“He seems like a good fit,” Liam mumbled around a mouthful of mini-marshmallows.
I poured more coffee and leaned against the railing. Morning mist lent the trees an air of strangers lingering in the fog across the creek, eavesdropping. “He feels right. The tone is harmonic.”
“Think he’ll join?” he stretched, spreading massive wings out over the deck.
I shrugged. “I don’t know anything anymore. The ground shifts under my feet every day. I feel the rumble of something moving toward me—but I can’t even guess anymore because, well… none of this has been what I thought it would be. I’ve lost the ability to judge or anticipate.”
He sipped his hot chocolate and eyed me, pondering. Then he asked, “Do you want to turn back? There’s still time. You haven’t signed anything.”
Honestly, I’d been asking myself that question a lot lately. I’m happy. I adore my strange little life in the wildwoods. Creative freedom. Absolute autonomy. Space to indulge my imagination and build worlds to my little heart’s contentment.
When I knew I would be giving birth to stories with large scope and scale, I needed a safe, protected space to tuck in and bear down. So, I came out here, built a nest and gave birth for half a decade like a wild animal—and it’s been glorious. I’ve been allowed to be feral, unkempt, close to the earth, communing with sky and seasoned by time. My birthing songs started out angry, hungry, filled with pain—then as love filled my hollows the tone changed and wails became prayer, ache became wonder.
Somehow years went by and I was so enraptured by the magic of the creative process I missed the world turning, and technology evolving. I missed relationships and lost track of the everyday struggle of humanity. I lost touch with the outside. I forgot how to connect organically to others, how to lean into the flow and flux of shared spaces and conversations. I forgot how to be touched by strangers without flinching or weeping.
Though I knew the day would come when the stories would need to leave the nest, I’d fooled myself into thinking I had more time—a few more seasons, at least.
I’ve been squatting on the property line for months now, trying to decide which direction to go. I can remain indefinitely in this state of inner peace and creative bliss… or step outwardly and grow accordingly. I’ve stared at the crossroad so long moss bloomed on my feet.
“I don’t want to turn back, no.” I glanced at Liam. Morning light filtering through the mist, highlighting blond curls. “But I’ve been alchemized into something else in my time here and no longer fit out there. I’m not cut for the Hollywood cloth.”
Liam inhaled, leaned against the railing, and smiled. “No. You’re not.” He reached out and gripped my fingers, offering a gentle squeeze. Then he set his mug on the table, folded his wings in and plucked a pinion feather.
He presented me with a long white feather with an umber tip. “Then re-write the cloth, remake the fabric. Write it to fit you, your voice, your stories—not the other way around. Your new quill, milady.”
I accepted the feather, and the mission implied. The new quill was heavier than I expected. Despite it being a feather, it weighed as much as my favorite blade. I realized he’d given me the tool to cut my umbilicus, and maybe others’ too.
We finished our morning chat with mundane topics. Before Liam left for the day, he leaned in, pecked my cheek, and smiled. “I know you’re scared to leave the nest, but there are beautiful horizons to stretch for out there, and a sky full of stars waiting to greet you.” He touched the pinion feather sitting on the table. “On your terms… when you’re ready.”
The gust from his takeoff blew the napkins off the table. I sat on the deck looking over the water and thought about what he said.
As usual, when I wrap up my morning writing sessions of late, I can’t help but notice the shift in tone. Characters are stepping back, granting space as if they are bracing for something while also offering the opening for me to stretch. There’s a sense of stillness, a calm before the storm. And there’s a tremor in the earth beneath my feet that grows more pronounced every day. I don’t know what it means, if anything. It’s just noticeable.
In the meantime, I have a new quill to carve and a coming out story to write.
The Elder Glade
I saw this land in a dream years before I met it in person. It was made to hold me while I work. It was made to heal me when I was broken. It was made to free my wilding self so I could join my characters in a heart-thundering race through the ferns.
