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Welcome to My Poetry Dictatorship

I’ve been writing poetry since I was eleven. I wasn’t very good then, and I’m still not very good. 

BUT one of my favorite things is to read poetry. I’ve gone through so many phases, being in love with this poet or that poet.

I went through a Richard Brautigan phase, a Billy Collins phase, and I went through another phase where I read a poem a day and collected the names of contemporary poets and became their fan. Eleanor Lerman, Matthew Ryan, Robert Hass, Czeslaw Milosz, Hayden Caruth. 

During college I felt pretty lucky to be invited to participate in a poetry group that included several of my professors and writing instructors, people who I respected as mentors. 

Still, I never got very good. 

But I’ve never relinquished my love for reading poetry.

I fell deeply in love with the Frost verses from which Wallace Stegner pulled a stanza for his semi-autobiographical memoir, “Crossing to Safety,” partially because I’m so madly in love with the story. I pinned the poem up in my room during college and memorized it.

The verse that Stegner used as his epigraph:  

“I could give all to Time except–except
What I myself have held. But why declare
The Things forbidden that while the Customs slept
I have crossed to Safety with? For I am There,
And what I would not part with I have kept.”

Honestly, I am not as smitten with poetry that rhymes or sticks fiercely to meter than other forms. 

I look to poetry to feel the breath pulled from my lungs in a sigh of contentment over the perfection of imagery and word choice. Reading it trains me to see the world differently, if only for a few minutes. And I find the most complex language there, which informs my own writing. 

All this talk of phases. For years most of my books have been in boxes. We never settled anywhere long enough for me to take ownership and unpack them. 

And then I realized, recently, that I will never be anywhere that feels permanent. Life IS impermanence. 

That is the point of the Frost poem. And Stegner quoting it for his semi-memoir. 

So I set up my “office” recently, in the basement of our modest home (by American standards…please). And I pulled out and organized my poetry collections and put them on the shelf. 

And now I can read poetry without searching through ragged boxes that have seen too many moves, too many miles. 

And now I can shove poetry down the throats of unwilling participants and attempt to force them to enjoy and appreciate it, because that’s the sort of dictatorship I run. 

After writing in the 4th Holly Drake book this morning, I pulled out my Selected Works of Mary Oliver, looking for my breath to be stolen, searching for something that lit my soul on fire. 

Of course I found something because she is a master. 

Here it is, my first time reading this one (second, now). More meaningful because of this post about my cat, Bastet. 

I won’t write anything at the end of this poem, the post will end, because 1) I’ll be speechless again; 2) I’m typing it out for you from my actual book like some kind of old world scrivener, and I’ll likely be in tears (poems rarely make me cry); and 3) the poem is perfection and I don’t want to mess it up with blah blah blah from me.

The contrast in the lines about her dark body and her sleep…just, I swoon and sob. I’m not sure there have ever been more apt lines written on the subject. 

Her Grave

She would come back, dripping thick water, from the green bog.
She would fall at my feet, she would draw the black skin
from her gums, in a hideous and wonderful smile–
and I would rub my hands over her pricked ears and her
     cunning elbows,
and I would hug the barrel of her body, amazed at the unassuming
     perfect arch of her neck. 

*

It took four of us to carry her into the woods.
We did not think of music,
but, anyway, it began to rain
slowly.

*

Her wolfish, invitational, half-pounce.

Her great and lordly satisfaction at having chased something.

My great and lordly satisfaction at her splash
of happiness as she barged
through the pitch pines swiping my face with her 
wild, slightly mossy tongue.

*

Does the hummingbird think he himself invented his crimson throat? 
He is wiser than that, I think.

A dog lives fifteen years, if you’re lucky. 

Do the cranes crying out in the high clouds
think it is all their own music?

A dog comes to you and lives with you in your own house, but you
do not therefore own her, as you do not own the rain, or the 
trees, or the laws which pertain to them. 

Does the bear wandering in the autumn up the side of the hill 
think all by herself she has imagined the refuge and the refreshment 
of her long slumber?

A dog can never tell you what she knows from the 
smells of the world, but you know, watching her, that you know 
almost nothing. 

Does the water snake with his backbone of diamonds think
the black tunnel on the bank of the pond is a palace 
of his own making?

She roved ahead of me through the fields, yet would come back, or
wait for me, or be somewhere.

Now she is buried under the pines. 

Nor will I argue it, or pray for anything but modesty, and 
not to be angry. 

Through the trees there is the sound of the wind, palavering.

