Thursday, December 31, 2009

Reaching into the future

2010. What will it bring? Many things none of us can predict or control, but there are others we can influence.
I'm wary of New Year's resolutions or wishes, because they can undermine confidence if we set them vaguely or too far out of reach or dependent on someone else. Scottish author Nicola Morgan wrote a smart post on this.
So I've decided to set goals that I could achieve if I work at it. One of my favorite quotes comes from Thomas Edison: "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."
I've printed my plan and will hang it near my desk. Under a big, fancy font reading Goals 2010, I've written these items:
Write at least 1,000 words a day on Sea Daughters. Write at least half of those words before blogging, reading email or other business.
Start revising as soon as it is complete, which should be end of January or beginning of February. Use cool tips from other writers to ease this process, such as Laurie Halse Anderson's fun advice to chart the scenes on huge artist paper, using colored pens to make notes on emotional arcs and plot elements.
By March, write short and long pitches and a query letter. Put letter on Public Query Slushpile, or if I'm feeling insanely confident chum it to the Query Shark.
Research agents for best fit and start sending queries in spring.
Now that I've shouted this plan out to the world I'm more likely to stick to it. I think that's why NaNoWriMo worked for me. I said I would, so I did. Then when it was over I let other things distract me from finishing. I'm putting my overalls back on. How about you?
P.S. Almost forgot!!! A big thank you to Wendy Prior at On Words and Upwards for the Kreativ Blogger Award. As I have been honored with it before, I shall add her name in the sidebar of awards. If you aren't already, you must read her blog. She is so talented and funny.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

No Kissing Allowed

Prepare yourselves for the deliciously tantalizing, hilarious or break-your-heart No Kiss Blogfest taking place Jan. 2. Frankie Diane Mallis is hosting. Each participant will write an excerpt of a kiss unconsummated. Sign up on a widget at Frankie's site if you're brave enough to put your baby out there or just click on links and lurk when the fest opens. I'm taking the dare and promise to amuse and turn up the heat.
No Kiss is a much-anticipated off-shoot of Sherrinda's Kissing Day Blogfest that drew more than 90 participants.

I am feeling majorly appreciated by my fellow bloggers. Laurel Garver at Laurel's Leaves gave me a bouquet in the Picasso Award and Victoria S. included me in the Circle of Friends. Thank you both!

I feel like a dragon sitting on a horde of awards as recently I also received (and noted and put in my sidebar) the Superior Scribbler, Silver Lining and One Lovely Blog awards but didn't have time to pass them on.

So I propose to nominate some cool bloggers I've met fairly recently and let them choose any of the five awards and make their own rules for passing them along.

Please stop by and visit:

And come on everybody. I want to hear those almost-kissed stories!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The art of giving

gift 1: a notable capacity or talent 2: something voluntarily transferred by one person to another 3: the act, right or power of giving

After feasting, exchanging presents and walking a couple of times on brilliant winter beaches, I was home again this weekend. And my gift to myself was time to read one of my presents, The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson.

I had put it on my wish list after it was recommended by Beth Revis, who paid homage here to fiction that inspired her own work.

I don't want to spoil this story for anyone, so I won't give the mystery away. Jenna awakens from a long coma and searches to recover who she was. She struggles to define words and relationships. I suspected the secret long before she did but that didn't matter, because the story is about her peeling away layers of concealment to discover the truth. It is about ethics and fierce parental love. It's learning to be comfortable in your skin, no matter how different you are.

I consider this book a gift from the author, who has written a story that is as thought-provoking and meaningful as it is entertaining, and I thank Beth for noting it and my daughter for giving it to me. Consider gifting this to yourself.

While on the subject of gifts, I can't let this go by. My friend, Donna, gave me one of the neatest surprises of my life. She found old nesting boxes at an estate sale and filled them with goodies, including books and oddments addressed to the main characters of two of my novels-in-progress. I had a most glorious time discovering what was hidden in the boxes, which, by the way, deserve a story of their own. Flash fiction, perhaps?
And I have more good reading! What can be better than that? Hope you have had a grand time whatever you did, wherever you are.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Stories of love and worth

When I was little someone--probably my grandmother-- gave me Miss Flora McFlimsey's Christmas Eve, and I fell in love without even understanding that the delightful watercolor paintings were illustrated by the book's author, Mariana.

I just knew I loved the little doll who was forgotten for years in an attic with only a toy sheep who could no longer baaa and a box of tiddly-winks. She did have a mouse to talk to, though.

Miss Flora had once belonged to a girl with red-topped shoes but that girl had grown up long ago. So Flora sat in the attic, lonely in her faded silk dress and straw hat.

One year on Christmas Eve, she so wanted to see a decorated tree again she slipped downstairs

Santa showed up and realized he was one doll short. When he saw Flora he set her under the tree. The other dolls , a brand-new bride and one in a fashionable coat, laughed at her. Then her mouse friend and the angel from the top of the tree found Flora's trunk of clothes and brought out a blue velvet dress, gold locket, white gloves and hand muff.

Mariana paints a glorious page full of bonnets, parasol, pantaloons, shoes and hats that come from the trunk.

"And then the wonderful thing that she felt was about to happen, really did happen." When morning comes, Miss Flora McFlimsey is sought out and once again loved by a little girl.

Not only did I love that book, I remembered it years later and mentioned how much it had meant to me to a friend. And what did my friend do? Found me a library edition online. Miss Flora McFlimsey and I are reunited. And we feel the love.

I'm feeling lots of award love these days. Julie Dao at Silver Lining
passed along the Silver Lining Award. Julie is a YA writer with some fantastic works-in-progress. Be sure to check her out. Thank you, Julie.
I plan to do some blog links in the near future for this and two other awards. After the holidays!

