blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
Many years ago, I was able to attend the Writers of the Future writing workshop in Los Angeles, taught by K.D. Wentworth and Tim Powers. K.D. gave me a piece of short story writing advice: Mutilate the cows on the first page. For me, who had a bad habit of burying the SF element too many words into the story, it was an excellent piece of advice.

But it was Tim whom I got to know quite well during that week, and I had the chance to spend much of a later convention hanging out with him and his wife. Over coffee, I expressed my huge admiration for the event-puzzles Tim wrote as secret histories, and asked his advice on writing about the weird and wild in present-day settings. The conversation was fascinating, far-reaching, and made my brain hurt with the effort to keep up. His process of discovering and connecting historical events with fantastical motivations and influences stuck with me as I plotted out Crossroads of America.

Now, Crossroads is not a complex secret history, though it does draw from real historical reports, regional folklore, and local events. But the biggest missing piece has always been why the major character--Jack--ends up in a position of such influence, why she is the one who must act, and why her actions might have the power to solve the, um... problems.

Today, while hunting Google for the names of a couple locations in the California wilderness, I came upon this:

"Scientists are puzzled by a mysterious Los Padres National Forest hot spot where 400-degree ground ignited a wildfire. The hot spot was discovered by fire crews putting out a three-acre fire last summer in the forest's Dick Smith Wilderness."

And all of a sudden, Jack has a complex backstory that makes her the inevitable choice for the role she must play, and it's all based on an actual event!

Now back to adding words to my NaNo count.
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
So I'm waiting for my parents to arrive, and hoping they either beat the line of icky storms or choose to hang out at a coffee shop until it passes.

In the meantime, I'm tinkering with the NaNo project. I've decided to focus on the urban fantasy--Crossroads of America--because I (a) have the research at my fingertips, and (b) grew more excited the more I thought about it.

I love the characters. There's Jacqueline, who prefers to go by Jack--an early-thirties Californian geocaching her way across the country to escape the demons of her past. There's Luke--an early-thirties martial arts instructor who hangs out with an informal group of folks interested in and/or with an affinity for supernatural matters. There's Wyatt--a farmer and medium--and Carrie--an intuitive who works with the Indiana Geological Survey And there's Duncan--Jack's best friend, who knows the secrets she wants to forget.

On the other side, there's Mark--a young man who isn't entirely stable--and the Ditch Devil--who takes full advantage of Mark's ambition and ego-fueled gullibility.

And I throw all those people into museums, war memorials, old catacombs, and planetariums. And there might be wolves.

I've been in love with this concept for years. I want to make it happen!

Familial and work obligations will take the first few days of the month, but I have decided it won't matter if I "finish" NaNo with 50K words. The who idea of NaNoWriMo is what's driving me to finally--finally!--give this novel the time it deserves.

Oh yeah... I should probably finish the Sand revisions, too.
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

I've tried time and again to write about the week spent celebrating Patricia's life, and it all falls flat. Mark Booher, Artistic Director for PCPA, described the experience well when talking of how to explain the impact and reach of Patricia's presence: You had to be there.

One can't tell stories about Patricia without also telling one's own story, and I believe she did that on purpose. She lived life as an artistic collaboration. Everyone was her partner in creation. She saw the future potential in people, and lovingly demanded that potential be set free in the present. She believed in making art without hesitation because it was better to fail spectacularly than to try timidly. She taught her actors that perfection wasn't worth chasing because it was truth that mattered—and truth is a messy, painful, incredible imperfect thing.

These are the things she taught me. These are the things I want to pass on to others.

The experience of the celebration of her life was beautiful, fulfilling, and warming. Within half an hour of arriving, Dev and I found John—the man who I acted with for years, and who performed my wedding on the set of King Lear, the play Patricia was directing at the time. I had a few moments of private conversation with him that quieted some of my worst fears of Patricia's final days.

Just before the celebration in the outdoor theater began, I met up with three actors who'd been—along with me—in the first cast Patricia worked with in the area more than twenty years ago. Then one of them pointed out Dev was less than three years younger than I had been that year! And every one of them talked about how I'd huddle in some backstage corner between my scenes, frantically writing by the glow of stage lights that seeped around the sets. Even as an actor, I was a writer.

