.

To those who have already read and reviewed the novel: THANK YOU SO MUCH! I very much appreciate all of your positive feedback so far. It’s encouraging to hear that so many of you connect with Rethana as deeply as I do. : )

My 10-Hour Adrenaline Rush (Better Than Chocolate)

(Yes, I said that!)

So. Yesterday. Photographers, model, husband, and I drove 2 1/2 hours northwest of Oklahoma City to Great Salt Plains State Park.

Our goal: shooting the cover art for my novel Colors of Deception, due out in less than 4 weeks.

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeek!!!

We had adventure, rain, mud, sunshine, laughter, singing, goosebumps, oooh-aaaah moments, adrenaline, and pesto. I don’t have time to give a full report right now — and even if I had time, I’m not sure I’d have the words to convey how cramazing it is to watch a scene from my novel come to life in reality right in front of my eyes and tangible.

All I can say is that Julie and Carlos (read: photographers) got Morgan (read: model) into a pose; Julie and Carlos stepped back; and suddenly, Morgan was Holly (read: novel’s main character).

It was breathtaking.

The images I took with my little digital point-‘n’-shoot don’t do the day justice and certainly don’t compare to the Velezes’ pro photos! But still, here are a few of my shots for you to peruse. Maybe they’ll give you a little taste of the magic I was privileged to witness yesterday. Enjoy! : )

Morgan turns the Velezmobile into her dressing room

Carlos engages in primitive caveman ritual arranges rocks and a small tree for props

Getting to watch all the prep stuff was kinda fun. Carlos fought with that dumb tree — and finally ended up digging a hole and filling it with rocks to anchor the the stubborn shrubbery.

Carlos gives up the caveman stuff in favor of funky tech!

Julie starts making magic

Of course the vegetation would look dead in a demon world. ;o)

The wide open landscape of the Salt Plains is perfect for Saltmarch!

Presto Pesto! Julie made it, and it was deeeeelish.

Morgan poses for some non-book-related shots

I'm keeping the cover art shots a surprise until the book comes out...but I *can* share some images that hint at the desolation of Saltmarch.

My favorite of my Saltmarch shots. (And yes, I know there's not supposed to be any water.) ;o)

My most heartfelt thanks go out to Morgan, who was a fantastic and gorgeous model; Julie and Carlos for their professionalism and fabulous creative skills; to Ed, my husband, for his support and for schlepping trees all over Oklahoma; to Becca for scouting the Salt Plains with me; and to Aaron for getting us all together.

You are all amazing people, and I am so very blessed to have you in my life!

Watch this blog for news and information on Colors of Deception, due for release next month!

Passion Doesn’t Nibble — It Bites

For me, the acquisition of something red — anything red — is a sure-fire pick-me-up.

This is called a Naked Lady. I don't know why.

Which brings me to my very first mention here of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

If you read this blog with any regularity, my dear inklings, you’ll inevitably read hear me mention this book in more detail in the future. For now, know this: If you ever find yourself in a creative funk, or if you’ve ever felt driven to make or do or be something, but you’ve never given yourself permission, then Cameron’s book is for you.

It’s about healing the creative part of you that has sustained damage. It’s all about creative recovery.

Touch Me Not

In her book, Cameron talks about “touchstones.” Touchstones are things that you love, things that you connect with. To me, touchstones are tangible things that remind me of the parts of me that are intangible.

My touchstones are tangibles that resonate with the intangible in me. My touchstones are physical representations of aspects of my soul. And lest I digress into some new-agey, psycho-spiritual ramble, here’s an excerpt from a list I made a few years ago:

Touchstones: Things I Love

swimming
my Polish pottery
Mama’s Mexican soup
honeysuckle
sunsets
swinging on swingsets
being out in a boat
the smell of the air after it rains
locust song
painting
dark chocolate
clothes that make me feel sexy
singing
my wrists and ankles
conversations that last until 4 a.m.
sparkly stuff

 
Some of these touchstones remind me to seek beauty — in the world, in others, in myself. Some of them nudge me back toward the kid in me — the kid who remembers how to play, how to believe in magic, how to laugh.

Some of these touchstones are my therapy for writer’s block! When I can’t write, using my fingers to slap some oil paint on a canvas is a sure-fire way to unlock the words I’ve got stuck somewhere in the back of my head.

And there’s nothing like a good bowl of Mama’s Mexican stew to fill my belly with the kind of comforting warmth that says, “Yes, all is well, and all is well, and all manner of things are well.” *

Gimme More — Please

To my list of touchstones, I’m adding “buying items that are red.” Deep red, to be exact. Deep red, black, and purple are my favorite colors; I have to remind myself to buy clothes in other colors and color schemes. The brilliance and vibrancy of the color red just draw me.

I read somewhere that this year, red lipstick is all the rage. Baby, that sounds like my kind of year.

