Monday, October 20, 2014

Why, Hello There! Or, Where I've Been . . .


Well, it's been quite silent here, hasn't it?  And while I try to give myself both space and grace to be okay with not-writing, it makes me sad to not connect with you for so long.

So, let's start off with what life's been looking like in my corner of the world, shall we?

We've had birthdays (as cliche as it is, I cannot believe that our not-so-little guy is growing up so fast!) . . .


. . . gotten our annual family pictures taken (I love this tradition of documenting our lives and how we've grown and changed both as individuals and a family) . . .


. . . and gotten pregnant (do you like how I just slipped that one in there? sneaky sneaky). 


Check out my epic eight week belly from a couple of weeks ago.  I mean, come on.  What is in there?  It's like all my innards decided to unite to make space for our new tiny, tiny one.  But I love having a pregnant belly, so it works out quite well.  Although this time around I'm experiencing much more all-day nausea, so that's not as fun.  But I am determined to enjoy this pregnancy, and will try to leave my anxieties aside.  So far, so good . . .


We've been enjoying beautiful fall, although it's been unseasonably warm.  I'm ready for some crisp sweater weather!  Autumn is my absolute favorite season:



It was also my pleasure to be involved in the creation of my city's first ever October 15th Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness remembrance event.  It was a sacred, special time, joining the international wave of light with our own candle-lighting:



And as if that all wasn't enough, I've returned to my novel-in-progress:


As you may remember, since just before the release of my first indie novel, The Light Between Us ($0.99 on Kindle, FYI!), I've been working on a second novel.  This one is more ambitious and complicated, a sort of urban fantasy inspired by Celtic mythology.  And -- writing it ran my heart into the ground.  The story stopped making sense or having any sort of direction.  My depression returned with a vengeance, and sitting down to write felt like an exercise in self-hatred.

So I walked away.  To save my sanity, I walked away.  Put the book aside, even though I'd invested a great deal of time into it and had written over 60,000 words on it.  Showing up, doing it anyway, and faking it 'til I made it weren't helping, so I rested.  And got pregnant, and therefore rested some more.

But recently (perhaps inspired by my dear friend as she prepares to launch her own book into the world soon), I felt the novel calling.  So I've come back to it, with more than a little trepidation, and have s l o w l y begun laying down words again.

I seem to have found the ends of at least of the couple of threads winding their way through the story and I think I know where it's all going now.  And, best of all, I believe that I can finish, and that it will be an enjoyable tale -- whereas before I thought I'd never be able to figure it out, and even if I did, it was all totally tripe anyway. 

I suppose you could say I've found some confidence again.  Or (or perhaps and) that wonderful blend of egotism and fatalism that seems to protect every working writer -- the simultaneous beliefs that the story is wonderful and will be read and enjoyed, encouraging the writer, and also that no one will read it, therefore freeing the writer from fear of criticism.


But that still leaves the blog.  Because I'm not sure what's going on here in this space anymore.

For the longest time, this blog has been a place for me to process.  First through my eating disorder, then my Eve girl's stillbirth, and most recently through my faith thrashings.  But now, I feel that I've come to a good measure of healing in all these areas, and the words that needed to be expressed on these topics are no longer pressing up against my soul, begging to be loosed.

So what to write about?  What is there for me to say?

I don't know.  But I do feel that this blog is going to change slightly, to accommodate my inner changes.  I no longer seem to be "writing through the dark," as this blog's subtitle was for the past year or so, but have written my way into some sort of freedom.

So keep your eyes on this space as once again I/we change and shift and grow.  Into what, I have no idea.  But finding out will be quite a wonderful adventure.

Over to you -- what's been going on in your life these days, my dear blog friends?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Portals of Water and Wine by R.L. Haas {Cover Reveal!}

So. It's been a little while hasn't it, dear blog reader? And perhaps it seems to return (maybe?) from my writing sojourn with a post about someone else's book. But I don't think it's lame at all, because this book is one I've been watching gestating many months now, growing at the fingertips of a dear, dear friend.  

