A break from regularly scheduled programming….
I wasn’t sure what kind of feedback or reader mail I’d get from the relaunch of The Life Erotic Discovery Journals. As I’ve been down for the count recovering from surgery, I’ve been blessed to sit in bed reading the loveliest notes from those who picked up the booklets for the first time, along with happy reminiscing from those who read them before and are now excited to see the world unfolding into a streaming adaptation.
I should say that Amazon has been blocking the reviews for TLE. Yes, I’ve been made aware. We’re working on it. I’m so sorry for the inconvenience! Hopefully, it’s fixed soon. I’ve been assured that when it’s fixed, all the reviews will show up—probably all at once. So, please keep leaving those reviews! They will pop as soon as the snag is corrected. (Also, I am deeply grateful for all the emails letting me know!)
My favorite responses are from people letting me know TLE has opened their minds to the deeper levels of intimacy that can occur in trust-based relationships. Those raw and vulnerable moments when we are just humans—exposed—splitting open to tenderness that makes connection with a lover such a spiritual and powerful sexual experience. There’s so much validation in knowing we are not alone in the longing for these experiences, nor alone in the celebration of them when we’re able to make those moments come to life with our lovers.
The notes from readers include very personal stories of their sexual healing journeys; many of those running in tandem with spirituality and a near-cosmic understanding of self—which only serves to elevate experiences with their partners.
I am so honored to know these stories from you all. So grateful to know that “soul-gasms” are happening when The Life Erotic explores these vignettes of partnership through a reader experience. (I hope you don’t mind me co-opting “soul-gasm”, Esial2323… it’s just so perfectly suited! Thank you!)
In honor of the raw vulnerability from readers, I’ll try to answer questions with the same fearlessness.
Jannabella- Why do you write erotica? Are you ever ashamed?
It took a while for me to write erotica specifically. I mostly targeted relationship dynamics in my fantasy fiction. In the world-building matrix where I create Storyverse, all interconnected levers are relationship interdependencies. So, I began there. But as those stories and characters became more real, reflecting a lot of my own personal desires and needs I had to get honest with myself as a creative—and as a woman—and ask what was missing in my life that was also missing from my character relationship arcs and story mediums.
Radical vulnerability and the ability to deeply connect on a sexual/spiritual level.
World builders and creatives with rich imaginations are pretty good at pretending. We can be the original fakers, right? We are easily romanticized, easily led by the longing or promise of something magical, beautiful, and wondrously mysterious. It’s natural for creators to be regularly disappointed, let down, embittered. Unfortunately, this creates a calcification which permeates both life AND the fictional realms and Storyverses we populate. It’s like a virus that jumps from us into our fictional worlds.
I don’t know about you, but I read to escape. I read to fall in love, see new worlds, live other lives. I don’t read to soak up someone else’s wounds, shames, prejudices or hit creator blockages because they’ve leaked into the story, even accidentally.
To be the best storyteller I believed I could be for my characters, Storyverse, and audience—I had to dig out all the injuries, purge all the aches, and drop any baggage that would prevent me from being able to honestly and authentically speak for the moments in each scene. My knowledge is limited. I don’t know all the things. But I can at the very least FEEL everything, and report that to the reader by placing those words on a character’s tongue, or leave that feeling glittering on the page for someone else to find.
Radical vulnerability led to the need to heal myself of shame and fear, specifically around the subject matter. “Heal thyself” became a mantra set to the understanding that I could then heal my characters—and hopefully, someone out there might also benefit from that process as well.
Erotica as a genre was the next logical choice. Aside from memoir, there is no other genre which requires self-honesty, vulnerability, imagination, and empathy the way erotica does. You cannot write sexually engaging prose if you are bound by shame. You cannot write emotionally connective characters if you cannot be emotionally bonded to another.
Writing about shame in erotica, for me is now only writing about the memory of it—not the lived experience of shame. It’s been healed, released. Writing about heartbreak, longing and ache in erotica is now about writing the memory of it. As a creator, I don’t have to avoid these things because I’m no longer beholden to them as a human putting pen to paper. Freeing myself, freed up the characters, and freed up the story—which allows readers to have a more unbidden experience. It also allows me to write the erotic content freely, expressively—and with ALL THE STEAMY BOILERS ON FULL THROTTLE. And isn’t that the fun part?
