Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Good-bye, Blogger. Hello web site.

I've moved all the interesting parts of this blog over to my new web presence:  It's still somewhat under construction (and rather boring looking) but it will be spruced up in the days and weeks to come.  Meanwhile, it is sternly functional and depressing in color scheme, but what do you want from me?  Technology bores me.

Blogging continues at the new URL from now on.

Oh, also I am now writing a weekly feature for The Seattle Vine, wherein I get to yell about book things that make me mad, and also I'll be reviewing local authors.  Enjoy!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Spring Rain

When I woke, the panes of the windows ran with rivulets.  Droplets had collected in the tiny grid of the screen and sparkled like the sharp facets of cut stones.  A robin, sheltering somewhere in a nearby tree, gave again and again its falling, wistful, almost sorrowful call, a sound that rose and fell amidst the din of rain.  You emerged from the bedroom shuffling, blurred from sleep, squinting though your glasses were on.  You tucked yourself onto the couch behind me, pulled me against your warmth and sweetness as if offering these things, as if making of yourself a quiet, earnest gift.  You mumbled into my hair, against the back of my neck, something about a European vacation.


You tried again.  I understood even less of it, but closed my eyes to feel the drowsy hum of your voice sparkling underneath my skin.  I let the rain beat into the pause, watched it course down the glass, listened to the bird call two or three more times before I spoke.

You know what I love so much about you?  That I can never understand a word you say when you're sleepy.

I love spring rain, you said, suddenly clear and emphatic.

I tipped my head back until it rested on your shoulder.  There was a faint gleam of sweat on your arm, the leftovers of your sleep, evaporating, chiming against my skin, a shine like diamonds.

Me, too.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Science of Landscape


Mom gave me the last box to go through on my own.  She had written my name on it: the old name, the one that doesn't exist anymore, in the same careful, exaggerated hand she has always used to write her children's names.  She does not write anything else this way, capital letters symmetrical and ostentatious, lowercase precisely half as high and blackboard-clear.  Her usual writing is loose and curving, and sometimes all caps.  But never on the old name.  I cannot remember her teaching me to read that name, to recognize the symbols that meant me, but this was surely the hand she had used, slowly forming each line of each letter, saying the name of the letter and the sound it made.  It became a habit to write the name that way, distinct as a lit sign glowing.

I put off looking through the box a long time.  I had thought I would never be able to face it.  I never cried over it; I just said to myself, "No time for that now," and turned away.  He had saved a few things, whatever poor scraps of my childhood he had managed to hold onto.  A paper bag with construction-paper hearts glued to the outside.  It had held valentines in grade school.  A small booklet of mimeographed images, the development of a chick inside its shell, and a rhyme that told the story from blastocyst to bird.  I had colored it.  A page from a Sunday-school scrapbook, some nonsense about making me ready for a mission, as if girls ever went on missions.  In the center, a photograph of me in the blue dress with the Holstein cows on the bib, holding a stuffed rabbit, standing on a folding chair.  This and that.  Weak little things to keep the memory of a daughter, but the fact that he had kept them touched me.  I set them carefully in the bin to throw away, all but the photo.

There were more photos.  Somehow pictures of me as a little girl had become intermingled with pictures of Idaho landscapes and models in peasant clothes bent over buckets or sheaves, and references of cattle in every posture, the odd cow circled with a Bic pen if it was lying at just the right angle to the viewer.  Slopes of foothills and foregrounds of sage blurring into one another, purpling, obscured by a mist of non-archival acid.  I found his thumbprint on the reverse of one photograph, stamped there in burnt umber and smeared at one edge.  I found a stack of clippings: Inness paintings clipped from a magazine, or maybe right from the pages of a library book.  He was the kind of man who would do something as selfish as that.  And at the bottom of the box, the broken end of a maul stick and a long-handled, boar-coarse bright.  One side of its bristles had eroded away from use so that it rose to a lopsided point.  It was stained a color I first called, inside my head, peacock blue.  But no -- you know how to mix that color; he taught you.  Ultramarine and viridian.

I did not throw any of these things away.  I looked at them a long time, flipping through the photos and handling the brush and the maul stick, contemplating Inness.  His mind was not what it used to be by the time he'd died, ten years ago, age forty-nine, having outlived a too-brief career of untouchable brilliance.  The girl whose name was on this box did not exist anymore, as he did not exist anymore.  The woman who had replaced the girl did not believe in prescience, in signs or messages.

I wondered, not for the first time and not for the last, whether he did it himself.  As my sister and I had sorted through his grimy, dismal apartment, salvaging what we could of the father we remembered, a crazy man, one of his friends (they were all crazy) entered without knocking and told us, with the lack of awareness that only that kind of man can possess, that our father had killed himself: that the man himself had seen Dad drink from a tin can without a label on it.  "Like a can of beans, without the top on it, and no label."  My sister told him to get the fuck out of the apartment. We went on working and silently agreed, in that way we have of understanding, that the man was full of shit.  But I think about it all the time, and so I know she does, too.  He had kept his turpentine in a can just like that.  Tin, no label.  It seemed almost that he had put these things in this box for a reason, that he had intended me to look through the box when I was ready and to feel what he felt.  Was this his time capsule?  Was it my inheritance?  Was it meant to confer something onto me, to transfer the strange wild throb of his spirit into my keeping?

