Thursday, June 28, 2012
I'm so happy to report that Butch: A Bent Western has been published! Yes! Butch is absolutely one of my favorite fictional characters EVER! In fact, I'm not convinced she is fictional. So let me tell you this: If you don't like Westerns, it's not that kind of Western. If you like Westerns, you will find this a kind of magical realist Western. If you don't like historicals, don't worry: It ain't that kind of historical. If you do like historicals, the story takes place 100 years ago, so it might have enough feeling of a historical for you. If you don't like mysteries, it ain't that kind of mystery, but Butch has quite a few mysteries on her plate. And come on: Who doesn't like a good mystery? Mostly it's a good story with a fabulous crew of people. It's funny and moving, and I hope you enjoy it!
Here's from the cover blurb:
Santa Tierra, New Mexico, 1918
Anything can happen in the weird and wonderful town of Santa Tierra where Butch McLean protects the residents of Wayward Ranch, finds lovin’ in the arms and up the skirts of her beloved Angel, and keeps one step ahead of the possibly supernatural jaguar who may or may not be stalking her. Come hell or high water, Butch will rescue any dude or damsel in distress with humor and aplomb.
But when Angel dumps her (for a man, no less), a wounded stranger stumbles into town, and the deputy is murdered, Butch may have more mysteries on her hands than even she can solve. Especially since she is suddenly plagued by memories of the terrible childhood years she spent at St. Anne’s Home for Wayward Boys. And to top it all off, she becomes obsessed with finding her prostitute mother’s suicide note.
Butch is not accustomed to being haunted by anything—and she is not interested in ruminating about her life—but now even the animals who cross her path tell her a time of reckoning is near. And when the mystery of the dead deputy leads to revelations about Butch’s own parentage, she might just have a shot at solving the greatest mystery of all: Who is she and why did her mother end up at the end of a rope?
print • kindle • nook • smashwords
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Monday, June 25, 2012
After a four year plus wait, my novel Butch is finished and published. Well, it's published in some venues. It's on smashwords for all e-readers except kindle and nook. The kindle version is up, and the nook version will be up soon. The print version will be available next week. We're doing a happy dance here!
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Friday, June 22, 2012
I have studied. The moon, stars, heavens, hell. I have studied. Plants, blossoms, rocks, rivers. I have studied. People, stories, the wind.
And yet none of this studying brought me any closer to the truth. Or to joy. Truth and joy are the same thing, right? I was not any closer to understanding love. No closer to the divine.
So one day I let it all go. That which I thought I knew. I let go of the studies. The rules. The dos and don’ts.
I asked: What brings me peace and joy?
The feel of my husband’s cheek against my hand. The sound of his laughter. His grin.
When I was a girl, I ran through the woods, barefoot, singing, loving, climbing trees, in communion with the world. I gave myself over—completely, for moments of time—to Nature. I was in love.
And in grief when it came to harm.
I was in awe of the mystery of it.
I understood it all as I walked sole to soul to sole.
I was an Earth Mystic then.
Somehow I had stepped off that fecund path of Earth mysticism, Earth mystery, and onto a concrete path. Or at least onto someone else’s path. Veered off my own in a search for healing. Listened to other wisdoms, other traditions.
Perhaps that was part of it all.
But I am of this place: this land, this water, air, this sun.
Now I am an Earth Mystic. Now and again.
I have been walking the Mystic Trail looking for signs. It’s a busy trail this a trail near my home. Every time I walk it, it is a pilgrimage and a trial. I am accustomed to being in Nature where very few other humans walk. Those who come to the places where I roam are likewise Earth Mystics, for the most part. They are reverential. They understand all of it is sanctified. Sacred.
Human beings are a part of Nature. But they tax me. I listen for wisdom in the Wind. I hug trees and feel love back. I wave to crows, whisper to plants, look for signs in the clouds. I am in love when I am in Nature. I am in church when I am in Nature.
Most people don’t see the world the way I do. Sometimes it is too painful to be around others when I am in the woods. I can hardly bear to see how they treat what I worship.
But something about this busy trail calls to me: daily. I know I can find answers there. Here. On the Mystic Trail.
One day I went looking for signs. Isn’t that what an Earth Mystic would do?
I walked along the riverside, listening to the water, looking at the tall stalks of cow parsnip growing on the east side of the path, away from the creek, in marshy black soil. Their huge Queen Anne’s Lace-like flowers were beginning to dry out.
In some places along the creek, in the tall grass, lunaria annua (honesty) grew. Its pale violet colored four-petaled blossoms looked satiny and glorious, so rich and vibrant. I wanted to stand and gaze at them forever. I didn’t know why the plant was called “honesty,” but its nickname was “money plant” because its seed pods looked like coins. That apparently accounted for the “lunaria” name, too, since the round translucent seed pods looked like small full moons, complete with crater-like pockmarks that were actually seeds.