It was yesterday, home less than twenty-four hours, that I realized one of the greater gifts Patricia had given me: fertile artistic ground. I didn't seek out conferences and conventions in those years because I was already surrounded by creative people doing creative things. Creativity was the default, not the special exception. Creativity was the valued expectation, not the little thing on the side. Creativity was as breathing.

It was like living at Viable Paradise.

And I can hear her voice now: "If you want that back, love, decide now and make it happen. All that's stopping you is the silly notion that you can't do it, and notions don't get a vote in this."

For Dev, the trip gave him the chance to learn so much more about Patricia, and about the past of his parents. It'll be the time I'll look back on as the time when Dev began the shift to more adult than teenager.

I will always miss Patricia. I'll always want to share one more conversation, to see one more show, to hear one more laugh, to relax into one more embrace. But I'm no longer painfully grieving. She lived her life as she wished, and left a legacy of love, art, and passion.

May we all aspire so.

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
This time, I'll be gone for a week--a few days in the mountains above Monterey, a couple days on the Central Coast, and a day on either end for travel.

That assumes, of course, I can get out of the state.  Last week's snow resulted in a day's worth of air traveler's bumped from their flights.  Today things are just caught up.  My flight leaves early tomorrow morning... by which time there will be a couple inches of NEW snow on the ground.  I'm planning to get up at 3:30am in expectation of messy roads.  Then, I'm planning to sleep on the plane after giving those seated near my permission to wake me if I start snoring.

Dev will be spending his first night at home, all night, alone.  He's pretty stoked.  I have made him lists of this and that, let a couple nearby friends know Dev is on his own, and reminded myself sixteen is plenty old enough to demonstrate independence.  I suspect he will eat just about anything in the house that resembles snack foods, stay up nearly all night to watch movies and play Xbox, and drag himself out of bed the next morn with barely enough time to get ready for work.

Alas, I would feel better (and so would he) if the dogs were here.  But since Dev won't be at the house all week, and there is no one else to take them to the kennel, the pups must head out this afternoon.  At least we know they're well-loved at the kennel.  They act just as excited to arrive there as they are to go home.

I haven't written a thing in days, and decided that was just fine.  It seems I have a difficult time settling in to write when I don't have the activity of karate.  Good to know.
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

Cool little things:

First: One of my favorite people from my high school years is my drama coach.  As an actor, he taught me a great deal about how to be comfortable—and therefore be real—on stage, and one of my coolest high school experiences was acting as his stage manager when he directed 1984. We still chat on the phone now and then, and have managed to see each other in person twice in the last twenty years.  I tell you all this so you'll understand how unbelievably awesome it was to hear him say he can see me in Sword and Chant.   

Second: A complete stranger gave Sword and Chant four of five stars over at Goodreads.  I'm telling you this because...  Well, because you're my friends, and I'm so ridiculously jazzed I keep giggling. :)



Our Christmas tree is up!  This is an accomplishment.  Last year, I put up a tree with a few standard glittery ornaments because I didn't want to pull out the special ornaments.  Special ornaments hold memories—that's their purpose—and neither Dev nor I were interested in swimming in that ocean.  We didn't put lights outside, either.  We didn't do much of anything but get through the first Christmas without his father.

This time, Dev volunteered to help.  There are only special ornaments on the tree.  And since we have a much smaller tree (because we have a much smaller space for it!), those special ornaments fill the spaces perfectly.  If it ever stops raining, or freezing, we will put up some outside lights as well.  Nothing huge, but enough to reclaim the season.

Above all else, I am grateful beyond measure that my son still talks with me.  One night last week, he brought up a very serious topic while we were driving home.  I didn't want to risk losing the connection—when a teenager starts talking from the heart, the smallest thing can stop the flow—so we sat in the car, in the driveway, in the cold darkness for a couple of hours as he talked his way through missing his father, grieving for the carefree teenage years he will never know, and figuring out what he wants to do next.

A couple of days later, he went to his first employee Christmas party.  He was, of course, the youngest there by about five years, but had a blast.  His coworkers like him and treat him well.  He said it was the first time he didn't feel awkward at a big party.  I think it's because it was the first party he'd attended that wasn't geared to young teenagers.

