01. August 2015 · Comments Off on Social Media and Authoring · Categories: Experiences, Under a Blood Moon

With less than three weeks to go until the release of Under A Blood Moon, I’m exploring the world of authorhood and learning about things I never knew existed. In the last month I’ve added an Amazon Author Page and a Goodreads Author page to my social media outlets. Both are meant to take information from other social media spots. It creates an odd echo effect – if I post about this blog on twitter, it will be copied to Facebook, and to the author pages, where my blog will appear next to the tweet about the blog post without any intervention from me.

The echo keeps resounding, making me feel like all I talk about is my upcoming book. I’m very excited about it, but also frustrated with the idea of what to do next. The sequel to Under a Blood Moon is written, but it came out at 132,000 words. Wild Rose Press, my publisher, prefers books remain under 100,000 words. I’ve had the manuscript (working title, Death Witch: Fire and Flame) beta-read, edited, and copy edited. The word count limit means there’s more to do, but, if I’m honest, I’m not sure where to start.

Really, though, not knowing where to start comes from not wanting to start. It’s shocking to admit but I don’t enjoy editing. I enjoy writing. I’m a ‘pantser’ meaning I write without an outline, plotting by the seat of my pants, making it up as I go along. That’s the part I love. The feeling of figuring out what comes next and scribbling down notes about things that need to change while I shower or drive. I enjoy seeing the story build itself in my head, then watching it spool out in words and lines. I write out of order, exciting and interesting scenes go first, then I force myself to fill in the part in between, hoping my discipline is stronger than my craving for the next exciting plot twist

There are no plot twists in editing. No exciting scenes in ordering promotional material or designing a blog campaign. Writing an artist to request advertisement graphics and searching out places to post those advertisements doesn’t hold the same thrill as hunting down facts or exploring motivations.

So I find myself once again in a place where conventional wisdom about writing and what I want to do are directly in conflict. Conventional wisdom says I should be networking, arranging a blog tour, placing advertisements, running giveaways, and promoting the hell out of my debut novel. Instead, I want to write the next book, and the book after that, and the one after that. I’ve got two or three ideas I need to get back to, along with something new and different itching at the back of my brain.

My author-side wants to write, desperately needs to get lost in a story. The business-side sees the value in all of those things I ought to be doing, and is scared of not doing them. I’m not sure which side I’ll listen to yet.

15. July 2015 · Comments Off on Mallory arrives in Baton Rouge · Categories: from my manuscripts, Under a Blood Moon, Writing · Tags: ,

Under a Blood Moon is available for pre-order on Amazon.com and the Wild Rose Press website! To celebrate, here’s the scene where Mallory, the detective heroine in Under a Blood Moon, first arrives in Baton Rouge. It’s set several months before the beginning of Blood Moon and won’t be published anywhere else. 

I couldn’t deal with the memory of waking up wrapped in the arms of a zombie that looked like my husband. I got in the car and started to drive. The hum of the engine and my own mental exhaustion lulled me into a sleep-like state, still awake, but not thinking. I woke up at the counter of Sunshine’s Coffee Shop with a cinnamon roll that lapped over the edges of its plate and a cup of café au lait in front of me. I sipped the coffee and ripped pieces off the giant roll wondering how long I would keep driving.

I felt someone brush up against me and looked up to see a tall blond woman. I hadn’t paid attention to the other customers so I didn’t know if the she was coming or going.

“Excuse me,” I mumbled into my coffee cup, reluctant to establish any kind of contact with anyone. I felt something else then, something like a breeze only not across my skin. Can you feel a breeze across your heart? That’s what it felt like, cool wind blowing through my soul. The woman turned to look at me.

“We need to talk.” .

“I’m sorry?” I asked, fiddling with my coffee cup. The phantom wind had died down but I wasn’t anxious to talk with her at all.

“You need to talk to someone, and I’ve got time. Let’s grab the couch.” She gestured to the back of the shop where three old living room sets had been crammed together.

“Uh, no thanks.” I leaned over the counter and called out to the emptiness. “Can I get my check please?”

“I’m Phoebe, and we really should grab the couch.” She touched my arm and the breeze blew through me again. “Driving won’t help, you’ll still be a death witch wherever you end up.”

She was the first person to say it out loud. I jumped back, trying to get away from her, dumping my chair on ground. The barista,a bald man covered in tattoos raised, came over with a frown but Phoebe stopped him. “It’s okay, Max, she’s new and shaky; we’re going to grab the couch.”