I hope that makes sense! (As an aside, yes, I am sometimes freshly ashamed of something I do or say, in which case, I learn from it–heal it. Then I try to do better next time. There’s no need to carry it into the story as anything but the memory of the memory of shame.)
Kristystail1966—Do you write erotica while listening to a playlist? Can you post the list for the read along and… bedroom?
Oh, dang! Alas, erotica is not something I can write to music. All other genres I can have music, or specific playlists. Unfortunately, because music is SO GOOD at setting the mood, I end up getting swayed by the tunes and the chapter shifts where I often don’t want it to go. So—in this example. I don’t have a playlist to share.
THAT SAID—I’ll look at putting a thematic playlist together that would fit the journals and compliment them as in after the fact! I’ll get on that and get back to you. Brilliant suggestion!
Zettabird—You make it sound easy to be open with a partner in the bedroom. How long did it take to become that comfortable?
Tough question. There’s no one answer for this as it depends on the emotional intelligence and generosity and understanding of lovers to meet one another in the most tender and fragile needs first—then get to the other stuff. Anyone can be rough, or ragged, or hungry in the bedroom—not everyone can hear/see/know their lover in those moments. Presence creates that trust. Awareness and the willingness to hold back one’s own personal needs or urges, ensuring their partner is moving at the same level of security and fulfillment, require a willingness to pay attention.
So answering your question—the answer will be different for everyone.
Siatoa755angel—when will the next Life Erotic journal be out?
Good question! And thank you 😊 As there are show spoilers in the next journal, I’m sitting on it for a little bit. Not a long time, maybe next spring. The hope is that the show adaptation will have enough steam that the readers will only be slightly ahead of the spoiler information—readers do it best anyway, right? We should get the early bird treats! Thank you for your patience!
Thank you for all the questions and notes. Truly, the emails have been such a boost. It’s so fun knowing where the books have landed and where they have traveled.
Please stay tuned on the adaptation information and book release news by signing up for the newsletter at Elder Glade Publishing.
In the meantime, please continue to ask questions via the contact portal here.
Warning: The Life Erotic Discovery Journals by B. Unbidden have been known to cause erotic longings, twin flame yearnings, delightfully curious explorative human behaviors, and climactic sexual events. Whether you’re a runner or chaser, or in a happy healthy union—these stories will stir hungers.
Currently in adaptation for streaming television!
Spring and autumn are my two favorite seasons for planning land upgrades and work around the property. The weather this year threw off the blooming season, so the garden is thoroughly confused. That may be a lucky break for me, since I was buried with work and didn’t have a chance to get my seeds started. Maybe this is the year I actually line up with the garden timing-wise! The thimbleberries are just now blooming, two months behind schedule. I’ll be able to direct sow several seed varieties now that the weather is stabilizing.
The WGA strike has brought all the action for my adaptations and entertainment plans to a halt. I’m not a member, but all the talks we’ve been having were with signatories or members, so we are stalled for now. That said, my publishing gears are still in full motion.
The cover art for Tangle of Mermaids has been ordered, along with several art panels from Amanda Sartor. YAY!!
Books are already in the pipeline for relaunch—so I’ll be writing and editing from the office on the deck overlooking the creek and trees. This means I need to get it cleaned and set up, prepped and ready for a summer of heavy productivity.
My plans for trips to LA are on hold BUT that means I get to double down on my garden since I’ll be home to tend the plants. (So excited because the towering lilies I planted last autumn are coming up!! I was so worried I’d miss them while in LA.) I’ve enrolled in continued education as well since all other avenues are shut down. The showrunners program will help me write more targeted scripts, if nothing else. All information is good information. The showrunner study so far has been incredible in helping me understand how to target story planning to budgets—which, as a long form author, I’ve never had to consider.
The irony is that all those years in financial planning and project management in the corporate world are applied to the story world in showrunning—never thought those two worlds would meet beyond running a publishing label. Universe, you’re so funny.
