The Glory of Beautiful Things

11092582_10202610315573938_1072713156_nWelcome to the new banner for Swimming to the Light.  American Android (aka Alicia) created this amazing piece of art.  I gave her a few words and she translated it beautifully.

Then she did me one better and created second banner for The Far Reach which I hope to start publishing in April of 2015.

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The generosity of the people of this community; the writers and banner makers, the betas and the readers humbles me.  I am proud to be among you.

Measure Twice… Cut Once….

ALex thinking Write, edit, rewrite, trash, write, edit, trash again.  I read a post from a fellow writer recently and it prompted me to think about the nature of the creative process.  Should creativity spring beautiful and fully formed, like Aphrodite rising from the wave?  Is the chapter that has been read and re-read and edited and trashed and then rewritten again less pure than the one that pours forth, strong and resonant from the first?

I’m not sure I know the answer, but I recognize the difference in the work.  That piece that springs from some unconscious place; that spills from my fingers like words drawn from some deep river of shared collective, that work has a unique signature.  It shines in a way that I look at and marvel because I feel it is not truly my own.  It is tapped rather than birthed.

But those pieces that start as a slower process; that build based on outline and paragraphs written in pencil on napkins and scraps of paper; that I polish and share and polish again, those feel to me in some ways more real.   I cut these up and move around the paragraphs.  I take whole passages and consign them to the dark of ‘delete’ and never look back.  I bounce between idea and voice and who is the right person to pick up the narrative; who moves the story without creating too much chatter along the way.  In short, I invest myself in these pieces and so, in some ways I love them more.

This idea struck me because I am editing and polishing and rewriting the end of my first story.  I had thought it would end in a roar and certainly the lead-up chapters pulled out of me and pushed my fingers.  But now I have slowed and the chapters are coming slower.  Perhaps its the knowledge that this particular story draws to its conclusion.  Perhaps its the discipline of bringing threads together in a way that remains honest to the characters and narrative; seeing where you need to be and dancing through patterns to find the right key.

And perhaps it is the distraction of writing in one world but living in another.  So many things that need tending.  So many other important things that can help or hinder that time and mindset that allows words to flow.

And yet it is these ‘distractions’ of the world that create the grist for the stories I write.   So, on to writing and rewriting and polishing some more.  Step by step; mile by mile…  stealing time to do something that I love…

Chapter 29 – Shoaling, will be released later this week.  It has been a bear and its longer than other chapters.  It is a turning point for our heroes.  They will settle into new patterns.  Only a few more external barriers stand in their way until they find themselves with calm seas and a wide horizon.

The Far Reach…

spartanYou may be getting the idea that I’m a sailing enthusiast based on my titles.  Subtle as a brick is how I like to think of it.  I don’t currently own a boat but spent some fair time in my 20s and 30s sailing along both sides of the Atlantic.  I raced boats out of Buzzards Bay in Massachusetts for years and spent a memorable summer off the coast of northern France exploring the islands and Brittany (Bretagne).  Lovely occupation.  I’ve heard sailing compared to standing in a cold shower throwing money in the air… and there is some aspect of that!  But it is also long nights on watch with trails of phosphorescence swirling behind you off into a dark horizon and stars that stretch above you in layer upon layer of complex patterns.  It’s watching the play of wind and water and sail and making the telltales fly and the water sing past the hull.  It is riding the wall of water up and up and then turning at the right moment to ride in a rush down the backside of the wave and then turn again to take the elevator up once more.  For me it is a journey that is a metaphor for life.  My most recent 20 years have been spent more slowly in backpacking through the woods and mountains of the United States and camping through New England.  It has allowed me to bring my growing family with me and I’m happy to report that both my sons are accomplished woodsmen and have all the confidence that goes with that.   And I can tell stories about sending them outside to play with matches.  Kind of gives me a giggle.  But I realize that in another 5-6 years my knees won’t support a 50-pound bag anymore and so my mind moves to sailing again and exploring the wide reaches of blue horizons and watching for signs of whales.

It is the movement as Swimming to the Light draws to its conclusion and The Far Reach begins to take shape that has me looking in such a nostalgic way towards the next turn in the road.  Our heroes will pass through their test of fire and as so many things in life seem to happen, their victory will seem almost anticlimactic.  They will find themselves suddenly free with everything they wanted only to realize they are not quite sure which is the right next step.  Where Swimming has been about fixing the past and forging a new road, The Far Reach will be about the challenges that people face when they come home and realize they aren’t quite sure what ‘home’ is supposed to mean.