He nodded and I realized she was a regular. What kind of a coffee shop was this? Confused, I let her led me to the most hideous couch I had ever seen. Every inch of it shimmered with inky graffiti. Completely coated with signs and symbols, the ugly fabric barely showed. It was comfortable though, sitting there I couldn’t feel the weird psychic breeze she gave off or the panic that had been hiding in my chest since I found out.

“Better?” She asked.

“Yes, much, thanks.” I paused trying to think of a graceful way out of the conversation and the coffee shop.

“That’s good, then it won’t bother you that the couch is charmed.” My eyes got wide; the calm feeling was a spell. Damn, it had been the best I’d felt in a while. “How’d you find out?”

I tried to think of a way to tell her about Greg’s death and his reanimation, about the cemetery, my desperation, and how it all turned into witchcraft.

“Guess it was pretty bad?”

It was, but sitting on that wonderful, ugly yellow couch I didn’t care any more so I only nodded in reply.

“Maybe you should sip your coffee for a little while, and just listen, ok?” She took a deep breath, focused her gaze far away. She pushed her ropy hair behind her ear and started to speak. “When I was young my parents had this friend, he was like a favorite uncle to me. One day we went out for slushies and he put his hand over mine to steady the cup. Suddenly, I saw that he was thinking of me naked. It was like I turned on a tap and couldn’t stop it, the gross images in his head just kept pouring into mine. I started screaming. When no one could get me to stop, they called the cops.”

She stopped, shook herself a little and took a sip of coffee before she started again.

“There was this cop, a black guy with a bushy mustache. He used his handkerchief to dry my tears. The minute he did, I went calm, like you are on that couch. He stopped the pictures from coming into my head.But they didn’t stop forever. I’m a spirit witch. Nothing’s going to make it stop, not for me and not for you.”

“How old were you?” I asked, not sure I wanted to know.

“Nine. How about you?”

“It was last month.”

“I’m incredibly jealous; you got to grow up normal.” She shook her head again, thinking about some schoolyard trauma I’d never had to endure. “So what are you going to do about it?”

“I have no idea. I’ve got enough money to get by for a while, but if I can’t hide this, how can I hold a job? Which isn’t really my biggest problem, I can’t go back to where it happened. Where am I going to live?”

“I was serious before, you should stay here. There’s a good coffee shop and you already have a friend.”

This time I shook my head. “That’s sweet but you’re not a friend. You’re a helpful stranger in a coffee shop.”

“Nope. I’m a friend. You know how I know? Because I’m going to get you a job where you don’t have to hide who you are, and you don’t recommend a stranger for a job.” She took a business card out of her bag. “Here, spend a couple of hours working on the place to live problem, then call this guy.”

I looked down at the card; one side was embossed with the dome of the capital building, and the other read Special Lieutenant French.

01. July 2015 · Comments Off on Home to the Haunted Mansion · Categories: Experiences, Writing · Tags: , , ,

When I left Florida I swore I would never go back in summer, a season that starts with 90’ temperatures in March and refuses to leave until late September. But I find myself compelled to keep returning to one of the hottest parts of the state – the shade-less ocean of cement known as Disney World. Thankfully, one place stays refreshingly dark and gloomy.

 

Haunted Mansion full view

No matter how many times I go through the Haunted Mansion, there’s always something missing. Even the backstage tour lacked a cohesive story of how the mansion came to be. How did the opera company die in costume? What happened to all those ballroom dancers to keep them twirling into eternity?

The tale I heard as a child centered on a couple on their wedding day. Before the ceremony, they played a game of hide and seek. The bride hid in a trunk in the attack, but became trapped and suffocated. Her body was never found, and her empty hearse waits at the front of the mansion. Deeply depressed, her groom hung himself. His body is revealed during lightening flashes in the first room. The bride’s ghost, with her glowing red beating heart, stood by the trunk in the attic.

water color side door

Not too long ago the ride was restructured and the story changed. The bride is now a serial killer who murders husband after husband. The outside of the ride was themed to include an unrelated murder mystery so subtle you’d need to be trapped in line for more than an hour to realize that’s what you’re seeing. The mystery is solved at the very end of the ride – if you keep a sharp eye out. I’m more in favor of the nods to the old tale, like the dog tracks that lead to the servant’s entrance outside of the cemetery.

sepia side

Those tracks make me think about the caretaker – who was he? What was his dog’s name? Where did they and all of the 999 Happy Haunts come from? That’s a book I’ve wanted to read for a long time, so I’ve started writing it. I’m moving the mansion from Florida to a small seaside town in North Carolina. I’ll be visiting Edenton, NC and a few other cities, trying to find one with the right feel. I’m hoping for a layer of genteel decay, a sense of beautiful bones under an aged face. A place that was golden once, but has gone gray with waiting, abandonment and wood beams, gingerbread work on houses that need a coat of paint.