And finally, I just want to sincerely wish every one, of all faiths or non-faiths, of all ethnicities and nationalities, a peaceful holiday and a most happy and prosperous New Year.
PEACE ON EARTH. That's my wish.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A great day for kissing

Are you under the mistletoe? Today is Kissing Day Blogfest, and almost sixty people signed up to write a scene for your swooning pleasure. Gustav Klimt's famous The Kiss seems a perfect accompaniment for my little scene from a YA paranormal/fantasy, a work-in-progress called Sea Daughters.
"What's wrong? You're a million miles away." Ben slipped his arm around Hallie as they sat on his living room sofa. He was so close she could smell the freshness of his just-laundered shirt.
Hallie's heart fluttered, just like the rapid beat of a tiny bird she'd held as a child. Ben's parents were away and she knew he wanted to make love to her, at least as much as she'd allow.
The trouble was she didn't know what she might allow. She'd become confused about life, how tenuous it is, how it could change like quicksilver before you knew what happened. She wanted to be saturated with Ben's kisses in case she was about to lose him.
If he found out who she really was he would flee, she was sure.
He reached in his pocket and pulled out a shell bracelet. "I got this for you. Kinda simple, but it goes with your necklace." His hand shook a bit as he held it out to her.
"It's beautiful." She fumbled with the clasp, her eyes tearing. The bracelet slipped from her wrist.
Ben grabbed it before it hit the floor, and his large hands became steady as he deftly hooked the tiny clasp. "I like having something from me wrapped around you, even when I'm not there."
He kissed her palm. The brush of his breath caused a warm rush to surge through her.
He looked up, his eyes meeting hers, and she wanted nothing more than to dive into those blue depths and not think about the other deep that pulled stronger every day.
"Sometimes life is more complicated than we ever imagine it could be," she said.
"What has got you twisted in knots? I will help you untangle it. I will slay dragons, help you write essays, punch out anyone who hassles you, cover you with kisses. Whatever you need, baby."
She smiled. "My hero."
"I wish I was. But sometimes I think you will leave me behind. It's a feeling I get."
For a moment Hallie couldn't speak. "I don't want to go places without you. Ever. But I get caught up in stuff and can't always talk to you about what's going on. I want to be able to tell you everything."
His arms wrapped around her and anchored her in a safe harbor. This time, she could feel his heart--a steady drum.
"Don't leave me," she whispered. "No matter what."
His face was in her hair, his breath hot. "Nothing could ever make me leave you."
Not even my darkest secret? She banished the thought. Her mouth found his--lips parted, hint of peppermint.
His hands tangled in her hair. Hers slid around his waist. His kisses trailed down her neck to her collarbone like liquid fire. She flamed and melted. She was wax on a candle. There was nothing but Ben.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Check this out

Today is about announcements. Teasers! Awards! Contests! Milestones!

And one grumpy note about Blogger Comments. I have been having trouble making my comments stick--have to scroll down and click publish a few times. Hopefully, nobody left a comment after the first click and it didn't take. I went to the Help page and found many people are having problems. Some have lost all old comments, some are getting wrong counts. So check to be sure your comments are not being lost, and leave Blogger Help a message if you have problems.

On to more fun stuff. Shannon O'Donnell at Book Dreaming awarded me the Superior Scribbler, which is too cute, and, yes, I have been writing since that age, for sure. I'll pass it along, as well as the One Lovely Blog Award I received from Liza and Shannon, in the near future.

Today I want to shout out to Beth Revis, who has signed with the amazing Writers House (if you haven't taken the online tour of their site, you must). She is holding a contest to celebrate, and you really need to check her out. Beth is super.

Drum roll. Trumpets, please: I want to invite everyone to a super-fun blog party Monday. Sherrinda at A Writer Wannabe came up with a fabulous idea for mistletoe season--excerpts of kissing scenes. A bunch of writers have signed up and anyone can play. Post a scene you've written and then enjoy bloghopping to savor what is going to be a wide array of smoochiness. Sherrinda has put up a widget with links to the players' blogs. Swoon away.

And finally. I let it slip by, but my last post was my 100th. And that seems like a milestone since I only stuck my toe in the blogging water seven months ago. I'd like to thank everyone who drops in to read what I have to say. I am grateful to all who have left comments and become followers. I so love this community of writers who encourage, teach and support one another.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The road to my heart

I almost didn't pull the boxes off the shelf this year and take out this exquisite wax angel or hilarious blue feathered bird. The angel was a gift from my mother-in-law, a woman who took me under her wing and believed in me when I was lost and broken. I think of her every year I place it, with love, on a tree.
This year, I had settled in Eeyore-land and was moping. I was sure there was no way I was going to hunt down a tree small enough to fit in my Miata, light enough for me to haul in and set up. Too much trouble. Why bother?
But one bright morning after days of rain, I went out to run chores, and my mind said, "Wouldn't it be a nice day to look at Christmas trees, to smell that heady scent and just see--not buy, of course--if they have any small ones."

And there I was. Breathing deep, sticking my face wantonly into the branches of dozens of trees, falling in love.
I saw one about my height--a tad above 5'2"--and told the tree elf that I would take it if he could wedge it in the front seat of a Miata. They wrapped it up tight and, oh my, it fit. My tree and I drove home, very chummy.
And then the forest came to live with me. At least for a couple of weeks. And I took down the boxes full of memories, loving and savoring the story of each ornament I placed on the branches.
Because that's what Christmas is to me, remembering the love and joy we have experienced and the people with whom we shared that.

This being the year of my sea novel, I was elated to find this wild and wacky fish. Nearby, I hung an enameled sea horse and a gorgeous white shell. I've added several of the shells I found in November while the novel was tumbling from my head to the page.

So the tree cradles my current dreams, too.

Here are dough ornaments made years ago when my daughter was small. She made the adorable Santa on the left, and, for years, didn't want me to hang it because it didn't look like the ones I made. But now she sees the delight in a child's art, and I can remember my lovely, amazing daughter every time I snug it on a tree.

This cherub angel I purchased in Notre Dame in Paris. Every year I get to recall that wonderful trip when I uncover it again. There are so many more ornaments, given by friends, found in back streets of New Orleans, made by hand--each speaks to me.
While decorating, I let music lift my spirit. I listened to the great Christmas music CD I got from Tess Hilmo and another one an old friend recorded of himself singing holiday songs while strumming a ukulele. Glen McGuire is an Irish-Pawnee poet who moved back to Oklahoma years ago, but when I put on his CD, I remember him with great fondness. I interviewed him when I was a reporter and he was a teacher at a BIA school. He had written a chapbook of poetry (Spider Spins Between Two Worlds), and I remember him tapping his hand in syncopation as he recited a poem about jazz musicians.
On the CD is also a lovely, haunting poem he wrote and set to music. It tells, in a way, what I love about a holiday that brings back to memory the people who have made my life special. I'm sorry if I misquote or only get the gist of some lines, because I scribbled it down from the recording. Forgive me if I messed up anything, Glen:

Had a chance to go to London once,
Stayed in Kansas and held your hand.
Had a chance to go to Paris once,
Stayed in Laramie and kissed your hand.
Had a chance to go to Athens once,
Stayed in Santa Fe and touched your lips.
Haven't traveled far, oh Lord, in this world,
But a long road to the city of my heart.
Once again forgive me, Glen, wherever you are, if I got any words wrong. It's hard to take them down from a recording, but they touched me and I want to say that is what this holiday means to me--the journey to the city of my heart and all the wonderful people I've met along the way.
Happy holidays, everyone, no matter how you celebrate, no matter what your beliefs, I hope this time of year warms your heart.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Abby tagged me and ran off to Idaho

I must be It. Abby Annis tagged me, and there appears to be a Santa-sized list of questions to answer. So here goes:

1) What's the last thing you wrote? What's the first thing you wrote that you still have?