In the end, it should still be a very busy summer, just less travel than previously expected.
To combat the crushing disappointment of being derailed at the last minute after so much hard work, I have decided to do some fun cheer-up things. I finally ordered the zipline kit! I have no idea how to install it, but that is on the list. A slide through the trees across the river will cheer me up immensely. I also plan to put in a camping area and table on the west end of the property for visitors who come up for creativity workshop on the island later this summer.
The creativity workshop is still in question as it will depend on the schedule. The island was hit by hard storms this year, but the bridge despite all odds, is still standing. Getting out to the island to clean up the debris and restore the classroom area should be easy. It’s just a matter of setting aside the time.
Long story short, I’ll be enjoying this summer of creating in my safe space, and building new plans for books and releases. If I’m quiet—it’s not a bad thing, it means I’m building, taking space for peace and rejuvenation, and getting my ducks in a row in case of sudden movement in other sectors.
When the garden begins blooming, you’ll want to shut off your notifications because I’ll be over-posting all the flowers. ALL THE FLOWERS!
Stay creative, my friends.
To adapt or not to adapt. That is the question many authors are asking themselves.
When I set out to start the adaptations on The Pillars of Dawn and The Life Erotic, I thought it would be a simple one-for-one swap on the content. While I knew there would be some switch-ups and content would need to be rearranged to make it fit a new medium, I assumed it would still balance out and land pretty much in the same lane as the source material. Almost two years later, a ton of hands-on personal coaching from a talented (and very patient) producer, a crash course in scripting, and a dozen re-writes later… we are finally shopping the work. I would not have put myself through this if he hadn’t stepped in and developed me and the work with as much enthusiasm and effort as he did.
I’d still be a bridge troll in the woods writing my books and swigging Scotch if he hadn’t said, “I think you’ve got something and I’d like to help you.”
To be honest, I nearly said, “No, thanks.”. I didn’t want two decades of my work to be mauled by Hollywood’s track record of butchering source material for a quick buck.
He provided a twenty-page analysis of my books with an explanation of how they could be adapted and what he liked most about them.
He sold me on it when he picked out the very things other producers and studios before him had attempted to cut—he emphasized how important it was to save those aspects. He had no prior knowledge of my dealings with other producers, directors and studios—but had asked me to adapt with respect to, and focus on the parts I actually treasured the most about the work.
“You should write it the way you want it to be done. Only make the changes you’re comfortable with as the creator. That’s what we’ll take to market.”
Well, then. In that case, sure, I can try writing a pilot and building a show bible. I mean, how hard can it be? *Insert two-year learning curve, lots of swearing and drinking here*
My goal as the creator was to keep it all within the spirit of the story. Spirit of the story can mean a lot of things to a lot of people—but it means something very specific to the creator of the worlds. By spirit of the story, I also know what’s coming down the pipeline in future publications, so choices I made up front were needed in order to support the overall spirit of the story from beginning to end. Because I created it, I know where all the Jenga pieces are load-bearing. I also know where all the bodies are buried.
I know I’m not alone when I voice frustration with adaptations butchering the original source materials. The books are better 99% of the time. Why is that?
Now I have a much better idea of why that happens. No author wants to spend twenty years building a world, fleshing out characters, and finding an audience only to have their work meat-balled for a skimpy paycheck and an inbox full of hate mail from pissed off readers. It’s not fame or fortune or accolades that push authors to sell their options. It’s the hope of reaching new audience and bringing new readers to the universes they’ve created.
Why does the meat-balling happen? What causes the breakdown from book to screen?
Money is the simple answer, but there’s more than that, sure. Money makes a lot of decisions, from which audiences will return the dividend to how a production is funded and which collaborators, talents, and creators have a piece of the responsibility to “keep it within the spirit of the story”. Once you involve other voices and collaborators, you’re also engaging with the ego dance. Money and ego have been the two biggest breakdowns in the process from my experience so far.
Sometimes a good ego clash is healthy. It keeps things in perspective. Other times it’s energetically exhausting. Sometimes I’m the one who has to check my ego and keep it in place.
There’s no room for ego in story development. None.
