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
As I’ve officially hit the edge of the map on my previous experiences, and everything I’m picking up now is new information, skills and practices—I’ll be honest. It’s really uncomfortable. Exciting, sure. But definitely not comfortable.
Is growth every really comfortable?
One of the most surprising things I’m currently struggling with is my weight and measure. I don’t mean, like body image weight, I mean like NEED/EXPECTATION weight. Even more so---I don’t actually KNOW what my measure is, because I’ve never been here. It’s nearly impossible to gauge my volume. Am I too loud? Too soft? Too wide? Too loaded? Too heavy? Conversely, am I too slow? Not enough? Lagging? Outdated?
I can’t tell if I’m too far ahead or lumbering behind, because I haven’t locked into anything stable yet.
I can’t tell. I have zero frame of reference for my voice outside my own head, or how the acoustics of what I’m asking for resonates with others. I don’t know where I am in relation to other things, ideas, people, tasks, or workload. Evidently, this is what happens when you’ve isolated for too long, built a massive project, then try to re-emerge into the world with an unwieldy behemoth and rusty social skills.
Am I being obnoxious? Probably. I won’t know until I learn my own form of temperance under these new rules. Do I dare slow down when I have this level of momentum, though? Not really. I know me well enough to know the momentum will hit its own wall in its own time, so best to use this hard burn creation space while it’s available—and just hope I don’t burn any of my new collaborators out with the force of the escape velocity push.
It feels a bit like I imagine G-force might be as I know I need to leave the woods—but the gravitational pull here is super powerful, so only a hard hot burn is going to break the lock and re-orient my view. In the process I’m yelling over the sound of engines, and my bones are rattling, shaking off old habits and toxic relationships. The timeline is crushing, falling away behind me, and while I’m shouting directions, there’s a soft voice in the helmet earpiece.
“You don’t need to scream over the rockets. I can hear you just fine through the mouthpiece. Yes, the view is glorious. I see it, too.” There’s a pause. “You’re going to be okay, Athena. Stop clenching. For the love of God, breathe.”
I’ve picked a few people I believe will give me boundaries when needed, and I’m just going at whatever volume I have the energy for and when they tell me to stop—I’ll divert or correct. Simply, because I don’t have the time or energy to guess where and what is acceptable quantity outside the forest bubble. Relying on people to use their healthy boundaries while I learn the edges of the new territory is a whole new exercise in trust. I don’t want to hurt anyone with my clumsy fumbling or mass.
I’ve always worked alone. My speeds are either teleporting wormhole lightspeed OR garden slug with very little regulation in between. But now that I’m working with others, collaborating, I need to learn to find their rhythms, cues and tempos. I’ve always been lead on my own dance floor.
So this… this trying to pace and process others’ timing is—weird. I keep tripping over my own feet, stumbling on words, forgetting what I was about to do or say because I’m trying to slow down to be a good partner to people offering assistance.
While there is a version of myself who is twenty years younger who’d say, step gently, wait, be cautious and tiptoe in. Wait to be given tasks. Wait to be invited, etc. I also know that is the surest way to lose any and all momentum, and to embed a system of non-authentic interactions. Waiting to be invited to speak is the fastest way to be eclipsed out of your own build.
I’m a creator, we don’t sit around waiting for permission to manifest. Timelines, yo. Timelines and places to be.
I’ve had the bountiful luxury of six years of uninterrupted creative build time out here in the hinterlands to put together a project with a scale that I find downright thrilling. It’s been a blast. That said, I starved myself of all the other wonders of an enriched life in order to meet the goal, set the mission up for success.
My social skills and niceties got rusty. My ability to anticipate other’s steps grew stagnant. I’m slower to recognize cues.
I guess what I’m saying is, that when you go beyond what is familiar, the learning curve of your new belonging needs a compassionate and patient re-adjustment period. I’m trying very hard not to be someone else’s problem or burden; constantly re-evaluating and second-guessing my asks. Then I realize I cannot set the edges yet; the edges have to be defined by me running into them. If I guess at edges, I’ll end up creating blockages where there were none.
Again, it will come to trust that others will recognize this stage is temporary…then politely, move any fine China out of my stumbling reach and offer a few thoughtful re-directing boundaries for my orientation.
