Thursday, September 25, 2014

Dandelion Break

Dandelions, photo by Marcel Grieder, used under cc license, with attribution

The title of this post is from one of my favorite recurrent themes in the Berkeley Breathed comic, Bloom County. Whenever things would get overwhelming, Opus would head out to the dandelion patch to chill out. The strip I linked to is from 2009; it is just as relevant today.

Not only are world events still horrific, there is even more of the sense that we are all living in a constant state of outrage. And in so many cases, that outrage is either manufactured by media spin, or by our own desire to feel something.

So much of what we choose to feel seems like the negative emotions: outrage, fury, jealousy, pettiness.

Not that there aren't plenty of real and terrible things to feel outrage over. It's just that if outrage is our default response to the smallest of things, what is left for the truly outrageous?

Someone recently said some unkind things about me and one of my books. I think it was meant to spark some kind of outrage in me or in others. And honestly? My first reaction was one of confusion. Then I began to feel sorry for the person who wrote the piece. I suspect that this person is living in or is fueled by that state of outrage. It must be a terribly isolating and distressing place to be.

I choose otherwise.

Partly that's out of sheer perspective. In the past 4 years, my family was forced to flee our house in barefeet and pajamas one winter morning and watch it burn. I witnessed dementia tangle my mother's mind and soul and held her hand as she died. I nearly lost someone I love dearly to suicide.

I am crystal clear on what's important in my life and what is simply dandelion fluff. 

So here is my reminder: when faced with outrage, consider if what is pulling on your emotions is worthy of such an intense response. I invite you to choose otherwise. There's a spot in the dandelion patch waiting for you.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Oh, hello, again!

It's officially Fall: aka the busy season. I got the last of the tomatoes canned and put away on the pantry, and it's about to be apple-palozza time. Apple sauce, apple butter, dried apples, apple-pepper jelly. . . Preserve all the things!!

I do need to slow down a bit - with both my sons away at college, it's just hubby and me needing to be fed. We still haven't figured out meal portioning for two. Which means we're only really cooking every other day, since the leftovers are a full meal for two. :)

I also finished the revision pass for TIME AND TITHE this week.

Thank goodness for post-it flags! Now I get to incorporate all those handwritten notes into the document so I can email it out to my beta readers. I'll have time for round two of edits/clarifications before it goes off to the editor on November 1. The cover artist is in her creative process, so we're on track for a mid-January 2015 release.

Next up: the first draft of DERELICT's sequel. I'm really looking forward to that unchained burst of creativity that comes with starting a new project. Before the muddle of the middle sets in.

What else am I doing? I switched ceramics studios in August. After years of working at the New Art Center (which is wonderful, but I was looking for the next phase of my development as a ceramics artist), I moved to The Potter's Studio and have been getting oriented to the new place: new clay bodies, new glazes. It's been challenging and fun.

I love the jewel toned glazes on these cappuccino mugs. Now I need to find combinations I like for my textured hand-built work.

And, as if I wasn't busy enough, I wandered into a fiber shop during our recent trip to Watkins Glen and ended up buying some lovely yarn, a set of needles, and a hat pattern. It's been nearly 20 years since I've picked up knitting needles.

I'm amazed at how the motor memory came flooding back. Now I have this jaunty little hat, just in time for the cooler fall weather.

So that's my update.

Have a wonderful day, my internet lovelies!

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Season of Gratitude

The Season of Gratitude

Tomatoes overflow the bowl on my counter. More
cling to spindly vines, peach-tinged blush on round
cheeks. Some will brighten to August red. Others
destined for the pickling crock, their hard olive skins
softening in salty brine. This is the time of abundance,
even as the first cool morning breathes out its frost.
Green leaches from the tips of maple leaves revealing
the colors there all along that we simply refused to see.
I am as frenetic as the bees swarming the flowering sedum,
putting away salsas and sauces, jams and fruit butters.
The work is not hard and my thoughts wander
into stark, cold places. My hands stiffen
around a paring knife, peels and cores heaping
into tiny burial mounds in the sink. It is simple
to despair, to let fruit ripen, fall, and rot on the dew
drenched ground. Death will come to all things--
hopes, dreams, apple trees. And still I fill
glass jars, wait for the canner to reach a rolling boil,
my face flush with the last of summer's heat.  