Let me introduce a fairytale -- no, fairy epic: Portals of Water and Wine by R.L. Haas.  I have had the opportunity to beta reader this story, and it is just yummy, stuffed with myth, adventure, war, love, allegory, and a helluva lot of beauty.  Absolutely fantastic for an author's debut!  Portals will release December 1, and today, it is available for preorder on Amazon, and is just $0.99 for Kindle Eeee!!!  

Want to know more?  Read on for an exclusive synopsis and the dish on its kick-ass author, not to mention how to get in on the Portals online release party . . .


The war had waged for nineteen years. Alonthiel had been overrun with the Fledgling Armies, the children of Ash and Iron. They were the sons and daughters born once to Alonthiel, now so twisted and dark that their former Fae heritage was barely a drop flowing through their veins.

There had been a treaty, but it had been broken…somehow…no one could even remember the reason anymore. They had come in the night, with their feathered manes and glowing eyes the color of boiling blood and their fingernails set with iron. They had no need for swords, save the ones that grew from the ends of their hands. They were a deadly force, led into battle by their captain Flail, the son of the Fledgling King.
The sounds of children laughing had been replaced with widow’s wailing. The smashing and splashing of men’s glasses and bar-house celebrations had turned into the sound of metal on metal, metal on flesh.

The music was gone.

King Aboras had been crowned for only six days, a rushed ceremony without much pomp or fanfare. He was the fourth King since the war had begun. There was no separation of monarch from common man in the eye of the sword. He crouched in his tent, eyes fixed on the maps splayed on the table in front of him, but there was no focus or direction there.

He knew that this would be the last night. His armies were exhausted, running on little sleep and handfuls of food they gathered from the nearby woods. The supplies were sapped, and their powers were dwindling down to sparks. This was the end.

And so, in the darkness of the night with only the stars to provide light, Aboras gathered his people together, every last one that still lived. They circled around their king, loyal to the end. He could not lie to them. He told them of the losses, of the depletion of stores and the draining of magic. The end was coming; they should gather their families and run to the mountains, over the river that the Fledglings could not, would not, cross.

No one moved. Not one child tried to run, not one husband left his family. They all stood. None would leave their king.


R. L. Haas is one of the wild ones, writing Faerie stories from her little self-declared cottage surrounded by Midwestern cornfields and never enough coffee. Her nonfiction work has appeared in such online publications as SheLoves Magazine and Literary Orphans. She lives with her beloved husband and equally wild daughter, along with their oversized Great Dane. They are ruled over by two fluffy cats. She blogs about her faith, her heart and her ever-growing literary obsessions at dramaticelegance.blogspot.com.




Portals of Water and Wine releases Dec. 1. Preorder it now on Amazon, and add it to your "want to read" list on Goodreads. And don't forget to RSVP to the book release party!


Photo credit: Cover design by Megan Mahen of Megan Mahen Illustrations. Author photo by Jennifer Upton of Photography by Jennifer Upton.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Somewhere Between Water and Sky {A Book Launch + Giveaway!}

I heard it said once that every human is a story with skin.

If this is true, paragraphs would be etched in the scars on my wrists.

Whole chapters could be written about the way my heart pounds when I startle awake.

And every single one of my tears could fill a book.

But stories, with all their promise, only leave room for disappointment. I don’t have room for that anymore. I left it all—the hope, the love, the promise—back in my old life with the ghosts I’d rather forget: Jude. Emma. Pacey.

Kevin.

This is how I dare to move forward and to believe in a new beginning. I let go of the old. I just grab the new and run. I don’t wait around anymore. I can’t.

Waiting leaves room for the voices.

Somewhere between water and sky, I'll find a way to burn these voices to the ground.


Writing a book is really hard.  Like, really hard.  The combination of blind hope, precision, and sheer guts that it takes to not only write but release a book is insane, and awesome, and calls up all sorts of exhilaration and terror (the good kind) within me.

So when someone I know does it, launches a book out into this wide world, I'm going to say something.  And today, Elora Ramirez releases her latest book, Somewhere Between Water and Sky (that's what the above gorgeous words are from).  This is the sequel to her premiere novel which came out last year, which I also highly recommend.  I haven't gotten to read SBWaS yet, but I'm looking forward to it.  I know Elora from her online writing community, The Story Unfolding, and without her and the wonderful women I met there, my own book would never have happened.  So . . . thank you, and congrats, Elora!