In two and half weeks, I leave for California to spend a few days in a treehouse with That Man (who is still wonderful, awesome, handsome, and understanding), then I'll head down the coast to spend a couple days with dear friend Patricia in either San Luis Obispo or Carmel, depending upon schedules.  As thrilled as I am with the ongoing enrollment at the dojo (two new people last night!), I could really use the break. 

blairmacg: (Default)
The only obligation strong enough to drag me from bed this morn was fetching the pups.  After two hours of running a circle around the house, running circles in the house, and demanding attention every moment, Ty and Bit have collapsed on the couch to snooze in canine bliss.  Dev and I missed the pups so much, we were reduced to approaching random strangers walking their dogs on the street, and begging them to let us just pet the dog--just a quick pet, please!

The production of Romeo and Juliet was outstanding.  Special attention was paid to the development of non-kin families, and how the young lovers were set adrift by losing those ties.  It was less about teenage love at first sight, and much more about young people seeking a place to belong and a person to belong with.  Also layered in were the servants' roles--lines and interactions usually cut, partially or completely, from productions because they seem to distract from the central story.  All were kept, and the servants were played by young actors of an age with R & J.  Their onstage, background reactions to the story of their age mates, and the dual suicide, provided a deeper generational aspect.  Very cool performances.

We spent the next day playing in Santa Barbara, topped off with yet more Italian food.  Sunday Dev and I headed to Anaheim, and met [ profile] queenoftheskies for lunch.  Writing talk!  Hooray!! 

Then two days at Disneyland that managed to exhaust us both utterly.  I even made Dev paddle a canoe, and rewarded his willingness with an Indiana Jones hat.  (He's a little bummed it's almost 90 today in Indiana, because that means he can't were the hat with his leather jacket. :)  We splurged for a lunch in Blue Bayou, the restaurant inside the Pirates ride, because I've always wanted to do that. 

Lastly, I amused Dev greatly when we went on the Soaring over California ride.  It's mostly a visual experience--some motion and wind effects coupled with an IMAX-type screen.  I thought that meant you sat in a seat, like a theater.  Actually, that seat hangs from above and your feet dangle in midair.  I loved much of it, even though I kept my legs curled under the seat for fear my sandals would fall off.  Even though I kept saying, "I would go slower here!  I wouldn't go that fast here!"  I was much better the second time around, though.  I put my sandals in the under-seat bin and kept my eyes open. :-)

Flights home were, thankfully, uneventful.  I much prefer the (most often) smooth approach and landing in Indy to the E-ticket ride that is Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Midway. 

And now, back to the grind, and the hope it will feel less grind-ish in the coming months.  It's been tough to be happy here the last six months, because so much of my heart has already returned to California.  But I've decided I'm going to do my best to leave a positive mark on my current community, choosing to build something that is worthwhile rather than simply do what I must to get by.  The hope is it'll make the time pass more pleasantly, while at the same time making a difference.

Tomorrow, it's back to writing with a focus.  Patricia was wonderfully motivating on that front, and chatting with [ profile] queenoftheskies was a needed push.  The moment I finish the karate book, it's time to give Chant what may well be its final polish.

In wildlife news, I spotted a bald eagle sitting in the stubbled field south of our house, just standing there looking around.  It was huge!  When we lived on the farm, we'd see them in flight now and then, but I'd never before seen one on the ground.

blairmacg: (Default)
FABULOUS health news from my dear, dear friend.  We are extremely happy.

The three of us spent over two hours taking in delicious Italian food last night, talking until we were ready to crash.  I even had the chance to talk through my writing plans and intentions, one artist to another, and received the level-headed analysis I needed.

Today, after breakfast, Dev and I took a hiking trek above Lake Lopez.  Lovely views, but I have indeed forgotten what it requires to hike in mountain terrain (mainly, well-developed lung capacity!) and in warm, dry weather (your own water).  But it was wonderful, and I now have the comforting muscle soreness that tells me I worked hard, but not so hard that I'll suffer tomorrow.

Tonight we're off to see the production of Romeo and Juliet, after a dinner at the local Lebanese restaurant.  Tomorrow, we shall play at...something.  We'll figure it out.

I feel younger when I'm here.  I feel happier and more energetic and lighter.  I'm sticking to my plan.  Three and a half years from now...
blairmacg: (Default)
Traveling has become so much easier, from a financial standpoint, because my sister now works for an airline.  That means I'm able to get really inexpensive flights.  The downside is that I'll be the first bumped off that flight if a full-fare customer wants my seat.  That makes perfect sense on all sides, but kinda sucks when I'm trying to get home. 

