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.
I’ve tried so many times to write an update, but honestly, things are moving so fast, and so much of the information is not stuff I’m able to disclose yet, that I keep coming up short. Being unsure what I’m allowed to talk about has just kept me muted while at least a couple areas of my life have blown up in very positive ways in just the last few months.
I can comfortably say, I am overwhelmed with good happenings, although the level of work to reach what looks like a sudden break took decades.
Pitching in Hollywood is not at all like I imagined it would be. I probably sound like a newb for this, but - -everyone is so freaking nice. They have all been so utterly kind and helpful, so far above and beyond willing to help me reach a little higher into a field in which I know very little, that I’ve broken down crying more than once for the generosity and encouragement I’ve encountered from total strangers.
When I set out to begin the adaptation with the producer in October, I was on the fence. I wasn’t sure the adaptation process was for me (I’m a long-form prose writer—not a script person). So, it took a crash course YouTube cram, a new software learning curve, and a remapping of the first two novels on the storyboard wall – but when I was done, I was sold. I ended up LOVING the scripting process. Such a blast!
I have been living and breathing my characters and books for so long that this new way of stripping the arc apart, re-weaving the narrative, and deep diving into dialog I wrote more than a decade ago in the novels was like dancing with an old lover to a new song. It was a nostalgic, re-imagined love affair that reminded me why I love these stories so much. In that process I also realized, if I can fall in love with them all over again, it’s absolutely time to share them with a newer, wider audience.
Even Liam approves.
Then when I got my first materials request from the first big studio, I was over the moon, even more so when he said he couldn’t tell this was my first pilot attempt. (He was probably being nice, but I’m so new to it all I’ll happily accept that kindness.) The pilot has since gone out four more times, and I’ve booked pitch sessions and meetings to discuss those results. I’d had two other passes, but one of those passes included a long and beautifully written email on how I can improve my pitch, and an invitation to try again in the future because he liked my premise and the freshness of the concept.
Don’t worry, I’ doing everything by the book and yes, I have an attorney to help me with all the legal documents and worrisome bits of confusing language. He’s taking excellent care of my rights and my sanity. I also hired a consultant to help me tune the material set and make sure I’m not making any stupid, obvious newbie mistakes. He has been instrumental in keeping me off the ledge.
Moral of the story—I am not alone in this, and it’s really taking a whole village, many of whom have been cheerleaders since the early days. I thank you all so very much.
In all, it’s been an incredibly positive experience. Exhausting? Yes. I had no idea how fast things would move. Writing two separate pilot episodes, a mini bible, a pitch deck, query, and a two pager in 30 days while also managing a federal audit for the banks in California, and completing the paperwork for the publishing label transition was, well, a bit much. I burned hard, and nearly burned out. In fact, I’m still sort of recovering.
Both of my businesses are keeping my hands full in the best possible way. So, to counter all the excitement, I’m researching ways to help find better balance and mindfulness… working to improve my recovery time because I’m having such a wonderful time of it that I want to keep going. I absolutely want to write more scripts, push along my next big contractor gig for the banks in California, and launch Plague of Gargoyles this year.
Of course, if anything moves forward from here on the adaptations and studio request, I won’t be able to talk about it. So, if all goes well, this post will be the last thing I’ll be able to say until one day, hopefully in the not-too-distant future, I’ll be able to present these stories I love to a new audience and share the fabulous adventure of the Muses on the little screen. How fun would that be?
In the meantime, the snow is scheduled to settle on The Elder Glade just in time for me to hunker down for my winter writing season. I’ll be here, in the woods, dreaming up the next big adventure.
Merry Christmas and Happiest of Holidays to you all. See you in 2022.
So much love,
“How do I connect with a Muse?” It seems like a strange question, but since I write about the nine Muses in The Pillars of Dawn, I actually get asked this question fairly often. Usually, the question pops up when I’m sitting with artists, and the conversation rolls around to blockages.
I don’t believe in blockages, writers’ or otherwise, so I usually end up saying so and acknowledging my creative outputs are heavy, deep, and if uninterrupted can go on for hours/days without pause.
The short of it is, when I connect to the pipeline—it’s pours out, and it’s all I can do to try to keep up. (Funny note: my laptop is getting old, so when I’m on a really good streak and blazing out content, there are times when my keystrokes outpace my word processor and I have to stop for a minute and wait for my computer to catch up. Yes, I need a new laptop. It’s on the list.)
Artists in these conversations refer to this energy as the Muse. Inspiration. Graced with productivity, ideas, and source. I don’t disagree. I think of it much the same way, and I thoroughly enjoy writing about the Muses in my series with this power.
People mistakenly think I have some sort of “in” with Calliope, or something and ask me how they can get an introduction, or how to “snag” a Muse for their project.
That’s not really how it works. The best explanation I can think of to entice a Muse to an artist really boils down to the concept of true partnership. Enchant her with your energy, and prove you’re a good match for her.