And -- Elora is giving away a coaching session and an Amazon giftcard!  You can enter here, and following are links to where you can purchase a copy (psst: it's $0.99 on Kindle!), and to more of Elora's creations.

Grab a copy:

Elora Ramirez lives in Austin, Texas with her chef-husband. At the age of four, she taught herself how to read and write, cutting her teeth on books like Dr. Seuss and writing anywhere she could find the space--including her Fisher Price kitchen set, the pages of picture books and Highlights Magazine. Since then, she's grown to love the way words feel as they swell within her bones. Writing holy and broken is her calling, and pushing back the darkness and pursuing beauty through story is her purpose. She embraces the power of story and teaches women from all parts of the world how to embrace theirs. She has a knack of calling things out , the truth and the detail, the subversive threads that make a life a story. She loves hip-hop, wishes she lived by the beach and cannot write without copious amounts of coffee, chocolate, music, and her husband's lavender liqueur. 


http://www.amazon.com/Somewhere-Between-Water-Elora-Ramirez-ebook/dp/B00MR3Z62A/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1410403770&sr=8-1&keywords=Somewhere+Between+Water+and+Sky

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Love, Unqualified -- Part 2


(find part 1 here.)

We love.
We love.
We love, without condition, without a "but you," without excuse. 

We respect.  We preserve dignity.  We look for the value of each other.  We can do these things, wisely.

But how?

For the longest time, I thought that loving someone, especially someone who is "other" than me for whatever reason (gender, race, income, culture, location, etc.) meant doing something really big.  Like joining the Peace Corps, or making buckets of money so I could donate more, or making like Mother Theresa and moving to Calcutta. 

But it doesn't have to look like that.  It could look like that and be valuable, of course, but smaller lovings are equally important and just as valuable.

Loving, the kind that lasts, starts in the mind.  Or maybe the heart.  Or maybe both.  Regardless, it begins within.  That's the spark.

So what it looks like for me is challenging myself and the stereotypes and prejudices I find entrenched within me.  Do I really believe that a person is less worthy of my respect and valuing of her because she is a lesbian, for example?  If so, why?  And I don't know if this is always the case for everyone, but for me, each time I challenge my prejudices, they crumble. 

I realize that I received a certain amount of cultural, social, and religious grooming that helped gestate some of those broken ways of thinking, and I begin to dismantle them.  

I discover, for example, that I can find no valid reason to believe that God loves homosexuals less, or that women are less capable as leaders than men, or that poor people are always responsible for and able to escape from their own poverty.

That is a good beginning.  The self investigation, the seeing, the rooting out.

And then I go further.  I question deeper.   

For example: What is life really like for the Black men and women of Ferguson?  Is the mainstream news accurately reporting events there?  What are their goals in not reporting the full story?  And what do, say, crime and prison statistics reveal about the reality that the Black American community lives in versus the White American community, or the Native American community, etc? 

I question -- myself and the status quo.  And I try to learn empathy.  I learn to forgive myself and others for not getting it right, and I attempt reparations where appropriate.  And I try to teach my son to do the same.  That, I believe, is both the spark for and the answer to loving, period.

Is this over-simplified?  Pie-in-the-sky thinking?  I don't know.  Maybe. 

But I do think that love, period, starts with really seeing each other, and really seeing ourselves.


What do you think?  How can we better love each other without qualification?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Love, Unqualified


The lines are drawn, "in" versus "out" made excruciatingly clear, and we dare to call this love.

We have forgotten how to love one another without lines, without boundaries, without exception.

Instead, we have made enemies of the "other" -- which is really just another way of saying that we have made enemies of each other.

We all can recognize the pick-up lines, the ones that say that none is unlovable, none is without value -- and then we turn around and refuse to love, refuse to value:

You are respected -- unless you are poor.
You are trustworthy -- unless you are Black.
You are wanted -- unless you are gay.
You are valued -- unless you are female.
You are our brothers and sisters -- unless you are not Christian.
You are a beloved part of our global community -- unless you are not Western.

"We love because [God] first loved us" -- unless we don't like you or we fear you or we feel uncomfortable to any degree for any reason when we are forced to breathe the same air as you.