Most recently I've been working on a YA novel--a contemporary supernatural/fantasy set largely in the sea.

I still have a chapbook from a writing course that includes some of my poetry, as well as some magazines that published my early haiku.

2) Write poetry?

Always. Have written sonnets, free verse, haiku.

3) Angsty poetry?

Oh, yeah. But that mostly stays buried in a drawer unless ritually burned.

4) Favorite genre of writing?

Fantasy--all forms.

5) Most annoying character you've ever created?

Was it the petulant princess or her bossy mother? Both are better off in the drawer.

6) Best plot you've ever created?

I'm still working on it.

7) Coolest plot twist you've ever created?

It's got me tied up in knots.

8) How often do you get writer's block?

I don't get writer's block. I can write by demand. What I get is plot block when I get stopped because I'm not sure what I want to do next.

9) Write fan fiction?

No, my mind is too filled with its own creations.

10) Do you type or write by hand?

Type. But I will write by hand--if that is all that's handy. Ha.

11) Do you save everything you write?

Since some of my files have ancient parchment in them, I guess the answer is yes. Unless it was something I ritually burned.

12) Do you ever go back to an idea after you've abandoned it?

Oh, yeah.

13) What's your favorite thing you've ever written?

People should never be asked to choose between their babies.

14) What's everyone else's favorite story you've written?

My critique group seemed to be very fond of a YA fantasy I wrote last year about a girl whose magic stemmed from music.

15) Ever written romance or angsty teen drama?

Tried to write romance and never got past opening chapters. I guess it's not my genre, but I do toss romance in my stories. I think of it as seasoning, not the main course.

16) What's your favorite setting for your characters?

Where they are at home. Addendum: I don't mean the characters are in their houses. I mean I set the place to suit the characters. I usually send them to the ends of the earth, however.

17) How many writing projects are you working on right now?

Two novels, assorted short stories and the occasional poem. Mostly, it's the sea novel.

18) Have you ever won an award for your writing?

Yes, I took third place in an online fiction contest, and I received an honorable mention at a SCBWI event. I also received runner-up in a haiku contest and some awards for non-fiction when I was a newspaper reporter.

19) What are your five favorite words?

I don't have favorite words, but I love the name, Daggett, a desert town. Let's see. Mangle and malicious are descriptive. Obfuscate is hilarious.

20) What character have you created that is most like yourself?

I'm sure they would all argue they are nothing like me.

21) Where do you get your ideas for your characters?

Synaptic connections?

22) Do you ever write based on your dreams?

Yes but not as linear stories. I may get an idea or character from a dream.

23) Do you favor happy endings?

I don't want to be left miserable but neither do I think happily-ever-after is satisfying. It's somewhere in between--the place we all live where bad things happen but hope returns.

24) Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?

If I see a mistake I fix it, but I don't obsess over it.

25) Does music help you write?

Sometimes it really keeps me in the flow. It must be the right mood and nothing that makes me want to get up and dance or sing because then the song wins, the story loses.

26) Quote something you've written. Whatever pops in your head.

I posted this not long ago. The character is a twelve-year-old boy who responds to another character telling him "it's just a story."
"Never is just a story. Ma was always a'tellin' me, 'Samuel, remembers you that a story is the bones of the past, and worlds are built upon those as was and ever will be.' The stories be all around just waiting to come alive. Can't you see?"

And now. Drum roll. I must tag!

Bish Denham

Robyn Campbell

Victoria Saavedra

Search those writing souls. Have fun!

Sunday, December 13, 2009


I walked up a little hill yesterday, rain pattering on my favorite umbrella with suns and moons all bright yellow on dark blue. I bought it in a downpour years ago in Toronto.

On this walk I saw lots of pretty foliage freshened by the gift from the sky.

Besides sharing the photos, I'm giving you a little haiku.

after the rain,

muffled crunch of soggy leaves,

air spiced and still

Today's post is short. I know we are all up to our chins in holiday doings. I found a perfect fir tree that fit in the front seat of my Miata, and now it is filling my living room with the memory of forests. I will post its picture soon.

A huge thank you to Liza Carens Salerno at Middle Passages for this One Lovely Blog Award. It is always an honor to be selected by another blogger.
Liza absolved her honorees from following the award rules, so I am taking her up on that. But since the challenge was to share new blog links, I'm going to do that some time in the near future. It's always nice to get recs from friends.
Hope everyone had a super weekend, productive but not stressed, happy and not hysterical. If you need to vent, though, feel free. My comments are always open and I love to chat.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A little perspective here

A few years ago I noticed a picture across a contemporary art gallery on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles and was drawn to it.

At first glance it resembled Hokusai's "Great Wave off Kanagawa," but when I got close I saw the sea-foam bunnies and laughed. This scary mountain of water was transformed into "Uprisings," a witty and wonderful digital work by the two artists known as Kozyndan. (this work is copyrighted, see for more info)

I had to own it, and now the framed print hangs on my living room wall where visitors are drawn to it and either giggle like me or gasp and say something about poor bunnies.

Both the artwork and the reactions relate to our personal perspectives.

I have mentioned in previous posts that I adore and need the sea but also fear it. So for me, I think this work turns fear to whimsy and fun. But other people may be disturbed to think the bunnies are being pummeled.

My last post about signs, portents and mysteries elicited a number of interesting comments, including this from Lisa Dez: Perception is truth.

Lisa got me thinking about the link between perspective and perception, something that is integral to human beings and necessary to artists and writers. Perspective certainly is truth at a given moment in each person's eyes. But it can be different in another's eyes or altered by circumstances.

Dictionary descriptions also show shifts in defining perspective: To look through. To see clearly. Relating to. Capacity to view things in relative importance. Sense of proportion, of depth. View of relative distance and position. Overview. Vista. Outlook. Prospect. Viewpoint.