I heard the phrase, “television is a team sport” from an executive interview on Film Courage, and I’ve tried to carry it with me through all the meetings, pitches, and conversations. I even repeat it to potential buyers when discussing changes—because I’m all for a collaborative process. I believe truly magical things can happen when you’re working with a talented team. I have a LONG VIEW and WIDE SCOPE of the work as it is built to be published—others in the industry have a MIDSCOPE and DETAIL view of the work as it will be presented on screen. So, between those two superpowers, really amazing stories can be formed.
I am confident that while my eyeballs are locked on a piece of connective story from episode one to eight—the producer will recognize a small detail right in front of me that I overlooked while scoping out the full horizon. It actually brings me more confidence to keep building, keep reaching, keep expanding when I KNOW he’s running parallel, tucking in those little threads that help stitch the full picture into place. He’s like a magic flying feather. I know I can build safely and to the scale I want to see—because he’s not going to let me miss anything or fall down a well.
Collaboration breaks down in executive meetings or pitches when suggestions/requests infringe on the spirit of the story, because decisions are being made regarding budget, talent or a person walking in to “lay claim” to the work by adding something they want to see or “it would be awesome if…”–insert random executive fantasy—and taking the work in a completely different direction. Unanchored requests/additions/corrections are the bane of the collaborative process. Ugh. Huge time and energy sink.
Does it SERVE the story, the character, the theme, or audience? Then let’s talk about it.
Because ultimately, the storytelling is a service industry. It’s hospitality. It’s the invitation to join an idea, world, concept, adventure or escape. The audience is your GUEST. As a storyteller, your only purpose is to welcome them in and make them FEEL something.
Story is never a demand, it’s an offering. I feel like as the creator, if I can hold my ground right there, we’ll have something new audiences will love, and my longtime readers will approve of.
Two years into the development process, we are shopping both IPs (intellectual properties) and I’m SO GRATEFUL he took the time to coax me out of the forest, dust me off, teach me some new skills and push me into a new medium. I’ve been having a great time! (don’t tell anyone, it will ruin my reputation for being a grumpy troll.)
Would I do it again? Absolutely. Will I do more? Already working on it. A whole publishing archive full of twenty years of other IPs is sitting in the closet ready to be mined.
To adapt or not to adapt. I’d say, investigate it. Make sure you’re working with someone who gets you and understands the work. They don’t have to love the work, but they need to understand why you’re making the choices you’re making as the creator. It really helps if you also find collaborators who understand the service aspect of story, development, and teamwork as well.
The beauty of my work with the producer is that we are polar opposite in many ways which challenges the story and pushes it forward. The ways in which we are similar just create the trust that holds the bridge securely in place when those challenges transform the process for both of us. In the end, those transformations have made me a much better writer, and an infinitely better storyteller. I can’t speak for him—hopefully I haven’t given him too much gray hair. Poor dude. He definitely deserves a fruit basket.
From scene work to table conversations, your best collaborators are always going to be service oriented, so look for those. People who know how to sit at a table and negotiate fairly, and with excellent listening skills, are a good start.
And finally, a word from the producer’s mouth (that I use against him regularly). “You’re the creator—don’t compromise anything you can’t live with on the story you built. Only agree to changes you’re happy to make.” His words, not mine. Excellent advice.
Good luck, my friends. May your adaptation journeys be adventurous, fruitful, and pleasantly enriching in all conceivable ways.
The Producer submitted some changes to one of my scenes that had left me in a bit of a head spin. Most were a matter of personal taste, communication and frame of reference/experience—which we worked out by asking questions of one another’s intentions. The conversation was smooth, and we both got what we wanted with just a little clarification as to our own points of view for the others’ comfort. Oh, how I wish all collaborations could work that way.
What I didn’t bring up, because it wasn’t an important bone to pick at the moment was this scene where two changes were made because he clearly had no idea what I was talking about.
The original scene wherein someone clucks my female character’s chin, not once but twice. The Producer thought I had typoed and changed both instances to “Plucks”—with a P. (he was probably like, wtf is this Athena?)