This is the kind of "love" I see pouring out across the lands, the kind that [religious] leaders not only either ignore or allow but often promote. In versus out. Us versus them. We call it spiritual, Biblical, righteousness, but it is justified hate: hate that is justified by the majority in protection of the majority.

We have the audacity to say that God meant it to be this way. This, this qualification above all else, this turning of injustice into divine decree, is a horror to me. But then I remember that there are scriptures like this one and this one, and I wonder that maybe it's not so much of a stretch after all to learn to think that God wanted it this way, and I shudder.

For so long, I thought that the world was made more beautiful by a diversity of faith, but now . . . now the blind dualism of some of these faiths makes me ill. The gross acts perpetuated and excused and ignored by some faiths are so heinous that I'd rather just see organized religion removed from the earth.

We love because God first loved us?

How about: we love, period.

We love.
We love.
We love.

This is your challenge. This is my challenge. This is our challenge.
The world depends on it.

We love.

Coming next: Part 2 -- a few thoughts on the how of "we love."

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Lingering Silence

I sit here and stare into white and wonder what words to fill this empty expanse with. 

This has been going on most of the summer and, with a couple exceptions, this internet space has remained empty.

Even writing this feelings limping, awkward.

Where have the words fled to?  I'm not sure, and I don't know how to coax them back.

So, in the silence, I have been painting again (these).  I have been meditating.  I have been reading.  I have been being a mama.  I have been sleeping.  The different faces of my creativity.  One is not more or less valuable than another.

I keep reminding myself of this, over and over.

* * *

I have no conclusion.  

No "I was quiet but now I'm back so YAY!" resolution.

Just the silence and the unknowing.

So I remain here, without judgement. 

* * *

I made this for you, in the silence.  In silence.  For now, the silence will have to be enough:




Friday, August 15, 2014

Our Empathy Can Change the World {Thoughts on #Ferguson}


I couldn't think of anything but Ferguson this week.  My eyes glued on Twitter, my chest aching with the knowledge of profound injustice unfurling in terrifying tableaus, my brain, my heart were with the people of Ferguson.

Those who should be the peacemakers, the upholders of law and justice, ran roughshod over peace and law and justice and turned the streets of their community into a war zone.  Worse still, those whose job it is to report truth instead report half-truths, suppressing information, demonizing the victims, until nobody was allowed to report anything at all, with journalists arrested, their equipment seized.  

Did you feel it?  The earth trembling under the feet of people on the move -- no, on the march, for justice, for answers,  for change?  Did you hear their words?  See their faces?

I felt them, heard them, saw them.

And now, now that the insanity that possessed the police officers of Ferguson, MO, has abated somewhat, now that the law is no longer assaulting peaceful protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets and fire, now that we can all breathe again as names are released and the FBI asks questions and the hypocrisy of the police becomes more and more obvious, although things are far from settled --

Now, will I forget what I felt, heard, saw?

* * *

The fact is that that Mike Brown's senseless murder by a police officer is not unique.  Horrifyingly, it is something of a matter of course in this country for unarmed black men to be killed by the law for no other crime than living.  For every 28 hours that passes, another African-American man is extrajudiciously executed by police, security guards, and vigilantes.

But I'm not black.  I'm a white woman living in a very white city in a very white state, and Ferguson (or Chicago, or Seattle, or Detroit, or Austin, or . . .) can feel very far away.  

I could go back to my insulated life, keep my eyes on the non-militarized streets of my community, and forget that I enjoy unearned, unfair benefits thanks to my color.

But there is the matter of my son.

* * *

When I look at my son, his skin confronts me.  

I look at my son, and understand that while there are many, many ways I fear for and covet his safety and well-being, I will never fear that he will be assaulted by a police offer for wearing a hoodie, or driving, or asking for help when he needs it, or messing around with toys in Wal-Mart, or having a bad day in kindergarten, or doing any of these normal-everyday-life things -- he will never be attacked and/or executed by the police for doing those things and more, only because he's white.  

Which means that there are children and teens and people who will be attacked and/or executed by the police for doing those things, and that just should not be.  Because black people are people.  Imperfect, flawed, glorious people.  Just like you, just like me.

When I look at my son, I see the people who will be treated like not-people because they were born a certain color.  