This leads me to ponder that an author's viewpoint will always come through but he/she must be sure that each character has a unique perspective and perception of the world, as well.

Here is a painting that alters perception. When I first saw this work, "Petra," by Katrin Wiese, I was reminded of the portraits by Renaissance painters--not because of her style which is expressionistic and contemporary--but the setting of a girl in front of a landscape is much like those of Bellini or Botticelli or even DaVinci. Remember "Mona Lisa?" She is posed, hands in front of her, landscape behind.

But like "Uprisings," my perspective and perception was jogged by what was in the landscape.

It's dystopic, apocalyptic. This young girl isn't in front of her family home or bucolic meadow. Her backdrop is chaos and destruction, but she has a serenity about her.

Some of you may wonder why I purchased a painting of such dark undertones. Because, once again, I find it thought-provoking and witty--a comment on our times.

This painting also has an entirely different perspective built into it. Wiese continued the artwork on the sides of its wood construction.

So if you view it from an angle, you get this added perspective.

And I can add one more variable: how we illuminate or choose to highlight things. I shot the two photos of this painting on different days in ambient light. One created sepia tones and the other is more brilliant as the original work is.

I have carried on here about our perceptions (which I think is awareness and comprehension based on experience including perspective). Don't know if I've made sense to you but it was interesting to me to explore this a bit.

Addendum: I realize another element that plays with perspective/perception in these artworks is that things are not as we expect them to be; there is surprise, shock. Good to remember as writers, as well.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Signs, portents and mysteries resolved

Gorgeous, perfect shells wash into some beaches so often the inhabitants of those shores line their window ledges and gardens with the gifts from the sea.
Other beaches are stingy with such offerings. I found these lovely, fragile shells at Venice Beach in California. It is not a shell beach. Often it's shore break pounds the sand and what little is left is broken. But on one walk I picked up all these, including the tiny angel wings at the bottom of the photo. I felt like a kid on an Easter egg hunt to have found so many treasures in one day.
And it happened during November when I was writing the beginning of my new novel that takes place in the sea. I happily added this sign to others popping up around me--a license plate in front of me with two mermaids, a kelp forest sheet of stamps and others. But the one I made a big deal about was the tiny, worn sea shell I found on an inland mountain.
Yesterday, I solved the mystery of the shell so far from the ocean. And, phooey, it isn't magical but mundane.
I was hiking up a side trail made of decomposed granite. The same one where I found the shell. A rainstorm had roared through the day before and eroded the trail, so there were new gullies. As I walked, I saw another shell! I dug it out of the damp earth, amazed. And then I saw another! And another.

How could this be? Had I stumbled upon an ancient cache of shells?
As the evidence mounted and I picked up a handful of discolored, tough old shells, I had a dawning realization.

Sandbags. Of course. Sometimes the park workers put sandbags along the trails to keep them from eroding. The shells had probably been in bags that disintegrated over time.
Well, darn. I was deflated and put down my handful of collected shells and snapped another photo. But just as I was chiding myself for believing in signs and portents, I thought, it doesn't matter how the shells got here. I've been hiking this mountain for years and never saw a shell until November, and now I see dozens.
It is a sign for me to believe in me--in my curiosity, my imagination, my desire to be open to whatever comes my way.
What do you think? Are there nudges from the universe, or do we see what we want to see?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Rocky portents

Is she writing about boulders AGAIN? Um, yes. Don't snort or run away, please. I have browsed through my photos all day, looking for something to jump start a post. I have considered lakes and trees and seas and flowers. I have contemplated writing sad poetry or poking at my childhood traumas. I have stared at the steady rain and turned up the heater. I have sighed and lamented that the universe doesn't give a rat's ass about my so-called life.
It was a day when the creatures who live in the hidden deeps could have claimed me, but I seem to still be here.
So I figure I better pick a photo to write about. Yes, it is a boulder, but my last post was about my novel that has actual boulders in the storyline. This is about my shiny new novel that takes place in the sea where boulders will probably never move beyond window dressing. But you see that boulder jutting up? What does it look like?
A whale spyhopping, that's what. I have written news articles about spyhopping, which is when a whale sticks the top part of its body out of the water and checks out the scenery. And I say that's a gray whale spyhopping on top of a mountain. Which is a sign to this sometimes-fragile writer that her sea novel is meant to be. Since I started writing it I found a shell on top of this boulder-strewn inland mountain and the US Post Office put out kelp forest stamps, which surely is a sign.
I'm going to stop now, because I really am odd today. Hopefully, I will soon write a new post that will be boulder-free.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

What comes next or snippety snippets

I saw this boy hiking past a favorite boulder of mine on the local mountain I haunt. The light was
in the magic zone when gray and beige granite turns golden as the sun sinks toward the horizon.
I shot the picture (on my uber-cellphone) and remembered a character from my YA fantasy currently in revision repose. That's my new terminology for: I had to put it aside or go bonkers.
The character's name is Samuel and he is a 12-year-old with little education, strange speech patterns and a gift for storytelling. One of his tales is about a place called Thane's Tor. He and the novel's protagonist, Fiona, are searching for it. She asks why he is certain he will recognize that particular outcrop of boulders in the rocky terrain they are traveling.
"Simple as flatcakes. Ma telled me Thane's story many a time, and sometimes I took charcoal and drawed the creatures. That's how much I likes it."
Samuel settled back against a fallen tree trunk, ready to spin his tale.
"Once't long, long ago in the far, far-away north lived Thane, a giant amongst men. Now, Thane was a warrior-mage. He could heave boulders big as houses on his enemies and squash them like a worm underfoot."
Samuel stopped to tell Fiona an aside: "Me Ma never said that worm part. But I figured it out."

I'm interrupting this snippet to condense the story: Samuel describes a battle Thane has with goblins. Thane defeats them by turning boulders into beasts that crush the goblins "flat as slapped flies." The creatures, whom Thane changes back into rock, include a dragon-sized snake, enormous wolf, a bird-headed toad and a bunch of gingermen that resemble baker's treats.

"Now I gives you that gingermen do not sound so scary, but methinks if you had an army of gingermen tall as cottages, you 'ud get out the way."
(So on my hike, I think I saw the gingermen. Do you?)
When Samuel tells Fiona the beasts are still guarding Thane's Tor, she says it's just a story.
"Never is just a story. Ma was always a'tellin' me, 'Samuel, remembers you that a story is the bones of the past, and worlds are built upon those as was and ever will be.' The stories be all around just waiting to come alive, can't you see?"
Obviously, storytelling is on my mind. I loved a comment Neil Gaiman put on his blog. Someone asked what quotes he would like to see on library walls, and he said it would be the one every writer loves to hear from reader/listeners:
"...and then what happened?"