Muses (energy) will partner with like energy (vessel). Like attracts like in this case, right?
While I can imagine myself, and the characters I write in The Pillars of Dawn as vessels—they (and myself) must be a match for the energy of the Muse in question. As seen in the books, pairing the wrong energy with the wrong vessel is catastrophic. It just doesn’t work.
As a storyteller, my match to a Muse energy is storyteller energy, right? So, what is storyteller energy? It starts with willingness. It begins with curiosity. Being open to answers that bring more questions, that breed more mysteries, which leave breadcrumbs of truth that lead to discovery. Quintessentially, story is a journey. If you’re not open to a sojourn down the scenic route—you’re not open to storyteller energy and that Muse will pass you by. If you have all the answers already, she’s going to go dance with someone else, because she wants to discovery the mysteries, too.
The same rule of inspiration applies to all forms of elevated and cosmic consciousness whether that’s music, law, language, mathematics, the sciences, astronomy, leadership, and so on and so forth. Like energy attracts like energy. Being open to the mystery, brings connections with higher consciousness in the field in which you would like to have a pipeline to inspiration and discovery.
The principle is pretty basic, also known as “The Law of Attraction”.
So, now you’ve got the Muse. You’ve managed to connect with a sense of curiosity, openness, willingness to create in this amniotic womb of the unknowable mystery in your chosen field. Now what?
Now that you’ve connected, you treat the relationship like a partnership—a true partnership. The connection is “at will”, remember? She’ll just move along if you’re puttering around trying to decide what to do. In short, put a damn ring on it. Commit.
What does that mean?
There’s a level of commitment required in this relationship to keep your Muse, and your inspirations flowing. Commitment to the work. Commitment to the process. Commitment to the continued relationship of Muse and Vessel. The second you decide you’re too tired to keep going, she’ll pack up and move onto the next Vessel. (You can win her back, if you work at it, but she’s going to make it hard on you.)
As a storyteller, my commitments look like this: When an idea comes, I make note of it. Always. Whether I’ll follow that breadcrumb later or not is another story—but I always make a note. This is why I have boxes of notes, scribbles on my hands, menus with dialog in the margins, sticky pads, audio recordings, and photos with captions for my files. The inspirations are popping in, constantly.
How do I keep them popping in? By living. This seems weird, but it’s true. The movie, Short Circuit, where the robot is struck by lightning, and he wanders around saying “Johnny Five is Alive”, “Need input”.
That’s my life as a storyteller. Short Circuit is a perfect metaphor for the human condition, and the life of a storyteller. I basically wander around saying, “Need input”.
Story cannot happen in a vacuum. It needs air. It needs experience. It needs contrast and depth. All of which I need in order to produce believable content, characters, and scenarios. My imagination is rich—but it has limits. I need actual tastes, textures, and elements to flesh out my worlds and scenes.
To that end, I try a lot of new foods, drinks, recipes and markets. I put a lot of strange stuff in my mouth. Some of it is delicious—some of it is retch-worthy. AND I WRITE ABOUT ALL OF IT.
I wander through textile stores on weekends and touch all the things. I rub in on my inner forearm, my check, and my neck. Furs, faux furs, leathers, cottons, blends, satins, weaves, and so on. AND I WRITE ABOUT ALL OF IT.
I walk into apothecary shops to taste and smell. I invite strangers into conversations. I get on the bus and people watch for hours in the city, with no destination in mind. I take photos of people at the beach. I loiter in the library for hours and make notes on the books people are checking out, and how they observe me in the corner, spying. I wander through Goodwill, and assemble outfits for my characters. I jump out of airplanes. I stop at the rock shop at that little beach town on the coast and pick up all the pretty stones and give them jobs in my scenes. I book short trips to places I’ve never seen. AND I WRITE ABOUT ALL OF IT.
Input. Input. Input. I am alive. I need input. All these details and inputs I’m gathering, cataloging, storing—becomes story-ing.
Hence the phrase on my business card:
Inhale Life, Exhale Story.
My commitment to my Muse is that I live big, and boldly, and often messily. I gather data. I ask a lot of questions. I make notes of hypotheticals, ponderances, curiosities.
In turn, she (my Muse) gets to adventure this world with me. She’s with me when I’m at the textile store, or skydiving. She’s with me when I’m drinking a new wine or flirting with the bartender. She’s right there when I’m wandering the jagged coastline searching for mermaids, and gathering shells. She’s even with me on all my worst dates. She is living vicariously through all my discoveries and experiences.
So when we sit down together, as partners, and I place my hands on the keyboard, tuck my legs up under my body and disconnect from this world—Aria blooms under my fingertips.
Vast spaces open up between this world and the next, and in those gaps characters emerge, conflicts abound, and adventure beckons. And all those scenes are fleshed out with everything I have tasted, touched, smoked, or swallowed, everything I have ached from, yearned for, bled on, laughed at, been broken by, lifted from, reached for, and have been inspired to express because it feels so very real.