Anywhoo, this is an unexpected part of the re-emerging and growth process. There has been a slew of ego deaths in my life recently, one right after another. This is just part of the new ego birthing. A friend kindly said something like, “Don’t worry about your energy right now. You’re like a puppy putting everything in its mouth. You’ll figure out what’s safe to eat, and who is safe to love, eventually. Welcome back to the real world, Athena. We missed you these last six years.”
So yeah, what she said. Thank you all for your patience, and for moving anything fragile out of my reach until the wave settles. So much love.
As I make alterations to The Life Erotic: Week Three and begin the adaptation process, I wanted to post this little tidbit for all you twin flame lovers out there.
I dreamt of you again, yet I was wide awake— the most pleasant waking entanglement to date.
You found me this week. I’m not sure how, because I’ve been under the belief, we’re of different timelines, eras possibly. I felt you stumble into my perception. You were as surprised to be there as I was to feel you, and still it was like a homecoming.
I spent Monday in the languid indulgence of your touch. You kissed me like a man restraining his own starvation, too blasted by the wonder of discovery to risk devouring. It was charming, so I gratefully melted into you.
I went about my day, building as I do, and you were there, in my blood, in my breath, nuzzling the corner of my smile. You are warm, beloved. So warm. You have so much to give, an overabundance of generosity. Several times throughout the day, I closed my eyes and let you wander through me. You moved through my ribs, tickling like fingers on a fretboard, fluttering my pulse until I hummed.
You fulfilled me, when all my life I’ve imagined myself already complete. Then, one touch from you and I am home when I never knew I’d been lost. All day Monday, I was held by you. Adored. Cherished in a way I have no former frame of reference for, and it was divine.
You cradled me from inside my own skin.
It would be easy to claim false imagination. It would be wiser to say daydream, less recrimination in that. But I write worlds, I build in quantum potentialities—it’s my job. So, I am less inclined to call this marvel of our encounter a whimsical fantasy, but more of a promise of more to come. Timelines shift. Cosmos drift. Magic occurs in the magnus all around, whether we are aware of it or not.
I was delightfully aware of you, and you of me, and we shared a lovely day entangled in blissful energetic harmonics.
One full day, from sun-up until the moment I crawled into bed that night, you lived in my sinew. I had memory of you on my tongue as I slipped toward sleep, though I had not met your flesh. I knew the tone of your voice, the resonance of your baritone music in my frame. I slept like a woman who’d traveled galaxies in a moment.
And when I woke the next morning, you were not gone so much as embedded. Perhaps a better word would be amalgamated into me. Or was I absorbed into you? I’m not sure, exactly. I only know I felt taller on Tuesday morning. I woke feeling stronger and more resolved.
I woke feeling connected to something much bigger, more expansive… eternal, if you will. And I can only pray I was able to do the same for you.
Thank you, beloved, for reminding me of this magic that is us. Sometimes, I lose sight of the possibilities. Sometimes I get hooked into the present world of fear and forget the timelessness of your touch. Sometimes the reminder of our infinite dance is all I need in order to stack another row of days into a week, so I can continue building my bridge to you.
Now that I know we’re in the same timeline… I’m glowing with anticipation of more to come.
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.
Spring has finally made it. I was beginning to worry. It’s still near-freezing at night, too soon to put the starts out. But the seedlings are looking good! I can’t help but be excited about plans to grow more flowers this year. I’m even putting in a night blooming garden, so there will be yet more delights in the woods in the evening. SO MANY FLOWERS! (And yes, all but a handful are edible) This year’s garden will be epic.
At last, after a flurry of emails, pitches, and finance meetings, all I can do has been done. My efforts have all been planted and it’s time for me to go do my own thing again. Time to get back to my books, my characters, and the great story. Chapters piled up in my brain that were waylaid by the Hollywood dance. It was certainly fun— but distracting.
The Muses are calling. It’s time to get back to the page.
Along with the rewrites for the new publishing label launch and rebranding, I’ll be adding bridge chapters to Plague of Gargoyles and Tangle of Mermaids so I can shove them off my desk and into production. If all goes well, we’ll have a re-launch by the end of the year and two new releases in 2023.