The story isn’t waiting for research, it’s forming itself in notes and drafts. A woman runs away from tragedy, going to a home she never knew she had. But homes are haunted with the things we could have done, the ghosts of the people we might have been. The poor dear doesn’t know it yet but she’s going home to a haunted mansion.

15. June 2015 · Comments Off on What I’m reading… June 2015 · Categories: Reviews · Tags: ,

Moments after turning in the final galley edits for Under a Blood Moon, I binged. I devoured not one or two, but thirteen books. I thought I could hold myself to ten. I even left the store with ten. Then I found myself at the library the next day – getting another few, just in case. When I’m writing or editing, I dangle books as reward, finish fifty pages of edits and you earn an hour of reading time. With no edits, I’m like a kid in a candy store, greedy and glad all at once.

Here’s what I’ve been reading:

Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham

Scarlett thinks like an old gumshoe from a Noir novel. She talks tough, in the kind of metaphors you don’t see in modern novels. She just happens to be a Muslim-American teenager. Her story weaves Muslim faith and folklore together, exploring mythology and asking questions about who Scarlett is and who she wants to be. It’s a young adult novel, that I’m sure was aimed at kids in the 9th grade. I’m nearly forty and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The mystery involves djinns (both good and bad), cultists, and kidnapped kids. I’d consider this a good ‘beach read’, engrossing and fun.

Fatal Flame by Lyndsay Faye

On the other side of the spectrum is Fatal Flame by Lyndsay Faye. Here the mystery was tense and gritty. In the first pages of the story a man captures a group of women, intending to rape them until they agree to become prostitutes. He’s not the bad guy. That crime isn’t even the worst one in the book. New York in the 1840s was a rough place, and Faye is willing to show you all of that. She also shows off the daily life of her character, a man in love with a rich and diverse group of friends and found family. Most of them speak Flash, a language of street slang so complex that most English speakers can’t follow it. The language, setting, and the characters in this novel made it impossible to put down. I know the author says this is the last Timothy Wilde mystery, but I’m hoping she’s lying.

Phryne Fisher Mysteries By Kerry Greenwood

Since reading a review of the first Phryne Fisher novel over at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, I have consumed fourteen books and watched 26 hours of her tv series. The early stories (start with Cocaine Blues) are short, under 200 pages, and can be read in about two hours. That’s my excuse for reading three in a weekend. Phryne is a wonderful character – a woman with no shame about her sexual appetites and no desire to play by the rules. Phryne grew up in starvation-level poverty and is now quite rich. She spends her time being a detective, more because it suits her than because she has to be. The books are set in 1920s Australia, which I knew nothing about and now want to visit. All of the mysteries are clever and filled with complex, real people.

To sum up I’m reading mysteries, lots of them and really enjoying historic settings and different cultures. While I love Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe, it’s a pleasure to be able to read more diverse stories. I’m sure I’ll be back to the writing and editing grindstone soon, but for now I’m delighted to indulge myself in good books.

I’m delighted to reveal the cover art for Under a Blood Moon, coming soon from Wild Rose Press:

Under a Blood Moon cover

And there it is.

When I started writing, I had no idea cover art wasn’t designed by the author. I imagined myself meeting with an artist, making rough sketches on the back of a napkin, and then finally going to a studio with soaring ceilings and paint splotches everywhere. I’d stand before an easel and perfection! My book cover revealed.

Except that it turns out most covers don’t start as paintings. The artists work with digital editing software, not paint brushes. When my book was contracted for publication I was sent to an online form, not a meeting in a café. After dutifully filing in the blanks with a description of my heroine, hero, and the location, I had nothing to do but wait anxiously.

Why the anxiety? Authors don’t get approval rights over their covers. People judge books by their covers and most authors aren’t experts at marketing and selling books. Publishers are. It makes sense to let them make the decisions. If an author sees something they don’t like they can mention it, but the publisher isn’t obligated to act on it. It’s easy to daydream about perfect covers that exactly capture your book, but fears creep into your mind at the same time.

The internet is happy to share the details of covers gone wrong. There’s the painful, hilarious Kindle Cover Disasters blog and the more harrowing accounts of white washing and blond-ing of covers. The latter comes from the perception that sales are higher for blond heroes in romance and white girls in young adult. Covers reflect that to market the book, even when it’s not what’s inside. Authors post angry recriminations or apologetic notes, but that’s all they can do. The publisher gets final say.

I’m grateful my publisher doesn’t play those games. The design above is actually the third cover for Under a Blood Moon. My suggestions for the cover art were accepted and implemented quickly. One cover had a very marketable petite blond woman, but my brunette heroine wears a size large. The publisher was fine to remove the skinny blond, even though she might have generated more sales.

