Oracle of the New Year

I have a confession to make: I consult oracles. This might not be a huge shock. I’ve written about the Tarot deck in this space before, about a year ago, in a post titled “The Star.”

But I don’t think I’ve ever written about astrology or horoscopes. (I’m a Virgo). Even though I’ve read my horoscope my whole life through, pretty much for as long as I’ve been able to read. I used to read it in the daily paper; but now there’s an app for that.

Maybe it’s the imaginative aspect to divination that’s always appealed to me. Isn’t the Future, the Capital-F-Future, all about imagination? Our imagined hopes, fears, dreams?

It’s the same with imagination and fiction writing. For the past few years, approaching writing the way I have has meant a full-scale engagement of my imagination. It takes imagination to compose stories, sure, but it also takes imagination to find the time to write, to commit to the process of writing. Some necessary things in life I can do by rote. For instance, I don’t need to perform any visualization exercises to do things like brushing my teeth, driving a car, showing up at my job. Writing is not one of those things for me.

So, a few years back, I started a new New Year’s tradition: consulting an oracle on New Year’s Day morning, shortly after awakening. And the consultation has always been about my writing — what can I expect regarding the process, the process of writing, editing, and publishing — in the year ahead?

My New Year’s oracle of choice is The Book of Runes. My sister Elizabeth gave me this book, along with a set of twenty-five runes, when I was a teenager. They’ve followed me on the various pathways I’ve taken in the decades since. These runes are largely based on the ones devised by the Nordic ancients. I like how the symbols are like letters, how they denote words. Ties in nicely with the writing thing.

I pull what the book calls “Odin’s Rune” on New Year’s Day. The book describes it this way: “This is the most practical and simple use of the Oracle and consists of drawing one Rune for an overview of an entire situation. That single Rune encompasses the issue, present conditions and resolution.”

So what did Odin’s Rune tell me for 2019? As much as I would have loved for it to tell me that this will be the year I’ll write the thing everyone wants to read, that the world will clamor for, that will bring financial stability to my writing career. . .it was not to be. Truth be told, I don’t need an oracle to tell me that. My gut tells me that I have more work to do before I can begin to expect this type of success.

The rune I drew for 2019 is “Isa.” It means ice, or stillness. Hmmmm.

Determined to find the positive in “standstill” as it relates to my writing, I’m going to work with the following: a website called “runesecrets” tells me Isa “governs development of concentration, will and focus.” Okay, that’s good, my writing could use more of that. Also, The Book of Runes says this: “Shed, release, cleanse away the old. That will bring on the thaw.” Definitely in need of some shedding and releasing, too, after so many accumulated years on this planet.

The Book of Runes’s chapter on Isa concludes this way: “Trust your own process, and watch for signs of spring.”

Believe me, I’ll be watching. But trusting my process will require some concentration, will and focus.

Before the Solstice

Sunrise in the Couturie Forest, November 18, 2018

So, winter officially begins this Friday at 4:23 pm local NOLA time. According to an article I found on mentalfloss.com, this specific time corresponds to the moment the North Pole is pointed furthest away from the sun. It’s also the specific moment when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Capricorn.

I’m not a huge fan of winter. I’ve probably stated that here before. It doesn’t get super-cold in New Orleans, and we rarely have to deal with the problematic logistics of trying to get to places dealing with snow and ice, so I understand that there are worse places to winter. But it does get cold here. . .a windy and damp cold. And it still gets dark early.

But that leads me to the thing I love to celebrate about the solstice—it’s the turning point. After Friday at 4:34 pm, the nights will start getting shorter. Ever so gradually, until we all find ourselves at 10:54 am on Friday, June 21, 2019. (That’s the next summer solstice, when we’ll have the longest day and the shortest night).

The impending change of season has me reflecting on the one just past. Speaking for myself, the Fall of 2018 was a good one! I was blessed with the opportunity to reconnect with distant, long-time friends (Tamara, Stacey, Carol, and Christine); I traveled to Houston and Amsterdam; the Saints are having a phenomenal football season. And, oh yeah, MY SECOND NOVEL RELEASED.

Again, personally speaking, getting #2 out into the world was a huge boost to my confidence as a writer. Now, I’m sure I will still get in my own way, writing-wise, on a daily basis. But I also know what I can do—and continue to do— if I simply persevere.

Those feel like nice words to conclude my 2018 posts. . .I’m taking a break next week for the holiday, and will resume in the New Year. Happy Holidays, everyone, and thanks for reading!