So after spending the day at LAX hoping to get an flight, I ended up spending the night at a hotel, flying to Chicago quite early the next day, then driving from Chicago to the Indy airport (had to drop off the rental and pick up my car) and finally to home.  Gah.  After talking to my sis, I now know how I can avoid that happening again by airport-hopping my way home.  It might have meant four flights instead of two, but it certainly would have been the better option.


The trip was fantastic.  Patricia and I spent every available moment filling each other in on our lives over the last five years.  We talked until we were nodding off to sleep, and got up early on my last day to talk some more.  In between, I made some excellent contacts with some folks in the wellness field, and identified businesses I need to contact for future meetings.  Patricia also helped me talk through the specifics of my goals--the essential element of planning and success.  With work, and a little luck, I'm hoping to have workshops set up in the area 12 to 18 months from now.

But before all that happened, I took a little drive through parts of the Santa Ynez Valley I hadn't seen when Dev and I were there in December.  While standing at the base of Nojoqui Falls (which should be named Nojoqui Trickle this time year...), I made two decisions.  

First, I will indeed write a SY Valley tale set before the Indy tale.  Considering the amount of backstory I was building for the Indy novel, and how interested I was in that backstory, this won't be a big stretch of new creation.  My two visits to the valley stirred up all sorts of memories of places and incidents and little local stories that can be woven in. 

Second, I'll be writing these with an eye to self-publishing.  That doesn't mean I won't pursue traditional publishing with Chant and related novels.  But the SYV/Indy novels are present-day paranormal while the others are quite firmly other-world fantasy.  They are different enough that I feel comfortable placing them on different paths.

Alas, as much as I'd like to run back to Santa Ynez this week, it'll be three months before I can swing it.  In the meantime, I've a story to write.
blairmacg: (Default)
The dogs are at the kennel, my suitcase is packed, the travel papers are printed and in hand, and the alarm is set for 5 am.  I'm heading to California for a quick turn-around trip that's pleasure disguised as business.  I'm re-connecting with some old theater friends and associates, scoping out other opportunities, spending half a day in a setting for the Indy writing project, and spending one entire day with a woman whose friendship has been part of my entire adult life.

It was pretty crazy for me to cram this in to the schedule right now.  After all, I leave for another trip in less than three weeks.  But I need this trip, these contacts, this time with my friend, and this future-hopeful planning.

I have a crappy three-hour layover in Kansas City tomorrow, which I shall merrily fill with finalizing feedback on beta-reading projects.

The Indy project has a section that takes place north and inland of Santa Barbara, where I lived while in high school.  I've been toying with the idea of starting the story there, with the next part to take place in Indiana, because the backstory of the Indy project interests me as much as the actual story.  I figure I'll do a little immersion, the write a couple chapters to see if it's compelling enough to be its own tale.
blairmacg: (Default)

Today and tomorrow, I shall have much writing time.  My dear son is staying with my folks until Sunday morning--partly to spend time with my folks, and partly to spend time with one of his best buds, who happens to live across the street from them.

So the afternoon is mine.  Well, the evening is mine as well, but I'm spending that time out with a couple girlfriends.  Dinner and drinks--not all that exciting, but quite enjoyable and much needed by all of us.

I spent some of yesterday's revision time moving back and forth through what I'd revised in the last couple days.  I felt as if I'd lost the omni voice a bit, letting it slide too much into blandness, so I read some sections aloud to play with tone.  The shift in narrator requires changes in word choice and sentence structure now and then, and it's when I gloss over those details that the voices falls out.

My list of Things to Find at the end of this revision pass has also grown.  These are words or phrases I know are my bugaboos, and names I've changed but don't always remember to change.  In this case, there are also titles I decided to change only two chapters ago, and a couple tweaks of worldbuilding business that will ripple into other places.

For my California friends:  I have a free night in LA on Sunday, March 4.  I won't have transportation, alas, and will be staying very near LAX.  But if anyone would like to join me and my son for dinner, I'd love to have you!

blairmacg: (Default)
Dear Indiana,

I really, really appreciate all you've done this winter.  Almost sixty degrees at the beginning of January?  Awesome.  No hint of snow in the forecast until sometime last next week?  Double awesome.