I’m so ready for spring and summer. I’m ready to be sitting on the deck overlooking the woods, sipping margaritas and pounding out chapters. I’m ready to have my hands in the garden while I listen to audio edits of my drafts. I’m ready to lie on the bridge, dangle my feet in the creek and map story grids in the leafy canopy overhead. I am ready to drift in the hammock watching the stars and night blooming garden while I shuffle through audio tracks searching for the perfect sound files.
I’m just ready to tuck in and build. See you all on the other side.
I took a few weeks away from the entertainment business emails and discussions because, honestly, it was just a bit too much. It was a fairly stark reminder that my life has been at a comfortable snail pace out here in the wilderness for so long that I’ve forgotten how to move at a faster speed. I also realized I was so overwhelmed that I was reaching out for constant clarification, explanation, and likely just annoying those people who were trying to help me as I struggled to adapt. It was clear – that is not my world. I’m just a writer.
I stepped back to decide if I even want to BE a part of that world.
I tucked into my contract work, built my team, planted seeds for my garden, literally and figuratively. I cooked and cleaned and organized my space, then sat for many hours staring out at my wildwood and wondering what the best course of action is for my work.
Some changes really do need to be made on my end in order for The Pillars of Dawn to have the best possible footing if it’s going to transition from page to screen.
That I love these stories and these characters is obvious. I 100% believe in them. I also believe in the message of the novels, and in the layers of transformation they embody. When my days of staring out the window into the forest wrapped up, I sat back at my desk and got to work.
I was tasked by the producer to “go get some attachments”. I assumed it was because it would stop me from pestering him with questions, which I now see was really me trying to affirm that I had permission to do the things I’ve dreamt of doing with this project. The “Go get some attachments” was a polite way of saying, “figure it out, kiddo.”.
Ah. Figure it out, kiddo.
I realized how annoying I must have been by constantly needing permission or reassurance that “this is okay” or “that is okay”, etc. I’m not a give-me-permission kind of gal, so I was surprised by how hard this hit me, AND it reaffirmed why I couldn’t keep up, AND why I was having a hard time trying to adapt to a world that doesn’t feel like it’s made for me.
Because it’s not made for me.
Because I haven’t made it for me.
It’s all about decision. I hadn’t decided, so I was vulnerable to the tides. Once that piece clicked into place, I got mad, then I got busy. (Which is usually how I roll anyway when I want to get shit done.)
I started making phone calls, booking more pitches, lining up meetings with financiers, and reaching out to agents, managers, and talent groups. Much to legal’s chagrin, I just began bypassing the questioning step and sending out offer letters, and requests.
Goddamn, it felt soooo much better to just do it under my own steam rather than waiting for the consultant to agree, or waiting for the attorney to suggest, or waiting for the producer to imply. Waiting for permission is a sure ticket to feeling vulnerable and unworthy. Asking for permission is a sure ticket to announcing you don’t belong at the table.
I kept thinking, just fucking get it done so I can get back to writing.
So, on that note, I hired a polishing writer to snap my pilot into better shape (The most amazing Stacy Coffee!). I sent offer letters of intent to two performers who have verbally agreed to sign onto the project. I sent out 22 requests for attachment to agents and managers for my top choices for season one parts. Then I bypassed all the usual channels and booked my own meeting with a financier. I decided the best use of energy for the waiting periods would be to boost the brand and books into a better position of discoverability – so I wrote out a business plan and booked another appointment with a lending agency to shove The Pillars of Dawn into a marketing hurricane.
I also learned to make sourdough bread! How fun and yum is that?
When I mapped out the first season, and realized it could be oh, so much more, I also called the head of one of the largest media conglomerates in the industry to verify her address and in which format she’d like a proposal delivered. Then I sent an invitation to her.
Friend: Wait, you just called the CEO? Just like that.
Me: Well, I spoke with her assistant, but yes, I just called.
Friend: Wait, you just cold-called her?
Me: It’s a publicly listed number.
Friend: But… you can just do that? I mean what did she say?
Me: Well, yes, and I spoke to the assistant, and confirmed the delivery address. Why wouldn’t I have the right to call? Especially from one woman to another, I don’t need to ask to be able to call a public number, and she or her assistant can just politely say no thanks. It’s doesn’t need to be a drama. It’s a simple offer. No is acceptable. Instead, I got an address confirmation and a request.
