venus in transit

Well, this Musings post is grossly long, and maybe a bit dated, but I started throwing things into the file, then got caught up in the holidays—and God forbid anyone should be deprived of my Musings. [insert barf emoji] At least it has a lot of pictures.

One of my most profound mystical experiences, or contact with the numinous, was invoked by a dead cat. It changed me from near-atheist to “oh I get it now.” Thank you, Mocha. The Mocha Hierophany.

Mocha, an old soul from the 80s:

New Year’s Day sunset: Even enhancing the color on this doesn’t come close to the intensity of the light. Nothing ever beats Nature. Thank you, Nature.

The same sky from my friend who lives a few miles from here. This one captures the immensity of the sky better than mine did, how the clouds seemed to go on forever.

Here’s a question for you: is poetry a purely mammalian response to the world? Is magic? Would intelligent and highly advanced reptiles, for instance, have that sense of wonder and awe and poetry? I don’t want to be Mammalian-Centric.

I always think of the four of swords as the “rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated” card. (Yes, dad jokes help me remember the meanings.)

A few days before the new year (December 30th) I found out that I share blood with one of the accused Salem witches (Mary Leach Ireson). We’re descended from the same ancestor (Richard Leech) through the brother (Lawrence Leech) of my direct ancestor (Thomas Leech). Maybe that’s why I’ve always been obsessed with these trials. I particularly like the “maybe you were a witch but didn’t know it” line of questioning. Apparently, the “maybe I’m a witch but didn’t know it” defense worked because she wasn’t executed and lived until 1711.

As I’ve said before, women rarely appear in the historical record unless they’ve suffered some trauma.

I have so much work to do and a limited amount of time. But time is not my enemy. If I focus on what needs to be done, not allowing myself to be distracted, I will do what I need to do. The only reason I say it isn’t against me is because I will do what I can do. If time runs out, then it does. It will eventually anyway so why so sweat it?

You know that weird stuff you have to clear from your parents or grandparents’ homes when they pass? When you reach a certain age you can’t be arsed about good taste. Sometimes you just want stuff that makes you giggle or because you know it will chagrin some of the people who inherit it.

I finally got my Red Book set up so that people can actually see it instead of being hidden away in a room they can’t go in.

Last month I pulled my novel Venus In Transit out of the trunk. I started working on it in 1999. It was inspired by Patrick Harpur’s Daimonic Reality and later given shape and spin by George P. Hansen’s The Trickster and the Paranormal. Plus all those thousands and thousands of paranormal shows I’ve watched over the years and many another paranormal book. I had the novel in a fairly polished state and was getting ready to start marketing it when my mother had a stroke and my world went all to hell for several years. Then there was the very long and painful writer’s block afterwards.

Things started to loosen up for me artistically after watching season one of Hellier last year—and that’s when I had my Hellier related synchronicity storm. Which let me know I was on the right track creatively. I finished one novel this summer and started working on another. Then Hellier Season 2 came along. It fed my head yet again, and there was something about the discussion in that series of pushing through frustration that reminded me of the artistic process.

Whenever an artist, or at least any artist I know, reaches a point of frustration it’s often the sign of imminent breakthrough to a new way of doing things. Pushing through that frustration is a vital part of the process. So I got out that old paranormal novel with an idea to see if it really was ready to market and I fell into a hole with it for about a week. That edit is done, but when I got to the part in the story where my investigator discovers strange, small, three-toed footprints with dermal ridges, I thought, “No one will ever believe I didn’t get this from Hellier.” But those are the breaks. Hellier2 did encourage me to pull it back out of the trunk and that’s got to be a good thing.

Hellier is beautifully shot and edited. I remember when the granddaddy of paranormal shows, Ghost Hunters, premiered. They used that cinema vérité style which gave a feel of credibility (and because it was cheap to produce), but imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery. Most of what’s come since has been crap.

My life is a lot better since I’ve given up trying to find ultimate answers. I’m more content trying to find ultimate questions.

Well, I got within 100 pages of finishing Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson but my medieval porn book arrived so…sorry Neal.

Cats exist simultaneously in this time/space and in hyperspace which is why they always seem to take up a vastly greater amount of space than their physical bodies would imply.

I’ve been to both Disneyland and the “Disneyland of Cemeteries”—Forest Lawn—and I would choose to spend my eternity in neither of them. (Talk about terrifying!)

Lt. Col. Vindman during the impeachment hearings reading that paragraph to his dad and talking about it? “Don’t worry. This is America. We do what’s right here.” We have to justify his faith in this country. It’s been what was true in the past and we can’t let it fall away. DO THE RIGHT THING, AMERICA. And Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi talking to Vindman about the pride of being an immigrant and being an American? Yep, that’s the essence of what this country it’s always been.