Sometimes reality and my imagination cross over. They can get tangled and woven because so much of my life is put in my work. It takes time to come out of a writing binge and unpick reality so I can function as a normal human being again. This can be hard for people to be around; especially if I go straight from a heavy writing session to lunch with friends, I can be really disoriented for an hour or more.
But hot damn, was it fun while I was in there! Being plugged in is like flying! Even the hard stuff can be a total blast.
So you see, the commitment doesn’t end with just being open to the mystery and the discovery. The commitment doesn’t end with putting your butt in the chair to pour it out all out. The commitment is a life choice. It’s a way of living, for me anyway.
This life choice means I have a flourishing, co-creative relationship with my pipeline to creativity and I live accordingly. By nurturing this energy, I can rely upon it to support me whenever I sit down to work. By keeping this relationship fed and secure, I have total faith and trust in the power of the connection. It goes both ways.
A Muse is not there only at your whim, and to treat her as such means she’ll just move along.
She does not just make appearances when it’s convenient for you, say on Saturdays between 10am and 3pm. You either make her a part of your life, a part of your tribe—or she will run off with the cute painter down the road.
Respect her time. Listen to what she says, her voice is an equal element in your work and life, whichever field you are working in. Support her needs, and she will support yours. Make time to be alone with her. Make time to show her your world. Make time to play, adventure, and enjoy one another. Then when the inspirations start pouring in…get a notebook and pay attention.
Many of the writers in the groups that believe in blockages have habitualized those blockages. They have fortified those blockages so well, and cling to them so tightly that nothing is getting in. They must be dismantled from the inside out—and by dismantle, what I really mean is recognizing they are fictitious, and they will simply crumble.
FEAR. False Evidence Appearing Real.
Those blockages are fear.
This is the part that confuses me about blockages in creativity. What the actual fuck is there to fear about unlimited creativity?
Unlimited potential. Wow. Seems unreal, right? Except it isn’t. It’s totally achievable, and a mega ton of fun to boot.
So, moral of the story. Have fun. Play. Be sensual. Be creative. Be a good partner. Be curious. Be hungry. Be open. Be adventurous. Be loose.
All you have to do to “snag” a Muse is be living your life, and be open to the ideas that come. And once you’ve piqued her curiosity with your laughing, smiling, joy…she’ll scoot in closer, snuggle up against you at the keyboard and as you to tell her s story.
Then you just take a deep breath and prepare for an amazing ride.
Apologies for posting this a bit early. I'm about to be avalanched by three intersecting deadlines--so if I don't put the video out now, it might not get posted until summer. So, here are the goings on in The Elder Glade and beyond for winter 2019/2020. I will try to back fill into the gap next video.
The previous seasonal videos made for patrons can be found in the gallery.
As the videos on my VLOG come out about my transformation there are some things to cover.
I have not always been clueless about beauty routines and polished speaking performance. Those skills are way back in the old pool—the archive, so to speak. They are perishable skills, however, and I’m a long way gone from having those memories or practices handy. This remodel will hopefully pull some of those old skillsets to the foreground so I can remember how to use them. Something as simple as being able to twist the curling iron the correct direction while looking in a mirror—who knew that was a perishable skill? Or speak at a podium without chewing my lipstick off.
The fun fact about hermitage is that you get all the focus time you want and need. My time in the wild has done exactly what I needed it to—anchored, re-wired, gave me inspiration, peace, and tremendous amounts of personal joy and fulfillment. In doing all that, I also dropped skillsets, habits, and practices that would have kept me in an old frame of mind. I needed a new, fresh, unencumbered way to think and write.
To that end, I really stopped paying any attention to my face or body. I made minimalism look extravagant. Living fully in the riotous joy of spirit and creativity meant, not caring a fig what I looked like while doing so.
Coming back to the real world is heart-wrenching, scary and exciting all at the same time. I did my first video and got the first real look at myself on camera after a three-year hiatus from care. Wow. I look like I’ve been living with wolves, really chubby wolves. Chubby wolves with no concept of moisturizer.
On the bright side, I’m in such rough shape it should be easy to see progress fairly quickly, so, small blessings. I know, appearance is such a shallow metric—I don’t disagree. But bringing forth the interior lightning to wear on my external persona will, I think, add a whole new level of maturation to my evolving human story. So, I’m looking forward to what the end result will be.
There used to be a time in my life when I was comfortable in a slinky red evening gown at a black-tie dinner on a Friday night, then camping in my Sorrels and the mud on a Saturday night. I didn’t struggle switching back and forth. Then I mostly fell into the camping in the mud and it’s been three years. I’m not sure I’d even remember which fork to use at a fancy dinner.
October 2020 will reveal the transition from inner to outer—and I’ll go from there.
The questions I’ve been getting are inevitably around my hermitage. Sequester was a choice. I have made efforts to actively participate in human interactions at least three times a week. Part of that was to ensure I wouldn’t isolate to detriment. I can easily lock into my imagination and forget to come up for air.
