Flow

I woke up this morning thinking about flow, about how awareness of flow, synchronization with flow, has been so important to life on our planet. Flow is profoundly present in cultures like the Balinese – the flow of water, the flow of light-energy (east/west), the flow of winds, the lunar flow of tides. We are water beings, light beings, wind beings. How have we in the modern West become so immured to flow?

So many sacred places around the world have to do with water (sacred springs, streams, rivers), or with the energy of celestial movement, with high places and low, with crossroads and confluence. The Balinese are deeply sensitive to their orientation within the flows in their world. Everything is kaja (toward Mount Agung – the active volcano that is the highest point on the island) or kelod (away from Agung) and concurrently kangin (east) or kauh (west). I want to know how it would feel to be like that, to be satisfied that I know where I am without Siri or Google Maps. To know which way is up, how the water and earth and heavens move (and me in it) and for that to be enough. Instead I often feel like a fish trapped in an overcrowded and stagnant pond, waiting to be fed.

Like Meg in my novel, I am sometimes troubled by what people call “magic.” This isn’t magic. It’s just flow. It’s real. It’s possible. It’s everywhere.

 

 

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One Small Step…

I’ve chosen July 20 for the release of my new novel, NOT KNOWING, very deliberately: It’s the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.  Meg Fitzellen (my main character) knew that the moon landing was a significant event in the life of her father; she just had no idea how significant it truly was.

I watched the landing on a small black-and-white TV in the basement of a student hostel in Austria in 1969, while I was on a study-abroad trip. Not coincidentally, so did Meg’s father!

If you haven’t seen the CNN documentary yet, by all means tune in this Sunday, June 23!

Summertime

 

Happy summer solstice!

I know my friends in Texas think summer began weeks ago, but my tropical island nest here in Bali is treating me to such mild weather it’s hard to remember the 100 degrees in Austin earlier this month!

What I’m enjoying is also a very different tropical June from the one experienced by my main character, Meg Fitzellen, in my soon-to-be-released novel entitled NOT KNOWING. Meg is an archaeologist and every summer she heads for “the field” to dig and discover. Her archaeological site is Kawilkan in northern Belize, an area I know well from my own fieldwork, which began in the 1970s (and may still be ongoing)! The last time I was in Belize I was working on this very book at a resort near Belmopan LINK. That resort has kind of worked its way into my novel under a different name and with a few other changes.

In the book, Meg’s summer is not turning out the way she planned. As she observes on page 139, “Apparently, this summer was destined to push all my buttons. I’d just been reminded yet again of how dangerous it could be to have firearms in camp, reminded of exactly why I’d instituted my strict rule of no firearms in the first place. Dr. Fitzellen’s rule was no fire­arms. No firearms and no weed. No exceptions.”

Here’s hoping our summers turn out better than Meg’s! Mine is already downright epic!

You can now pre-order the Kindle version of NOT KNOWING and it will be sent to you on July 20!

The Writer’s Journey

It was just four years ago—June 5, 2015—that I published my first novel, Way of the Serpent. I didn’t know at the time that it was the first volume of the Recall Chronicles. I only knew it felt absolutely amazing to hold in my hands, between actual covers, a story that I had conceived and written.

Now I’m on the verge of publishing my fourth novel, the first one that is a stand-alone, not part of the series. And I’m as excited about it as I was about my first. I feel like I’ve finally made a commitment to be that self-published writer, resolutely embracing the tedium and responsibility of editing and marketing that goes along with the artistic freedom of writing whatever kind of story I damn well please. Maybe part of the struggle to reach this point comes out in the new novel, in the character of Seth Abbott, my main character’s husband, the science fiction writer doing battle with his agent and publisher over his time-travel stories:

“Seth paused and while his expression darkened, his eyes seemed to light up. ‘You know, sometimes I think these Timecrypters are about to break through to another dimension of the multiverse. Into another order of time and space altogether.’ Then his voice went flat. ‘But I don’t think that’s where my agent and my publisher think our market is. So I keep bringing them back into more ordinary three-phase time, our famil­iar universe. Past, present, future.’”

Of course I do hire editors along the way and they’ve been immensely helpful. And I have some amazing readers who willingly give me feedback on my work in progress. I tried hiring a publicist for a while, but I was still trying to figure out who I am as a writer and that didn’t work out so well.