All I saw on this day were the satiny blossoms. The seed pods would come later.
Small violet-colored butterflies flew around my feet here and there as I walked. I stepped onto the first bridge at the first falls and turned my face toward the milky water as it cascaded down an almost smooth rock face. Near the bottom of the rock face, near the creek, was a hole in the rock. Every time I looked at it I thought of the sipacu in the floor of the Hopi kivas. Apparently the sipacu represented the hole where the Hopi ancestors emerged from the underworld into this world.
I felt like I was either emerging from the underworld here or diving down deep into it.
I continued walking between the moss and fern-covered rock face on my left and the creek on my right. Candy flowers—with white blossoms growing up between two leaves that together looked like exaggerated green lips—seemed to grow everywhere on the moss covered ground, looking like tiny stars that had fallen to earth.
This trail was so fecund—there was so much to see and experience, that it was almost overwhelming. I kept on the path, climbing up. The creek got farther and farther below me.
I stopped at the bottom of twenty-six wooden steps, next to a tiny cave--the grotto we called it—and listened to it echoing back the sound of the creek to me.
I whispered prayers.
Then I climbed again.
I gazed up at water falling down the canyon walls as I walked. I hugged Douglas firs that were hundreds of years old. I took the right path at the fork of the road and went down again, following the switchback to another bridge, as the world opened up and I could see the beautiful blue sky of the canyon. I crossed over the bridge and over the creek, stopping to gaze into the sea-foam colored water churned up as it fell over rocks and down, down.
There be Old Mermaids here.
I climbed down over slippery downed trees and around boulders until I was under the trees, some yards from the water. I sat on a rock.
I was flooded with so many thoughts of so many distressing things in my life and in the world. I wanted answers and I wanted them now. What could I do to be well, to be at peace, to be in joy?
I’m so tired of struggling.
I needed to close my eyes. Just rest. Meditate. When I opened my eyes, I would have an answer.
I breathed deeply and closed my eyes.
After a bit, I felt something. Something had changed.
I opened my eyes. A huge black dog was sniffing around the ground near me. I jumped up, startled and afraid. The dog didn’t seem to notice me. What would it do when it did? I looked around for the owner. I saw a man with three very young boys crossing the bridge.
The dog picked up something. A stick.
I was furious.
How dare that man let his dog off leash. I had been bitten by dogs twice. Been lunged at innumerable times. I didn’t blame the dogs. But I did blame the owners. They were always either completely clueless or else they’d get angry that I dared to say anything.
I was so angry now that I wanted to hurt someone.
The dog eagerly brought me over a stick. She wanted me to play fetch.
“No!” I said. And I pointed up the hill. I yelled at the man, “You’re supposed to have your dog on a leash.”
He mumbled something.
The dog ran up the hill again, leaving behind the stick, like some kind of offering.
My heartbeat started to go back to normal. After the dog and the man were gone, I looked at the stick. Maybe the cosmos had brought me an answer in the form of the stick.
It was just a stick with moss on it. And dog spit.
I remembered once years ago going to Bandon, Oregon, where we used to live. I was desperately sick and miserable. I cried out to the Universe for help. As I walked the deserted beaches, I came across the biggest pile of seaweed I had ever seen. I started laughing almost uncontrollably, and I yelled, “I said I needed help, not kelp!”
Maybe this was the same thing. Dog was god backward. Should I look for god in every dog I saw? And the stick. Talk softly and carry a big stick?
I sighed. I wanted people to be more responsible about their animals. But I couldn’t change their behavior, and despite years of trying, I hadn’t been able to change my response to their behavior. It was a safety thing. When I felt my safety threatened, I went for the jugular.
I got up and moved closer to the river, climbing carefully around boulders until I found a rock in the river, in the sun. I curled up on the rock. I felt like I was one of those iconic sunbathing mermaids. Only I was wearing clothes and no one could see my tails. Even me.
I sometimes wondered what color my tails would be. Probably New Mexico sky blue. Just like in my novel, The Blue Tail.
I needed to relax, to stop thinking.
I began singing the old Celtic chant, “Under the earth I go. On an oak leaf I stand. I ride a filly that was never foaled. I carry the dead in my hands. I carry the dead in my hands.”
I sang it over and over. The sound of the cascading water became my drum, my rattle, my accompanying music. I sang it loud. I sang it long.
It drowned out my thoughts.
It was just me and this place.
I breathed deeply. Across the river was a patch of coltsfoot, growing in the relative darkness created by the trees. The coltsfoot looked so present—or something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. They looked so alive with their huge green leaves overlapping with other huge green leaves.