These are the most common questions about my situation.
“Don’t you get lonely?”
Not really. I have a fabulous extended community to reach out to when I need connection. I have a house full of animals, and a forest full of creatures. I also have a brain packed with twelve books worth of imaginary characters who visit frequently. Right, Liam?
On the rare occasion that I do get lonely—rarely. I make a call to catch up with a friend, or go into town.
“Don’t you need internet or cell phone service?”
Yes, and no. I need internet to put my work on line, and manage my communications—but I drive to town to handle that. I need internet on a functional level—but I don’t need the internet to feel connected. I certainly don’t need the time sink that is sitting for hours on end surfing aimlessly at filler videos when I should be getting chapters written.
Do I miss aimless surfing? Hell yes. But giving up internet access in home has allowed me to write four new books. I miss streaming services for television and movies, that I truly miss.
No cell service is a bummer for sure, especially in the world of texting and snapchat when I want to touch bases with people I love. But a landline works, and gets the connection job done.
“How do you live without electricity?”
I have electricity. I have all modern amenities minus cell phone signal and internet. Oh, and cable. And before anyone asks, yes I also have running water and flushing toilets.
“How do you date or meet people if you live that far out?”
I don’t date, but not because of distance. That’s a whole other post for another time, but part of it does tie into the very nifty filter of not having cell phone service. On the bright side, lack of cell access very quickly weeds out the non-contenders. It’s brilliant. Had I known the “I only know how to have a relationship by text” guys would be so easily deterred—I’d have dropped cell service even when I lived in the city. It’s been a huge relief not to have to deal with those fellas.
Still, lack of services and my distance are not actually what keep me from the dating pool. I’ll have to be well into my third glass of wine to have that conversation, though.
“What kind of wildlife do you have?”
I have a herd of elk that pass through the yard regularly. A racoon. Several obnoxious blue jays, hundreds of birds, including a large heron, and an eagle. There are trout and salmon in the creek, coyotes in the den up the ridge, a black bear down the road, and I’ve seen several wolves and a cougar as well.
This area also has beaver, pack rats, rabbits, deer, all sorts of squirrels and mice and gophers. There are nutria, mink, great Pacific Northwest lizards, garden snakes, newts/salamanders, and dozens of types of spiders and crawly critters.
“Would you ever live in the city again?”
Good question. I won’t say never. The beauty of being a writer is that I can do it anywhere. I choose to work out here because it’s peaceful and has minimal interruptions.
My options are always open. I don’t think I’ll ever willingly give this place up, that’s for sure. Even if I split time in a city—this will always be my sanctuary and retreat. It’s haven.
“What is your next big project at The Elder Glade?”
Putting in the new chicken coop and the bridge across the creek. Those are my big projects for the homestead this year. I may only get one or the other this spring and summer—but we’ll see.
After that it will be leveling land and planting the orchard. I’m really looking forward to the day I can pick my own peaches and eat them on the deck overlooking the water.
“What’s the hardest part of living out in the woods?”
There are constant new sets of challenges. Keeping the house and animals safe. Navigating Mother Nature’s curve balls (land slides on the road, storms ripping trees down onto the power line, critters causing structural damage, and so on).
Aside from the Mother Nature challenges, I think convenience of access to amenities has been the toughest. Being an hour from anything means you have to do all your big shopping in one trip. If I forget something, say, dishwasher soap. Then I get all the way home and realize it’s a two-hour round trip to go get it. So I try to keep a fully stocked supply cabinet. If I forget dishwasher soap, I throw together a powder mix of baking soda, and Borax to hold me over until my next trip to town. Worst case scenario, I run back to town…like if I forgot the limes for a margarita. That’s worth running back to town for, right?
Getting ready to set out on my nine month re-configuration. Stay tuned!
And while you're at it, check out some of Mabelyn Baladez's amazing body products at MB Botanicals.
It’s been a pleasure to watch you growing up these last few years. It’s been a privilege to watch your parents sort out the larger humanitarian questions and fundamental concepts around your spiritual and emotional education. You’re a beautiful young man, with a wicked dry sense of humor and a glowing compassionate heart. You. Are. A. Treasure.
What can I possibly say on the matter of becoming a good human being? What milestone is the metric to which that comparison will be made again and again as you go out and participate in the world at large?
I worry that claiming my version of “good” will imply all others are “not good” so from now on I won’t call it good or bad. I won’t intend male or female binary statements in the qualifier of the following, but will say instead; we are all, all of us, attempting to live our most noble lives and achieve our best character expressions with what we have been given or have learned.
The first step, I believe, is discovering and empowering your personal nobility, which is neither male nor female. It is neither good nor bad. It is however, yours and yours alone. It is specific to you. Some will call it honor. Be wary of that label, honor. It is steeped in toxic gender histories and a multiverse of religious interpretations. One person’s banner of honor is another’s claim to cruelty or oppression. (See honor killings, war, female sexual oppression, familial obligation, and so on—all falling under someone’s claim to honor).