In this post, I’ve shared some pictures from Fall 2018, that never made it to any social media outlet. . .

Superdome, November 18, 6:42 am
Red berries near City Park, November 18
Black and Gold carpet in the Couturie Forest, December 1
Sunrise in City Park, December 12
Everblooming Azaleas, December 12
Near Popp Fountain, December 16

Going to the Space Station

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

Almost two months ago, I wrote about the failed mission to send new crew members to the International Space Station (link to the post, titled Uncertainty, here). At the time, people who watch these types of things were wondering how long the current Expedition 57 crew would need to prolong their stay. Or would they need to eventually abandon the Station altogether?

It turns out, they won’t need to worry about that. Expedition 58 launched earlier this week, carrying three crew members up to the orbiting platform, 250 miles up in the sky.

And one of those crew members is me!

Okay, not really me. But NASA Astronaut Anne McClain is now settling into her new home for the next six months. Along with David Saint-Jacques (Canadian Space Agency) and Oleg Konenenko (Roscosmos), they will share quarters with the Expedition 57 crew until December 20. That’s when Alexander Gerst (European Space Agency), Serena Auñón-Chancellor (NASA), and Sergey Prokopyev (Roscosmos) return to Earth.

I have to note a few things about Anne McClain. Talk about an inspirational human being! West Point graduate, Colonel in the U.S. Army, test pilot, rugby player, mother. She first announced her intention to become an astronaut when she was three years old. She became an astronaut in 2013, and Monday’s trip to the International Space Station was her first spaceflight.

When you’re a writer in this current digital / Amazon age, you pay attention to search results. So I’ve known for years that there was an astronaut named Anne McClain, and have always been thrilled by the name similarity. And now I’m delighted by this recent convergence.

Next time I watch the Space Station track across the sky, I will know that Anne McClain is up there, doing her astronaut thing. I can think of no better inspiration to keep doing my Anne McClane thing (that’s writing, to be clear) down here on terra firma.

You Are A Tourist

And if you feel just like a tourist in the city you were born
Then, it’s time to go
And you find your destination with so many different places to call home

Those are lyrics from “You Are A Tourist,” a song from alternative rock band Death Cab for Cutie. It’s from their 2011 album Codes and Keys, and it’s quite possibly one of my favorite songs of this decade. Easily in the top ten.

The song has been in my head since this past weekend. My friend Stacey (featured in Greece 1 and Greece 2) was in town from Los Angeles. We spent the weekend dining, browsing (and shopping) in local spots, taking a French Quarter ghost tour, and marveling at New Orleans’ holiday decorations. That last part—the holiday part—is something I almost never do. More than anything, that might be what had me feeling like a tourist. It was fun!

Pictured at the top of this post is something that caught my eye at the Roosevelt Hotel in the French Quarter. This hotel always does an amazing holiday array, and the lights really set off this statue. It’s called the “Mystery Lady Timepiece,” and its nameplate indicates it was displayed at the Paris Exhibitions of 1867 and 1878.

Concluding with those opening lyrics, for a few days, I did feel like a tourist in the city where I was born. And at earlier times in my life, I definitely felt (and answered) the call to “go,” finding different destinations to call home. But I realize now, writing is the journey that calls to me. The different destinations exist only in my mind’s eye, and it’s up to me to bring them to fruition.

Who knows. . .the “Mystery Lady” seems like she might have an interesting story. What has she witnessed between Paris in 1867 and New Orleans in 2018? Enquiring minds want to know. . .

Thanks for reading!

Celebration in the Oaks, New Orleans City Park

More photos from the Roosevelt

Gratitude

I have a heckuva lot to be grateful for. I try to remain mindful of that fact every day of the year, not just when I’m staring down the barrel of Thanksgiving.

Perusing my post history in this space, to see what I’ve written for the other three Thanksgiving Eves I’ve passed while writing this blog, I was a bit disappointed in myself. While I remembered my first: I’m Thankful for Godzilla, I could not recall the other two. That’s because I didn’t mark the approach of Thanksgiving in the past two years. Shame on me.

Last year, I wrote about attending the Texas Renaissance Festival; and the year before that, it was George Gershwin. Hopefully, my gratitude for spending time with family in Texas; and my appreciation of the contributions George and Ira Gershwin made to the world of music, were apparent, and sufficed as an expression of my thankfulness.

Now, into my third year of being published, and closing in on nine years since I first decided to give this fiction writing thing a go, it seems its high time to express some gratitude.