I have been very encouraged by the enthusiastic response I’ve received from readers for Swimming Toward the Light.  It is gratifying to know that my imagining and my twist on storytelling is shared with others.   I saw a TED talk once that said something along the lines that it is only when others read what one writes that one can call themselves a storyteller.  Otherwise they are just someone standing alone talking to themselves – which makes them a nut!  Thanks for allowing me to be a storyteller.

Must be Spring.. kind of… sort of

It must be Spring!  My energy levels are up.  I churned three chapters out over the weekend, getting myself close to the Summit that will spell the end of Swimming.  All coming together and that realization that I will purposely leave myself open for a second phase which is a little surprising.  When I started this venture I thought that it might just be a passing phase; a burst of ‘what if’ creativity that I needed to explore.  What I have found has been so much more.

My fellow writers for this universe must also be scenting Spring.  The flurry of chapters posted over this weekend was staggering and gratifying.  I will be spending many pleasurable hours working down the list, savoring and sampling.  There are stories that I will return to and others I will start from the beginning.  It is a gift!

It amazes me and humbles me the incredible patchwork quilt that this story inspires.  Story lines range from fanciful to human; all otherworld to cross over.  Truly something for everyone.  Well – daylight savings in my part of the world.  It’s 4:30 masquerading at 5:30 and work beckons…

Tonight I will start the final outline on how the heroes will emerge from hiding to take their rightful places.  2-3 chapters to go….. tick tick tick…

Muse… scmuse….

I remember thinking about muses when I was younger as airy, ethereal creatures.  They always had a Maxfield Parrish, blond, long-haired, wings kind of look.  They were kind and sometime elusive.  They flitted into your life and touched you with a gentle spark of inspiration.  And you both just floated into some kind of creative bliss where everything was strawberry shortcake and buttercups.

Maybe that kind of muse still exists….

But my muse these days is a big overweight guy with huge forearms and back hair.  He knuckle drags his way into my dreams and waking hours, his wife-beater teeshirt torn and stained.  He hammers on the inside of my brain screaming, ‘Write skin monkey, write!’  And I do.  I wake up in the wee hours.  I find myself stealing minutes at work.

‘Swimming’ is coming into its final phase.  All the players are in place.  No more original characters to be introduced (except to readers who will meet Twy in the next chapter).  Storylines converge and all the seeds of destruction will start to deliver their harvest.  Not all the loose ends will be wrapped up, leaving enough dangling for me to grab and start weaving for the next phase; hopefully a more peaceful phase.

I find myself profoundly grateful for the reception the words have received.  I’m not sure I could have ignored the gorilla regardless, but having people who have no earthly reason to be kind for the sake of friendship or leverage or position provide positive unsolicited support has been inspiring.

I thank everyone who has read and responded.  I thank Breathesgirl, my friend in Ottawa who beta’s and sends me laughs and collaborates in such a kind and selfless way.  I hope I can someday repay in some way the kindness…

Back to the mouth breather.  Chapter 26… Luffing Up..  I’m coming….

Cooking on a Sunday

Taking a break from writing this morning.  In Swimming the schemes and plots are in full swing.  Eric has a publicist and Sookie is still working on her backbone.  They will both have to figure out that trust is more than pretty words.  They will have help and hindrance and will find their dramas being acted out against the very public view of the Clan Summits.

So – perfect time to cook something.  I’ve noticed that many of my fellow writers are also cooks.  Some have recipe pages which is an idea.  In my family I am the ‘also ran’ cook. My sister is the amazing talent and my younger son is aspiring to follow in her footsteps.  I generally call him to do all the spicing in stews and soups in my house.   (Cumin and celery salt are his current go-tos)

But I can do a couple things well, and here’s my take on pork shoulder.  I do it the way I was taught in the islands a long time ago.

Take a pork shoulder, wash it and rub it with adobe.  Cover it and leave it in the refrigerator over night.

In the morning, get comfy and peel a whole head of garlic.  Mash it up (I have one of those handy pampered chef things) and add 2 teaspoons of black pepper and a teaspoon of oregano.  Sometimes I supplement with a teaspoon of red pepper flakes.  Add a tablespoon of olive oil and mix it up.

NOW – the fun part.  Get a really big pointy knife, put the pork shoulder in a roasting pan (lined with aluminum foil is a really good idea.  This stuff bakes hard) with the fat side up.  Go psycho.  Stab deep and often.  A laugh helps.  A really maniacal one.  Something that compels your loved ones to edge toward the door.

Stuff the cavities with the garlic goop.  Cover well with foil  Put in a 350 oven and leave it for 4-5 hours.  If you want crunchy skin (who doesn’t?) uncover it for the last 15-20 minutes.

Check it around the 3.5 hour time just to be sure.

It is amazing taste and works in fajitas, spanish rice, kung pao pork and stews for days to come.

Ahhh…

Back to the Summit…