I laughed when I read it because WHO IN GOD’S NAME REACHES OVER AND PLUCKS A CHIN? Like, was it hairy? Was there a stray whisker to be plucked?
Then I realized, the Producer is a man. He’s tall and confident, and strong—he has likely never been in a situation where other men/people condescendingly or even affectionately reach over and cluck your chin. He has no frame of reference for what it is to be a forty-year-old woman and have strange men, and sometimes well-meaning dudes of familiarity just help themselves to your face because you are a woman and socially groomed to be touchable. (yes, this is changing)
I changed all the “p/clucks” to “lift” because it was more understandable for a male to read it, but then I sat for a long time staring at my screen. What would it be like to not know, not even have a frame of reference for that level of lost autonomy on a social/societal level?
My whole life I have only ever known that as a woman, men would randomly cluck my chin, touch my cheek, pat my shoulder, touch my lower back, attempt to guide me by my shoulder through a doorway, and groom me in a dozen different physical ways because it is a constant state of gender role placement. Subtle dominance affirmations by way of micro actions—not bold enough to cause alarm, but just enough to assert hierarchy. What would it even be like to not have had to spend a decade avoiding physical touch because that social pattern was never a thing?
Some of these behaviors mask themselves behind chivalry, or a physical touch love language, which is a whole other conversation, and why some people can’t tell the difference between chivalry and socially dominant grooming and react to both with the same level of venom. No need to comment, here, we’ll circle back at some point. Chivalry is awesome and totally has a place in the world—but not when hiding or supporting toxic dominant placements or grooming. It’s a murky area, and many people don’t know how to differentiate the intentions in the moment. This problem is further compounded by people with physical touch or deeds as a love language. So we can chat about the multiple variances, and gray areas of interpretation some other time.
A chin cluck can be endearing (which is how I wrote it in the scene) or condescending. It can be dominant or encapsulating. It can be so many things—but evidently, not something a tall, strong, dude such as the Producer would ever need to anticipate, quantify, or work around. No dude would ever reach out and cluck another man’s chin, unless it was his son or younger male subordinate. So, of course, the Producer would not even know what the hell I was talking about in that scene.
The equally beautiful thing was that the Producer didn’t recognize it as an actionable word because it clearly also would never occur to him to perform a chin cluck. So, pluck was the obvious choice? A stray whisker pluck, perhaps? I adore him for the fact that the random face cluck is not part of his experience either as a giver or a receiver. His neutrality on the topic, and his nearest association of the action gave me giant warm feels. Pluck away, my friend. Pluck away. (Seriously, if I have a fucking chin hair, GET IT.)
And because the rabbit hole beckoned, I had to close my laptop and step away from it for a minute, with a sick feeling of loss in the pit of my stomach for the forty years spent being tuned to the reality that my experience has been so opposite from his.
God, how I wish it had just been a typo. What a world that would be. Just one little letter separated my world experience from his.
THIS is why we have art. THIS is why we tell stories.
We will never know the other side of the experience if we don’t tell stories, and listen to others’ stories—especially when it’s unsettling. Our own frame of reference cannot and should not be the only forms of acceptable truth. It’s uncomfortable—but knowing the other sides, finding empathy for those perspectives, is exactly how we heal and move forward… together.
The Courage to Dream Again: Excerpt
My Dream grew from seed to sapling to maturity under the glow of sun and youthful wishes. It leafed into fullness with loving crooning and tears. Then determination followed by surrender brought blossoms to the branches and the buds of fruit with the music of prayer.
And here it is finally, lush and ripe and full of the promise of satisfaction. All I have to do is stretch out a hand and pluck it. What is there to fear?
Is it the absolute knowledge that if I take it, if I reach my hand out and harvest this fruit that I have worked so hard to grow from seed, everything will be changed? Everything will be different?
Such is the nature of what I have yearned for. Such is the life I have struggled to allow. I cannot accept my dreams and gift without being ready to release all that I have at this moment. All that I have today will shift and lurch and become something different the moment I pluck this opportunity. I will never be the same. I may be better, or not. I may be stronger or wiser or more empowered. But I will never again be what I am this day… and isn’t that what I’ve always wanted?
“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.
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.
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
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.