Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Not Quite the Christmas Morning I'd Planned

Christmas Eve -- I go to bed late and exhausted, and lie there realizing that I haven't seen one of our two cats for a while. As in, as least a day. Whisper doesn't usually go out in the winter, so I get up and check to see if he's gotten shut up in the attic or in the cellar or is under the bed. No cat.

First light, Christmas morning -- still no cat. So I bundle up and head to down to our neighbor's barn, with our dog, Ruby.The barn is at least a hundred years old and hasn't been used for the last twenty.The neighbors themselves don't live here in the winter. But this old barn is where Whisper goes when he's mad at me for some atrocity I've committed, like going on vacation and leaving his bowl to be filled by the neighbors, or taking him to the vet's. He'll stay in the barn until I come and beg and plead for him to come home, which he will deign to do if I carry him all the way back, scratching his chin in just the right spot. I realize that I might have erred this time by letting the house get too cold while we were having furnace problems recently. I suspect that he's in the barn, having a kitty pout.

I circle the barn a few times, calling his name. Nothing. I'm about to leave when Ruby pricks up her ears and I hear a very, very faint meow from inside. I call a while longer, but Whisper doesn't come out.The barn has many, many holes in the walls and foundation, but only two doors that open. I get in the first one, but there's no sign of him where I am, and no way into the rest of the barn from there. So I go around to the other door, move the rock that's holding it shut, and go in. I've never actually been inside the main barn before, and there are holes in the floor as well as in the walls. It's dark and just about as unsafe as anywhere I've ever been. Nor do I have a flashlight. But I make my way carefully to the far back of the barn, where there's a strange "fixture" that was added years later -- some kind of square silo that's taller than the barn itself, very narrow, and has a rickety ladder build into the far wall that runs up the whole inside of it, with several narrow landings you can step over onto, if you want to. I have no idea what the purpose of the thing was.

I'm still thinking Whisper is down under the barn floor, so I step over this really wide, scary dark space onto the ladder and go down, thinking how no one in the family has any idea where I am, or even that the cat is missing, and that if I fell to my death, no one was going to find me for a long while. But there is a streak of courage in me, and I go boldly down where no one has gone before, not at least for a long, long time (except a lot of spiders).

No cat.

But I can still hear him meowing.

Reason asserts itself, and I climb to the main floor, tell Whisper to hang on wherever he is, and head home for back up.

The family is less than thrilled that we'll not be opening stockings right now, we're going to go climb around in a cold, dark, dangerous barn.

So with husband, grown daughter and her boyfriend, and teenage daughter, we return to the scene, armed with flashlights. We approach the strange structure at the back of the barn. Faint meowing. We listen, argue, listen, comment on the spider webs and holes in the floor, and the narrow ladder rungs. We listen some more, argue some more, and conclude that since I've already been down, the cat must be UP.

The teenager daughter gets voted to climb since she's young, strong, and will fit up the narrow passageway around the ladder. She goes up to the first landing, under protest, looks up, and comes back down. Yes, Whisper is up there. All the way at the top of the peak of the roof, stranded on a narrow ledge. Yes, he looked okay. No, he didn't look like he was coming down any time soon. NO, she wasn't going all the way up there.

I think the next step is to call the fire department. But no, wait. Our grown daughter's boyfriend is an EMT with firefighter training. The problem -- he has a big heart and a brave soul, but he's not exactly a small person. And he's actually a bit scared of cats. But he heads up the ladder.

Afraid to watch, I dash home for the cat carrier, thinking that if we can get Whisper into it, it'll be easier to get him down the ladder, though I'm afraid that the space is too small for a person and the carrier, both. Of course, I can't find it at first, and by the time I return to the barn, our personal firefighter is on the ladder and Whisper is now several landings below him. Our firefighter managed to scoop him off the ledge but wasn't able to hold onto him all the way down, and in a struggle I'm glad I didn't witness, Whisper ended up on the landing above us. Closer, but not budging. And our firefighter doesn't dare move for fear Whisper will dart back up the ladder again.

Now the cat is freaking out, so we send the teenager up again. She manages to get Whisper calmed down, but her arms are too short to reach him. So she climbs back down and our grown daughter goes up. She can reach him, but she's afraid to take her hands off the ladder. So the teenager and I reach over the abyss and try to hold her onto the ladder by pushing on her legs. Not sure how effective this technique is. I'm imagining the ladder breaking and the floor collapsing and all of us being found a week later in a pile. Probably the cat would have been the only one to walk away, and I have to wonder how the forensic team would have pieced together our last moments, and if they would have been able to figure out what on earth we had all been doing in the old abandoned barn on Christmas morning.

