Art Matters

a creative human

My life is better in all ways when I create art every day.

For me, most days that means I write. I have two published novels, Dark Moon Wolf and Waxing Moon. I’m working on the third book in that trilogy, as well as a new novel-length project and a handful of short stories.

DarkMoonWolf_w11014_300Writing every day isn’t easy for me. I work full-time. I have three kids, ages 14, 13, and 11. My husband has Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease, a major disability which requires quite a bit of managing (and means he can’t help much around the house). His disability and prognosis cause me a great deal of stress and anxiety, though I tell myself to stay in the moment, think about today, think about this hour. We have another major stressor in our family that I’m not discussing publicly–but it’s been brutally worrisome and consuming since last…

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Urban Fantasy and Social Justice

Did you all know there’s a website specifically dedicated to urban fantasy and social justice issues?

(Take a moment to revel in the glories of this thing we call the internet, where all interests have a voice.)

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Fangs for the Fantasy recently posted a 4.5 Fang review of Waxing Moon–you should follow the link and check it out! While you’re there, click around on their website and read a bit. They have some REALLY great perspectives on books, movies, TV shows, etc. I love their attention to diversity, representation, and equity–these are issues I hold central in my mind while I write. I have joked that Waxing Moon is actually a social justice book. With Werewolves.

My favorite part of their review of Waxing Moon is this discussion of Eliza:

“Loyal, supportive, passionate, determined, a good woman AND WRONG. Because you can be a good person and still be part of a deeply flawed, prejudiced system; you can be a good person and perpetuate inexcusable things within that system and being a good person doesn’t make it ok. That’s a nuance that is far superior to the simplistic narratives we see elsewhere.”

I know not all readers will like my work and not all readers will even think much about the social justice messages wrapped up in my Werewolf stories, but how lovely that SOME READERS GET IT! ❤

When we write fantasy, we write our ideal worlds. How important it is for such worlds to contain as much diversity and representation as our real world! If not more. And it may be easier to think about discrimination, stereotypes, and power structures when we dress them in the guise of humans, Werewolves, ‘Manders, and Witches. Less threatening to our sense of self and society? (Unless we happen to be Weres…)

Interested in fantasy written with social justice in mind? Here’s some authors you might want to check out:O9M8L

  • Octavia Butler
  • N. K. Jemisin
  • Ursula LeGuin
  • Margaret Atwood
  • China Miéville
  • Jim Hines – lots of writing about disabilities; he’s new to me!

This anthology is on my reading list right now: Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements. 


Updates from the writing trenches:

  1. I plan to have a decent draft of book three (working title Rising Wolf) done by the end of November.
  2. Right now, I have four stories out on submission at various places. Swim strongly, my little babies, and impress the editors!
  3. I also took a side step and wrote a creative non-fiction essay about being a care partner. That’s also on submission to an academic journal in the field of disability studies. We’ll see–this essay came pouring out of me, for better or worse.

This blog doesn’t have enough pictures. Um. Here, have some cats.

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Adorable kitten poking her head through a cardboard box

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And one more time, my favorite gif of all time!

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Ents and Why I Adore Them

When I’m besieged by stress or sorrow, when I’m overwhelmed by life and all its suffering, I turn to The Lord of the Rings. J. R. R. Tolkien is my respite, my comfort, my solace. His characters are my old and dear friends.

I’ve read the series countless times, mostly in autumn. Perhaps it has become a bit of a fall ritual for me or perhaps autumn–my favorite season–is also the one most often full of troubles. I’m not sure how many times I’ve read the books. At least twenty, perhaps closer to thirty.