19 Apr
All I can legitimately talk about is my own process—in whatever. It’s presumptuous to assume everyone’s process will be the same. However, talking too much about one’s own process is talking too much about one’s self, so it’s something of a No-Win.

19 Apr
Conspiracy theory is just another form of denial.

19 Apr
I just realized I forgot to take the poem out of my pocket from Poem In My Pocket Day. But at least it’s in “my other pants.” 🙂

23 Apr
In May it’ll be two years since I last worked on my last novel. I’d say where did the time go but I know: down the whirlpool of caregiving. I was born to take care of people, apparently. My life has no other meaning. There’s just no time for anything else. I can’t help feeling much of the time as if my life, everything I valued about my life, is over. I’m so tired most weeks I wonder if I’ll make it through to the other side. There are good days, but most days I just grind it out as best I can. Some days, it just piles up. But I’m still moving.

And being free of caregiving means someone I love is gone. There’s no happy ending, as my friend Lisa says.

There are millions of people out there just like me. Caregiving is the unrecognized and unacknowledged crisis in this country

My friends tell me my creativity will come back, that everything is cyclical, and I believe them, but it’s sometimes hard to see that from here. I keep trying. “I’ll just read a chapter a day, or part of a chapter.” But something always happens. And writing from scratch? Unthinkable at this point.

Okay, enough of the self-pity party. I took the time to reread the first chapter of that last novel and tweak it. Holds up well.

23 Apr
In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountain start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.


25 Apr
Jacob’s Dream was playing in the cafeteria so I just had to tell everyone about the Lost Children of the Alleghenies: 
Everyone was properly riveted and scads went to You Tube and the links I provided.

26 Apr
Back at the ER this morning. Mom got an IV of antibiotics. Now we’re waiting to see if we can go home.

27 Apr
Even in stressful times there are compensations in this world: hearing David Sedaris sing the Oscar Meyer bologna song as Billie Holliday. Laughed so hard I cried. The guy in the car next to me looked concerned, like I might be having a fit. I was. The good kind. 

27 Apr
So my printer and my dishwasher went belly up the same night.  I’m sure there’s a pattern there but I’m too tired to figure it out.

29 Apr
Leaving Mom on mornings when she’s not doing well are heartbreaking but if I didn’t leave on those mornings I would have long since lost my job.

29 Apr
I find it absolutely hilarious that Hitler was a vegetarian. Even funnier? The ardent vegetarians that try to backpedal that fact. I know many fine human beings who are vegetarians but there’s a vocal minority that do seem to have something in common with Nazis.

30 Apr
“Dammit I’m mad” spelled backwards is “Dammit I’m mad.”

3 May
I guess the house is officially mine. I’ve just had my first plumbing disaster. This time it was the 50 gallon water heater that went belly up.

3 May
John Hancock Life Insurance is dicking around about paying me the money they owe me. I guess that’s why they have cock in their name.

4 May
It’s a morning for people saying stupid ass stuff and I am not in the mood to be nice about it.

 That tenderness of a few days ago is still there but having a harder time swimming up from the cesspool.

 That’s in the nature of this process, though. If you don’t like the mood you’re in wait an hour and it may change.

8 May
Now I know what was wrong with the opening of that novel: I put a gun on the mantelpiece and never used it again (figuratively).

 How many years did it take me to figure that out?

 I really love that opening (and it works in so many other ways) so I’ll have to find a way of using that “gun.”
 Although I do seem to recall another writing truism about using that gun to murder your something-or-others…What was that again?

8 May
My old, beloved neighborhood that I grew up in, has become the Shrine of the Unknown Hipster. You may have heard of it: Silicon Beach? I literally grew up on 4th Avenue near Rose, the very heart of Hipsterville now. I way preferred it when it was the ghetto: funky, beloved ol’ Venice.

9 May
You don’t get to be a crone just by getting older. There’s a experiential component to it. And man, is that a bitch. Which is also a separate thing from being a crone.

13 May
I’ve just come up with the last line for my novel, Carmina. I guess it’s a real story now.

13 May
Well, at least I made it down to the final 800 submissions. :-/ Probably just as well. I don’t have time for a writing career right now.

14 May
John Hancock Life Insurance, the company that isn’t giving me ma money, mistakenly informed the state of California that Mom is deceased—but only on one of numerous policies they have in her name. The others are still in force. Also, they told us a few months back that no other policies existed. Now all of a sudden they’re breeding like rabbits. Do not use John Hancock EVER.

15 May
Social Medea is the name of my next band.

15 May
I’m halfway through chapter six on the read-and-clean final of that novel I didn’t touch for two years.

1. A sixth century vampire novel, part of a trilogy. King Arthur may be hanging around in it somewhere.  It’s a first draft, and it has a resolution of sorts at the end, but is one of those novels that most definitely feels like a continuation. (I hate those.)