My daughter gets hold of Whisper and tries to hand him down while I reach up as far as I can. We can't quite reach each other. No one is having a good time. Finally, she drops Whisper down to me. Ever caught a falling cat in midair over an abyss? I did it, but won't ever try it a second time.

For the first time in his life, Whisper is eager to go into his carrier. A few moments after that, every one is down off the ladder, and we make our way back toward the open barn door.

An hour later, Whisper's tummy is full and he's asleep in the middle of our bed. We're all cleaned up and have antibiotic ointment on our scratches, the Christmas turkey is in the oven, and we sit down to a late breakfast and our stockings.

It's probably completely lost on Whisper how lucky he is that he was adopted into such an awesome family.

 
 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays!


My Christmas Tree!
I wish you all the happiness of the season, whatever you celebrate!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Nutcracker!


 



It's a beautiful, sparkly December morning here in Vermont, and if you live around here, it's still not too late to get tickets for today's shows of The Nutcracker at the Flynn Theater in Burlington, the most magical ballet in the world!  Our show is put on by local dancers from the Vermont Ballet Theater School, of which my youngest daughter is a member of the Company. I've been very busy these last few weeks helping with the production. I volunteer to take photographs of the dancers for many local newspapers (have you all gotten the idea I like to take pictures?) Young dancers are a bit different from wildlife and scenery, but I enjoy a bit of a change.

Busy time of year!  Off to the theater!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Review!

Under the Willow was recently given a lovely review by Elisa Rolle:

Under the Willow is a very sweet Young Adult story, almost without angst and really about pretty boys in love. It’s a “modern” fantasy story, set in a small town in Vermont, about two highschool boys, Shane and Cody. A retelling of the Romeo and Jules story, in more than one meaning: Shane is from the wrong side of the river, the poor side; moreover he has always been the nerdy kid, the one who apparently get it always right, without touching a book; Cody instead is a jock and the rich kid at school, and one that is really not so enthusiast to attend school if that is not related to some sports. I had even the impression that Cody was even a little mean with Shane and for sure, when he is injured and the only one available to help him is Shane, his first thought is that it’s not cool to be seen with Shane.

But after a bit I started to have the feeling Cody feared to be seen with Shane since Shane is the one guy Cody could fall in love with, and Cody is not yet ready to admit he is gay; the coming out process is only hinted, and the related troubles remain a little on the background. I don’t think the author wanted for it to be the focus of the story, but she was probably aware she couldn’t write about teenagers without letting the reader know it’s not easy for them and that the coming out process can be painful.

As soon as Shane and Cody connect, the story takes a fantasy turn; between Shane and Cody is instant love, but that was also due to the fact they are the “chosen” of two opposite factions wanting to use them as their spokesperson. Maybe I wouldn’t have minded a little more of “courtship”, a slower building of love between them, but again, I think that was not the focus for the author. Now don’t get me wrong, this is definitely a romance, and even if tamed, there are also some sex scene, nothing detailed, but nevertheless Shane and Cody are aware their love has also a physical expression.

Under the Willow was cute, a refreshing novelty considering the average Young Adult literature, and for once I didn’t feel like I had to worry for these boys, sure they have some troubles to face, but I was sure that in the end there was a way for them to be together and happy.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

It's Wnter!

Yesterday, we had the first skim of ice on our pond that lasted all day.

This morning, we woke to several inches of snow.

This created a blizzard of Black-capped Chickadees around my feeders. Don't you love the tail shot? And peeking in on the right hand edge is a Tufted Titmouse. They're a bit shy.

I'm really glad I don't have to go anywhere today. I'd love snow, if it wasn't for having to drive in it. I am a TOTAL WIMP when it comes to winter driving, and I live on a road that is a nightmare to get up and down. But on days like today when I get to photograph it, watch it come down while I write, and do some holiday cooking in peace with gentle music playing, yeah, I'm okay with snow.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Everything You Didn't Want to Know About my Septic System

First the furnace a few weeks ago, then last night the septic system. I was in bed about midnight, sound asleep, when I heard my husband yell at our oldest daughter, "Get out of the shower!" She'd just come home from college for the weekend (which means laundry and a long hot shower, first thing.) Well, the water from both was all spraying all over the cellar. I knew the tank didn't need pumping, so that meant another plug like the one I unplugged myself last summer.