Honor and personal nobility can be similar in nature, but your personal nobility is self-made. It is neither inherited, or absorbed by conditioning. Neither is it subject to the control dynamics of others, or the baggage of obligation. It is yours, designed by you, practiced by you, owned entirely by your own will. Personal nobility is able to evolve, learn and stretch to include those new learnings. Honor can be rigid, breakable, and it is often flawed by near-sighted logic failure.
Another way to look at the difference is that personal nobility requires questioning, upkeep, and at the very least occasional evaluation from which new personal revolutions emerge.
It should also be mentioned that while someone may attempt to impugn your honor or place value statements on what they believe your honor should be—no one can impugn your personal nobility, save you. You are the only judge and measure by which your nobility is quantified.
It is similar to integrity. It is inherently intertwined with the fabric of your character and will, if you choose, never be totally separate from your decisions, actions, and the weight of your convictions. The answers will always be what you can or cannot live with. What you can or cannot abide by. What you can or cannot affiliate yourself with. What you can or cannot own to be a part of.
So now you’ve got Personal Nobility, your molten metal core. Now what?
I’d like to tell you the world is a safe and peaceful place. Instead, I will tell you it is magical, dynamic, exhilarating, terrifying, and gloriously inconsistent. It is breathtakingly diverse, magnificently unpredictable, and there is nothing quite like drawing breath each morning and knowing the profound gratitude of having this blue planet playground to explore. What are you waiting for?
With personal nobility as your axis of gravity, all else is moving. There is no right or wrong moment to engage, except those dictated by your core. The complexity of this world is so fierce, so passionately interwoven—it is nearly impossible to take a step, draw a breath, or blink in the rain without causing an action upon the quantum reality in which you are trying to become fully realized—so the trick to being a human….is to remember that we are all human. We are all in a perpetual state of becoming.
I’ll step inside here to say, as a writer I get to bring a million types of characters to life with my words. I get to paint with broad, flat strokes the images we think we humans make—but the truth is, humans are so immensely complex, so infinitely faceted, that you could spend a thousand summers trying to understand them, and they will still surprise you in the most unexpected ways. Some will break your heart with cruelty, and others will destroy you with raw beauty—and you may end up thanking them both in the end. See? Unpredictable.
I can only say from my own experiences, but in matters of human complexity my experiences with evil, bigotry, -isms, hatred, xenophobia, and all the darker aspects that we are both capable of, and exposed to simply by being—do not stem from a vacuum of goodness. No, they exist, flourish, even thrive on fear.
Fear seems to be the inception point where the darkest qualities of humanity emerge and wreak havoc on communities, evolution, relationships, nations, and the greater part of our shared collective experience. Fear is the primordial goo in which our primitive selves have still not learned to grow legs and walk. You could say fear is the root of all evil—but I would argue that it is the stew of all HUMAN darkness.
You are not exempt. I am not exempt. No one is exempt from fear. It may manifest as narcissism. It may show itself as violence. It may bloom into being through control dynamics, toxic behavior patterns, and oppression. You have the capability of being in fear, and the capacity to spread fear.
The antithesis of fear is love.
Love may be the most courageous thing you will do in your entire life.
Loving even those people who don’t seem to deserve it, is an act of courage.
Now, let’s be clear—loving those foul bastards who commit grievances, acts of cruelty, fear, and violence—loving them doesn’t mean you have to invite them over for brunch and serve them on your best china. I mean, it might. That’s up to you. It’s a call your inner nobility will make.
What I mean by loving those who do us injury is, not reflecting their fear back to them.
Does that make sense? Love in the most powerful acceptance of totality is knowing they are flawed, terribly, awfully, pitifully so—and not letting that knowledge rip you up inside. It’s about not letting their torment in. Love them but LOVE YOURSELF MORE, and they will take their fear and go elsewhere. Reflecting their hate, or fear, or violence will make them more powerful, like condensing a sunbeam through a magnifying glass onto an ant---only you’d be the ant and you wouldn’t even know it.
That same reflection process can be used in love and acceptance for a similar, often more potent effect.
How you ask? Well, I’ll let you know when I get that part nailed down. See? I’m still human, still working on my process too. I still yell at the asshole who cuts me off in traffic—so, all I can say on the matter is it’s a theory in progress, but the greater practice as a whole shows exciting promise.
I will tell you this though, the part about love being the most courageous thing you will ever do—that part is 100% true. Strangely, one of the most difficult people to love is ourselves. How odd, right? I mean, we are wired for survival—and love is part of survival. We need love, and yet the vast majority of this human population secretly (or not so secretly) loathes their own company. Most people hate their body, their hair, their voice, their actions. How heartbreaking. We live in fear of ourselves, and reflect that fear upon anyone and everyone in our immediate circle.
I might go so far as to say the most radical act of courage left on this planet is genuine self-acceptance and love. Even I don’t have that courage yet, but writing to you makes me realize I need to get on that.