The smell of the pine needles, what is it but a taste 
of the infallible energies? 

How strong was her dark body! 
How apt is her grave place. 

How beautiful is her unshakable sleep. 

*

Finally, 
the slick mountains of love break
over us. 

–Mary Oliver

Cover Reveal: Shadow of the Colossus, Holly Drake #4

I took a hiatus for half of July and August, but I’m back now, and stronger than ever. You know how it works . . . with breaks and such. How they rejuvenate . . . 

I went a few places. Saw a few things. Expanded my mind, not with Zen or drugs, but with brutal, unrelenting exposure to the freeway, the chilly clime of Northern California, and my kids.

With no breaks. 

To be fair, my amazing cousins were there to help out. And I wasn’t necessarily doing it for myself, although it was epic and I came away from the adventure with the knowledge that I’m a warrior who can do anything I set my mind to (like break a stack of bricks with my forehead . . . I totally did that! heh) and if I want it bad enough. 

So that’s why I’m here, again, and I’m not stopping until I rule the world . . . with my mind . . . and uh, my books. And the characters in my books! We’ll dominate together! 

I don’t know what that means, really. But I know that I’m pumped to do this cover reveal. The colors look fabulous. And I’m excited to say that this has a tentative release date for the end of September. 

 

Daedalus and Icarus Finally Make Sense: Area Woman Has Realization Everyone Else Had Ages Ago

Parenting fail: dad ignored his son's actual personality, thinking his boy would mind. Uh, seriously, dad. Know your son. He needed stealth wings. Not wax!

There’s a lot on my mind. 

Chicks in 5-inch heels walking around me nearby (maybe 6 inches? I’m not an expert at this weird, female ritualistic stuff. This is happening right now, in case that wasn’t clear). If you’re a chick in today’s world, in this beautiful, modern world which consists of a plethora of footwear options, why do this to yourself? 

Why? 

People in heels of that height literally walk like how a satyr would walk, if a satyr was a literal thing and not some abomination that sprung from the minds of weird men (you know what I mean). 

Ok, no one wants to think about that stuff. But I’m sorry. That’s how these half-human mythological creatures came about.

Anyway. Speaking of myth…I drive a lot in the summer to take my kids to their cousin’s houses where they can play with the wild abandon of kids in summer. That sounds like a movie title. 

I’ll sell it to the highest bidder….AAAAND sold, to Ron Howard (it sounds like a Ron Howard film, doesn’t it?)

So on today’s drive to my sister’s house (she lets me take naps on her sofa while the kids play, after I’ve exhausted my mental reserves thinking super hard about plot and clever film titles to sell to Ron Howard), I had the most beautiful realization: 

Daedulus and Icarus is REALLY about raising your child. 

Wait, does everyone already know this and I was just the slow kid in the back of the room taking the story for merely one about naming geological features? 

Hmm. Well. So everyone else is more clever than I am. Stop reading, if that’s the case. Because all my realizations will be massively boring to you. 

So yeah, it’s a story about being trapped in a fun-house type labyrinth with a minotaur breathing down your neck (will these creatures ever stop being everywhere in my life today?), but… 

The labyrinth is a metaphor for life. Because let’s be honest, we’re all adult enough here to realize that life is pure shit. Unless you’re the 1%, it’s basically total drudgery one hundred percent of the time. Once in a while, maybe a person gets a momentary vacation on a beach with margaritas. 

Yay, you. 

And save one for me. 

Where’s my margarita? Did you…*sniffle*…did you drink it? 

Guess what? While you were drinking my margarita, I fashioned you these wings made of wax and feathers, for parasailing. Yeah, it’s a super fun beachy past-time! Try them out! *snaps on built-to-fail wax-wings*

Just don’t go too close to the sun…(you’ll defy me, I know it, because that’s what you did with my margarita bahahaha, sweet vengeance!) 

Now then. Back to my soap-box rant…

The beach. Yeah. That is the rare moment. The rest of the time we’ve all got the hot, smelly breath of a minotaur on our necks, chasing us through blind twists and turns, stealing all our joy, robbing us of our peace. Taxing us. Being whatever monster is most popular at the moment. 

So look. I don’t know. I was just thinking. I was thinking about my kids in the back seat reading books, and how the goal is, finally, for me to give them their own set of wings. 

You do what you can, you know? You, the parent. You try hard not to destroy their spirits, but give them enough of a taste of boundaries so that they feel safe and loved. 