I felt at once hollowed and filled, understood and isolated, shuffling through the pictures, watching my young face alternate with his landscapes.  The slope of a sere hill angled sharply into a planting of green.  I stood in the shadow of a lilac bush, reaching up, pulling the blooms down to my face.  Cattle moving down a brown lane.  A puddle reflecting the sky.  My hair a halo of umber and sienna around my face.  The trunks of paper birches, shot vertically and horizontally.  Sage lands.  The squareness of my features, my mouth serious as it always is.  Thirty years had tonalized the past, pushed it backward into an atmospheric distance, faded, washed, remote.


That night you came home late.  Maybe it was the strange, invasive magic of the box that worked on me as your hands worked on me, slower and gentler than ever before, conscientious, though I felt so painfully removed from you, for no reason I could name.  Your arms wrapped around me entirely, a bird in a gentle fist; you clung to me with a jealous possession.  I saw and felt three fractures along reality, as if I stood somehow at a point where my lone life diverged, and I lived in all three at once.  One: I never met you, and after the divorce I went to the Tetons as I had planned, to Driggs or to Jackson.  Two: you left me somehow, or I you, for reasons unknown, and I went to the Tetons as I had planned, and the world was blue, shot vertically, sage lands.  Three: here we were.  We rolled together; I looked down on a world that was you, washed and remote.  Your arm went above your head, tucked behind the pillow.  The friable lines of your body dissolved into a blue distance as mountains dissolve into miles, a mist, ultramarine and viridian.  You were uniformity of color, all remoteness, a tonalist landscape, the Tetons under moonlight.  I buckled with the weight of longing.  I sobbed into your ear, "I love you, I love you, I love you."

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Updates and changes and interesting things are a-coming.

Or I hope interesting things are a-coming.  Oh, do I ever hope!

First of all, I'll be launching a web site soon.  Actually, I'll be launching four web sites soon.

One, a dedicated dot-com for this pen name, with the ability to purchase books directly from the site rather than having to follow links all over the Interwebs, as well as this blog and some other fun stuff.

Two, the same for the other pen name, which, after gathering and assessing much reader feedback over the past year of using it, will be changing very slightly.  Just enough to maximize the name's effectiveness as a marketing tool. 

Three, a site for the press I am starting, an LLC which will function as an umbrella for the two pen names and will also, eventually, offer certain services to other indie authors and to small presses.  If I'm going to go all indie on this book stuff, I'm going to do it right, with a company name and a real presence in the book world, with something of value to other authors.  I love the give-back atmosphere of the indie community, and I want to be a bigger part of it.

Four, something I can't talk about yet because it's in such early developmental stages.  Well, I can say this:  I'm starting a podcast.  I won't be the only one involved, either.  More details to come as I hammer them out, but I'm really looking forward to this bit.  I think it will be so much fun, not only for me and the friends who will be working on it with me, but for listeners.  I hate Twitter, I am not that fond of Facebook; I want a more effective, more entertaining, more multi-media way to let readers get to know me.  I think this is the answer.  We'll see.

And then there's this other thing that's going on with my independent book stuff...something I really can't talk about just yet, but is perhaps one of the most exciting things that can happen to a book fan-turned-creative type.  Something that involves a fan letter I wrote when I was nine, and never sent.  My hope is that this other thing will lead to a booming business -- maybe one that will let me quit the day job sooner than I'd planned -- but even if it doesn't, even if it leads to nothing, it is so cool I just can't get over it.

So how's that for vagueness?  I hope to have the web sites up and running by the end of the month, and with luck the Mystery Project/Podcast Thing will be going around the first part of January.  Stay tuned, my droogs.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Missed the interview?

Here it is!  Plus, in the comments section I elaborate on my thoughts on the current state of the publishing industry...and there's more blogging on that topic to come.  Enjoy!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Winter white

You came into the kitchen as I made my coffee, walking like a ghost, drifting and tenuous.  All your angles were softened by sleep.  White t-shirt (stained), white longjohns, and, for no reason I could tell, your black dress socks pulled up to your knees.  Your limbs are as thin and stark now as a bird's legs.  This has been a wet winter, not snowy, thank god, and the constant cloud has leeched away all your warm golden hues.  In your newly pale skin your eyes are bluer than feathers, scribed all around by the same faint lines I noticed on my own face when I turned thirty.  We are watching each other get older, get paler, get lighter, fainter.  You apologized sheepishly for the stain on your shirt.  I laughed and poured the creamer into my coffee, smiled down at your bird feet on the tiles, and when I kissed your pale face I could smell on your skin the last warmth of fall going, going.  When I come home tonight I will fall asleep without you, and the room will be cold.  Some time in the night I will wake and your arms will be around me, brooding me against your pigeon chest.  I will be warm and soft as caramel in the sun, and my feet will be tangled in yours like a sparrow's in birdlime.  What a beautiful, happy trap you have laid for me.  I am glad each time it catches me.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Lady writer on the TV radio

I'll be doing an interview tomorrow on the radio show Ask An Atheist, broadcasting out of Tacoma.  We'll be talking about Baptism for the Dead (my novel, not the Mormon practice) as well as the general topic of atheism in literature.  3 p.m. PST on Sunday.  You can stream the program from the show's website (link above) if you're not in the south Puget Sound area, and the show is also archived as a podcast if you have other plans on Sunday afternoon.

It's my first spoken interview about one of my books, so I'm a little nervous and a lot curious and I plan on drinking lots of coffee before and lots of wine after.

There is also a post-show get-together at the Overtime Bar in Tacoma.  If you're in the area, stop in and say hi to me and the whole AAA crew.