So lying in bed after my husband and daughter had cleaned up the mess, I realized that if I didn't go out there right then and see what was going on, by the time I got home from school, it was going to be too late in the day to call anybody, and that would mean all weekend without being able to flush. Or shower. And since I have distant mermaid ancestry, if I don't get a shower every morning, well, it's really not going to be a good day.

So at two in the morning, I went outside and dug up the tank. (Hey, I'm a rugged lady. I write fiction. I work with high school kids. I can dig up a septic tank by flashlight!) I found the little square cover on my first try. (I'm also a dowser, so no surprise there. I don't know how it works, but it's an awfully handy talent for this kind of thing.) I pried the lid up. Sure enough, the old iron pipe was well plugged again. Holding the light in one hand and a long stick in the other, I spent ten minutes of real unpleasantness getting absolutely no results.


So, sputtering, I went back to bed and lay there until the alarm went off at 5:30. Shower time. A couple weeks ago, I had several days of icy cold ones. Today I had a warm one, but I had to keep turning the water off between each soaping cycle, so to speak. And in a cold house, that got chilly fast. Urg.


We called our favorite septic people (I went to high school with the owners) and a nice guy showed up ten minutes ago and unplugged us.The system is working fine, just too much paper going down. Ah, teenage daughters. Oh, well, it could have been the leach field. And now I'm happily doing laundry and looking forward to a long, hot shower to make up for this morning.

But you know, it was kind of nice being outside at two o'clock in the morning in late fall all by myself. Orion was beautiful and sparkly, it was perfectly quiet, and no Bigfoot lurked anywhere. Heck, if he'd come by, I'd have handed him the shovel.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Bigfoot?

All right, so I've always been a little freaked out by Bigfoot.

It started when I was a kid and saw one of those quasi-documentaries about mystery creatures. I was mainly watching it because it had a segment about Vermont's own lake monster, Champ, for whom I've watched diligently for years. But for some reason, the footage of Bigfoot really chilled me. Bigfoot doesn't live in lakes. He lives forests, and so do I. And that was enough to give me nightmares of a fleeting black shape in the twilight, especially at the far edges of headlight beams, triggered, I'm sure, by a segment in the film about a man who spent a terrifying night trapped alone in his car while Bigfoot prowled outside.

Now, I haven't really worried about Bigfoot a lot lately, I have to admit. But yesterday at school, a student showed me some new video footage of that old, familiar, dark, menacing shape. I was real cool about it, and went home and made sure my doors were locked and that all the cats were in. And nothing happened. No otherworldly sounds in the night, no sense of being watched, no glimpses of anything at the edge of the light.

Until this morning.

I leave for school about 6:30, and this time of year, it's dark enough for high beams. I headed down my narrow dirt road in my trusty little car, dodging potholes, wondering what the kids had in store for me today, and trying to find my phone in all my various pockets. It wasn't there. I was getting a vulnerable feeling just as I came to the bend, which is sharp, left-handed, and slopes downhill. And as my headlights swung around and lit up the darkness, I saw it.

A black, shadowy shape, hunched over, running across the road on two legs right in front of me.

I slammed on my brakes.

The shape came to a halt, turned, and looked at me. I could see its eyes, bright spots in the shadow. Yes, I screamed.

It was frozen, unmoving.

I stared at it in terror.

It still didn't move.

And then I realized that the shadowy creature really looked an awful lot like a shadow. The shadow of the one tree limb over hanging the road just ahead of me that still, for some reason, had leaves. A shadow cast by my high beams. I eased off my brakes, my car rolled forward, and the creature slowly made its way off to the side of the road, its bright eyes fading as my headlights moved off two glistening pebbles.

Heart pounding, my throat burning from my scream, I drove on down the road.  And I don't care whether it was a shadow or not -- you could not have paid me enough to get out of my car until I was safely in the school parking lot. And then I dashed inside, safe in a crowd of students who would be much more tender and juicy mouthfuls than me.

Happy Halloween a day late, everyone!