The new novel is called Not Knowing. The main character is an archaeologist working in Belize, where I worked as a cultural anthropologist for many years. She’s got some heavy stuff weighing her down and the story is about how she eventually digs through it all (well, most of it) to find… Oh, come on, just read the book! (Don’t tell, but the Kindle version is already available for pre-order on Amazon.)

Remembering Loss

A writer I follow on Twitter made the point that Memorial Day is not a day for calling up your military vet friends to thank them for their service, but rather a day for remembering those who died in service to our country.
Technically, she’s right, of course. But I think maybe it’s both.
I think it’s also a day for remembering all of our returned vets who have committed suicide and those who continue to do so with alarming regularity.
I think it’s a day for remembering homeless vets.
I think it’s a day for remembering the dreams that died on the battlefield with lost limbs and lost sanity.
I’m especially vulnerable to such sentiments this year because my next novel delves into these issues and especially into the legacy of family hardship that follows along with them.
I honor those who have given of themselves in honorable service. But I also hope for a day when we no longer sacrifice our young men and women’s lives and limbs and dreams in the service of ill-advised wars and interminable conflicts.

On Saving Daylight

Welcome to Daylight Savings Time – again. Why we continue to torture ourselves with this semiannual self-imposed time disruption is beyond me. Today’s Washington Post includes a piece on this annual ritual that refers to it as “a glitch in the matrix that reminds us that clock time is always artificial and arbitrary”. I’m using it as a reason to share with you a passage from my second novel, Shadow of the Hare, in which protagonist Malia Poole reflects on the relativity of our experiencing of time.

When I first arrived in Walden 27, I still felt the need to know the exact time of day or night and I positioned my little digital clock on my table like some deity in a shrine. I learned that Walden 27 was positioned at the far western extreme of the Eastern Time zone. There were only two North American time zones by this time; I remembered having read that, before the original four time zones were established for the convenience of railways in the 19th century, every town kept its own time, keyed to its own experience of the sun’s movements. I came to realize that time zones and clocks meant little to the community of Walden 27.

As my stay extended into weeks and then months, I, too, stopped keeping track of time. It’s all relative anyway, I told myself. We mark our distance from some event in the past or from some planned, imagined future, organizing our activities within the diurnal/nocturnal cycle, across the flow of seasons. In Walden 27, residents rose with the sun, broke for lunch when the sun approached its zenith, or when the temperature rose to a point making a break desirable.

Tracking the cyclic phases of the moon became more important to me than the name of the month or the count of days on a calendar. I noticed how the moon phase tracked with my menstrual cycle. I began to observe the stars and how they shifted position in the sky as we moved toward spring. They don’t actually shift, of course; it’s we who shift our position relative to them. I’d never seen so many stars before coming to Walden 27.

When spring came, the yard around my cottage was planted with a variety of fruits and vegetables. Every square meter of fertile land in the whole of Walden 27 was planted with something edible or useful and it was all worked cooperatively, which meant that I was always encountering people in my garden, working the ground, tending the plants. I had to remind myself it wasn’t “my” garden, though I soon began to do a little weeding there and, later on, I did claim some of the produce for myself.

The lack of regimentation was seductive. In Walden 27, we kept our own time. I relegated my little clock to a dresser drawer.

 

Shadow of the Hare: Recall Chronicles, Vol. II available on Amazon.

Ask Questions!

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“You need to ask more questions!”

This line is in the opening scene that launches the action of both Way of the Serpent and Shadow of the Hare. It’s advice that I hope readers of my books take to heart and, to that end, I’ve included lists of questions at the conclusion of both books.

One of the things I’ve been hoping for is that one of my books might become a “book group” selection—and that has now happened! A group of professors at Lamar University read my book and then Skyped me in for a discussion last week.

It was a thoroughly delightful interchange. I learned that Way of the Serpent caused them to think more deeply about the whole question of memories, their imperfection, the importance of how we share them with others, how we invest them in the objects with which we surround ourselves. I learned that they found it reassuring to see quality human relationships surviving all the gadgets and conveniences of my hypothesized future. I learned that they found the story’s ending (over which I agonized so much in the writing) to be poignant and appropriate. They liked the excitement of the story itself as it unfolded. They also liked the artificial trees with miniaturized 3D printers producing leaves in appropriate seasonal colors!

In my new book, Shadow of the Hare, the protagonist is a novelist who muses about her own writing:

“Were my stories the kind that lured people into unrealistic delusions? I hoped not. I hoped they were, instead, the kind of stories that opened windows onto the true nature of things, shedding light, inviting fresh thinking, dispelling confusion.”