While I’m sure that’s potentially annoying for the attorney, the truth is, what harm can actually be done? Any more harm than letting The Pillars of Dawn languish in development hell?
So, it really came down to deciding. I had to make the choice to want to move forward, more importantly, it needed to be in my own way, by my own methods, which seems to be somewhat intrusive to some and darn rookie-like to others – and that’s absolutely okay with me. I’m figuring it out as I burn through excel spreadsheets of names, emails, and numbers.
Long story short, too late, I’m no longer waiting for the greenlight, nor am I waiting for others to catch up. These stories are headed toward development on one train or another, and that’s that. The right collaborators will hop on board, and the stagnant old ways will simply bounce off. I don’t need to keep dancing around the “way we do it around here” because I’ve got shit to do, books to write and worlds to build. (And sourdough bread to bake)
I don’t know how or when it will come together, I just know it will – and there’s an enormous sense of peace and creative satisfaction in that knowledge. And as acceptance letters and requests come back, there’s a joy in staring at those notes. It’s like looking at all the seeds in your garden sprouting at the same time. It feels… abundant? Which is a weird word to use for it, but it’s true. There’s a sense of abundance as the responses, (even the rejections) roll in.
I’ve begun to imagine it and even think of it as a gardening project. Not all the seeds germinate, right? Not all the sprouts survive. But if you plant enough volume, and nurture the conditions, the garden flourishes. When I began to picture it this way, rather than a wasteland of questions and never-ending blockades of permissions… the whole project slide into a space of warm, bubbly excitement. I haven’t been this excited about possibilities since the beginning. I just needed to give myself the greenlight, and make room for others at my table – then the paradigm tipped upside down.
My dream for these stories has always been to deliver to a global audience that can see its own diversity, humanity, courage and potential reflected in the characters and transformations therein. I believe in people. I know right now that’s a struggle for some folx to say, but I still do. I believe in humanity’s power of creativity, inspiration and connection. I believe we are capable of more. I believe we desire to be free.
I stand with the Muses, and I’ll do what I can to push them onto a platform where we all have a chance to see ourselves overcome conflict and chaos through their expressions of love.
That’s an awfully long post to say, I finally made up my mind. Turning the light on over here, and hanging the shingle: Open for collaboration.
Come build with me, we have a world to redesign.
Winter is my writing season. I’m used to being a workhorse through the summer months so I can sit at my desk and tease out prose through the rainy months. I look forward to it all year. When the leaves turn and autumn creeps in, I start planning for Nanowrimo and then a three-month storyboard binge in my studio.
Not so much this year. This time around was deadline after deadline after hard push to meet the threshold of an unexpected set of opportunities. A girl does what she can, right?
I skidded into December with my hair on fire and a gnarly case of burnout. Then with a couple few days of rest I went right into pitch sessions, and haven’t stopped. My support system is really encouraging me to accept every invitation, send out every query – even the ones I know I’m probably not a fit for, because “You have to practice. It’s all practice for the real pitches. Say yes, and learn from it.” I mean, it’s not bad advice, as advice goes, but it is overwhelming when you’re not in the practice of being around people or being put on the spot.
Also, I still have books to write, and contractors and contracts to manage for my businesses – so it’s a lot of energy I’m not in the practice of giving. So much so that when Nanowrimo ended, and my first set of concept materials were out – I turned and looked at the mess that is my home. It was/is a horror show.
I’d dropped everything to meet the deadlines. Cleaning, cooking and basic maintenance fell to the back burner.
Empty Amazon boxes were piled by the door. I was out of clean laundry, even underwear. (Yes, Natalie, I’d already did the forward, backward inside-out trick and I was still out of underwear. PLUS, I’d purchased a bunch of skivvies just for Nanowrimo so I wouldn’t run out.) I stood looking at the mess my life had become while my hands were so full, and my brain was on overload.
That’s it. I’m over it. I grabbed the empty amazon boxes, the three bags of manuscript drafts, all the junk mail, and any empty packaging lying around and dragged it all out to the field. I lit it on fire (the recycle center is an hour away, and most of it wouldn’t fit in my little car anyway.) Once the fire was going, I ALSO TOSSED ON ALL MY UGLY PANTIES. Yes, anything I didn’t actually want to wash because I was already half a dozen loads of laundry in the rears, I just burned it all.