You also love them, unconditionally, and you do whatever mode of parenting is most popular at the moment (right now it’s NEVER tell your kid they’re bad, er, or something like that, I’m failing aren’t I? Oh god. They’re going to end up in jail!). 

But there are no guarantees. This is the shit the wings are made of. And hopefully it isn’t shit. Hopefully it isn’t wax and feathers. Let’s hope that we’re both giving our kids wings that are made of something much stronger and resilient than that. 

So that when the world heats up, when Facebook bullies gang up on them or the Twitter-verse decides to rain down hellfire and damnation on them for a minor slip up, they don’t fall into a sea of self-loathing and doubt and drown in it. 

When I realized that tidbit (which may not even be true, but I like it for me) about the meta-metaphor, I was like, oh man. That’s fucking beautiful. 

Then I got a bit sad, thinking of how shitty it is to feel like a failure as a parent. But that’s all we do. We build these wings for our kids and hope they can take flight and not meet an untimely demise through their own hubris and unwillingness to listen. 

I mean, perhaps the flaw is in the parent who believes that their kid is a copy of themself. Maybe, maybe buried beneath the idea of what Daedalus did is that he failed as a parent. He thought Icarus would listen. He thought Icaraus was wise like him. 

Oh hell no. By the by, I never talk like that. I never say “Oh hell no.” That just takes too much panache. I don’t have that IRL. It fit here. But don’t imagine ME saying it. Imagine fictional me saying it. 

Anyway. Oh hell no. 

Kids. Not wise. Well, at least, I wasn’t. I had to learn everything the hard way. 

Icarus was probably that sort of idiotic kid. Which means: Daedalus, WTF? You should know this about your child. You should have known that he needed wings made out of carbon fiber. So that they didn’t fucking melt.  

Here’s to us: parents who are building their kids their own set of wings. Wings without limitations. Daedalus made the mistake of thinking that his son would follow perfectly in his footsteps. What an idiot, right? 

Our kids are not copies of us. I hope my kids have enough stories about who they are, where they come from, the strength their ancestors had to fight against the odds and survive, to not give up if the wings I fasten to their shoulders melt a bit. 

I’m not a moron though, I’m making my kids wings made out of carbon fiber and stealth fighter materials. 

This metaphor? It’s off the chain. Or the rails. I lost it a while ago and I don’t have the strength to rein it in. 

How about if you try?

 

Heart of the Colossus Launch Day Giveaway

Wow, look at that! A launch AND a giveaway!

Welcome to the 3rd book in the Holly Drake series. This is the “everyone liked the steampunk gun” giveaway (and not so much the other steampunk swag) wherein the intrepid author reverts back to what WAS working, rather than trying something new and interesting.

If it’s not broke, don’t fix it as they say. They also say “guns kill people, people don’t kill people” (or do I have that backwards? That depends, I think, on your politics, but let’s leave those at the door and do a giveaway together!). This gun will kill no one, because it’s just a cool NERF gun made to look wickedly awesome.

And it can be yours if you’re the lucky chap or chappette whose name gets drawn at the end of July. So you’ve got to ask yourself, do you feel lucky? . . . I mean, really, do you? I wasn’t trying to reference a popular film or anything. This gun isn’t a 44 magnum and your name isn’t Gladstone Gander is it? Because he’s the luckiest duck alive. And…*pulls herself out of weird pop culture reference vortex*

Damn…

Just enter. Just do it.

And remember, you can enter by tweeting EVERY day!

➔Amazon U.S. https://amzn.to/2tjPKHo
➔Amazon universal link: http://mybook.to/HeartoftheColossus

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Cover Reveal: Heart of the Colossus

So here it is, the cover for Book 3 in the Holly Drake series! It comes out on July 12 and it will not be in Kindle Unlimited. I’m putting that announcement here now, so you can plan your future reading. 

Here’s why: Amazon has been having issues with page reads. I’m not really sure what’s happening, but I don’t want these bots to result in my books getting banned from Amazon altogether. So, I’m taking all my books out of Kindle Unlimited. I’m sorry to do this to my readers, and I am myself a subscriber. But I have absolutely no idea how I can protect myself from these supposed click-farms/bots or whatever. If Amazon came out with a definitive: do not use these promotion sites, do not do A, B, or C, then I could have some security in knowing what it is I can do to protect my books from being targeted. 

Anyway, this is supposed to be a happy post about my awesome cover! Thanks to Milo at Deranged Doctor for doing such a fucking bang-up job on making Holly Drake and her world come to life! I haven’t named book 4 yet, but there will be a book 4! So stick around!