I’m happy with the spooky image we ended up with; it communicates the atmosphere of the book without putting ideas in the reader’s head about who does what inside the pages. Even better it reminds me of all those wonderful pulp horror novels I devoured as a teen. I’ll be making the cover art into a quilt later, and I can’t wait to see it in person.

15. May 2015 · Comments Off on Steps to Publication, all those Edits · Categories: Writing

When I dreamed of writing a novel I assumed the hard part was the writing. I imagined that once it was written my story would go on to an agent, who might offer a few suggestions, and then on to an editor. I had a vague notion that there might be two rounds of edits before publication – one with the editor and then a copy edit for grammar and spelling.

I was hopelessly naive.

When Under a Blood Moon comes out in a few months it will have been edited several times. More than I can remember actually. And while writing a book is often hard, it’s not nearly as draining as editing. I suspect I make things harder for myself by setting a firm deadline, adhering to a schedule, and paying strict attention to all the details. Then again maybe those things actually help? In any case, since I’ve been talking about editing for an almost impossibly long time now, I thought it might be best to explain what the various stages are.

Manuscripts, like good cookie dough, need to rest before they’re prepared. When I finished Under a Blood Moon, I set it aside for three months. When I returned to it, I gave it a thorough read, correcting any poor grammar or spelling. Then I sent it off to a beta reader. Beta readers don’t typically concern themselves with the mechanics of writing beyond point of view and plot. They give the book a ‘first pass’ to tell if the story hangs together. When the Beta Reader’s comments and suggestions were in place, I let the story rest again.

After another personal edit, I sent Under a Blood Moon off to its first professional edit in 2008. My editor was a wonderful woman with years of experience on a newspaper. She returned the paper copies to me with a thousand notes. I incorporated them, and began searching out an agent.

When I landed a real live New York agent, she also reviewed the full manuscript. After I put her edits in place another agent in her firm gave the book a read. With both sets of edits in place we sent the manuscript out to editors.

For a long time, no one called back. I did what authors do, and started work on another manuscript. Then someone called! After four rounds of edits, it was time to start the real editing process!

Content edits came first. They arrived from my editor as both general comments “add more back story” and specific comments in the text “I don’t understand the point of this conversation.” I had two rounds of content edits, which felt fairly easy and quick. I have no idea if it was either, but being done with content edits felt like an accomplishment.

If I had known Copy edits were coming I would’ve dragged my heels and stayed in Content edit forever. My copy editor had a background in healthcare and was the most detail orientated person on the planet. She picked up small inconsistencies I never realized were there. She charted the days of the full moon and wanted an explanation of how the different phases acted on my werewolves. She explained in deep detail how a person might die from werewolf attack (blood loss, not heart attack, unless it was a heart attack brought on by blood loss). She made my story stronger, but she made me work for it.

After two rounds of copy edits, the manuscript moved into Galley edits, where I am now. The proof I received for my Galley edits is what will be sent to the printers. It shows exactly how the printed book will look, complete with copyright information, dedication, and page numbers.

Galley edits have thrown me for a loop. By now the book should be perfect, but as an author you’ll always find something to change. In theory you’re only looking for mistakes, times when a character is called by the wrong name or when a word is left out. In reality, it’s impossible not to crawl along examining every word, judging it, trying to decide if it’s perfect. The Galley edits are my last chance to read the manuscript before it becomes a book. So while I know I’m neglecting friendships and sleep, I think they’re my favorite part.

01. May 2015 · Comments Off on Apologies and the Rabbit Editor · Categories: Experiences, Under a Blood Moon, Writing · Tags: ,

Due to line edits, copy edits, and galley edits, today’s blog (planned topic: Beltane and Witchcraft in my novels) has been replaced with gratuitous pictures of my rabbit editor. Many apologies.

For those of you who aren’t aware, rabbits are disapproving creatures.

I disapprove

Your shenanigans are not amusing. Get back to writing.

They also enjoy sleeping on large, fluffy piles of shredded paper, if that paper contains your hopes and dreams, er, manuscript, all the better.

Your failure is as soft as a cloud.

Your failure is as soft as a cloud.

 

These two combine to make a harsh, but adorable editor. For example, when you get a rejection and nothing is working right you see this:

 

keep writing

I’m bored with your complaining. Go back to work.

Then, when you’re ready to give up:

Give up

Enough. I’m done.

And hide your face in shame:

 

I can't face what I've done.

I can’t face what I’ve done.

They offer you a treat. If you’re lucky you won’t fall asleep before you can finish it.