Especially for last night. I held a launch event for my second novel, The Trouble on Highway One, at the Garden District Book Shop on Prytania Street in New Orleans. I don’t think I can express sufficient appreciation—for everyone who came, for the good folks at the Garden District Book Shop, for all the kind words I received.

Becoming a published fiction writer—and the effort to reach out to new readers, in the hopes of offering something of value (entertainment, escape, anything)—has meant a personal stretch outside my comfort zone. In a big way. I am profoundly grateful for the reception I’ve received as I’ve entered this brave new world.

Happy Thanksgiving.

The Writing Fall

Funny how life follows the seasons. Right now, it feels like the harvest for me. Several seeds, some sown years ago, are coming to fruition.

First: my novel, The Trouble on Highway One, is available for pre-sale on Amazon. Release date is October 30. This is the second story in the Traiteur Trilogy, featuring the protagonist Lacey Becnel as she struggles to understand and utilize her supernatural healing powers.

This is the seed that was planted a long time ago. I began writing it after the first story, The Incident Under the Overpass, was drafted, but not yet published. So it’s been a long road. (A long highway?) I had to mention it first, lest Husband Tim accuse me of “burying the lead.” (Which he does from time to time).

Second: I have an installment in OUTSIDE IN TAKES A STAB: 139 New Perspectives on 139 Buffy Stories by 139 Writers. This is an anthology on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and my essay covers “The Dark Age” episode. My piece begins with the sentence, “I hate vampires.” I know certain members of my family will read that, and immediately follow it up with Anakin Skywalker’s whiny soliloquy on sand from Attack of the Clones. (A not-so-inside joke for anyone familiar with the “I hate sand” meme.) OUTSIDE IN TAKES A STAB is available for pre-order, currently scheduled to release November 2.

And finally: an excerpt from my short story, “Lucky Eight,” will appear in the upcoming Louisiana’s Emerging Writers publication. It’s set to publish October 23, and should be available for pre-order from Z Publishing within the next week or so.

Emerging, indeed! Feels pretty good, I have to admit. 🙂

Inexorability

August 18, 2018 6:13 am
August 20, 2018 6:13 am

I had the good fortune to spend this past weekend at the beach. I read, stuck my feet in the surf, explored a little bit, and otherwise contemplated some of the more lovely aspects of life on this Earth.

My first morning there, watching the sunrise, the word “inexorable” occurred to me. There was the eastern sky, growing brighter, gradually. I knew nothing was going to stop the march of lightness entering my particular part of the world. Or, if something did, it would mean bad news for more people than just me. (7.6 billion more people, really).

It seems the word is more often used to describe human actions or ideas. Dictionary.com offers this definition–unyielding; unalterable: inexorable truth; inexorable justice. Not to be persuaded, moved, or affected by prayers or entreaties: an inexorable creditor. Merriam-Webster offers a similar definition, with the example inexorable progress.

And, don’t get me wrong…I’m not praying for or entreating the sun not to rise. It’s definitely a positive, and the alternative, as I intimated above, would not be.

It has more to do with this: I’m feeling time’s inexorable march most acutely these days. And I’m not talking about my aging body, or middle age. Not first and foremost, at least. No, top of mind is my productivity, and my desire to get more done in a 24-hour-period than I seem to be able to.

I’m in the throes of final edits on my second novel, and also drafting my third novel, and neither is happening as fast as I would like. Granted, my deadlines are all self-imposed, but I imposed them for a reason. Without the threat of an inexorable deadline, I’m sure I’d find a way to drag this work out over countless more sunrises and sunsets.

Back to the inexorable sunrise: it rose through a curtain of rain on the second morning, so I opted to sleep in and stay dry. My final day, conditions were favorable for a leisurely repeat viewing. It just so happened that I snapped a photo with the same exact time stamp as forty-eight hours earlier: 6:13 am.

And it occurred to me that sometimes a little perspective is all that’s needed to lighten the crush of inexorability. Because the sun doesn’t truly rise and set. The Flaming Lips sang it best: “You realize the sun doesn’t go down / It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round.”

Lake Charles, Louisiana

Last weekend, I took a break from my City Park wanderings and attended “Signing in the South,” a meet-and-greet event matching up more than thirty local authors (myself included) with readers. Many, many thanks go to author Taylor Anne for launching this inaugural event. It was wonderful! I met new readers, handed out nearly all the bookmarks I had promoting my soon-to-be-relaunched novel, and met some other writers face-to-face. I definitely plan to reach out to these authors in the future.

