Art and Memory

Things Remembered, 20 x 16, $450

Things Remembered, 20 x 16, $450

My protagonist in WAY OF THE SERPENT falls in love with an artist – Luis-Martín Zenobia – who was educated as an anthropologist. Here is what he wrote about art and memory:

Time was when memory existed solely in the minds of men and women, and the elders of the society were its treasury. As humankind evolved, art became the handmaiden of memory, encoding in images – and in stories that were recited or sung or danced – the episodes and values that defined a people. Writing was the next revolution of memory. The printing press was another. Digital electronic storage took memory to the next level but also put it at risk as never before. In every age, people believed their encoded memories to be somehow infallible, unassailable, invulnerable. They were always wrong, but the notion was pervasive and reassuring. It still is.

READ MORE – Available on Amazon or at Bookwoman in Austin, Texas.



Yesterday was euphoric. My first novel, WAY OF THE SERPENT, was published and I held in my hands an actual book that I had written. I’ve published before, but all of that had been rigidly academic work. This was different. This is a story I conceived, wrote, edited, and published.

What is it about?  WAY OF THE SERPENT is speculative fiction, set in a 22nd-century world where no one gets old and where the corporations control everything, including your personal memories. It’s about one woman’s quest for a lost year and a lost identity. The story moves from Dallas, to Mexico, to Argentina, to Costa Rica. It’s a love story, too, and it plays with the nature of human connection – to one another and to our material possessions – and the importance of shared stories.

I hope you and your friends will read it. It’s available on Amazon as both paperback and Kindle eBook.  I hope there are ideas in it that you will want to talk about. And please, let me know what you think!

How Do You Feel About Emotion?

"Communication" (Side One) 18 x 14

“Communication” (Side One) 18 x 14

Yesterday I attended a Writers’ League of Texas workshop on “More Than a Feeling: Writing with Emotion” conducted by author Greg Garrett. He shared with us a whole heap of wisdom he said he acquired from his own writing guru Robert Olen Butler at U. Iowa. It was clear that he had verified all of this wisdom personally. Perhaps most importantly, he told us that each of us has within ourselves a “compost heap” of forgotten things that contains every emotion we will ever need to access in our writing. This morning I found his message reinforced by a quote from Brene Brown about vulnerability and the difference between sympathy (a disconnect) and empathy (connection): “Vulnerability isn’t good or bad. It’s not what we call a dark emotion, nor is it always a light, positive experience. Vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings. To feel is to be vulnerable. To believe vulnerability is weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness.” And then I started to remember what my Buddhist gurus were trying to teach me about compassion and the necessity of going to “the places that scare you”…

So now I know I need to shed my armor and jump into my own redolent, simmering compost heap and return to my manuscript for one last heart-wrenching revision. Thank you, Greg!


WAY blogpost


Reading the news over the past months about the Ebola virus, I can’t help but identify even more strongly with the predicament of my protagonist in Way of the Serpent. Here’s what I’m talking about:

Jenda Swain’s flight from Costa Rica arrived at the Dallas airport right on time.  Jenda was surprised to see how crowded the international terminal was. “I wonder what the holdup is?” she asked herself. And then she almost panicked; what if the international corporate police had caught wind of their plan and were searching bags? “It’s okay,” she told herself, “as long as you stay calm and don’t attract attention.” As she got nearer the gateways, Jenda saw that they were not inspecting bags, but rather scanning people with an infrared device. She felt relieved. “Do you know what’s going on?” She was now relaxed enough to speak to one of her companions in the slow moving queue.

“It’s the IHA – that blood disease, the hemolytic anemia. Well, I think they’re calling it VHA now that they know it’s a virus. It’s been spreading like wildfire. How long have you been out of the country anyway?” her companion responded.

“I didn’t think it was contagious,” Jenda said, “Why are they screening us?”

“Well, now they know it is contagious,” the man replied, “although they’re still a long way from understanding how to deal with the virus that’s causing it. Lots of cases in Mexico and Guatemala, so all passengers from anywhere in Central America are getting screened.”

Jenda thanked her fellow traveler for the information. “Well, here’s something else I could worry about,” she said to herself, “but let’s just say I choose not to.”

When Jenda finally passed through the screening device, she noticed that several people had been pulled aside and equipped with face masks. A gloved and masked physician wearing a Pharmakon uniform was speaking with them. “I am not going to worry about this!” Jenda told herself again.

Riding in the autocar back to her apartment, Jenda gave her grandmother a call.

“Oh, I’m so glad to hear your voice,” Granny El said. “I’ve been worried about you, you know, what with this VHA thing beginning to get all out of hand. At least I was glad you were in Argentina rather than Central America – it’s really getting bad there!” Not worrying about viral hemolytic anemia was getting harder for Jenda.

WATCH FOR publication of Way of the Serpent on Amazon in early 2015!