Every section of the book brings me its own joys, but this read-through, the Ents are a larger-than-life, realer-than-real anchor for me. I love Tolkien’s use of language when describing both the Ents and Fangorn forest. I love the ways the Ents themselves use language–their rolling, poetic Hoom, hom, ha, baroom, ta-rundas. I love that Ents’ names tell their stories, I love how they are slow to rouse, then terribly fierce when angry. Would that more of us followed that pattern, instead of flying off the cuff in quick-tempered ire over the slightest of offenses. I love their expressive eyes, their limbs, their feet that step toe-first in great strides. I love their love for the trees. Has anyone ever loved anything as much as the Ents love their trees? I wish I could meet the Ents and spend time in their forest. I wish I could bring into our world their fierce dedication to preserving and defending their trees. I wish we each had a tenth of their poetry in our language.

Listen. We all need to listen.

Treebeard: “For Ents are more like Elves: less interested in themselves than Men are, and better at getting inside other things. And yet again Ents are more like Men, more changeable than Elves are, and quicker at taking the color of the outside, you might say. Or better than both: for they are steadier and keep their minds on things longer.”

Treebeard: “He [Saruman] has a mind of metal and wheels; and he does not care for growing things, except as far as they serve him for the moment.”

Merry, on Ents: “Somehow I don’t think they are quite as safe and, well, funny as they seem. They seem slow, queer, and patient, almost sad; and yet I believe they could be roused. If that happened, I would rather not be on the other side.”

“Quickbeam often laughed. He laughed if the sun came out from behind a cloud, he laughed if they came upon a stream or spring: then he stopped and splashed his feat and head with water; he laughed sometimes at some sound or whisper in the trees.”

Quickbeam: “And these trees grew and grew, till the shadow of each was like a green hall, and their red berries in the autumn were a burden, and a beauty and a wonder.”

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Poor, Maligned Adverbs

I recently ( <– look, an adverb) pasted a couple of stories into the Hemingway app. f3c5d3340813958b1260ad528c3c5403-schoolhouse-rock-adverbsThis web-based app tells you if your sentences are too long, highlights every adverb, and points out all passive voice.

Now, some of this is quite ( <– look, an adverb) useful.

And yet…what about the poor, maligned adverb? Sure, you can go overboard with both adverbs and adjectives, just ( <– look, an adverb) like you can go too far using dialogue tags.

“What was that?” screeched James.

“I’m not sure,” declared Cindy.

DeAndre added, “I’m not sure, either.”

“Who would know?” inquired Miranda.

Overkill. A reader’s eyes gloss over “said,” “said,” “said,” but we stumble over the exotic/descriptive tags.

Adverbs–AND adjectives, I’d argue–can be overused in the same way. No one wants to read: “Maria quickly walked to the ramshackle, old brownstone building, with decrepit, crumbling bricks covered lushly in vibrant, verdant ivy.” Too much. Redundant. More sometimes obscures meaning, in lieu of enhancing it.

Adverbs can be the same way. And yet. If you’re an adverb hater, please read this piece: “Abolish the Adverb? You Seriously Must Be Joking” in Slate, June 2016. I love that piece. I really do. If you didn’t click on it, go ahead. Click it now and read.

As Colin Dickey says: “Who will be the Lorax for the adverb, that most-maligned part of loraxspeech?”

Is the goal of writing truly ( <– look, adverb) to eliminate each unnecessary word from every sentence? Is all writing about only what is necessary? Or is writing about more than the necessary?

Hemingway isn’t one of my favorite authors. He actually wouldn’t make my top 100 favorite authors, no offense to him or his fans. So do we want a world full of Hemingway-mimics? Or do we also want the glories of language to trip from our tongues and pens in fluid, wanton syllables?

I don’t want to plug every bit of writing into this app and make it as Hemingway-esque as possible. I want to develop my own voice and embrace ALL the bits and pieces of our language.

As Dickey puts it:

“I, for one, am for sloppy writing, writing which uses two words when one will do. I’m for writing that isn’t always vigorous, for writing that sometimes is fey and effeminate. I’m for writing which is wasteful both of time and of ink.

“Reader, I want to waste your time. Needlessly, deliriously, unrepentantly.”