As I watched their stillness, a hummingbird flew out into the middle of the creek. Then she flew to the coltsfoot patch and then out to the creek again. I couldn’t tell what she was looking for or doing, but as always, I felt buoyed just to see a hummingbird. When she disappeared from my sight, I watched dragonflies diving now and again for insects flying above the water. A vulture flew overhead. A dipper stood on one of the many rocks in the creek. The dipper was so close to the water that it was almost in the water. Every once in a while it would dip its head into the creek, quickly, then come up again.
A tiny luna moth-like insect flew past me. It seemed to glow white. I was transfixed. It looked so otherworldly, and I wondered if the fairies had decided to visit me in this odd and lovely form.
At one point I saw a shadow on the water—a bird was flying overhead. I looked up and saw a huge bird. At first glance, it felt dinosaur-sized—and I only got a first glance. It flapped its wings like a great blue heron, but it was golden brown and its head was more like an eagle’s—although not quite. I only saw it for about three seconds before it flew behind a rock. I thought I knew all the big birds in our area, but I didn’t know what I had just seen.
I sat quietly for a time. I noticed spider webbing or some kind of filament seemed to be everywhere, streaming in the wind from some unknown place, connecting everything to everything. I watched these filaments and felt comforted by the idea of everything being connected.
And understand your mermaid nature.
That’s what I heard, once my mind had quieted down. Those seemed to be opposing instructions. I didn’t imagine a mermaid was ever still. Weren’t they more like fish, always on the move?
I was often too literal, even when I was delving into myth and fairy tales.
That was what was written at the Pythia’s oracle in Delphi: Know thyself. That was the way to magic. The way to power (power with not power over). The way to truth.
I was hearing this as I sat by the river in the canyon, just off the Mystic Trail.
Sometimes “know thyself” seemed impossible.
Be still and know thyself.
Oh, so I was getting instructions on how to know myself.
I looked at the white water coming down through two huge boulders in the creek.
Find your siren song.
Ahhh. So that was what it meant to understand my mermaid nature.
Wasn’t writing my siren song?
And something else. Maybe something not quite so concrete and literal?
After a while, I climbed back up to the path. I walked past the cave and went up and across another bridge. The waterfalls crashed down into the pool below—a dark green pool that looked like it held all kinds of mysteries.
I watched the falls for a time and then I headed north, away from the falls and up the trail. I crossed another bridge. I was walking by a sun-drenched patch of grass and rock when I saw a flash of blue. I looked over and saw what looked like a small snake’s tail moving on the incline, through the grass.
The tail was the color of the New Mexico sky.
I stopped and watched. The creature stopped. I could see it was slightly hidden under the shadow of a rock. And I could see its head and body. It looked like a small black and brown striped garter snake with a blue tail.
I somehow got out my camera. Because the sun was so bright I couldn’t tell if I was even pointing in the right place. I whispered, “Could you be still just for a moment so I could take your picture?”
The blue-tailed creature was still. I took photos. Suddenly, another of these creatures burst out of the grass and began chasing the first one. Now I could see they had legs. They were lizards! A lizard with a dull blue tail chased the lizard with the bright blue tail.
I was a witness to a blue-tailed lizard chase!
Later I learned that what I had seen were two Western skinks, an indigenous lizard of our area. As far as I could tell, the lizard with the bright blue tail was younger and the one chasing it was older. Or it could have been the other way around. The information was confusing. Scientists believed the skinks used their blue tail as a way to distract predators. The predators would grab onto the tail, then the lizard would detach the tail and keep going. They could only do this once, though. After they detached the tail the first time, a new tail grew back and it was not detachable.
The lizards disappeared from my view. I thanked the Universe for letting me see the blue-tailed creatures.
I went down the rest of the trail in bliss.
I kept wondering what it all meant, if anything. I was not obsessing or distressing. I felt like I was in a dream and marveling at the dream all at the same time.
I felt like I was surrounded by signs and metaphor. I felt like I was walking into and out of story. Into and out of dreaming and mythmaking.
Dog and god. Kelp and help.
Blue tails and blue tales.
What was the difference between a woman and a mermaid?
Something so profound and beautiful about seeing the blue tail on the lizard. That bright blue in the wild.
The lizard was wild. The mermaid is wild. She dives into the great ocean of herself and finds her siren song.
Find your siren song.
“Under the earth I go. On an oak leaf I stand...”
It had to be about the wild.
Perhaps that was how we found our tales—our stories. Perhaps that was how we could see our own tails, how we could know our true selves.
It was all bewildering.
And that was how it should be on the Mystic Trail.
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