Preorder on Amazon ➝ ➝ https://amzn.to/2tjPKHo

Just When You Think It’s Safe to Live, You Remember Death

This was me two weeks ago, playing a heist in GTA5 online. The FIRST heist. Shhhh. My team pretended they weren't super pissed. They were.

I turned 40 recently. F-O-R-T-Y. 

And you know, part of me wants to hide it. To leave everyone who doesn’t know me in real life kind of guessing. Like, “How old is that chick who wrote that book with a bad ass heroine who seriously kicks ass?” So that they’ll think I’m younger and much cooler and well, wait. I am cool. Heh heh. 

Yeah.  

Come on. YOUTH does not equal cool. OK. So if you are a young person, like say younger than 30, let me just give you a bit of advice (I know you want it!) . . .

Oh damn. Did I almost just turn into one of those curmudgeons that goes around telling younger people that they’re nothing special just because they’re young?

“In my day . . . *grumble, grumble* hey, kid, get of my lawn!” 

Well, at least I caught myself before I one hundred percent became a crotchety butthead. 

CRISIS AVERTED.  

My age doesn’t matter, guys! I’ll be fucking sky-diving at 80 with my blue hair whipping in the wind and my face on fire with happiness because that’s how I roll. 

Yeah. And that’s *ahem* how I’m planning my escape from the flesh . . . skydiving “accident” at 85. So, this is the only warning you’ll get, all you younger people who will want me to stick around well into my 120s. 

So now you know. I just turned 40. And so far it’s been pretty damn great. I let out a back-cracking sigh when it happened and then I had a party with my husband because I don’t do big group parties. I like to know the people I’m with. Like, really know them.

I probably should have emphasized really in that last sentence because know is starting to, I don’t know, look like a biblical sense of the word. 

But I’m gonna leave it because it’s funny. To me.

That’s how all my humor works. It’s me, not you. 😉

Anyway. The people in my life. I like to know what songs they like. I think I know what they love about themselves and I sort of know what they hate about themselves and I love them for both. 

So tonight, I was making this Spotify playlist for a friend who will never listen to it, because that’s also how I roll. I like to make them. And sometimes I never give them to the person because honestly, I don’t think they’d give a crap.

But it’s one way I remember the people I love, with music, and sort of like thinking, “Oh yeah, I remember how [insert name here] turned me on to Widespread Panic. What a cool jerkface they were. I miss them!” Except I don’t love Widespread much anymore. That was an ill-advised detour into Phish-like jambands. And I was never high enough to really appreciate it in the longterm. Not high. That’s key.  

I thought about all this stuff, and I realized this thing out of nowhere (sort of):  I have a lot of friends who’ve died. And I still remember them like they’re alive. 

So what I want to do is make a list of the friends I’ve lost. I know I’ve forgotten some of the people, which is kind of sucky of me. But as I get closer to my own old age, creeping closer to me like the River Lethe, that is my excuse: old age. Forgetfulness. 

If you’re reading this, thank god, you’re still alive. Drop me a line. Let’s hang out. Grab a drink. Have a chat. I fucking miss you. 

Christie B. How we met: 3rd grade. She was funny and interesting and I was jealous of her for being one of two children. Just the other day I remembered how, during college, she used to take a jar of pennies to the airport (pre-9/11) and fake-trip down the walkway and “spill” her jar of pennies. Then she’d clean them up and act embarrassed and secretly laugh at the situation. Her sense of humor was prime–and apparently quite physical and situational–and I am lucky that I knew her for so long. Her song, the one that I think of when I think of her: Faith Hill, “It Matters to Me.” Granted, Christie had a lot of songs she liked, but I’ll never forget her asking me if I was going to try singing, randomly, when worked at JCrew in Nashville to try to get a record deal, because that’s how Faith got discovered.

Drew. How we met: he was a customer at the indie record store where I worked during college. And he was sweet, and pretty damn adorable. He smoked and I thought I could influence him to maybe be a bit less cynical. For some reason I was less cynical than a lot of the people around me. Call it naivete. Because that’s what it was. Drew was studying something intriguing like environmental engineering (I made that up) because he was more interesting than me (English lit, gag). He acted tough and he wore square dark-framed glasses that were uber handsome on his face…His death was this random shock. I think it was a freak heart-attack when we were in our twenties. His song, and how i knew that he was a damn softy beneath that tough exterior: Rocky Votolato, “White Daisy Passing.” 