Monday, October 24, 2011

When the Lights Go Out

Why is it so magical when the electricity goes out? I know it can be a major life disruption and create dangerous situations. But last night our power went off for two hours in the evening, and I sat in the candlelight sipping red wine, watching my daughter do homework and my husband reading in the tentative light, and everything had a quiet peacefulness that is so lacking most of the time. I could not check emails or even work on my new project, and it was all guilt-free. Nothing to do but sip wine and watch the candles flicker. Even the house rested around us. We could see stars through the windows.

It was nice.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

10,000 Hits for the Lip Dub!

Last winter, the amazing school where I work made a Lip Dub. I'd never heard of such a thing until I was in one. A whole bunch of us faculty and students showed up at school on a very snowy Sunday afternoon and spent three hours walking backward through the school lip syncing to a song played over the PA. It had to be filmed in one continuous take with no rehearsals or editing afterwards, except to dub in the song.

Today, we heard that we'd had 10,000 hits!

I've heard so many writers complain about their day jobs, but look at what I get to do! Check it out, see the beautiful school where Under the Willow and the upcoming Silent One were set, and just maybe, catch a very brief glimpse of the famous author herself in the background.

Here is the link to the Lip Dub:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHH6clID7Yg

And here is the link to the Making of the Lip Dub, which is pretty cool, too:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWTywWCLJqA&noredirect=1

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bears

Last night, I was innocently driving home about 10:00 when my cell phone rings. It's my teenage daughter, freaking out. There's a bear outside. She just saw it through the sliding glass door -- a big, black, fuzzy shape running into the woods. The dog is going ballistic. She is hiding under her bed. (Daughter, not dog. Dog is still barking frantically.)

This has happened before, seeing a bear come out of the woods. It's why I stopped feeding birds during the summer a few years ago. We haven't had one around since. I, of course, panic at the thought of only a screen door between my child and a ferocious wild animal with teeth and claws that growls and stands up on its hind legs. (I also wonder why she called me and not her father, who is driving the van ahead of me. I guess even when you're a teenager and you freak, it's Mom you dial.)

So I keep her on the phone until we lose service in the hills, reassuring her that the bear was last seen running away, it won't try to get in with the dog barking (golden retriever, very protective), and how cool it is to see such an unusual animal, and trying to turn off my writer brain that is showing me coming home and finding them both bleeding, or worse.

A few minutes later, my husband, who has no idea of the mayhem awaiting us, pulls into the driveway, which is fairly long, and comes to a dead halt as soon as his headlights pick up the house. I almost slam into him. And in our headlights, I see not one, but three huge forms racing across the lawn. I think I screamed. One bear I can cope with. Not three.

And then I realise that the bears are galloping, not running, and they have very long legs for bears, and that they are, in fact, our neighbor's three horses. I am so weak with relief that I can hardly call her from the car to tell her that her babies are loose and have come over for the apples on the ground below our trees.

The horses are in full panic mode, set off the sudden arrival of two cars and headlights, not helped by the frantic dog inside. I hop out, so relieved that they aren't bears, shut off my scary headlights, and head onto the lawn toward them (they know me, since I feed them when their owners are gone). I really don't want them heading for the main road. They recognise me and stop racing around. They trot over, I catch hold of the only one wearing a halter (who, incidentally, is small, fuzzy and black), and start up a conversation with the other two. They all seem to think I'm more interesting than the apples underfoot. I grew up with horses and always enjoy their company.

Then I realise for the first time that my husband has only just gotten out of the van, whose headlights are lighting us up now. And he is not coming up onto the lawn. He has never been around horses, and he calls up in a shaky voice,"You okay up there?"

I answer that they're fine, just after the apples, and that I've got hold of them, and they aren't heading for the road, and I added that they aren't bears. Of course, he has no idea why I would say that, and then the neighbors arrive with a bucket of grain, and are very happy that I've gotten everybody calmed down and under control. They all leave, my daughter comes out, we park the cars, and then I realise my husband is still staring at me with an odd expression. "You are quite the horse tamer," he said, and I see it for the first time as he must have -- me heading in the dark into a melee of panicked horses.

So we both had a jolt of fear for someone we love last night. I guess it's all relative.

But how my daughter could mistake a black pony for a bear is beyond me.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Happy Fall!

Ah, the leaves are starting to turn around here, but the temps are still summer like. I'm swimming in our pool every day, but I'm afraid we're going to have to cover it soon, because the nearby apple trees are getting ready to dump their foliage into it, and I'd just as soon not have to scoop it all out of the bottom in the spring.