This land sings, it weeps, it groans, it serenades. It falls in love. I don’t know how to wake up without the lullaby of its sounds anymore. Its heartbeat is as reassuring as the slumber of a nearby lover. When I am off the land for more than a few days, there are no orienting notes. The sun and shadows forget to tell time. North and South become meaningless directions and not freckles or marks of time and space. Here, at least, South is a light, a view to the ridge, a hum of deep earthen boulders on the property edge. North is the mossy side of my roof, and the face of the sugar maple. West is the direction the water flows and easterly is where the salmon swim in to invite me to play in the creek. All other directions orient to those markers. Without them, I wouldn’t know how to tend the beehives, or when to turn the garden beds. When the full moon shines through the eastern stand, it’s time to release old injuries, and when the new moon makes a hole in the night between the alder and the fir, it’s time to put seeds in the ground. Polaris always shows the way home. Always.
Outside this land, time is just a word. Breath is just a clock. Outside this land, I need GPS to navigate, because even the bees don’t know where to go once they leave my mountain.
The creek roars. It burbles. It chatters happily during spawning season, and rages through the winter storms. Then, in the heat of summer, it offers cool refreshment and entices me to linger, dip my toes, and tell it my stories.
The trees gossip. My god, do they gossip. The maples are the worst conspirators. Recently, in the last few years, they have included me in the jokes, and on more than one occasion, they have colluded to hide me from hunters or passersby with questionable intentions. On those occasions, they then chattered about it to one another for weeks, as there was little else to talk about at the time.
The elk visit regularly. The birds swing by daily; an eagle, a mated pair of blue jays, a single great heron, and several golden finches, hummingbirds, swifts, woodpeckers and so on. Evening bats keep my nights on the deck free of mosquitos. So you see, I am never actually alone. Oh, and there are flowers, berries, mushrooms, maple syrup, wild mint, and a thousand delicacies to nibble on as I walk the trails. If I walk toward the sound of white water, then cross the foothills toward the scent of moss, I can pick food and wander through timelines filled with history, lost worlds and forgotten love stories. By the time I get home, my lips are berry stained, my pockets stuffed with pretty tumbled stones and interesting pieces of lichen, and my basket is overflowing with flowers, fungi, and frogs. Then I take a nap in the hammock and wake up to dance my way through a few chapters.
There is a notable impact on my relationships with my characters, and the saturation of my spiritual connection to the stories when I am baked on asphalt plains, or crammed into population, or stored safely behind hermetically sealed glass panels. That’s not to say it can’t be done, that I’m unable—only that it has a cost. The hours spend in traffic cannot pay for the blissful engagement of story arcs meeting their destined conclusions on the page.
The point is, I came out here to work. I left the city so I could learn to hear again. I found a cottage and settled into a slower rhythm so that I could think, feel, breathe. It can be inconvenient sometimes. Yes, there have been times when I was utterly terrified or pushed to my breaking point with unmet challenges of remote living and isolation. But there has not yet been a day when I haven’t stared out the window and felt a wash of deep love and appreciation for the land I’m sitting on, and the peace it brings my life.
And it’s only been because of that peace that I have been able to reconnect to my voice, and tell these stories.
Will I ever leave it? When the time is right. When the correct situation calls and the garden gate blows open to a new direction. Until then, the song is alive in this space, so this is where I work.
Here's a link to the year round video of The Elder Glade.
Waltzing With My Father
One of my earliest memories of my father is when I was perhaps two or three. We were at a church dance, a father-daughter event. I was too small to dance, so he tucked me in his jacket, buttoning me to his chest; then he danced us both to a poorly played waltz, like I was a queen in my reluctant ruffles, and he was a prince with roasted potato and sweet onion breath from the potluck. I remember his beard being scratchy, his chuckle raspy. I had never been so happy.
My father chastises me in bass G, and laughs at his own jokes in a middle baritone D. He whistles when he’s happy. He laments, compassionately soothing other peoples’ worries in a gravelly low C, and warm hug. He taught me about energy, photography, pretty stones, and people. He showed me how to use my cameras, shoot a gun, and change a tire. He understood my need to find things out for myself—so when I’d ask a question, or grip onto a puzzle, he’d grumble in a hoarse b minor and say, “What do you think, you odd little duck? You tell me.”
He gave me my love of travel, so I associate the D3 hum of rubber on asphalt, and the E4 of a six-cylinder engine in fifth gear with his road-trip chats, while I aired my feet out the passenger window across the most impressive byways of the Rocky Mountains. On these trips he also gave me Led Zeppelin, and Bach (on opposite sides of the same cassette), and his undying crush… Bette Midler.