Love in romance, partnership, community, family, and friends. Love for your world, your animal companions, the stars and the sky, the oceans and forests—it all has the ability to blow your mind. The first time you stare into a person and see them, really see them, and love them for all their flawed imperfections, in fact, because of their imperfections—the first time you fall into that kind of love it’s like seeing the face of divinity. If you don’t believe in god/goddess—that moment might make you question what infinity really is.
Perhaps the answer is that love IS divinity? But we’ll wax long and theological someday when you’re old enough to have a dram with me and ponder the nature of totality.
Until then, I truly wish you the greatest adventures on the quest for your own answers around the living expressions and experiments in Fear and Love. I wish you compassion, curiosity, an open-heart, and a willing spirit. Good luck, Firefly.
As to any nuggets for the journey I will throw in these gifts from my teachers.
Learn and understand the differences between moral, ethical, and legal. Your inner nobility may look like an elaborate knotwork between them all. You make your own lines. They are yours to draw now. That’s what becoming an adult human is. You draw your lines, live in those lines, then reevaluate and draw them again.
Ethics uphold the rights and autonomy of all involved to the best possible degree.
Morals should be ethical, but often are not. IE: It was once morally acceptable to own and keep slaves. It was also legal, because the moralists who believed in slavery, legislated it. But it was never once, even in the smallest fraction ethical. See?
And you would think that legal would be both moral and ethical, but it is not always the case. The law has a lag time, and is often affected by moral judgements or honor pronunciations of religious affiliations that are long out of date. IE: It was once legal for a man to beat or rape his wife—it was also morally acceptable. But it never was, nor will it ever be ethical.
Knowing the differences in these codes will help you define your own. You get to be the one who decides if you are moral, legal, or ethical so long as you keep in mind you are working with humans, and we are all trying to get to a better version of ourselves. We don’t have it all sorted just yet. Be patient. Work on your own nobility, and let others design theirs.
In the words of my old DM in the RPG group I played with. “You’re either lawful, chaotic, or neutral. Unless you’re Athena, who decided to write in ‘None of the Above’.”
To be fair, I think the exact wording on my character sheet was, “N/A. These over-simplified tropes fail to accommodate for the complexity of character range in a myriad of complicated opportunities. I refuse to be forced into a cardboard character profile…” Or some such similar rubbish like that.
Anyhoo, the point I’m trying to make is this:
You are not only one or the other. You are not only this or that. There is no you or them. You are a human, and therefore contain multitudes. You become what you do. You become what you say. Your actions define your character, over and over again, and your character is defined by the nobility you design for yourself. You do the best you can as often as you can. And when you can’t, you don’t. Then you try again the next day.
You’ll mess up. We all do. I mess up all the time. I lose my temper or get scared and snarly.
Say you’re sorry, and try to do better—that alone will put you miles and decades ahead.
The good or bad of it is only what you allow yourself to own, and what you resolve to improve upon.
When you leave your parents’ home, you can no longer claim their nobility or flaws as yours. When you join society as an independent, you can no longer blame, shame, or give away your responsibilities.
That part when you pick up your own baggage and make your own way…that’s the part when you get to decide if you are a good/bad/ man/woman/person or N/A.
Adulthood is only earned when you realize you can’t blame your upbringing anymore. Adulthood is only earned when you step out from what you were taught, and decide for yourself what the answer should be—then remake yourself accordingly. That might mean making amends, apologies, or requests for forgiveness. Adulthood happens when you are grateful for what you were given, appreciate the foundation upon which you were begun—but you’re ready to take the human story farther than those before you were ready or able.
Your journey into adulthood begins, but it may take years for you to realize the feeling of being “adult”. In the country we live in, boys and girls are sent to fight and die in wars declared by men who’ve never bled. Adulthood isn’t stamped upon you with an age verification license, and access to a military grade semi-automatic rifle.
Adulthood is granted when you ask, think, question, and consciously CHOOSE for yourself. Others might not agree with your choice—it is yours all the same, and your right to it just as sacred. The right or wrong of the choice, the good or bad of it—that’s for your nobility and the ethics committees to sort out. The point is, adulting is making the decisions and standing prepared for the feedback.
Adulting is actively exercising your autonomy. Good or bad is up to you. I happen to know you, and have utter faith in your version of what good means, so I won’t lecture on that. Know you have my confidence, and you also have my respect and compassion when that goodness tilts or wobbles, because it might. I will adore you anyway, and your community will help you sort out a wobble if it happens. As hard as it is for some people to be honest about, I will be blunt and say—humans wobble. It is part of the journey.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten all the important things. I’m guessing I’ll think of something suitably useful and marginally brilliant only after I hit the send button, but that’s just how these things go, I guess. I hope you’re able to find some of this useful. Keep what works, and discard the rest. You know how to reach me for chats when there’s more talking to be had. I’m part of your community, always.