Give It To Me Raw

Over at Unstressed Syllables, some of you have heard me talk about the heartache, the effort, and the pain that go into writing — or, rather, the tears, the sweat, and the blood.

I suspect the blood might be most important. What novel could live, if not infused with the lifeforce of its author?

I doubt it’s a coincidence this vibrant, sensual, alive color is the one that resonates most with my writer’s heart. We writers sink our teeth into the meat of the psyche. And we like it raw. Give me the passion and the grit and the thrill of the unapologetically real. Let’s paint everything red and throw our arms wide and scream out the truths that everyone else is afraid to whisper.

When I see and touch things that are red, I feel excited. Energized. Ready to go out and do. All the better if I’m buying it new: fresh, a symbol of new beginning.

Red is the color of birth, too. When I’m working on a rough draft of a novel, I’m giving birth to something. And it needs my full attention and my energies, otherwise it’s going to wither and die. Or it might go feral and turn on me. You never can tell with these wild, newborn writings. Red touchstones remind me of what I’m doing.

Red touchstones remind me of why I’m here.

* I am paraphrasing Julian of Norwich, who wrote, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

Let’s Talk About Mosquitoes, Hives, and Outlines

I love words and how other people use them. Sometimes, I’ll be reading a novel and enjoying it most thoroughly — and BAM! I hit a phrase that makes me sit up and say out loud, “Odds bodkins, that was perfect.” One of my most enjoyable challenges in life is learning how to do that to my own readers…and, as ever, I remain a work-in-progress.

But. I heart mightily (and sometimes, I even liver) how other people use words. So, for years, I’ve collected quotes. I buy nifty little notebooks in various sizes and scribble them full of the fun, inspiring, infuriating, thought-provoking, artful, and elegant ruminations of my fellow humans.

Courtney's Quotes Collection

Some of them are writers (my tribe! Woot!). One such is Laura Resnick, a fantasy author who penned the following gem:

“For the first half of a book, I’ll cling to my outline in helpless terror. Then I’ll start veering away from it, which will worry me deeply for weeks. When I finally finish the book, I’ll suddenly realize I haven’t thought about my outline in ages and don’t quite remember what was in it.”

Once upon a time, I did not believe in outlines. I’d never heard of this thing called “pre-writing.” My preferred method of starting a novel was to sit down at the computer, open a Word document, and start typing. And that, my dear inklings, is how in 2004 I came to be in possession of a 12,000-word chunk of fantasy novel that was supposed to be the sequel to an already-completed epic. Instead, more than six years later, it lies still in unfinished, digital ignominy. I hope to finish it someday…

…but before that can happen, I’ll need to do all the pre-writing: for nowadays, I’ve abandoned my lackadaisical ways (mostly), and I’ve converted to Putting Faith In Outlines. (Oy vey, was that a long sentence. Sorry.) Spontaneity is great, but when I’m writing, it just gets me stuck in squelching, mosquito-infested bogs.

I don’t like mosquitoes. They give me welts. And sometimes hives.

So I’ve learned to appreciate outlines, and I’ve learned to like outlines, and I’ve learned to trust outlines. And, like Ms. Resnick, I’ve learned The Desperate Writer’s Clutch (by which I do not mean a purse). The spectre of that 12k-word unfortunate loometh at the edges of my writerly consciousness, yea verily and forsooth. While working on my current rough draft, I even printed the outline so that I could have it well within clutching distance instead of having to switch from the novel doc to the outline doc. (It’s nice to have one’s comforting blankie in sight at all times.)

That said, the second half of Resnick’s quote resonates with me just as much as the first half does. I’m thirteen chapters into the rough draft of a 15-chapter, paranormal fantasy novel. For the first eleven chapters, I hobbled along, using my outline as my crutch. Sometimes, I felt strong enough for a steady walk. Rare bursts of enthusiasm gave me the power to sprint. However, whether walking or sprinting, I never let go of that blankie crutch outline. I still needed something to lean on.

Chapter 12 changed a few things. I didn’t look at my outline for days! Characters talked and did, and they talked and did without a whole lot of help from me. What made the difference? I think it was my deeper understanding of my characters.

When I started writing their story, I didn’t know them well enough just to give them free rein. Every time they spoke or acted, I had to check the outline: Is this how it’s supposed to go? It is? Okay, then, tally-ho. I couldn’t trust my characters yet. I didn’t know them.

Now, we’ve been through twelve chapters of adventure together, and I’m starting not just to know these people but to know them. Their edges aren’t so blurry; I can see some sharp outlines. Ephemeral wisps on the wind have solidified into distinct voices. I’m seeing the shapes of their souls.

There comes a point at which the characters, not the outline, lead my thoughts and guide my fingers. And that’s where the magic happens. And it is glorious.