My father never had a day of musical training in his 75 years, but to me, because I adore him, he is the perfect compositional arrangement. I’ll be 44 on August 5th, this year and my father has never told me I’m beautiful, not even on my wedding day when he gave me away to another man. I never felt the void of that conventional statement other fathers generally give their daughters, because I felt beautiful in the resonance of my soul pitch in direct relationship to his. I saw it in his smile. His tone was pure, his note steady, unwavering. To be honest, the fact that he never needed to say it, and I never felt the lack of it, only proves how well matched our chords synchronized in this lifetime. We had harmony.
I say had, because with all great scores, there is a transition key. A point when the notes tremble and the tempo shifts. My father is touched by Mnemosyne’s Curse, and so his linear timeline has fractured. It began about a decade ago, so I’ve had time to reconcile how I want his final days to be remembered. In the beginning, I was angry, grief-stricken, and full of pounding staccato rage at the life theft implied in his diagnosis. Minor, dissonant keys and chaotic mismatched chords and syncopated rhythms tarnished our conversations. I usually left in a mess of tears, believing I had lost him, even though he is still struggling to hold on to this reality, he cannot leave his children behind just yet. I sense he needs us settled so that he can rest.
There was a great chasm, a long empty drift in our connection right after his announcement. Over time, I realized the bitter blessing in this stage of his life; he only remembers me as I was in his favorite recollections, those moments he repeats to me again and again. They are often not my favorite or brightest moments… that’s not important, because they are clearly his. What his fractured timelines brings up, I am able to see through his eyes, the dolce delivery of our history as father and daughter, as his final refrains are moments when he watched me grow beyond needing him. When I took my steps to become a woman of this world. When I stretched myself to find a purpose and fulfillment. His repeats are the moments he was most proud of the fact that I surpassed him in love, building community, or chasing my own dreams; dreams he had been too afraid to reach for himself. I somehow, unintentionally, gave him the coherence he was searching for on his fatherhood quest—his voice is full of song when he shares those memories.
He’s so far gone, I cannot expect him to understand that I only achieved those dreams because I stood on his firm resonance, his bass voice and sturdy tones. He was the foundation from which I found the courage to leap.
I sometimes wish for him the clarity to understand what I mean when I tell him, “We did it, Dad. You did it. You broke the cycle. It’s okay to rest. Take a break.”
On a good day, I have about an hour with him. On a bad day, his memory resets every six minutes or so. On those days, when he resets, I say first thing, “I love you, Dad.” Each time his voice lights up, and he says he loves me too, like I haven’t just told him every six minutes for the last hour. It’s just as newsworthy and welcome to him each time—so I am happy to say it as often as it delights. When 44 years is distilled into six-minute intervals, there’s no room left for blame, or accusations, complaints or judgment. There’s no room for regret. There’s only redemption, forgiveness, and acceptance. There’s only enough meter for gratitude.
I realize now that his refrains, those looping moments are his last dance with me. Our waltz is a very long goodbye. Over the years the waltz has gotten slower, legato, softer. I take time to cherish it. This disease he wrestles with has purified all emotion and memory into its most crystalline integrity.
Neither of us are the youthful people setting out to discover a lifelong friendship anymore; me in my reluctant ruffles, and he with the raspy chuckle and sweet onion breath. Our duet and final meanderings in ¾ time of six-minute intervals around a room are conversations of old events, hazy with displacement, rich in love.
And really, why do we do anything at all, if not for that? For that perfectly synchronized harmonic merging of notes into a powerfully unbreakable chord?
I apologize for the nostalgia. It’s fresh on my mind, as it’s my dad’s birthday today, so the language/music is easy to access. The point is, we are all a collection of sounds, as you know. Sounds that are meaningless, unless in connection to or relationship to someone or something else. Only in the interactions do we become chords, and keys, and rhythms, even if that connection or relationship is internal, spiritual.
That music and language can affect the human body without touching it, is the closest definition to what I might call divinity.
My father was a violent and religious man in his youth. During his mid-point reversal, he went down a different path, a spiritual walkabout to discover the divine feminine and Eastern philosophy. He gave away his guns and swore a path of passive non-violence. He sought a newer kind of salvation. In doing so, he had to leave the God he’d loved, and the church that had been his home to embrace totality. Thus it is that I learned about divinity, not God, but music and language and the principles of agape, bliss, and eternal grace from a man who’d forsaken the pulpit—to give his daughters, whom he named after goddesses, a better chance of success in a man’s world.