I've been most busy with a bunch of writing projects lately, one of which has just been posted on the Birds of Vermont Museum blog. Check it out here: http://bovm.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/the-bird-carvers-daughter-part-1-the-early-years/#more-998

I had a blast writing it. A shorter version was printed in the museum newsletter, and there will be another installment in the next issue. I have way too many memories of growing up as The Carver's Daughter to get them all into one. The next one will be called something like: The Teenage Years, or Why I'm NOT a Carver.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Nice Walk

When I need to get away from things for a while, I grab my camera (Nikon D50) and my 300mm lens and head outside. I literally have to focus on something else, and just letting myself become part of a visual world instead of a written one is incredibly refreshing, as much as I love to write.

These are some of the results of an hour's long walk up my road this late summer afternoon.



 





Faerie country, for sure, don't you think?

 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Turkeys!


This is my road and these are some of my neighbors.  I've been watching the young ones grow up all summer.  It's a sign that fall is coming when the babies are almost as big as the adults. I took this through my car window Wednesday, just driving home from my first day back at school.

I love where I live.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Invisible River




I found an invisible river yesterday.  Well, technically one that has almost dried up due to our currently dry conditions around here. This, so my daughter says, who's been here on college parties (not those kinds, she is quick to tell me) is usually a beautiful waterfall.  But it's so dry that the water is all flowing behind the rocks, with only little glimpses of it here and there.  Yet you can still hear it, and it sounded way louder than it should for the amount of water in the pool at the bottom.  Therefore, I believe that the main waterfall has become invisible.  And I can claim this, since I'm a fantasy writer, and nobody can argue about it.  (Okay, Dennis just rolls his eyes.  But you get the point.)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Why I Don't Like to Canoe on Rivers

A writer's blog is a place where readers can go to gain insight about their favorite writers, right?  At least, that's what I do.  (Yeah, it still freaks me out a little that people might be interested in ME.)  I live a pretty quiet life in the country and work with great kids at a high school during the winter and talk about birds at my father's museum all summer, and I have two beautiful and talented daughters and a wonderful husband and dear friends and I'm publishing novels.

Well, all right, weird things happen to me, usually through no fault of my own, that make interesting stories.  Like how this summer some random weird drunk or very mentally ill guy shows up at our house three times in a week and tries to get inside while we're home and it ends up in a whole hoopla with police from three different towns after him before they finally catch him.  And how my checking account got hacked into and wiped out right before we were leaving for a trip.  And how I get into bizarre car accidents that I'm lucky to walk away from just driving quietly along, and how doctors hate to see me coming because medicine doesn't work on me the way it's supposed to.  And surgery -- I had a simple operation to have my gall bladder out and ended up on a respirator and was told I might never breathe again.  And how I ran outside once in the night and snatched my bird feeders practically out from under a bear's nose. For a shy and quiet person, I've been in some strange situations.

But they all turn up in my writing in some form sooner or later.  Which brings me back to what I was going to write about -- why I don't like to canoe on rivers.  I love to canoe and I grew up in canoes, and both my parents are very serious canoeists and I know how to handle a boat.  I can make it go where I want it to, safely.  The problem is that I'm used to lakes, with wind and big waves.  I'm not used to rivers, with current and rocks and eddies and shallows and heaven help me, rapids!  My problem isn't not going where I want to, but not knowing where to go.  But this weekend, I unexpectedly spent six hours going down the Lamoille in my canoe with two people with less experience than I have, and I admit, I was less worried about breaking my record of never having tipped over than I was about killing all of us by making the wrong split-second decision.

Suffice it to say, I learned a lot about myself on that trip.  I learned that I don't like to go fast, I don't like to feel out of control, I get creeped out by underwater ledges and tree trunks and yes, a front fender of a car nobody saw but me, but it really was there.  I learned that I can summon up the courage to go down a set of rapids if I have to.  I learned that I could learn how to read a river very quickly after running aground once. And yes, my record is still intact and we did not capsize, nor did I kill my husband or my friend.  Though I did learn that people really can be so scared that they bite their lower lip until it bleeds and not realise they've even done it until later.  It still hurts, writing this two days after.

So what does this have to do with my writing?  Well, I was actually thinking about Cody from Under the Willow a lot on that trip.  He hates to fly, and I kept telling myself that if Cody can face his fear of heights and do it, then I can get down this damn river.  I gained a whole new insight as to how he feels in the air.