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The sound of adjustment

I'm going to a favorite beach this morning to walk before I undertake some stressful family duties. Sea air and the whoosh and boom of waves seem to both energize and soothe me.

What I really want is that external barrage on my senses--to still the yapping of my mind, to quell anxiety, to give me strength for the trials--and for a sad weight I'm carrying in my heart for another friend's family.

I have no idea what the beach will be like, although I did check my tide guide, which says I'll get there between the high and low tides today. If the tide is high at this beach, I walk on a trail east of railroad tracks. If the tide is low, I can go barefoot along the shore. Although it might be cold on the toes today.

The other thing that happens at this beach is periodic deposit of rocks and pebbles, all worn smooth by the grinding of surf but still too much for bare feet.

What I love about the rocky days is the sound. Have you heard it? The clattering of stones as they shift with the rush in and trickle out of each hissing, sighing wave?

What sounds do you hear? How would you write it?
Clack. Rattle. Clink.
Chatter. Can rocks chatter? I think so.
I'm listening for them to tell me how to adjust to the tides of life.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Who, me?

Honestly. What a month this has been! I don't know whether to adjust my tiara as I hobble to the podium in my strappy heels or wonder where the flower wreath came from around my sweaty neck as I stand, sides heaving, in the winners circle. I'm a NaNoWriMo winner! And, completely unattached to NaNo, Sarah has given me a scrappy award. How timely is that? (pls take a scroll down)

I never thought writing 50,000 words of a new novel in 30 days was a sane proposition. I entered National Novel Writing Month a few days before it began, mostly because so many other people were excited about it and I thought I should find out why.

What I found out is going to be the subject of another post. I want to let the dust settle before I mouth off. But my gut feeling is I learned some important stuff about the writing process.

And I love my new novel, Sea Daughters, begun Nov. 1. The idea had been brewing a long time and the walls of my writing room are covered with pictures of girls riding seahorses, turtles swimming, fish navigating kelp beds. There are piles of collected sea shells around me and a pink jellyfish in a glass paperweight (huh? It was a gift and it's pretty, especially in sunlight).

And there were signs everywhere all month. The best was me finding an old, plain seashell, worn by time in the dirt of a mountain trail many miles from the sea. I decided that meant I'd chosen the right story. And besides, the characters have been talking up a mammoth wave of words.

My Honest Scrap award comes from the hilarious Sarah With a Chance. If you don't read her blog you are missing out on great fun. The award also comes with rules. I'm supposed to tell 10 honest things about myself and pass it on to 10 bloggers. First Honest Thing: I am contrary about rules. So I propose to tell five things and choose an unknown number of bloggers (which is terribly difficult when there are so many people whose blogs I haunt). I leave the rules open for them, too. They can go 10 plus 10. Or five and five. Or they could divide again and go for 2.5. Can you tell half an honest thing?

2: (see 1 above) I am a Buffy fan forever, my personal BFF. How can I not be? Here's a quote after Buffy accidentally almost stakes Cordelia, who yells, "What is your childhood trauma!" So for all of us with childhood traumas, there is laughter in the dark.
3: I have a lifelong attraction and fear of the ocean. I can't stand to be far from the sea for very long, but I almost drowned as a small child before I learned to swim. Sometimes when I even look at photos of giant waves my heart races, and yet my NaNo novel takes place mostly in the sea.
4: I have a passion for art and love museums and galleries. I'm not an artist but I take photographs and have also created lost-wax jewelry, watercolors, collages and one stained glass piece.
5: I am not organized. I live in chaos but tend to get a lot of things done and on time. I may bend rules but I meet deadlines.

I herby pass this award to these scrappy bloggers:
Andrea Cremer
Karen Denise
Linda Kage
Wendy Prior
Karen Amanda Hooper
Corey Schwartz

And one last BIG ol' shout out. Thank you so much to the new followers and people who have commented on this blog while I have been splashing around this month. I really appreciate seeing you here--Liza, Victoria, Shannon, Stephanie, Angela, Julie, Tamika, Teri, Mary, Barb. *waves* *waves more*

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

At home in the universe

Earth. My planet. My home.
In all the universe, amongst white-hot stars, red dwarfs, black holes, nebula whirls and endless unknowns, there is Earth.
On Thanksgiving when many of us express gratitude I humbly suggest we remember what makes any of us possible. We get to fall in love, raise babies, play with puppies, read novels, press the keys of a piano, listen to waves rumble and collect shells. We choose lipstick shades, dive from cliffs, reel in fish, slide down mountains, fall from the skies, kiss baby feet, smoke turkeys, whip cream and snuggle under comforters.
We do all we do because this planet, our home, nourishes life. Love her back, remember and protect her so life continues to flourish in this outpost in space. Happy Thanksgiving.
This photo of a crescent of Earth courtesy of NASA Image Science & Analysis Laboratory.

Monday, November 23, 2009

That's what friends are for

Is this not a lovely award? Blogging friend Robyn at Putting Pen to Paper bestowed it upon me. Yes, bestowed upon, is the proper language for this. It's so enchanting I feel like I've been given visiting rights to Faerie.

Thanks, Robyn!

And something so pretty ought to be passed along, as well. So I offer it--with no binding agreement to any fairy--to Terresa, Shelley and Natalie, all of whom are lovely visitors and exquisite bloggers of very different styles and subjects. Drop in, enjoy their sites.
And if you haven't, ahem, noticed my sidebar, I'm kicking it on NaNo. As of this moment, 41,379 words in 23 days. And I didn't make any bargain with the fairies. At least, not that I recall.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

One step leads to another

Walking leads me to places in my mind. There are two kinds of walking. One with a friend--chatty and all about catching up on gossip, listening to rants, sharing joys and sorrows. I'm talking about the other kind of walking where I'm alone, just me and my mind gone strolling. Sometimes I write whole scenes of my novels while walking.
Today, this California buckwheat caught my eye, rust-colored in its final stage of life but gorgeous against a granite boulder. I stopped to take its picture and began thinking about how death can be beautiful.
Leaves turn red and yellow when trees block off their sap supply to prepare for winter freeze. The leaves have to die to protect the trees. But it is most glorious, is it not?
In such a case, death is a sigh, a rustle on the wind, a sweet release. What would life mean if there was no death? It will take me many walks to ponder that.
As I got close to home, a man sat alone on his porch in the twilight playing a saxophone. I lingered a moment, letting the richness of the notes lead me like a Pied Piper to the streets of New Orleans. I can walk a long way in my mind and never get tired. Do you?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Bridges of the mind

