Archive for July, 2015

Death and The In-Between Place (Book News and Life Musings)

“Dying is easy. Separation is the hard part.” -Jeanne Walker in Always, Karen: More Alive than Ever

Considering I live in one of the wealthiest and most medically advanced societies on the planet where some people my age still have surviving grandparents, I’ve experienced a lot of death in my 36 years.  I only knew one of my grandparents, my grandma Beabo, who passed when I was in high school.  Then a friend died in a fire.  Then several of my mentors succumbed to various diseases.  Then I lost my mother to cancer in 2005, my father to a sequence of medical catastrophes in 2008.  Somewhere in there, I also lost a sibling, not to physical but to emotional death.  And now, just in the last year and a half, my aunt and a cousin in Norway died, two writer friends passed away, my surrogate aunt (Mom’s best friend from high school) is no longer with us, and a dear co-worker went in for surgery and never woke up.  And of course, many pets–those of you who have read Across the Summer Sea likely saw my dedication to Maddie and Target, both lost in 2014 and sorely missed here, as well as all the furry friends who came before them.

I hope you’re still reading after the above paragraph.  I don’t mean it to be depressing–I don’t particularly find it so myself.  Of course, I’m sad, reading over that list, but as I’ve had occasion to realize, sadness and depression are not the same thing.  Missing someone, feeling grief when he or she is no longer with you, is the price we pay for love, and I have no regrets about the love I still feel for everyone on the above list.  No, the reason I shared my experiences with death wasn’t to depress you.  It was to give you some idea of where I’m coming from with my writing.

Death in fantasy fiction–oh, where do I start?  So, if you’ve been reading The Landers Saga and now The Phoenix Realm, you may have noticed I, like every writer, have certain subjects I explore again and again.  I guess you would call them themes, although that seems like a bit of a highfalutin word.  Obsessions might be closer to the truth.  One of these is the idea of death being a temporary separation rather than a permanent end.  Another is the idea that we living folks exist at a particular level of space-time, while those who have died have evolved to another level where they’re not as limited by the physical realm.  As Merius recalls in The Curious Fear of High and Lonely Places:  “The eternal sits at the center of the circle of time and observes the whole circle at once, while we travel face backwards around the outside of the circle and can only see to the curve just behind us. And if we could sit where the eternal sits, our heads would explode from the pressure of all that knowledge . . .”

I strive for a lot of things in my work, the main being a sense of hope in the face of tragedy.  My wish is that I can pass this hope along to my readers with big dollops of romance, drama, mysticism, and comedy.  And fantasy.  I’ve found fantasy the best way for me to convey certain ideas, particularly ideas about death.  Gritty reality is fine to a point, but it doesn’t capture the breadth of my experiences, particularly some of the experiences my mother and I shared the last year of her life and in the days following her death.  As I’ve written before in this blog, my mother was a bit spooky, and things happened that terrible, wonderful year which defy explanation, things which give me hope I’ll see her–and everyone else I love–again, things which make me believe the “reality” that surrounds us is merely the surface of something far, far more.

Fantasy allows me to paint on a larger canvas with more colors than other genres would.  In a fantasy story, I can show an archetype in both a figurative and a literal sense, play around with it in a way that’s impossible in realistic fiction.  I can write about a mostly ordinary family with the normal sorts of domestic comedies and upsets (children rebelling against their parents, spouses alternately irritating and amusing each other, fights at the dinner table) and then twist that to transform some of the members into witches and mermaids, immortal birds and ghosts.  How does it change the family dynamics when one of your children is a bird?  When your wife is a mermaid sometimes?  It entertains me to write this way.  Not only that, it takes a little of the sting out of what has sometimes been an unbearable personal reality and gives me the chance to explore certain issues–psychological pain, spiritual transformation, death, to name a few–from a fresh perspective.

All this introduction to announce that I finally have the title for the novel I’m currently working on:  The In-Between Place (Book Three of the Phoenix Realm).  I had about twenty ideas for the title, some of them rather flowery–likely inspired by the addition of a new voice/character point of view in this latest book.  I wasn’t going to add another point of view character, but he’s quite a talker, this new voice, given to verbal flights of fancy, and he wouldn’t shut up.  So I added him to the mix–we’ll see how it goes.  So far it’s been a lot of fun 😉

Many sources have inspired my writing over the years, too many to name (or even know) but the following have had the biggest impact on my ideas about life, death, immortality, and eternity:  the philosopher Boethius, Einstein’s theories, God at the Speed of Light by T. Lee Baumann, Always, Karen: More Alive than Ever by Jeanne Walker, and various passages from the Bible, specifically the Gospel of John and First Corinthians 13.

© 2015

Read More

My Small (pun intended) Obsession





















It didn’t devastate me to find out Santa was make-believe.  I never was much of a Santa fan as a child.  However, Faeries, Elves, the Borrowers–well, some small part of me that never quite grew up still believes in them, I think because miniatures enchant me.

I have a beautiful Victorian dollhouse that my parents built from a kit–someday I’ll post pictures of it.  When I was a kid, I kept hoping the Borrowers I was sure lived in our walls would move into it.  I tried to make it as a enticing for them as possible.  I spent years finding furniture at flea markets for it and crafting tiny books, curtains, hatboxes, pillows, clothes, hangers, brooms, even a tube of lipstick for Milady’s vanity table.  For anyone on a budget who enjoys decorating, having a dollhouse is a fun way to play around with patterns and furniture without breaking the bank.

The last couple years, my obsession with small has shifted to antique bird cages and the fey folk.  People kept giving me faeries, and I wracked my brain for awhile trying to think of how best to display them without tempting the cats too much.  Then one day I saw a beautiful old cage in a thrift store–it looked like a peculiar mansion, with its gingerbread scroll work and leaf-studded cupola.  I bought it, not quite knowing what I was going to do with it until I got it home and realized it was the perfect place for my faeries to take up residence.  Then I found a second cage and couldn’t resist it either–someone had painted flowers in a charming array around the sides.  I hung glass witch balls from the ceilings, lined the floors with moss, and added various decorations such as a bird nest filled with brightly colored, glittery eggs and a lawn table and chairs for entertaining guests such as Peter Rabbit.

And a tiny bird in a tiny cage.  I’m not sure why I felt the need to put a cage within a cage.  It made symbolic sense at one point, but it escapes me now.  Probably it had something to do with my writing project at the time.  I tend to seek out physical manifestations of whatever preoccupies my imagination at the moment, such as collecting mermaid figurines for awhile or putting together a fantasy art jigsaw puzzle.   Exploring a subject from a variety of angles helps me be more creative with it.  And it’s a relief to my brain to take a break from word-ly pursuits at the end of the day and focus on something non-verbal, like a jigsaw puzzle.  Or constructing a home for my faeries.

Read More