Which, I'll admit, is kind of bizarre, since I technically created Cody, after all.  If he gets his strength from me, and I get it back from him, is that some kind of weird mathy loop thing, since we're very different, but are coming out of the same head?  Which is mine, right?

And that is a little glimpse into my normal but very odd life.  Maybe I ought to just stick to writing novels  They're a lot easier to deal with than real life.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Camping!

We just got back from a week at Acadia National Park in Maine, where we biked the carriage roads:




Watched the sea:




Saw a deer with his antlers in velvet:




And took in a sunrise from the top of Cadillac Mountain (the place where the sun first touches the US every morning -- at 4:30!  Kudos for Dennis!)





We had a lovely time with friends, perfect weather, and managed to avert all disasters (which is quite a feat for us, since for a while the word vacation conjured up all kinds of images of car accidents, illnesses, injuries, floods, and multiple visits to ER's across the US and Canada.  I still tend to avoid the word "vacation" and think of them as business trips (writing is a business, right?  And inspiration is necessary for every writer, right?)  Anyway, the nearest we came to trouble this time was a missing kitty when we got home, but he turned up eventually full of cuddles, so all is good.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Monday, July 11, 2011

Another Novel?

So another question I'm getting asked a lot lately is, "Are you really going to have a second novel published?"

I always have to take a deep breath before I answer, "Yes."  Not that having had my first novel published as been a bad thing -- it's been great, and I'm really excited about the comments and reviews I've been getting.  But publishing a novel in print is, for me at least, one of those major life events, right up there with marriage and childbirth and finding an Ivory Gull for my lifelist (don't laugh -- it was a big deal!  February, 2010, Rouses Point, Vermont.  I had a photo of it as my cell phone background for months.)

Anyway, it's been emotionally -- intense -- and I have to kind of do a mental brace every time I think about about diving into it again.  I remember hearing a writer say once that the real work on a novel begins when you get the acceptance letter, and I kind of agree with that.  Writing is fun.  Going through professional edits and working through two sets of proof reader's comments, and filling out the forms that the artist uses to come up with the cover design, and writing the blurbs for the advertising and back cover (yes, I wrote those) and choosing an excerpt, and so on is fun, too, but in a more challenging way.  If you're used to just going into your document and making any changes you want, whenever you want, it's hard to realize that you can't do that any longer.  It's no longer your book, your words, in the same way it was back before you hit send with the word "Submission" in the subject line.  After that moment, everything is different.  All changes have to be tracked and okayed by somebody else.  And you just go over it, and over it, and over it until you can't be sure you're reading and not reciting it any longer.  Have I read it since I've gotten my copy?  NO.

And yes, I'll be going through it all again for my second novel, which will becoming out sometime in 2012.  Stay tuned for more info about that one.  No, it's not a sequel.  Maybe that will be my third novel. This is way too much fun to stop now.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Box of Books


Every writer's dream.  The box of books.  In print.  The real thing.  The first one.


Blog Trouble

Those who know me know that I am a techno idiot.  I wrote and sold a novel before I could figure out how to set up a blog.  Now I am getting comments (thank you!) and I can't respond to them.  In other words, I can't post a comment to my own blog.

I'd love some suggestions from anybody who is more blog-literate than I am.

Thanks!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

So Why Do I Write About Gay Kids?

A lot of people ask me why I write about gay people when I'm a straight woman with two daughters who has been happily married to my husband for almost twenty-four years.  The answer is simple:  I love kids.

I've worked with high school students for eleven years now, and it bothers me terribly that there are some kids who are being hurt so badly by other people's opinions that it's easier to commit suicide than to face another day of life.

Fortunately, this hasn't happened in the school where I work, but the feelings are there -- the snide laughs, the looks, the "Oh, that's so gay," comments.  I express myself best by writing, and this novel is my way of doing something about it.

The mission of Prizm Books is:

"Prizm Books is a line of gay and lesbian Young Adult fiction, focused on providing great stories in all genres, from science fiction to historical to contemporary. Our mission is to encourage and publish gay young adult books that focus on the story, rather than on the characters being gay. Todays young readers crave stories they can relate to, stories about their lives. Prizm Books is committed to producing great, positive books that young adults will love, and will want more of!"