2. A second world steampunkish adventure fantasy. This one can stand alone,  but is also part of a trilogy. It’s in a fairly polished state, but there’s a broken part in Act III. I think I fixed it, but I haven’t had the heart to reread the book to see if I fixed it as well as I thought I did.

3. A contemporary fantasy that’s in second draft stage, and can stand alone, but is…repeat after me, “part of a trilogy.” Chronologically, the middle novel in the trilogy, I still plan to begin the trilogy with this one as it gives the least away about the overall story arc. Probably closer to Charles de Lint’s Newford than urban fantasy or paranormal romance—if Chas wrote it for laughs, included Hot Sex, and Newford was a mythological rural county in Southern California.

There is no right or wrong answer here, just asking your opinion.

ETA: I have had one offline vote for #1.

I’m dying to write something new, itching for it, and I know just what novel I want to work on next. It’s been plumping in my mind for weeks now while I work on other things.

All of which is a good thing, except I can’t work on anything new because I’ve got to finish revisions on Blood Geek first. Then there’s the question of when to finish the next round of revisions on Venus in Transit. I wasn’t entirely happy with it when I got through with that last hard slog. I’m not talking about perfectionism here. I’ve long since given that up. I’m talking about having a workable draft, something I can polish and start sending out.

Yet if I diddle around too long with old ideas, I’m afraid the new idea will die on the vine. It might anyway, because as I’ve said before, my writing time is extremely limited these days. I’m determined to chip out time every day, but weekends have become very difficult, and mostly the default has become my lunch hour at work. That’s always been somewhat sacrosanct, but last week, even that got eroded away. I had to run errands at lunch every day last week. It made me despair a little. Or more.

But this week I’m back on track with my revisions and feeling generally better about a lot of things. I think Venus will have to wait, though she’s notoriously impatient. I really do believe I need to balance the old with the new, the revisions with the creation. Carmina has been talking to me consistently lately: low whispers while I sleep, a sudden bright snatch of song as the sun dapples the leaves while I’m driving to work, shared shadowy confidences while I move down a hallway and turn a corner.

She’s there. She’s waiting for me to be ready for her. I really think I have to follow her lead.

The WIP in rewrites was at first losing words at a good rate, and I was pleased about that. Getting rid of excess, making things clean. I actually like rewrites, perverse creature that I am. Structural problems, however, made it necessary for me to add new material and so I’ve written three new scenes and I will be adding more. Deleting and rearranging more, too, but the word count is currently larger than when I started. Not as large as the first bloated draft, but growing. I am not too worried about this. I have to get the structure, story, and character stuff right first, then I can worry about slimming. There will be at least one more draft for hammering that out.

I’m only on chapter 8, though I’ve been at it a month. It’s taking forever because my writing time is so limited these days. The only block of time I can count on is my lunch hour at work Monday through Friday. Weekends are completely absorbed with errands and chores and by evening I’m so trashed all I can do is sit it the chair, drool, and try not to fall asleep. Weeknights are often the same. I feel like I’m having to steal time for the creativity, and I’m hoping that when things regularize, my creative time-space will expand again.

At least I still have words. I was worried for a time that I’d used them all up. Things aren’t as fecund as they used to be, but I still have something.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve told myself bedtime stories: little storylets to help me drift into sleep; sometimes multi-pronged epics that I’ve been telling myself for years, often too silly to actually commit to the page, but fun and comforting all the same. These days, I fall into bed and I’m either immediately asleep or my mind is full of things to do, or worries, or…anything but stories. I can think of only one other period in my life when I didn’t tell myself bedtime stories. It was during that four or five year-long writers’ block I had. As soon as the bedtime stories started again, I began writing again, so there is something fundamental about my process involved in those dreamy tales.

I still have words. I still have words. I must remember that. Some day I may have time again, and I may have hypnogogic yarns to lull me into dreams, and oh yes, I may have dreams again, even dreams that are fit to put on the page.

Some of you who have known me for a long time, and read my stuff for a long time, may remember Hortensia Bustamante. She’s the strong-willed sister of the Bustamante Brothers of Dos Lunas County, the first white settlers to invade the Kintache Indian homeland.

Ever since I finished Venus in Transit, my Dos Lunas County novel, strong-willed Hortensia has been bugging me. “Where my novel?” she’s been asking.

I’ve explained patiently that I’m working on other things now, to make a change from Dos Lunas, but Hortensia has never been one to listen to the reasoning of her writer when she’s made up her mind about something. “Where’s my novel?” she repeats at every chance.

I staved off her insistence some time back by writing a 30k plus novella, but—although she liked it quite well—she’s informed me that it isn’t sufficient. Her story deserves expanding and exploring. I have been thinking along those same lines myself for some time and even had several ideas on how to do that, but I hadn’t thought of taking on that challenge at this juncture.