When I look at my son, I understand that he only escaped living that ugly day-to-day reality by pure chance.  That he is privileged for no good reason at all.  Like me. 

* * *

Did you know that African-Americans have been dealing with the horrifying reality of racial profiling for decades, for centuries, for far too long, on a daily basis?

I didn't.  I didn't.

Oh God, how could I not?

But I didn't. 

And now that I know, now that I finally stopped shutting my eyes to the reality of so, so many people, what will I do with that knowledge?  What can I?

I don't know that racism is for me to fix, for me to find the answer to.  As a white woman, there are many, many facets of a black woman's reality that I cannot and may not ever be able to understand.  And honestly, I'm not even sure that I should be writing this post at all.

But, as one of the folks I follow on Twitter so piercingly stated, to say silent about these matters is abusive*.  So here I am, speaking, very imperfectly, and refusing to stay complicit, trying to remove the only enabler from the problem that I can -- myself.

* * *

So, now what?

For what it's worth, I think that it is my responsibility to see, to open my eyes and look to where it's hard and where people are hurting, even if it might make me terribly uncomfortable.  It is my responsibility to understand as best as I am able, to learn, to feel.

It is my sacred duty to see the humanity the people of Ferguson, in all African-Americans, in the people of Gaza, the immigrant children asking for help at the border of the U.S. and Mexico, the homeless men and women who live on the streets of my city, and more.

Because, in the end, the African-American community of Ferguson?  They are people.  They are you, and they are me, and we are they.  We are different from each other, yes, perhaps vastly different, and yet we still belong to one another.

So I ask you, look at your life.  Look at your children, your spouse, your lover.  Look at your coworkers, your friends, the clerk ringing up your items at the supermarket.  Look at them, and understand that there's no reason why it wasn't them that the police murdered, innocent and unarmed.  Look at your child and understand that it was only not him, not her, not you by pure, nauseating chance.

Think you can't muster up any bit of compassion for someone who is "other"?  Look to your pain.  Look to where you expect understanding and empathy, or at least sympathy.

For me, this is the death of my daughter.  I showed my anguish, people looked.  You looked, and you witnessed the pain of birthing and mourning a dead baby, and that was a powerful gift of respect, of love, one that I treasure.  Look to the empathy you have received, and consider whether you might be able to extend the same gift to someone aching from a situation you have not experienced, but is no less worthy of people who witness.

And don't do this to be macabre.  Don't do this to shame yourself or your loved ones.  Don't do this to harm yourself, or to wallow in the darkness.  And definitely don't do it to make yourself feel better without changing your ways of thinking, or to earn a bit of applause.  Because that makes it about you, when it's really about them.

Instead, do this with a mind to understand, with a heart to see, with commitment to not look away.  Do this to bring light to the shadows.  Find what awakens your compassion, and go there.  Let it flood your veins and synapses, overflow into your words and actions.   

Because when we can see the injustice, truly begin to see it and experience it via empathy . . . well, I think that is the beginning of change.  Not the end, not the whole solution, but a beginning.

There are many awful things in the world, things that we cannot do anything about.  But injustice done by one human to another human, or by one group of humans to another group?  That's we can do something about.

Please don't look away.  Look where you can, as you can, and hold the joy and beauty and horror and pain that you discover there as the sacred knowledge that it is.  Look, and let your eyes be light piercing the darkness.


"We think that by protecting ourselves from suffering we are being kind to ourselves.  The truth is, we only become more fearful, more hardened, and more alienated. . . .  Yet when we don't close off and we let our hearts break, we discover our kinship with all beings."

- Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart**
(I think this book is required reading.)


"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." 

- Edmund Burke 


There are lots of people writing and sharing about Ferguson and racism waaaay better than I am.  Like these folks . . . knowing and/or following many of these people has been truly life-changing:

(Okay, so I feel I have to end this with a caveat -- there is real, hard, excruciating work to be done to bring about racial reconciliation.  There is.  But the seeing -- that's where it starts.  Because how can anyone fix a problem that she is blind to?  So let's start there, and see where it takes us.)

   *unfortunately, I have no idea who said this.  I'd love to give credit -- let me know if you know!
**this post contains affiliate links. thanks for supporting this blog!