And, not only was the weekend a nice boost to my career as a fiction writer, it also turned out to be a really fun and memorable road trip. Niece Nicole and Niece Cece accompanied me on the three-hour drive to Lake Charles, Louisiana. “Signing in the South” took place there, at the Isle of Capri Hotel and Casino. I feel really blessed to share so many interests with the younglings in my family. Not only does it make communication easier, it makes for a lot of good times. And since these two particular younglings are in their twenties, we could go about the casino at will.

A few memories from our time in Lake Charles:

This is where the gambling took place. I was the only one to partake. I lost $4.75.
Nicole observed that the carpet looked like the Cephalopods’ language in the movie “Arrival.” What’s the message here?
On our way home, we stopped for boudin balls in Iowa, Louisiana. Trust me, they’re delicious!

Communicating Distances

Photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash

Later this afternoon, I’ll return home to New Orleans from Orlando. I’ve been here since Sunday, attending the Society for Technical Communication’s annual Summit.

I’ve traveled quite a bit in the last thirty days (Los Angeles, New York, plus a few local trips I’ll get to shortly). One remarkable thing is that only this last bit of travel, to Florida, has been for my day job. That’s certainly a departure from years past.

And in another departure, this travel hasn’t been for a trade show. Which leads me to something I’ve meant to mention in this space earlier, but I don’t think I have yet. I’ve moved out of the marketing department and onto a new challenge with the company who’s been good enough to employ me for the past eleven years. I’ve been learning the ropes of technical writing, which is a change that suits me just fine.

Communication has been the focus the past three days at this conference — the 65th version of this meet-up! It’s been eye-opening and very educational. Part of me regrets that it’s taken me so long in my career to turn in this direction; but there’s another part of me that feels like now is just the right time to get involved. There’s been so much change — just in the past few years or so — in how we communicate as a society.

I’ve been thinking of the term “the medium is the message.” When Canadian intellectual Marshall McLuhan coined that phrase back in 1964, was there any way he could have possibly envisioned the vast proliferation of mediums that exist today?

What it all seems to boil down to is this: I don’t need to craft a different message for every different form of media I use. I just need to be clear enough in what I want to say, and fluent enough in the nuances of the different media, to be able to “translate” the message into all its appropriate forms.

Therein lies the rub.

And this doesn’t seem clear at all, but I mentioned above some local trips I made recently. Far be it from me to leave that dangling. In the span of about 24 hours, I made round trips to the following southern Louisiana towns: Baton Rouge, LaPlace, and Ponchatoula. And when that was all done, I flew to Orlando.

In the interest of concise communication, I’ve edited out the reasons for those three local trips, and the incontrovertible timing each bore. If my life were a fiction, I’d try to work in some theme about how the main character (me!) likes to travel, and likes to write, and likes to think about communication. But when they all happen at once, some major conflagration happens, the m.c. overcomes the conflict, and everyone is significantly changed at the end of it all.

But thankfully, my life isn’t a fiction. So I’ll just conclude by saying that I’m very grateful for all the opportunities that have been laid before me these past thirty days, opportunities to do things I find fulfilling. But I’ll also be very glad to get home, stay in one spot, and enjoy the silence for a little while.

 

 

Just A Minor Malfunction

While the title of this post could refer to some daily happenings in my life, it doesn’t. It’s the title of a science fiction anthology, where my stories have had the privilege of appearing. The fourth issue is available now on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CHCXPQQ

“The Holo-Spa,” a story I penned last year, is included in this issue. A few notable things about “The Holo-Spa”:

  • It takes place on the same space station featured in “Lucky Eight,” my short story that appeared in Just A Minor Malfunction Issue #2 (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01NA9QRAY/ref=series_rw_dp_sw)
  • It’s the first piece of fiction I’ve written (in recent memory) in the first person
  • First “person” POV is kinda stretching it, because it’s written from the POV of a plasma-energy-type-of-being

I’d like to give a big shout-out to Michael Alter (on Twitter: @Michael_S_Alter ), the writer and editor behind Just A Minor Malfunction. This is my third time working with him, and it’s always a pleasure. His dedication and vision regarding this anthology are worthy of emulation, and his editorial feedback is always top-notch.

You know, every day of my writing life, giving up is always an option. An option that’s a little too close for comfort. It would be so easy to give in to the annoying internal voice that asks me why I’m pouring so much of myself into an effort that yields absolutely no immediate results. (That part of me always looking for the easy button). Working with other writers like Michael, and having my stories included in an anthology like JAMM, are a real power boost that help me play the long game.

After all, I never paid much attention to my “easy button” voice anyway, (even when I probably should have!)