Memory is such a curious thing. I've begun to think of it as little bridges we can cross where we see some bit of what's on the other side but may have to travel to find whatever we're looking for. We may get lost. We may get confused. We may change the scenery.
Do I sound obtuse? Sorry if I do, but memory isn't particularly clear cut. Ask several people about the same event and you get different viewpoints, sometimes conflicting.
I have just spent a glorious few days submerged in events with friends and family. Memories were an intense part of the experience, but I began to realize how much they differ from one person to the next. Part of that is what we choose to remember, I think, and part is that there are an awful lot of bridges and distant places in our minds. How could any of us follow the same trails? Or perhaps we know where the dragons live and are sure to avoid that direction. At one event we memorialized someone by recalling his talent and charisma, but we clearly chose not to cross the bridge to where his dragons lived. When I saw a much younger me pop up on a slide show of his life, I waved at her. I thought of her with bittersweet fondness. But I stopped halfway across that bridge and turned back. The room was filled with people whose lives were making new memories. That was the glory.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Universe and you

The Universe has smiled on Lisa & Laura Roecker. They have a publishing deal for "A Kate Lowry Mystery: THE HAUNTING OF PEMBERLY BROWN," a novel that involves e-mail from ghosts so you know the Universe has its fingerprints all over this baby. LiLa also have themselves a Kindle, which appeared so miraculously as to hint at the Big U again, and as they are generous, highly amusing and probably superstitious, they've decided to give away this Kindle in a contest. Friday the 13th, dear reader, is your last chance to win this unique connection to the Universe. Go check it out!
In other news, I am retreating from view for two days for family things, but don't even begin to think I'm giving up on NaNo. I'm almost half way! That story will just simmer on the back burner and, hopefully, not explode all over the kitchen before I stir the pot again. Bad analogy. I'm all writ out.
Friday morning OOPS: I thought the Kindle contest lasted through today but it ended midnight. Sorry if you missed it, but don't miss out on the fabulous news posted on the LiLa blog. The Universe is doing a happy dance.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I'm out to sea

Have you ever walked out of your shoes? Gone Away to the Other Place?
Do people give you odd looks as you sleepwalk through supermarkets or try to remember why you came in the first place? Perhaps, someone sends you gentle e-mails asking how you're doing. Or leaves a little food offering on your doorstep.
I confess I've been immersed in the watery world of Sea Daughters, my new novel-in-progress begun for NaNoWriMo.
I'm sticking my head up to shout out that last night I passed 20K. How this is happening I don't know, because sometimes I'm sure I can not keep up this pace. But here I am and I chose to think it has to do with that magical Other Place.
In celebration I will share a page from what I've been channeling through my mind and fingers. For your reading pleasure, hopefully:
The sun was newly risen, shedding golden light on the sand and water. Hallie had left home as soon as her dad drove off to work. She was wearing a bikini under old sweats. She would have to tuck the clothing in a safe place where she could find it later.
She tried to spot Ondine in the water. A line of pelicans swooped in sync along the lip of a cresting wave, their wing tips almost brushing the surface.
Where was Ondine? There were a few surfers out, mostly down at the pier and T Street. She and Ondine had picked this area south of there where they could use Seal Rock as a landmark. She could hear the sea lions barking and the echo of waves projecting off the cliffs behind her.
She also saw her secret door. Ever since she was small and discovered the metal-mesh door that closed off a narrow passageway into the cliff, she had imagined it was a pirate's escape route or a sealed-off entrance to the land of Faerie. That's where she would stash her clothes, she decided. Whenever Ondine showed up.
A couple of surfers crossed the railroad tracks towards the water. If Ondine didn't hurry, there would soon be a crowd and somebody would notice a girl in a bikini swimming out to sea and not returning. Wouldn't that be just great if the lifeguards and Coast Guard got called?
A hand waved half way between shore and Seal Rock. It had to be Ondine. She must be a good quarter mile out.
Hallie shrugged out of her sweats, rolled them in a ball and hid them, with her flip-flops, under a bush near the secret door. She scurried across the tracks, hip-hopped over the cold morning sand and ran straight into the chilly Pacific Ocean. As she dove under the first wave, she felt like she'd been tossed in an ice bath. She emerged, gasping.
This was either the stupidest or bravest thing she had ever agreed to do.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Once there was a goal

Once there was a goal strong enough to build this tower. I hike often up Mt. Rubidoux in Riverside, Calif. At the top is the Peace Tower and Friendship Bridge. Kids love to climb up the castle-like stone stairs. People read the plaques.
In 15 years it will have been a century since this was built by residents of the city to honor a local leader who tried to promote world peace. It was in the wake of World War I, which was called then the War to End All Wars. It wasn't, as we know all too well.
But the goal of peace, the desire, the motivation lives on as people are reminded whenever they climb up and see this monument.
Motivation is the backbone of novel writing. If your characters don't have it, you've got an empty shell. Sure, you can write compelling action and lyrical prose, but without motivation it goes nowhere.
There's a great quote attributed to Kurt Vonnegut: "Every character should want something even if it's only a glass of water."
If that character is tied up by kidnappers in the desert and hasn't had a sip to drink in a day, that desire becomes critical. The story needs a Big Picture goal as well as smaller ones that lead to it. So that once the character escapes the kidnappers and gets that drink of water he can go back to stopping the alien invasion of the planet or whatever.
On the Literary Lab, Lady Glamis did a great post on the dangling carrot. She developed a motivation map to track how she is driving her characters and creating tension.
I'm reminded of all this as I strive for my own goal of writing 50,000 words of a brand-new novel this month. I've made motivation lists for my characters in hopes I can keep those threads strong as I go. It's a huge challenge, and I don't know if I will make the word count or if I will have written something viable by the end. I do know that it's another invaluable experience.
As of last night, which was the seventh day of writing, I had reached 14,511 words. I'm motivated, and hopefully, my characters are, too. How about you?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Keep looking up