Perfection is overrated, and often at the expense of originality. Aesthetic beauty can be bought. That which is genuine has no price. Compassion and forgiveness neutralize nearly all inner turmoil. Dreams and visions are just realities that have yet to materialize for those who will love them into being. So, keep dreaming, keep loving.
And at the end of the day, this Universe is spiraling toward entropy—so don’t take it all so fucking serious. The joke is totally on us. Enjoy the ride.
Good luck to you, Firefly. Thank you for being ready and willing to take on the world for us who have so blithely bungled the whole of it. On behalf of all of us, I’m sorry for the mess you’re inheriting. That being said, I hope with all my heart you find the adventure of a lifetime in the process.
Summer has blown past like a train that missed the station, but here are some updates about the goings on in my little pocket universe.
Summer is the season I work my ass off at the restaurant so that I can take time off in the winter to write. So usually, there’s not a lot of writing time in the summer weeks. However, I have been burning the midnight hours (and lots of wine) on getting Plague of Gargoyles ready for beta. Somehow with all the mad crush of season, I was able to compile a working V.1. I can’t even express what a relief this is. Sure, it’s the dreck draft, but going into the writing season with a block draft will make this winter so much more productive. Hopefully, Plague of Gargoyles will go out to beta readers in November or December, so I can put Tangle of Mermaids on the V.1 track to beta by summer next year.
With all that being said, I also went a little nutty after a few glasses of wine and began remodeling my character files, and organizing my world notes. There’s something to be said about late nights of drunken casting, sifting through celebrity photos and rebuilding character sheets. So. Much. Fun.
I’m dearly looking forward to sharing my hopeful casting notes with prospective producers. Let’s just hope they understand my wine-laced vision board notes….
The Elder Glade Cottage Stead
Most of June and July were so unseasonably wet and muggy that the growing time for many of the garden plants just never got enough light or heat. The tomatoes are still about the same size as they were eight weeks ago. Other plants molded from the rain and gray. However, the roses loved it.
Mister Lincoln, the rose variety that features heavily in The Pillars of Dawn books, specifically in Murder of Crows, finally bloomed. Three years ago I’d decided to plant several of the roses that grow in Auntie Celeste’s garden, so I could bask in the inspiration that is her special zen. Mister Lincoln was one of the first roses I planted, but each season I was sure I’d killed him. He never really took off…until this year. Suddenly, as everything else was dying under the muggy gray sky, Mister Lincoln shot up five feet and declared one perfect flower, as if to say, “I’m here! Don’t give up on me!”.
And he was so worth the wait. It was like a little hello from Auntie Celeste, a nod and a smile and her voice saying, “Mr. Lincoln sends his regards.”
Also on the list of successful plantings were several quarts of raspberries, a pound of fresh rhubarb, and a mountain of herbs from pineapple sage, to mint, rosemary, and thyme, dill, and fennel. Still to be harvested, dried or frozen. I even managed a small harvest of baby potatoes, before the ducks destroyed the remainder of the plants (will put the potatoes in raised beds next year).
The black Cherokee corn, and the lilies are doing well. And in a week or so I will have the first blooms from a dahlia bulb that was a gift from my neighbor.
So, this mixed bag of summer growing output has been a good learning experience of what I need to alter to create a more vibrant landscape that can weather many climate variables. All the more delicate plants, the peppers, tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, and peas all shriveled in the gray damp summer.
The new chicken coop has been framed. All the wood is old or was donated by friends and neighbors. I hope to get it done before the rains, but if not, I’ll be looking to re-home the birds, as I refuse to keep them in the small coop for the winter. That’s just not fair to them. If it comes to that, I’ll start over on a new flock in the spring.
Along with the wood donated for the coop, a friend has donated the lumber for me to create a bridge over the creek. I’m so excited about this! Once the rains come I’m not able to forge the water to the land on the other side, so nothing gets done to the property on the south bank until spring. Hopefully with a bridge, I’ll be able to do some work across the water on nice days in the winter.
All in all, it’s still baby steps, but finally after three years, the land is beginning to feel like it’s establishing itself. There are signs of flourishing, sporadic, and irregular—but there none the less.
Thank you for tuning into the mid-month update. Next month I hope to have photos of the grow site, and news on some upcoming sculpting projects scheduled for winter.
I will also update on the planning for upcoming creativity workshops.
My Dearest Athena,
Happy forty-first birthday! Or as Traci would say, “Forty-(w)Onderful!”
Finally, the number bar rolled over the forty counter and leveled on the new path. There has been a lot of transformation in the last few years. This year alone has seen the launch of a new business, another book on the market, and changes around the homestead. You let go of some of your oldest friendships. You faced an inner demon, and won. Then you let go of some old, outdated ideas about yourself, and began a new evolution.
You could wax on about all the things you hope to achieve in the next year, or all the tidbits you’ve discovered the hard way along the path—but this year…this 41st Note to Self is all about wishing.
This year you have wishes to give away. This year the Note to Self is about spreading the joy.
For your birthday, you decided to give away forty-one wishes to strangers and friends.