“Why do I have those panties? I don’t even like that pair… they ride up into my teeth” Toss ‘em.
“How many times can you bleach period underwear before it’s like, girl, just let them go?” Toss ‘em.
Add a few holy shirts (No, not the Mormon kind) and a pair of yoga pants that were worn a bit too thin in a few places.
And so went the next few weeks of catching up on cleaning, clearing, and making space. Building boxes to take to Goodwill, and dumping junk in the bins for the landfill. I’m still behind. I’m still overwhelmed. I’m still trying to get caught up on the last six months of rapid movement meets loss of all patterns and routines – but I’m getting there, slowly. I’m sourcing contractors, hiring support services, and scheduling out some resources to help re-position.
As I shift and re-settle, though, it’s becoming evident that this might be my new routine… for a while anyway. I’m realizing that what I was, and how I’ve been going about this last leg of the race isn’t going to work if I plan to move forward. A new structure needs to be put into place to build up and out on these incoming changes and this wonderful growth spurt.
They aren’t New Year’s resolutions, per say, but I’m finding that a week and some change into 2022 I’m all for, dump it, drop it, toss it, clear it out, and move it aside.
That goes for the second-hand dollar store flatware I’ve kept because I hate running out of clean forks. Wash a fork, Athena. Put down your manuscript edits and wash the forks. You don’t need to hold onto stuff because you THINK you’re buying yourself time to focus on writing.
The shift is going to have to happen on two fronts. 1) I can no longer clutter my life and energy with what is not adding to the fun or quality of the experience 2) That includes the de-cluttering of mental obsessive focus on my work that sidebars/derails/eliminates all other details from my frame of reference, including but not limited to: day to day upkeep and maintenance, wellbeing, and health routines, and yes – even romance.
It’s time to make space for fresh, delightful, and blissful experiences, patterns, and ideas.
New Year, new rules: Dump it, drop it, toss it, clear it out, and move it aside.
This includes releasing all relationships that are pulling my energy backward or down. Dump it. This includes midnight ruminations on crappy things I’ve said or done or wished I could have responded better to. Clear it. This includes ideas and thoughts that have kept me pinned to the old versions of myself that are no longer relevant. Drop it.
It’s radical. It’s the Swedish Death Cleaning version of my living space and my habits, and my thoughts.
Why? Because it’s long overdue. It’s so overdue, the library just called to say, “Fuck it. Keep the book, you’d paid for it with the fees.”
The funny thing is, I’m kind of over that book, and I’d like a new one, please. A fresh, new book.
So here we are, January 11, 2022, and I’m finally asking, “Athena, what book do you want now?”
It’s a completely different set of options this year. The truth is, I might like to browse a bit and enjoy the energy. There’s no rush. I just want to see what’s on the shelf… but in the meantime, I’m going to clear up a bunch of space so I have all the room to fit something new and lovely into the adventure.
Here’s to an exciting new year full of possibilities and wonderful new creative projects and builds. Huzzah!
Also, the bridge I made this summer survived the storm melt and runoff!! (I won the bet!!)
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,
It’s been a tremendous year. As an old version of yourself is dying, falling away to be replaced by a newer iteration, it’s time to check in.
I was born as the sweet corn was coming on and the first harvest wheat was making its way to silo. Many summer birthdays were spent first in the Rocky Mountains regions of roadside farm stands, fresh produce and corn shucking contests. One birthday I even spent with the fire department in Hyrum, Utah as they fought to extinguish my sister’s house fire despite the exploding ammo storage. (The firefighters kindly shared my birthday pizza and cake after the house was saved. Well, mostly saved.)
Then in later years in Alaska, my birthdays were spent standing hip-deep in Prince William Sound, catching my salmon limit in six casts followed by hikes into the wild where I pondered never returning to civilization.
It wasn’t until my late twenties that I ventured into alcohol and thus spent the next decade of birthdays swigging fine Scotches, sampling new whiskies, and making the exotic dessert birthday rounds. Some of those desserts were even food, or at the least they were usually wearing something edible….