Does not a sky like this lift your spirits, make you want to sing and dance and smile at strangers? I feel like today will be glorious and, I'm sharing that hope with you.
Confession: I shot this photo (with my uber-cellphone) last evening not this morning but since the glory has lasted, it must be true.
Stats: I wrote another 2,035 words yesterday, bringing my total to 8,322 in four days. Not bad, huh? Now admittedly a couple of my NaNoWriMo buddies have shot past 11K!!! And a couple of others are struggling to get started. I'm just trying to keep a pace that makes 50K by Nov.30 within the realm of possibility.
Things I've learned or reinforced: We can do more than we think we can. Deadlines really do motivate. The buddy-system gives you strength. Hmmmm, I sound like a motivational speaker or Army recruiter.
Answer to nay-sayers: There are people who poo-poo the NaNo approach, saying all you end up with is a pile of poo. And it is true that by writing non-stop without percolation time and editing will result in some crap, but there have been novels published that were first-drafted in NaNo. The trick is to toss out what doesn't work and plan on heavy revising, which are not really unusual tactics for writers.
What I hope to come away with is the fun of slamming out a story and sharing that experience with other writers, along with a better understanding of how to self-motivate. We all know how easy it is to find excuses. If you play the NaNo game you must work around, over or through the excuses.
And you've got to hope your muse doesn't get tired of being pushed and say, "Later, dude." Anyone have tips on how to keep your muse happy? Plenty of sleep. Walks under pretty skies. Music on the i-Pod. I'm working it, believe me. That finish line is a long way off.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Gone word fishing

Some days are about being quiet.

Sunday I tore into NaNoWriMo by writing more than 3,000 words. Monday I added more than 2,000. Today it was about 1,000.

I needed to think, to ponder, to consider where this story is going. So like an egret, I stilt-walked through the water, stirring up the bottom with my foot to see what might be worthwhile.

Tonight I went to my critque group and shared what I had written. And, yay, they liked it.
Tomorrow is another day. My word count stands presently at 6,287 out of the 50,000 I'm trying to reach by month's end. And so I'll say good-night. I'm going to sleep and hope my night-walking stilts stir up some hidden morsels about my characters and their story that will set my fingers blazing across the keyboard with the rising sun. Wishing everyone a beautiful and satisfying day.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Catching the wave

I'm feeling all woo-hoo. Yesterday, the first day of NaNoWriMo, I typed 3,157 words of a new YA fantasy novel with the working title, Sea Daughters. In the most simplistic description, it's about a surfer whose mother died at sea and who finds a family she didn't expect.
The goal of NaNo is to write a rough draft of 50,000 words in one month. I was freaking out the night before until I realized all I needed to do with this draft is tell the family's story, not worry about all the details of research and fleshing out that I will do in the second draft. That was a freeing realization. I promised occasional snippets and will give you this one, which comes about page seven after Hallie's father tells her an unsettling story and takes her out to sea to show her where she was born and where her mother died. Hallie's refuge is surfing so that's where she takes herself afterwards.
The afternoon winds had died so the waves were smooth and sharp as glass. Perfect. The water was still cold in April. She ran into it, board held in front of her until she bellied on to it and paddled hard. She went under the first wall of white water, feeling the shock on her face. She shook droplets off her hair, glad as always that she kept it short. Another wave loomed in front of her and she went up and over seconds before it broke.
Her adrenaline was pumping. The waves were good-sized and moving fast. This was going to be fun. She spun her board around as a wave approached and paddled fast as her arms could go so she would be caught up in the wave's momentum. She felt the power of the moving water grab and propel her board, and she rode down its face like a slide. With a slight shift of weight she brought her board up to the lip and then drove down again. She was flying. When she finally kicked out over the top, she whooped.
Hallie lost track of time as she caught wave after wave, each peeling perfectly. After awhile, she realized no one else was in the water and the sun had doused it's light in the endless sea. Well, she was going to get a lecture tonight. But this was totally worth it.
As she waited for another wave, she noticed a dark shape swimming underwater in her direction. Her heart thudded. What was it? A seal? A shark?
Hallie's mouth went dry as it swam right up to her board. And then a girl's head popped out of the water. Hallie felt her jaw drop.
Now it's back to NaNo-rama. The goal is to try for 2,000 words a day, knowing there are days when life gets in the way or days when the muse loves you. Who knows how much I will spew today.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Scared silliness

Happy Halloween

Come into to my web, my sweets, and I will tell you a story.

Every year I carve a pumpkin, sometimes two. I go to a rural pumpkin patch on a day when the sky is bluer than blue and brushed clean of clouds. The air is sharp and dry, electric with the change of season. I stroll through the field, leaning down to pat the firm shells or consider the contours. A few imperfections are intriguing but I don't care for much surface rubble.

Children around me whoop and holler and attempt to carry pumpkins bigger than their own round bellies.

I'm always looking for a special one whose face I see trying to break free of its pumpkin shell. I see where it would smile if I gave it back its mouth and how its eyes would see if I unveiled them.

This year's pumpkin I picked from a supermarket bin--no time for more than a quick once over and home with me it came. When I slid the long stainless steel knife in its top, it felt like butter. I don't remember ever having such a fresh pumpkin. It was young and succulent, its flesh full of juice. I knew its face as soon as my safety razor started drawing, and I quickly revealed it with carving saw and peeler.

Despite where I find my pumpkins, when a candle is lit inside the carved squash, it's magic. And children always know. They stand still in their trick-or-treat tracks and observe the faces as if they are real. But I didn't tell you they aren't, did I?

I wear my witch's black flowing dress, striped stockings and tall hat. I love to cackle. Knock on my door, if you dare.

My snippet today will feature a witch who may find her way into something sometime. She is currently homeless.

An enormous buzzing, an angry rattle and drone, shook the air. A figure shot above the treetops, followed by an undulating black cloud which seemed to be the source of the noise.
Aidan tried to get a better view through the trees and, not paying attention to what was in front of him, walked into a ginormous spiderweb. He swiped the sticky tendrils from his face and hair, hoping the giant spider wasn't there, too.
The figure shot by again and he saw it was a woman sitting on a stick! In her wake was a swarm of hornets.
Aidan hopped over tree roots and rocks as he hurried back to the boulder outcrop where he would have a clear view of the sky. He stumbled up, skinning his hand on a jut of granite but was rewarded when he got to the summit. The witch was spinning in circles, creating a vortex of hornets below her. Her laughter, bright and blade-sharp, competed with the hornet's buzz.
The witch wore swaths of black silk that fluttered like banners. Her legs and feet were bare. Her hair was a tangled, twiggy mass of brown and forest green shades. Aidan thought he saw a bird's nest above her right ear!
And then like a spaceship at hyper speed she shot across the treetops towards a larger rock face several hundred yards from where Aidan crouched. The hornets stuck to her like jet stream, as though she pulled them in her wake, and then Aidan noticed that behind the hornets were a flock of cowbirds, an overalls-clad farmer and a mooing milk cow.
The witch disappeared into a crack in the rock wall, leaving her entourage suspended in air as they buzzed and mooed and shouted. Only her laughter echoed from the rock.