Eames. How we met: don’t remember, precisely, but we became rock climbing partners for a while. He was in a rough spot with his girlfriend, and I was in a rough spot with this guy (super ill-advised boyfriend, 14 years older than me, he dumped me for a YOUNGER girl, WTF?! Classy). At the time, my heart was raw and Eames’ heart was raw, and he was a better climber than I was (translate: he led all the climbs and set the route so I could just top-rope it ha ha ha ha, you wimp, you, Nik), so it was a match made in heaven. We hung out a lot and drove all over to climb. I kept a soft spot in my heart for Eames for a long long time. Though we spent a lot of time in the car driving to climbing haunts, I don’t remember what he listened to. But I’m going to go out on a limb and say it was something like DMB. He was a chill guy, who said words like “jonesin’ to get on the rock” and he wore Smith sunglasses and was always super cool and had beachy sensibilities. Good guy, old Eames.

I’m glad there’s only three. A lifetime is a long time to live without your friends. Not included here are the people who died in the traditional order of nature: my father, my grandmother, grandfather, uncles. 

Sometimes it just seems worth it to stop and take stock of what you have and what you’ve lost, I guess. So you don’t forget to appreciate the people you can still hold onto. 

Hands of the Colossus Steampunk Swag and $50 Giftcard Giveaway

Another wicked sweet launch, another wicked sweet giveaway. This one will flesh out your amazing steampunk cosplay gear. Those goggles, when worn correctly,  will increase your peacocking sensibilities to an 11 and you’ll be the life of every party, subway ride, and workplace water-cooler gossip session.

That watch? I heard (rumor? Maybe…) that it is actually capable of time-travel. Yep. It comes with a chain so you don’t lose it when you’re out and about, sporting your vest while peacocking to get the attention of birds everywhere (why are you always peacocking?).

I know that what you’re really here for is the eBook. But I’m also offering a signed paperback version of Hands of the Colossus, because as part of everyone’s peacocking HOME collection, you really ought to have great books in your bookcase. Signed, preferably. To impress geeks like me at all the parties you’re constantly throwing.

Tweet every day for more chances to win, and be sure to share and like on all your social media outlets.

God speed!

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That Moment When You’ve Written a Perfect Scene

The scene that I just wrote tonight, is perhaps the most perfect scene I’ve ever written.

Maybe it’s the mania talking–that feeling that comes after I’ve done something I think it is wicked awesome. Could be. I mean, it’s late, and I might have had one drink. And I might have gotten swept away in the song that I feel helped facilitate the scene (which I listened to on repeat), and so, in short, who knows?

I don’t know. I think the scene is perfect. It wasn’t easy to write either. I began it a few days ago, but it’s a night scene. A serious scene. And I was writing it while the sun ripped through the sky happily shining on everything, illuminating every last thing.

And this scene, is a poignant one. The setting is night. The emotion is sorrow and regret, and some form of penitence, mashed together with self-defense.

I couldn’t write it in the day. It needed to be night. And I needed to be in a certain frame of mind to tap into the emotions.

I’m still not sure if I did it justice for Holly Drake. I tried my best, and the readers (you!) will decide in the end if it works or not.

And tomorrow there’s a really good chance I’ll read back over it and laugh and ask, “What the fuck was I thinking?”

But right now, I feel like I’ve never written anything more tender and gentle about a character and her life than this one in this moment.

Holly Drake’s stories are sci-fi, steam punk, space opera. But I write real scenes about real grief and real joy. It’s not a love story, but there is love in it, and hope, and desire. And that’s because I think those are the things that make the excitement and adventure worth more than a monkey’s ass. Without the human grief and emotion, who really gives a shit about a wicked awesome scene where Holly is basically surfing through the sky on a thin slab of metal?

I ask you. What’s the point?

 

Oh, and here’s the amazing song I listened to on repeat. You’re welcome, my friend. You’re welcome.

Eye of the Colossus $50 Amazon Giftcard Giveaway

Hey so as part of the festivities over the launch of the Eye of the Colossus, I’m doing this giveaway. The big prize is obviously the signed paperback copy of Eye of the Colossus. The smaller bit is just the lame $50 giftcard (I mean, who even wants one of those things? Yuck). I know, right? But I’ll make you have it if you’re the winner, because that’s just part of the deal, though I know what you’re really here for is the wicked sweet cosplay aether blaster and the pendant (it came all the way from FRANCE, guys, FRANCE!).

So enter in as many ways as you can and remember, you can do the Tweet this message thing everyday for additional entries. 😉

God speed!

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