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Blown Away on Publication Day

The responses to Leirah and the Wild Man 's publication have blown me away! I feel like one of Victorian illustrator Arthur Rackham's little fall fairies lifted on a happy gust of wind. I told my husband earlier this month that I wanted to release my first novel secretly, so nobody I knew would feel obligated to buy it and pretend to read it. Even worse, I didn't want my parents or coworkers to actually read my salacious book! I’ve tried for years to find a literary agent who might grant me access to the professional services and veneer of legitimacy that traditional publishing offers, so I would have the courage to put my weird and wild writing out there for readers who don't know me but happen to be looking for 11th century Byzantine thrillers. But I ran out of patience with the publishing industry's compounding scandals, dramas, changing rules, and vulnerability to volatile markets and supply chains. Years ago, finding an agent felt not only possible but inevitab

Releasing My Thirsty Darling

Good news! I have accepted the death of my most cherished lifelong career dream, and that means I am ready to release my debut novel exactly the way I want to: full of blood and other juices, rich historical detail about places you've never visited in another book, a large cast of complex characters entangled in complicated relationships, historical authenticity beefed up with a healthy disregard for biased conventions, and an all-absorbing plot that moves at its most effective pace. Leirah and the Wild Man glides forth destined for a fate of cult classic, not bestseller. Let's... push... things... forward. (Shout out to nostalgic muse Mike Skinner of The Streets and his legendarily underrated Original Pirate Material .) Here she comes, my thirsty darling, like the Lady of Shalott floating off to her glorious doom after a fever-hot vision of Lancelot torched her will to stay locked up and safe in her tower. She won't live happily ever after, but she'll look flawless a

Pocket of Joy: Catching More Grief with Sugar

A few days ago, I wrote about the irrational anger at death that I discovered lurking under my grief and fear . Then I saw this poem by Gabrielle Calvocoressi, and it broke my heart open in a different place. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Gabrielle Calvocoressi (@gabbat) It is said in pop psychology that sadness lies beneath anger, but in myself I find layers of both, one upon another over and over again, glued together with veins of sticky sweet frustrated longings and backed up affections and other feelings wedged here and there untidily, which cannot be easily peeled apart and healed. I suspect that most people are like me in that way, more or less, and so they have patterns of mixed up emotional tissues unlike mine, in other disordered arrangements. Last week I realized once again, as I must do from time to time, that I am a coddled pet of this world, with so many privileges that a sense of entitlement sneaks up on me whenever I forget how a

Pocket of Joy: Sunny Days with Dark and Stormy Nights

We need both sunshine and rain to survive, all of us--all people, all animals, all plants, all life on Earth. And when we can learn to enjoy changeable weather and seasons with a flexible attitude and a readiness to take advantage of whatever comes along, we can weather the storms of life--metaphorically speaking. Literature helps us to envision pleasures we've never experienced as well as terrors and hardships we've never faced--in the safe, pillowy world of our own imaginations. Reading literary fiction makes us more empathetic and resilient when we encounter situations we've read about in real life. Dark fiction inoculates us against shock and despair in the real world. Writing fiction has therapeutic benefits as well. Way back when I used to participate in NaNoWriMo , I learned that a good author must behave like a fickle, brutal god of the ancients--setting up trials and tribulations for our beloved creations just to watch them fight their way through. My writing compa

Pocket of Joy: Laughing Off Bogus Critics

Beware the false devils of other people's anxieties, insecurities, and petty jealousies that they try to project onto you. If you hear negative messages about yourself repeatedly, especially from people who are very significant to you, like your parents or closest friends, they can worm their way under your eardrums and hijack your own inner voice with their damaging scripts. Once internalized, they can sound like fundamental truth, but they lie as shamelessly as the false angels of your ego do. Don't listen to those who fear your competition because they feel threatened by your talent, your passion, or your persistence. Don't listen to those who would betray you just to keep you down in the crab bucket that they themselves are too afraid to escape. Don't laugh with people who are laughing at you in a mean way. It's healthy for your friends and mentors to keep you humble with constructive criticism, friendly ribbing, and gentle teasing. It's good to maintain yo

Feast Your Eyes on This Cozy Cabincore Kitchen

My dream kitchen has become a reality at long last! Just in time for fall, I am falling in love with this new hearth of my home. Feast your eyes on this pure Michigan, cozy, crazy, cabincore kitchen! It's too bold and particular a style to be everyone's cup of tea, and that is exactly the point. This isn't a generic, beige box of a house to be flipped into the impersonal sales market, and it's not a rental unit, and it's not an entertainment space designed to be minimally offensive to the maximally judgmental hypothetical guest, it's my family's home , where we personalize our own cups of tea using supplies organized within our giant alien ceramic shelf pod and its smaller companion weird ceramic pod that holds our precious baggie of holy basil given to my husband as a tip at the bike shop he manages. Most of the ceramics in this room were created by a personal friend, artist Lisa Truax , who used local Michigan earth as one of the components in the piece th

Pocket of Joy: Laughing Off Your Bogus Ego

We deserve nothing in this world. Let go of the whole idea that you "deserve" or "don't deserve" the fulfillment of your dreams. Whether you get it or not depends upon luck and what you do, not what you deserve. There is no cosmic Santa Claus doling out blessings and curses to the passive Nice and Naughty lists. You can be as nice and naughty as you like while you decide each day whether to keep working toward your goals or give up. And remember, changing your strategy isn't quitting; staying the course when it isn't working is a sneaky form of giving up on yourself under the guise of hustling. To win at life, as far as I can tell, you must be both humble in your identity and confident in your abilities to learn and adapt. You must love yourself so deeply from the inside out that you can laugh off your bogus ego, release your baggage, strip down to your truth, and get light and free. What a joy it is to finally accomplish that, no matter what achievement

Pocket of Joy: Loving The Fall's Complexities

Fall, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love the cool mornings, the storms that mix blue-gray rain with yellow leaves already showering down from my walnut tree, and the afternoons that heat up and draw out that rich, warmed-earth, sun-dried leaf scent. I have always loved the dawns of autumn, the tender turning of the earth, the anticipation of color and movement, the coming fall! The motion of it, the actual falling of the leaves, the accelerating changes that saturate the senses. Later comes the Grimshaw phase of autumn, with its metallic sheens and spidery mists. It isn't just the festive harvest season or the bright middle of the fall that I love but the whole arc of it, the warm and the cold, the light and the dark and the glowing twilights humming with the shades and scents of memory mixing with rebirth. "Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall," F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in his exquisitely dissatisfying novel about accelerating, blaz

Dodging the School Fear Pandoomerang

Can you believe this is the THIRD school year affected by the Covid-19 pandemic? At the beginning of 2020, the novel coronavirus still felt like a novelty. A two-week holiday from office work and school was supposed to flatten the curve, but it wasn't enough. My daughter never went back to finish third grade. Then she didn't start fourth grade in person. Most of the school year took place on a Chromebook. She returned to campus in the spring along with fewer than 1/3 of her classmates; the other families couldn't work around the inconvenient dropoff and pickup schedule or they didn't want to take the risk, even in one of the most careful and safety-focused districts in the nation (now among the minority of districts requiring masks without a state mandate). This year's back-to-school season holds the record as the most dangerous time in all of this long, dragged-out pandemic for children under 12 , and there is no online option. Parents must choose between sending