I leave you this fine Halloween with this partying lion.
I start NaNoWriMo at daybreak tomorrow and will keep you updated and slip you some snippets as I go.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Weaving webs

At Talespinning, I celebrate storytelling and the people who weave those tales, so imagine my delight when I found this sparkly web by valoqueen at LiveJournal!
Why do spider webs fascinate me? Consider the orb web, which is constructed by a spider producing sticky silk and first making a rectangular framework. Then she radiates spokes out from the center of the web and finally lays spirals around those spokes. The result is strong and lovely--just like we want our stories to be.
Later, I may post a spooky or silly snippet in honor of Halloween, but, for this moment, I just want to enjoy the pretty sparkly picture. Hope your weaving is going well and that those preparing for NaNoWriMo are gathering all sorts of colorful threads and patterns for the month ahead.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Let's go crazy

I may be huffing and puffing like this little steampunky NaNoWriMo badge before November 2009 passes into history. Just in case you've never heard of this event it draws tens of thousands of crazy writers who try to write a 50,000-word novel in one month. Kick-off is Sunday.
Some people succeed and get winner badges (Sorry, folks, no big prize money is at stake). I just want to see what wild story emerges when I spew it forth without the usual noodling and editing.
Because I made this decision at the last minute I didn't do a lot of pre-planning like some NaNo vets. They have outlines and goal schedules. I have a story idea with characters I like and a vague goal. I may end up in Tasmania and you'll have to send someone to fetch me back.
So my blog posts may be sketchy or all about word-count marathons. I'll do my best to stick my head out of the hole and blink at ya. Anyone who wants to buddy me on NaNo can find me under username "sleuthwood." If you're curious, it's from Yeats.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Laughing at clouds

My day was about pretzel-ing into my sporty but low-slung Miata, extricating myself to pump gas and push a wobbly-wheeled basket through a supermarket. It was all about ho-hum until I took the magical sunset hike.
The sky fairies spun cotton-candy clouds, and I laughed.
Because when I see pink clouds I remember my friend, Kevin, who died too young. After one of his many surgeries he told me that he stood on a wind-whipped cliff and gazed at a pink cloud and laughed in delight. We should always laugh at the gorgeous silliness of our world as if we had bought just one more day.

As I hiked, the sun sunk deeper beyond the horizon and the mountain silhouettes turned slate-gray and then black. Coyotes ripped in high-pitched hysteria from the river bottom. Have you ever noticed how frenzied they sound compared to the haunting howl of wolves?
The sky became so saturated in color that it reminded me of a character I wrote for a story that never got finished. So I'll give him a little spotlight here:

A man appeared with skin the color of rainbows. Around his waist was a belt with hooks that held a clattering skirt of paintbrushes in all sizes and shapes.

"Now that's a sky worthy of Tiepolo or Veronese, although, you know, I taught them how to do it," he said to me.
I was too astonished to ask what he meant.
He dipped a brush into pigment, using himself as a palette. Then he lifted the brush, which grew so long it reached the sky, and he dabbed a swath of coral, hot as the Caribbean across the clouds.
"Where do you get such color?" I asked, finally more curious than awe-struck.
"It's all around! Purples from amethyst, teal from amazonite, emerald-green from diopside. For blues, there is lapis lazuli or azurite. Malachite gives deep green. Did you know I can make superb storm clouds from blue apatite and forests from the green?"
I shook my head, watching his paintbrush gild the edge of a cloud.
"You don't see skies like this too often any more. Mostly, they've faded," he said, his brush hand dropping to his side.
"How can that be? You are painting this one."
"I was drawn by your desire to see the setting sun. There was a time when people honored sunrise and sunset. They held ceremonies. Their shamans chanted. They burned sweet herbs and played music. There was the miracle of a new day and of its close. But now, people barely notice. It's as though they've lost their connection to the cycle of days, to the wonder of it. Nobody cares anymore, and so it is fading."
Okay, that's the snippet. I've got no more. So what do you think--have we lost our sense of wonder? Or are we the ones to keep it alive.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Batty night thoughts

I saw a bat last night against the dying of the light--a black dart, a zig, a zag, a fluttery flash. Not the owl's deadly glide or a hawk's pinpoint dive, a bat is quick and gone. I felt my breath catch and release, and thought: I saw a bat in the dying of the light.
I walk, most often alone, up a small mountain in my town. Perhaps I should be afraid of some things, but it won't be of bats. Why do bats have such fearsome reputations anyway? Is it our fear of darkness, of things we can't see in the full light of day? They fly at night and often live in caves. Eerie, enough. But does that make them Dracula?
I remember, as a child, being at a neighborhood gathering. It was held in some farm's outbuilding, not used much, I'm guessing. Suddenly, a bat was shooting from corner-to-corner like a pinball in an arcade game. The men dashed after it. The boys hollered. The girls and women covered their heads. Someone told me to do the same or it would get tangled in my hair. Why in the world would it want to do that?
I imagine that a goth girl might adore, not abhor, a bat hat--a swath of black net with a wing spread across her brow. These are the silly-crazy things I think at 2 a.m. when sleep won't bed with me, when the Sandman stands me up.
Poor misunderstood bats. We say people have gone batty or have bats in the belfry to mean they're nuts. Or we chide someone for being blind as a bat when, in fact, bats can see. They have eyes, noses, hands and feet. They also have echolocation, which is using sound waves and resulting echoes to find stuff--from them we learned to use sonar. Bats aren't flying mice like some people describe them. They are closely related to us, these tiny mammals.
Makes me itch all over to consider what would happen to us without them. About 70% of them eat insects, and the brown bat can consume 1,200 night-flying bugs, including mosquitoes, in one hour. At the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, you can watch 400,000 free-tail bats emerge at dusk like an endless black cloud, breaking apart and flapping away. It's not a sight you forget. Before they return at dawn, they will have snapped up tons of bugs. Tons, literally.
Other bats eat fruit and lap flower nectar. Some catch frogs and fish. And there really are vampire bats that suck blood from birds and beasts. Once again, I say, they are not so different from us. Perhaps that's what Dracula is really about.
Do you have a batty story, a tale of bat delight or dread?