If you like asking questions, contemplating answers, I hope you’ll come to my next public reading – June 9 at Malvern Books – where we’ll have the opportunity for a Q&A session!

Here are the questions I came up with for my books. I’m sure you’ll have more!

Looking at the Moon

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I don’t choose the titles of my books lightly. Way of the Serpent dealt with an old New Guinea folk tale about a contest at the beginning of time for human destiny, a contest between a bird and a snake to see whether human beings would be like snakes, shedding their skins and living forever, or like birds that have to die.

Shadow of the Hare takes on the question of our human tendency to project our own wishes and desires onto the objects and experiences of our world. What do we see on the face of the moon—a human face? A hare? It depends.

My highest aspiration is to write books that readers will want to go back to—to think about, to read again. I want to raise questions in the reader’s mind that will lead somewhere, not offering easy answers to life’s tough questions, but offering, perhaps, a sip of wine to aid digestion.

Here’s to your enjoyment of my next book—cheers!

Available on Amazon.

Book launch event Saturday, May 21, 1 to 4 pm at Half Price Books on North Lamar, Austin, TX. 

Read the first chapters of Way of the Serpent HERE

The Hare Moon

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Whether you celebrate Beltane or May Day or nothing at all, it’s good to take note of the first day of May, as it brings us ever closer to summer. It’s no wonder the day was traditionally noted by our agricultural antecedents in Europe as a time for the celebration of warmth and fruitfulness, fire and fertility!

I find this particular May Day exhilarating, as it marks the beginning of the month I’ve selected for release of my next novel, Shadow of the Hare. This particular celebration is set for May 21, the day of the full moon that is known is some quarters as “The Hare Moon”.

Associations of hares (sometimes rabbits) with the moon abound in folklore and I’ve always felt a personal resonance with the creatures. The symbolism has worked its way into my novel. Here’s a small taste–it was hard to find one without spoilers!

I remember the year 2053, the year of the Global Peace Accord that officially put an end to war. Lio and I had gone to watch the celebratory fireworks displays on the D. C. mall, sitting in the shadow of one of the big war memorials next to a shallow pool. We lingered, watching the full moon rise, long after the crowd dispersed.
“How do you think they finally got the big weapons manufacturers and military corporations to sign on to the accord?” I asked.
“I’ve wondered about that. I wish I knew. They’ll never make much profit just making explosives for fireworks.” Lio grinned at me. “Although tonight’s show was pretty spectacular. And by that I mean over-the-top excessive.”
I snuggled up closer to Lio as a breeze rose up, rippling the water on the pond where the full moon was reflected. “Of course, weapons aren’t just guns and bombs these days,” I mused.
“Did you ever see a man in the moon when you were a kid?” Lio asked.
“Yeah. At least I think I did.”
“Did you know that in some other parts of the world peo­ple see a hare on the face of the moon?”
“I read about that once. I could never see it though. I guess we see what we’re conditioned to see, right? Whatever our cul­ture tells us is there?”
“Probably. And maybe we want it to be a living thing,” he suggested, “something with a face and eyes. Something we can relate to.”
“Can you still see a face on the moon?” I asked.
“Not really.”
“Me either. Though sometimes I wish I could.” 

PRE-ORDER Shadow of the Hare on Kindle and receive it May 21st! 

Celebrate release of Shadow of the Hare May 21st, 1 pm to 4 pm, at Half Price Books on North Lamar in Austin. Get your signed paperback copy and register for free gifts!

One Is the Agent

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I needed a new cover for the re-issue of Way of the Serpent, something that could provide the basis of covers for sequels in what has now become the Recall Chronicles. I analyzed the covers of dozens of other dystopian science fiction novels. I perused photographs available online. I searched through my own considerable inventory of photographs.

I kept going back to this one painting (see above), to which I’d attached a rather complicated title, a title that was in fact a line from a Buddhist practice I did sometimes: “One is the agent, caught in the reaction of cause and effect.”

The more I thought about it, the more I came to the conclusion that this painting and my novels were coming from the same space, a space in which agency constantly grapples with conditions that are, after all, oftentimes a result of one’s own actions. We’re not puppets, but we’re never free of entanglements, never entirely free agents.

The characters in my novels are like this, valiantly battling the circumstances of their lives, circumstances that are, to a varying extent, their own fault.

If these sound like the kind of characters you’d like to read about, you’ll like Way of the Serpent and (coming soon!) Shadow of the Hare.