But frankly, I'm a little suspicious.  We both know it won't last.  You're simply trying to put forth your best behavior because I started talking about leaving you.

Well, know that I'm here with you for at least the next four years--until Dev finishes school, becomes an adult, and heads off to college/work/seeing the world.  Then all bets are off, Hoosier State.  I doubt I'll be able to make a complete move.  (After all, the average California house can be eight to ten times more expensive than one of yours.)  But you and I are not going to be exclusive anymore.  I need to start seeing other states.  And countries.

Especially in January and February.  And July and August.

You never should have let me go back to Central California, y'know.
blairmacg: (Default)
On Dev's first day in California, we drove north on Pacific Coast Highway in a Mustang convertible, top down, and had lunch in Malibu.  Then we walked onto the beach and waded into the ocean, splashing around like the tourists we were until the cold water numbed our Indiana-pale legs from the knee down.  We finished the drive to Santa Barbara with the top down and the heater cranked all the way up.

I nearly cried as we topped San Marcos Pass and dropped into the Santa Ynez Valley that evening.  I only lived there three years, but it is home to me as no other place has ever been.  Did you see the film Sideways?  That's the place.  But I lived there when the area was about horses and cattle and tourists--not wine and tourists.

Today we took the not-quite-two-lane road up into the mountains.  My mountains!  The hairpin turns, steep drops, and blind corners made Dev a little tense, though the views were spectacular.  We did some hiking, and Dev gets to say he climbed to the very top of a mountain.  The winding road back down to the valley floor took us past and through cattle ranches.  The huge oaks sported signs: "Posted: No Hunting" and "Drive Slow: Cows Calves On Road."

It made my chest ache, seeing this place again.  It is indeed my heart's home.

We spent the afternoon in little shops.  I bought too much chocolate.  Dev bought sharp pointy things that we must ship home.  I kept commenting on what was different and what was the same.  Farmer's Market happened this evening, so we picked up some nuts, berries and bread.  Tonight, we're very, very tired.  A quiet evening in our hotel room, eating Chinese food and snacking on earlier purchases, sounds just fine.

Tomorrow, northward to the "happiest" city in the U.S.--San Luis Obispo, where Dev was born--and to meet up with Dev's Godmom.

Goin' West

Dec. 5th, 2011 10:44 am
blairmacg: (Default)
Dev was born in California.  The poor kid was less than three months old when we packed him off to Indiana, and he's never been back.  Heck, I've only been back three times, and one of those was merely an LAX-to-Long Beach Harbor hop.  Neither of the other trips took me to where I'd lived my last decade in California.

So Dev is going to get the old-stomping-grounds tour: where Mom went to high school, where Mom and Dad met and married, where we lived when he was born.  I will leave out the commentary of some places we'll visit (where Mom used to go 120 mph in her Mustang, forex).  On the other hand, I did rent us a Mustang convertible for the week.  Hee.

We're going to spend most of one day hiking in the mountains north of Santa Barbara, another day heading up the coast to Hearst Castle, and some time on a little beach cove I used to frequent when I was pregnant.  We will spend time with Dev's Godmom, the man who performed the marriage ceremony for Ron and I, and a couple other folk we can catch.

It'll be fun, I'm certain, but a little strange, too.  I left behind an entirely different way of life when I moved to Indiana.  Lots of theater, little poetry readings, late nights downtown, and more theater.  Don't get me wrong--I could have continued that life in Bloomington or Indianapolis.  (It may be flyover country, but it isn't empty.)  But none of those things matched up with the sort the stay-home mom I wanted to be.  And in all honesty, had I not become a stay-home mom, I might never have turned to writing as my creative outlet.

I've written here before of how VP--in addition to being an awesome writing week--helped me transition through grief.  It also re-introduced me to my old self, that young woman I left behind in California.  I suspect this trip will bring up similar feelings.

I'm anticipating a little teasing about how I talk now, too.  While watching Firefly, it struck me just how many people I know who talk in the same phrasings as Mal.  Then I realized I use the same phrases m'own self.

So the dogs are already at the kennel (I already miss them), and all that's left is the packing.  Then I'll try to go to bed early, which won't work because I'll be too afraid I'll miss the alarm, and be up by four in the morn to make an early flight.


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