--LJ Cohen, September, 2014

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Guest Post: Deviation, a Scifi book by A.J. Maguire

Wow - this cover is amazing!

Hey Blog readers - this is Lisa. Today I am thrilled to host writer, friend, and all around awesome person, A.J. (Aimee) Maguire. Aimee and I have been reading one another's work for crit for years now and it's been a real pleasure seeing her work get out into the world.

I had the privilege of beta reading Deviation, at an earlier phase of its development, and I'm very excited to read it now that it's complete. The story deals with issues of gender politics in a way that should be more prevalent in SF, but isn't. And yet Aimee managed to write a story that isn't a polemic against the patriarchy, but a thought provoking adventure in a unique SF world. In today's guest post, she talks a little about how she did that. 

Welcome, Aimee, and thank you for writing this guest piece for the blog.

Treading the Line

My new release Deviation just received its first review and one of the comments that the reviewer made was that the “philosophical and scientific topics” I explore in the book could have easily become a soap-box. To my relief, the reviewer expressed that there was no soap-box apparent in the book and that I had managed to convey this world without coming down on either side of things too heavy-handed. 

I admit that I was terrified I was going to press some “hot buttons” with Deviation. The world I created was very male-dominated, had women tightly subjugated and in robes – not to mention scarce – and had the potential to aggravate someone into thinking I was making some political statement. 

And who knows, maybe I’ll get a Reader out there who decides that’s just what I did and makes a big hullaballoo about it.

For right now, I’m going to rest assured that at least one reader/reviewer didn’t see it that way. I know there are some books out there whose sole intent is to make some kind of point like that, but I’m not that kind of writer.

So how does an author convey a realistic world without appearing to show their own biases, especially if they know that the subject matter is sensitive?

Well … 

I’ll tell you what I did, but it’s sort of a non-answer. 

I concentrated on the characters on the page. My story isn’t about the politics of the world I created, or the science that peppers the pages; it’s about the characters. 

Specifically, it’s about two women who are taken from their home and their desperate struggle to get back. Yes, the politics block their way sometimes (or most of the time, as it were) but the focus isn’t so much on how or why those politics got there. Rather, the focus is on the character’s reactions to being stuck. 

If you’re one of those writers who likes to make political satires or use their work as a means to expose the world as we know it, then more power to you. I have nothing against that, I just don’t write that way.
I’m talking to the other writers out there, the ones who find themselves in the nail-biting position I was in while writing Deviation. Concentrate on your characters and how they react to the world and everything should fall into place. 

Thanks, Aimee! If you have any questions for her about this, any of her other books, or anything else about Deviation, please ask away in comments.

A.J. (Aimee Jean) Maguire
A.J. Maguire is a consumer of stories. She thoroughly believes that stories are the bedrock of humanity, and that the answer to every question in life can be found in the tales that we tell. She also believes that spiders are the spawn of Satan and that her cat might just be the reincarnation of Dionysus.

If, of course, a Greek god were capable of being reincarnated.

Her writing runs the gamut between science fiction, fantasy, and (soon-to-be) historical fiction. She even has a semi-horror/ghost story in the works that she intends to release as a serialized novel during the Fall of 2014. Maguire focuses on complex female protagonists who are capable of laughter even amid tragedy, or sometimes in spite of tragedy.

Maguire is passionate about her craft and constantly working to improve. She'll probably keep telling stories long into her old age (which is still several decades off) and believes that being an author is the single greatest, most wonderful gift she has been given -- apart from her son. She looks forward to every story and hopes to release many more novels in the years to come.

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