I think this makes a lot of sense.  I didn't write Under the Willow as a preachy, "feel good about your gay self" novel -- it's a fantasy story with two main characters who happen to be gay.  But their being gay is integral to the story, and some rather awful things happen to them because of it.  My novel definitely has a dark side, though the ending, of course, is brighter.

I hope that people come away from this novel with a little more acceptance and understanding of each other, and themselves.  But, of course, I really want people to enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Excerpt from Under the Willow

It's a beautiful, sunny, sparkly morning in Vermont, and here is a hummingbird at the feeder just outside my writing window for everyone to enjoy:




Speaking of winged things, I want to share an excerpt from Under the Willow, which is about, well, faeries.  I figured vampires and werewolves have been well covered lately, but nobody has been writing about faeries.  And they are very interesting creatures.  There are two kinds in my novel -- the typical, gossamer, garden type, and their total antithesis -- ones who wear leather and have black wings with jewel-tone highlights.  More like Klingons, actually, in appearance and attitude.  Both are human-sized and have the ability to conceal their wings for short periods of time, hence giving them ability to blend in with humans.

My two kinds of faeries do NOT get along with each other, and both uneasily share a small town in Vermont, full of people who have no idea there is a secret culture living alongside them.  Both kinds of faeries reproduce by "recruiting" humans.  Enter my two heroes, Shane and Cody, high school seniors, gay, falling in love with each other, and falling into the faerie culture at the same time, but, of course, on opposite sides.

This scene takes place after Cody has been injured in an encounter with what he doesn't know is a faerie toward the beginning of the book.  He is in the hospital when Shane comes to visit.

Excerpt:
Finally, two hours after Cody had taken his sleeping pill, he lay back, flung his left arm over his eyes, and vowed he’d rip out his IV line and strangle the next bastard who came in. Though he changed his mind, because the next person to appear by his bed was Shane.

So the sleeping pill had worked at last. With a sigh of pleasure, he gazed up at Shane and hoped nobody woke him for a long time. There was no comparison between Shane and the hot nurse. Cody reached out with his nearest hand and slid it underneath the faded denim shirt Shane was wearing untucked over a pair of khakis. As he flattened his palm against the warm skin of the firm stomach, Shane gasped and stepped away.

“Don’t, Cody.”

Right. He’d forgotten in his sleep that Shane wasn’t gay. That was cruel. Shane ought to be gay in his dream, at least. He caught hold of Shane’s shirt.

“I just wanted to make sure you were okay,” Shane said, reaching down and trying to loosen Cody’s grip. Cody wasn’t about to let go. “I’m taking off for a while.”

“Don’t,” Cody said. Meaning both about the shirt and him going away. “I need you.”

Shane looked startled.

“That thing in the woods scared me. You make me feel safe.” Cody knew he would never have said the truth like that if he’d been awake. If this were real.

Shane’s fingers paused for a moment. “Cody, I don’t know what you saw. The thing I saw was different. It wouldn’t have made me crash my bike like that. It was – amazing. I think what you saw was a different sort of the same thing. But I’m just guessing.”

“Maybe you’re braver than I am.”

Shane finally got his shirt free from Cody’s fingers. “No way. Not braver. I’ve seen the insane things you do on the soccer field. I’m more desperate, maybe. More lonely.”

“That’s impossible,” Cody said flatly.

Shane shook his head. “Look, the less you’re involved with me, the better. You’ll be safer without me around.”

“Why?”

“Because I think I’m turning into one of them,” Shane said softly.



Friday, June 17, 2011

Hi!

I am so excited!
My first published novel, after all these years!
Look at the cover!


And what makes it even more special is that I took the photo, myself, just over a year ago last September while Dennis and I were riding the bike path that used to be a train track up in the Enosburg area.  We came across the ruins of what I realized was an old mill, and I swear, the whole plot of this novel came to me on the spot.  I wrote it in about three months, finishing it in February.  I submitted it, and in early June, it was accepted by Prizm.  A year later (after way more work that I'd ever dreamed) here it is!

This is the original photo I took that day:


Pretty cool, huh?  Yeah, that's Dennis standing there.  The artist (the amazing Alessia Brio) could have kept him in it, given him faerie wings...maybe not.

Anyway, a huge, huge thank you to everyone who helped me with this book and helped keep me sane while I was working on it.

Leave me comments!  Let me know what you think of my blog!  Come back and check it out.