If that’s not the very definition of an Aria… I don’t know what is.
(The song of my father. Excerpt from musical scoring notes and musical theory study)- Athena
Shopping The Pillars of Dawn
It’s been a tough year of stretch, build, collapse old ways, recreate, manage and double down on the sweat and effort. Rewarding? Yes, in the sense it feels like progress after a long backbreaking push to build.
But the real test will be when the shopping starts. This last year has been getting me up to speed for an industry in which I have no previous experience. (Let’s be honest, most of this year was teaching me how to pitch, and talk to execs) We’ve been securing attachments. Some were my own choices—very exciting! And others were requests from readers—AMAZING!
We’re at the last polish on the pilot, deck, bible… and here we go.
We are completing the package for The Pillars of Dawn to begin our shopping rounds for streaming studios. What’s that chewy mouthful? Oh, my heart is stuck in my throat. Can’t swallow.
I expect others will do most of the talking after that embarrassing pitch with the guy from Disney where I froze up and forgot everything, even the name of my own series I’ve been writing for two decades. Yeah. I was that girl. That pitch was salvaged ONLY because I won pity points, and he let me reschedule to try again. (Evidently it happened to him once too! So, he felt bad for me.) We’re unlikely to be that lucky again.
So probably they won’t let me do the talking this time. That’s okay with me. I’ll just answer questions. It’s better that way.
My plate is full of project deadlines, world builds, scheduling for the book relaunch, coordinating efforts for the label to bring out a full catalogue and so on. Thus, I haven’t really had time to think or even imagine what happens next. I honestly don’t even know what it’s supposed to look like or what’s expected of me. I’m just the writer, after all. Just tell me where to stand, and I’ll go park myself out of the way.
Since I can’t fathom it, and no one seems able to tell me how to prepare—I’m just focusing on my books, my work, and puttering around the cottagestead.
Here’s to whatever is next, whatever that looks like. I ask the Universe only this: Please put me in touch with ethical, wonderful, creative collaborators who love the build and play of worlds as much as I do. Please put me in the safe hands of those who ache for the joy of adventure as much as I. Please connect me with story-minded, delightful human beings with whom I can share this Muses-verse and pass it along to audiences with a light and satisfied heart. Thank you.
*crossing fingers* So it begins.
The Life Erotic Updates
So excited to be near to handing off the revisions for relaunch of The Life Erotic. After long discussions about label changes and author rebranding, the choice was made to come out from behind the pen name publicly. The adaptation is under way, and the confusion of titles was gumming things up. So, yes, if you didn’t know, my erotica nom de plume is Blush Unbidden, AKA B. Unbidden.
The adaptation package has been a blast to work on. The art and concepts are utterly delightful. SO DECADENT, RICH and CHEWY. Not to mention… 🔥🔥
New Year, New Updates!
My winter writing season is half over already. Let’s be honest, I used some of that time to catch up on rest and getting organized, only to realize—I’m still far from being as organized as I’d like.
The updates are as so:
The Pillars of Dawn streaming adaptation comes to life more each day! The hardest part of the adaptation process so far is not being able to share the bigger breakthroughs. I am allowed to say, and I’m proud to do so, that all but two reader/fan requests were heard and answered with regard to casting suggestions and desires for the series. That is not to say that most of those performers and writers were interested in attachment, no. BUT I can say with pleasure they/agents were all contacted with the exception of two as they had no agent or manager to reach. What a privilege to be able to live in a time as an author wherein the ability to reach out and invite collaborators from the very hearts and minds of readers who enjoyed the books and envisioned certain performers in the parts. I can’t even express how grateful I am that we got to do that. It never hurts to ask, and it was such an honor to do so. Any unfilled attachments will likely be studio or producer picks. Although, I reserve the right to send a few more out as inspiration strikes.
I have dearly enjoyed this part of the process. Meeting new people, speaking with performers and creatives from all over the world has been such a wonderful surprise. So deeply fulfilling. I’ve learned so much from agents, managers, and executives at all levels. The next stage is a total mystery. I have no frame of reference for what happens next in adaptation, but I hope you’ll stay tuned to discover it with me. The wild ride continues!