“It’s time,” Hortensia insists.

I find myself sighing fatalistically a lot these days. My imagination ping ponged all last week between chapter two of the Carmina novel and a short story, and I’ve been considering that maybe it’s time to start the rewrite on Venus in Transit. All the while Hortensia kept crooning in my ear: “It’s time. Where’s my novel? It’s time.”

I pulled the novella out today just to, yanno, look at it. Hortensia squee’d with glee. I told her not to get her hopes up. She scoffed.

So I don’t know what I’m working on now. Perhaps Hortensia would be the antidote to my restless. I’m sure Venus would be. Maybe I’ll let Venus and Hortensia and Carmina and Sea Eyes from the short story fight it out amongst themselves. Just let me know when you’ve figured it out, gang. Only, don’t start sending me tweets advocating for yourselves. That would be one step too far over the line.

I don’t want to see it again for a long, long time, until the betas have had at it.

I’m moving on to something new!

Huzzah, huzzay!!!

Ever since the Syfy Channel’s new series, Haven, debuted I’ve been in a slight funk. You see, the novel I’m doing revisions on is a contemporary fantasy which involves people in a quirky rural Southern California county where the paranormal is an everyday occurrence and the inhabitants take it for granted. Much like the quirky small town of Haven on Syfy. It was bad enough when their show, Eureka, premiered. That was about a quirky small town in which wild experiments in fringe science took place, causing paranormal-like events to happen all the time. Everyone there pretty much took it for granted, too.

I think the story of my novel is original, but it can’t help but be overshadowed by all this quirk and all these strange towns. I continue to polish the novel, however. It’s what I have; I will market it. It’s a stand-alone, but it’s also part of a trilogy, see, and I really want to write those other books. Maybe even more than I wanted to write this one.

I first came up with the concept of Dos Lunas County, my quirky entry, about eleven years ago. Formulating the concept, the characters, the plotting took awhile, and this novel had at least two false starts before I finally finished it. This is not an atypical pattern for me, unfortunately. For a time I was finishing a novel a year, but those individual novels were often years in the making. One would come on strong, then need restructuring so I’d work on another until I solved the problems. About once a year, one of them would finally click completely into place and I could push forward to the finish. This has, as you can imagine, sometimes worked to my disadvantage, marketing-wise.

If only I weren’t such a slow writer. If only I didn’t think so much. If only I didn’t think up perpetual if-onlys. This isn’t a whine, not really, because I know that the fault, dear Brutus, lies not in my stars but in myself. I could get back to the novel a year pace, I think, but I seriously doubt I will be able to conceive, plot, and write a novel in a year. They surge and wane and surge again, so I’m always a beat or two behind the rhythm of the market.

I write on and continue to market my arhythmic novels. What else can I do? I am what I am, the market is what it is, and the zeitgeist is always pumping out ideas in multiple directions, hoping that somebody will take up the challenge and run (fast) with it.

The heroine of my novel Venus in Transit has been named Marian St. Cloud for at least ten years, ever since I first started working on the beginning inkling ideas for the book. Now this movie comes along and I’m thinking the whole St. Cloud family of Dos Lunas might have to have their names changed. I’m not going to do that now, because that name is so entrenched in my consciousness, but I assume that everyone will assume that I stole it from the movie.

It looks like a fairly paint-by-the-numbers, dorky movie, too.

Of course, I still have to finish the read-through, the time with betas, the hardcore rewrite, then the marketing of this novel, so considerable time could elapse before even the possibility of a publisher or readers seeing it. Maybe ol’ Charlie will have faded from memory by then. Or maybe it will become a huge freaking hit, what with soulfully blue-eyed Zak Efron drawing in the sighing crowd. I don’t know.

Names and titles. They’re tricky business in the fiction game.

In other but related fictive news: Titles come to me out of the ether on a regular basis, often without a story attached. I keep a file just for those. Sometimes they’re so suggestive that I have to come up with a story to go with them. It becomes an obsession. Blood Geek was one of those. Ironically, sometimes the name that gets me to write the story becomes obsolete with the writing and has to be changed. Charged with Folly was like that. It became A Rain of Angels. Changing titles like that can be painful.

I’ve got another title that popped through the ether the other day. A drumbeat has started in the center of my body. Good stories begin in my brain, of course, but the ones which have to be written always eventually migrate to my core, to my second brain: the heart. I have no idea what this story is about, but it’s already migrated.

We’ll see what comes of that.

ETA: This is a scam by a crooked “How to get published” con artist. You can read about it here:

And I suppose it all depends on what parts of your ms. you choose as a sample. But here are my results: an unnatural mating of Stephen King and James Joyce.

A randomly chosen internalization piece from one of the characters:


A randomly chosen piece of description:


A randomly chosen dialogue run:


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