If you, dearest reader, are reading my annual Note to Self—we are wishing these things for you. Take what you desire, and give the rest away. Keep the wishes that are meaningful to you, and let the rest drift off into the great unknown. Print them out. Read them as many times as you like. Share the wishes you hope to carry close to your heart so that those who love you can support your dream.
To whomever you are, fellow traveler on this wildwood path, we wish for you a blissful, abundant, fulfilling year. May you know love, safety, joy, health, wealth, and freedom.
Dearest Athena, on this 41st Note to Self, you have finally let go of the ruminating of annual failures.
Congratulations! How liberating. What took so long, eh?
This year your roots are finally deep enough and your branches stable enough to spread. Your face is turned up to the sky, and the sense of a great unfurling is building.
I think we both have the sensation that this time next year, the game will be completely different. What a delicious taste in the air.
Go forth this year, my friend. Party on. Build. Laugh. Smile. And write…always write.
P.S. Refresh your travel luggage and passport, you’re going to need it.
When people hear my story and the reasons why I’ve chosen to live in the woods and write, the long litany of challenges that make up the daily average in my chosen field—they ask why.
Why do this to yourself?
Believe me, I ask myself that question all the time. I ask, but then, I already know the answer.
I do it because I love it. It’s tough to explain to someone who doesn’t love something or someone as much as I love telling these stories. I go to bed thinking about these books. I dream about them in the night reverie. I wake up thinking about them. I stare at the storyboard while I brush my teeth, drink my coffee, and dress. I puzzle over character issues as I drive to work, serve beer to customers, and then drive home. I ponder plot points while I feed the chickens, and water the garden. I rehearse dialog while I’m puttering around the kitchen, or folding laundry.
I live out in the boonies so I can have uninterrupted creative space. The phone rarely rings. I get visitors once in a blue moon. My freedom to disconnect from the real world, and plug into the world of The Pillars of Dawn is limitless. I chose this life because I love it so much. I live small so I can give more to my work.
Gone are my days of city living, night clubs, boomerang relationships, relationships of convenience, and electric neon metropolitan barely controlled chaos. Now my days are spent between work, and doing what I love. There is still tweaking to be done in that equation, but my connection to the writing grows stronger each season.
When people ask why, what they really mean is: why try so hard? Why give up all the modern conveniences? Why hurt yourself to achieve the dream? Why not just make the changes asked and be accepted into the literary world easily?
The short answer is…I’m stubborn. The long answer is…I love it enough to hurt myself to make it happen in the true shape and emotional intent by which it is being entrusted to me. Ergo, I know it’s just a matter of time—because my heart is in it, and my teeth and claws are dug in tight—if I have to drag it over the finish line with my last breath, so be it. I hope it doesn’t come to that, obviously, but I am prepared to fight long and hard if need be. It’s hard to explain to people who haven’t created something what it feels like to be responsible to characters, a message, and stories that aren’t even real. That responsibility to give your characters the best chance at representation, a running start in the world, a chance to be seen as they are asking to be seen. It’s tough to explain to people why you are prepared to fight for a character, a story that hasn’t yet drawn full breath or manifested into a shared reality.
For now, that fight means living a little off-grid life in the woods and putting the bulk of my focus on the next book, the next arc, the next point of development and so on. It means earning a paycheck as a waitress, and getting by on a small income so my expenses are low. It means squaring my shoulders for conversations with managers and prospective agents about holding my ground on the gender balance of my series. It means being willing to say “thank you, but you’re not the right fit for my books” to those who insist on compromising the core message, even if they’re in a position to snap their fingers and make publishing miracles happen if I would only bend on that one topic.
I’d gladly bend on a two dozen other topics, reasons, expectations, requests and needs. Gladly. Happily. Brilliantly. I would be delighted to work with all other topics and suggestions. Until then, I can only keep working, writing, building, creating and getting ready for that phone call wherein the topic of gender representation is not a focus of the re-write requests.
That day is coming. The world has changed a lot in the last decade of rejections. The awareness of the female voice and story is maneuvering into the light. The best thing I can do to support my series right now is to keep writing.
Keep going. Keep pushing, even when I’m exhausted. Even when it means picking up another part time job to pay bills. Even when it means I’m behind on all the things—keep writing.
It looks like masochism from the outside. I can totally understand why people wonder why I do it to myself. I get it. Who pushes that hard for so long when giving up would be so much easier? A decade of “no”, a decade of rejections.
Ten years is a long time. One can get completely worn down in a decade of what feels like perpetual failure.
But then…I stand in front of my storyboard and stare at my character profiles and I remember why I’m doing this. I love it. I love these characters. I love the world of The Pillars of Dawn. I have a responsibility to them and to the readers. I get to live art-fully when they breathe.
I get to write about the Muses every day. It’s a privilege. It’s a joy. And I’ll keep doing it so long as the Muses continue empower my pen. How many of us get to say they do what they truly love to do?
Choose your story.
Trust your story.
Bring justice to your story.