Nowadays, it seems birthdays slip right on by. I’m only reminded by whichever social media platform I actually used my real birthdate to register, that I am in fact getting older. As if my drooping jawline and plumper corners, even the anti-gravity super lift on my over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder were not reminder enough.
I don’t mind the crows’ feet. Truly. I wouldn’t trade my smile lines in for all the money in the world. I don’t even mind the strip of white hair that’s filling my right temple when I’m too busy to dye. I do however, take deep offense to the random long black chin hair that wasn’t there the night before but upon waking realize it has sprouted like a fucking Gorgon scalp and overtaken my face. I guess I should be grateful, it’s trying to hide my growing double-chin.
Time gets us all, right? So, when the reminder pops up on Facebook, or my Google account, it gives me a chance to ask myself if I’m happy where I am or if I need to make changes.
Did I improve upon myself this year?
Did I improve upon my world?
It’s a simple test, really. Two questions to gauge my annual metric.
I still crave August shooting stars, fresh corn in salty garlic butter, handmade ice cream and the county fair. I still look for new imports to tempt my palate; whiskey, that is—not men…mostly. I still hunger for fresh salmon baked on alder planks and Alaskan summer evenings of the midnight sun. All these are the joys of being a late summer birthday baby. When the lavender is cropped, and the communities gather for festivals and harvest. There is a sense that we are united, that bounty is plentiful and connections are rich—all before the winter drives us inside to our deeper thoughts and silent insecurities. Nine dark months of winter ruminations.
Did I improve myself?
Did I improve my world?
My metric has never been about justifying my right to be, or validating a sense of purpose. It’s never been about whether I am deserving of space or love. To be fair, when I was younger, I often confused the exercise with worthiness before I learned what worthiness really meant.
Therefore, the two questions were always about—movement.
Movement forward, sideways, up or down, round about or zigzag… but always shifting point of view, location (both inner and outer) relative to what I think I know or understand. Movement is growth.
My mentor once said, “A stagnant character is a dead character.”
I’ve always wanted to be a dynamic character. Not because I’m afraid of dying—but because I’ve always feared not living all the life I could get my hands, mouth, mind, and spirit upon. Hells bells, I want a life I can throw my body at that swoons my brainpan with all the infinite potential of creative delights. Hedonist. Sybarite. Explorer. Chaser of kites and kittens, fairytale lore and frenetic squirrels. Builder. Creator. Grand duchess of the what-if.
All the makings of movement, creativity, and discovery.
But movement, progress, shift in perspective and point of view… the ever-reaching stretch for vision, understanding, and scope comes with a cost. That cost is only now becoming something I can consciously, in my 43rd Note to Self, quantify and thusly - willingly choose.
Before the cost seemed happenstance. It felt like a lateral, outside my periphery, odd confluence of bad luck. The cost, because I didn’t know what it was at the time, seemed arbitrary, and as though I were a casual victim of the price of something I didn’t quite recognize as a product of my will. I chalked it up to Universal commerce, the unseen feather on Maat’s balancing scale.
Did I improve myself?
Did I improve my world?
The price is the willingness to die, to let death, to invite ending. The cost of movement, transition… of living a fully enriched experience, is the consensual unbecoming of one state in order to embody the richness and comprehension of another.
This is not a suicide pact. It’s not a bargain to do violence or harm—it’s an understanding that polarities are poles…and that life happens between. We die a thousand deaths a day; shedding cells, rebuilding muscle and tissue… ideas and concepts, habits and paradigms, and relationships (inner and outer). We la petite mort three times a night, if we’re lucky….
I could wax on all inebriated and poetical, but I think you get the point, Athena.
You’re finally understanding how to calculate the price of walking away, leaving, starting over, speaking truth, hearing truth, making a stand, owning your space, valuing yourself, your voice, your process. You understand the power of naming your own price, and holding out for it. The fee for changing your mind, your will, your ownership of self from day to day may very well be the loss of relationships, trust, face, money, respect, image, and imagined power or purpose.
The choice of one thing, of the new point of view, risk, adventure, personal growth is the END of what was in its place before.
Athena, you get it now. Sometimes the toll of improving yourself is the agreement to accept the end of all you were, even all that you thought you’d become. It’s the return on personal investment tax.