Welcome to The Pillars of Dawn adaptation chronicles. I’ll be updating and documenting the adaptation process in this category over the coming months.
Secondly: BOOKS! BOOKS! BOOKS!
I’m in the process of finalizing The Pillars of Dawn refurbishment and relaunch for Sinnet of Dragons, Murder of Crows, and Scold of Jays. The editing and proofing team is coming together, and the story development group who will take over the wiki development is poised to receive all the Rubber Maid tubs and external hard drives from my worldbuilding stock as soon as we have a formal team decision.
Some big decisions still need to be made in the refurb process to align certain areas of the arcs and timeline to match slightly better with the streaming adaptation. This is only possible because I haven’t mass distributed before and the books are still being cleaned and repackaged for relaunch.
The most notable of these changes is pulling the first five chapters off Plague of Gargoyles and adding it to the end of the Scold of Jays relaunch, so the series will have matching season and book endings.
I’m still sitting on the fence about it—as it would require readers to repurchase Scold of Jays and that doesn’t sit well with me. So, meetings on the issue will continue.
This transition phase is messy. Most of the details and world building are currently in my brain- getting everyone on the same page, same timeline, same agenda/budget schedule/expectation is almost entirely dependent on extracting canon and pushing content out of my head onto a shared network which is also dependent on funding and an agile project management workflow.
From the wiki world build we will be able to hand off to producers and studios the full Muse-verse. All of it. It’s been in my head for so long, I didn’t realize how massive the world had gotten until I had to start teasing out the threads, sub-threads, and spinoff channels. Also, the game developers and other transmedia developed content will stem from that formal knowledge database.
Some days I sit in front of the screen to transcribe old notes from the tubs for the drobox and I’m instantly exhausted. Twenty years of notes… where do I even start? Yet, it needs to be done, so, coffee. Which brings me to worldbuilding.
This is one of my favorite parts of IP development. The adaptation has been an interesting challenge in that, there are few reliable IP adaptation sources for reference. At least not that I’ve found or that I trust. There are dozens of great worldbuilding guides and tools, but few of those take and existing franchise and convert it to transmedia functionality with team developmental support.
So, after an exhaustive tool search and several meetings with providers—I settled on my choice of platform, which will be a hybrid and mostly developed by myself and my group as we go.
That said, I made the decision to release some of the forms and processes as we go for anyone else out there who is struggling with taking a cumbersomely large IP and extensive world build and streamlining/packaging it for transmedia development.
Maybe it will help someone else, because hell’s bells, I would have loved to have been walked through this earlier in my career or set up with growth tools a decade prior to this point.
The parts I’m most excited about are the world constructs AND the exportable character maps for performer packages.
World constructs are a given, and used in multiple adaption platforms. So, that’s not new.
But being able to build out a performer package for each character is huge. I’m so stoked about this. Giddy with new tools to support crews, designers, and performers!
During the attachment process, there wasn’t much I was really allowed to say to prospective performers about the arcs of their characters without giving away spoilers. A standard handoff to a performer might include a set of attributes or characteristics/movement/motivations yadda yadda. BUT a character map export handoff allows the stages of a character’s development to be arced, broken into relationship interactions and sectioned into development stages and parceled out to a performer based on stages of production and publication, etc. It is a meatier glimpse into their background with extra tools and goodies the public might not know—while still protecting their future development and allowing a production team to control reveals, mitigate leaks, as well as allow performers to live more in the moment of the scene rather than the ending they know is coming.
It's controversial. Some folks are fully against the tool while others think it’s amazing. The plan is to build it in—and let the production team decide how to use it. There if they want it, but they don’t have to use it.
In the end, I hope the adaptation process made a bit more public will help others with their projects too. If you’re in the midst of building out an IP adaptation, follow this space for news and tools.
Have a fantastic 2023! I hope this year sets you all up for grand new adventures and an embarrassment of rich blessings.
Here's just a glimpse of some of the concept art and character designs coming in for The Pillars of Dawn. Of course nothing is final yet, but it's so much fun to see what might be! These concepts are for the adaptation and will accompany the production materials for executives. Art panels for the books and publishing label are due in spring 2023. Stay tuned!
Closing Out 2022
Updating the site and preparing for a big 2023. Stay tuned!
Athena lives and writes in the Siuslaw Forest, Oregon.