A remaking fine. You’ve had a dozen of these transitions already, but never with the ability to consciously sit and sort the probable fallouts in relation to the goal. You’ve never put it in mercenary calculations before or counted your match sticks and measured the distance to the horizon line so thoroughly. You were always a gut-creature. You moved by instinct and a hungry bid for breath of life. There was so much world to fit on one tiny plate. I don’t know what’s more terrifying from the outside; she who breathes feral-like into the fire of personal transformation—or she who strategizes, and organizes. She who holds the scalpel to her life with determined focus.
In survival mode it’s nearly impossible to think in terms of:
Did I improve myself?
Did I improve my world?
For sure, there were birthdays when you asked the questions and were met with the dissatisfying realization that all you managed to do for a whole year was keep your head above the waterline, treading as fast and hard as you could and you still couldn’t do more than just break even on your own scale.
Other birthday years as you stood in line at the county fair or dined with friends, you were overjoyed knowing that you had passed the bar for the year, and that a new bar had been set for your own internal challenge twelve months hence. How fun!
But every time you already knew, you could not remain the same woman from one year to the next. You could not repeat cycles that weren’t working, maintain relationships that held you back, or accept habits within yourself once you’d identified them as detriments.
Sure, you had to identify them first… then be willing to murder them gently and put to rest an old version of yourself—there to zigzag, remake, remold and become new. Sure, you’ll look indecisive, transitory, scattered, and overwhelmed—but that will pass as the trimming begins and the dead parts of your old self fall away for fresh growth to emerge.
So here you are at 43 and the questions have to be asked.
Did you improve yourself? Yes. Yes, you did—and you will continue to do your best to improve upon the bar every yearly return.
Did you improve your world? Some, but not as much as I would have liked. Still, you’ll continue to do more every yearly return.
That’s it. You do what you can. You improve when you can. Your bar is yours alone. Your judgment of that scale is between us. The tally of costs, the prices accumulated for loss of old will never compare to the tremendous value you will add to your life and to the world by investing in the renovation to let go, free up… to welcome change.
You created movement in your life. You walked away when it was needed. You held your ground when you had to. You used your voice without regret, and made your positions known; not just once or even twice, but on many fronts and for many ventures. You spoke truth. You accepted the truths that were spoken to you. And you put the scalpel to everything that is no longer supporting your growth and movement forward. Mercilessly, I might add, and without hesitation. I am proud to say… I didn’t recognize you in those moments, which goes to show how far you’ve come from the dithering wobbler waiting for permission to command her own journey. Like, who the fuck are you? I dig it, sister!
This meant the transition of your dream, the transition of your writing career, the transformation of creativity, the shifting of your physical shape, the rethinking of your property and even your finances. Closing down shop, shuttering boxes of books and preparing to find alternative paths to answer the questions next year with even better results.
Just in time for your annual birthday return, when the sweet corn comes on, and the grain harvests are prepped for silo. This year as you broke Lammas bread you gave thanks to the newfound determination you’ve discovered to dance with more personal integrity, to show more grace of spirit, and claim the things you truly want —even if that means sacrificing some comforts, or letting some treasures go. The results will be worth it, Athena. I promise.
Happy 43rd birthday!! Many happy returns.
P.S. Just be prepared that when you wake up on the morning of the 6th, that fucking chin hair will need to be plucked again. WTF? Oh, the indignities.
The creativity projects have been put on temporary hold as I adjust to new changes in real-world timing and fluctuation. There are so many moving parts that I can’t even adequately update as it’s happening, but will certainly report out when the dust settles. To that end, I may not be on the Oregon Coast when all is said and done, though I intend to keep my property and come home as able. Like I said, lots of moving parts, and no real solid ability to lay down exact plans or even properly prepare. It’s a full-tilt seasonal shift on an inner and outer level.
I suspect there are many folx in these same situations as time and energy have shifted over the last year of quarantine. With changes in jobs, business, and relationships it would have been silly to think I would be unaffected even out in the wilderness.
It’s all good. Change is good. Life is interesting and I will adapt. It just is what it is for the time being.
As long as I can keep writing my books, and sharing creativity plans…all will be well. I will most certainly be available online, and via this website as changes occur.
Thank you for your patience and continued support!