So tired.

So tired.

When you wake up, you’ll see something like this:

so bored

Why aren’t you writing?

15. April 2015 · Comments Off on Reenactments as Research · Categories: Under a Blood Moon, Writing · Tags: , ,

I love the juxtaposition of historic values and modern settings. One of the reasons I write with vampires is the unique chance they give me to explore cultural shifts and changing social roles. In my book, Under a Blood Moon, I have two vampires, Jakob, born around 1360 and, Mark, born 1574. Jakob, a devout Catholic, values family and faith. Mark is more calloused and cynical. That’s probably enough to start writing but to really flesh out a character you need more. When you dig into the history you learn that most men in Jakob’s time couldn’t read. They knew famine personally and would have lost family members to starvation. Their church offered not only solace but also support and safety. Knowing that about him improves my writing. There’s no way around it, to really understand how historic characters think you need to do research.

While I enjoy the usual kinds of research, like reading academic articles and history books, my favorite kind of research is more hands on. I talk with and interview historic reenactors. Most people are familiar with Civil War reenactors. Many Southern states hold large scale battles and encampments in the summer. But there’s more than just the Civil War out there. In St. Augustine, where I went to college, encampments from the 16th century were common. I spent more than one summer night awkwardly pressed in a crowd of women and children forced into the old fort while cannons fired around me, trying to beat back English forces as if it was still 1586. For years I interacted with people who slept, ate, and dressed in that time period. It’s no surprise that I based Mark on what I learned. His favorite breakfast is the one I saw being eaten in the camps, his political views are shaped by the discussions I had with the reenactors while they ate.

I was recently lucky enough to find an event that focused not on one battle or time period, but brought them all together. Military through the Ages showcased encampments from a Roman Legion (64 A.D.) to the current Virginia Army National Guard. While it was hard to pull myself away from the Fenvald Vikings, the good people of La Belle Compagnie who reenact the Hundred Years War between England and France (1337 to 1453) were my best resource of the day. I learned about cooking, cleaning, women’s roles vs. men’s roles, and how fighting really worked in the time period. Reading about swords is good, holding the sword and talking to someone who uses period techniques to make swords is even better.

One of the ladies of La Belle Compagnie and a friend of hers from about 600 years in the future.

One of the ladies of La Belle Compagnie and a friend of hers from about 600 years in the future.

The event included a lot of hands on demonstrations, some of them given by people who aren’t just reenacting, but remembering. This lovely woman was a member of British Women’s Land Army during WWII.

The Women’s Land Army took on the jobs left empty by soldiers. They planted and harvested crops, milked cows, and ran the home front. Despite all this, I’d never heard of them. I folded their story into the background of Margaret, Jakob’s love from the 1940s and the grandmother of his adopted son. Not far from the encampment, one of the wonderful women offered to pin my hair up. While Margaret and I don’t have the same hair, I know the way the bobby pins scraped across my scalp will end up in a book somewhere.

The seated woman was a member of the Women's Land Army, while the standing reenactor is dressed in clothing from the Colonial era

The seated woman was a member of the Women’s Land Army, while the standing reenactor is dressed in clothing from the Colonial era

To me history is a dying solider on a battlefield telling you his story. Reenactments give us a chance to talk to those soldiers, and ask them about the little things we might not be able to read about so easily. When you’re lucky you get a chance to feel a piece of history (or something pretty close) for yourself.

 

 

 

01. April 2015 · Comments Off on Whispers · Categories: Short Stories · Tags: , , ,

The first time I swam I was three. My pudgy fingers reached forward in a stroke I barely knew, wrapped in salt water, happier than I had ever been. My parents pulled me from the water hours later but I never really left. Most teenagers slept in, but I went back to the water every day at four in the morning and four in the afternoon. Swim team captain, champion swimmer, the water is my home. It makes the doctor’s words hard to take.swimmer

“No swimming until we take out the tubes.”

Thanks to the ear infections I’ve spent weeks listening to muffled, unclear speech. His words boom into me. I put my hands over my ears, trying to block the sound. “So loud.”

“A side effect of the tubes, everything is two decibels louder. You’ll get used to it.”


I start to hear the whispers in math class. They follow me to history, scratches of sound, like someone talking behind you or in the hall. I haven’t gotten used to the tubes. Chewing blocks out every sound. Running makes my breath as loud as a rock concert. But when I’m not doing that, when I’m sitting or reading the whispers come back. Frustrated, I say what I’d been saying for almost two months.

“I’m sorry, I can’t understand you.” Every time I say it, people speak louder and slower, a look of pity on their face for the seventeen year old who acts like an old man. The whispers stop. A bliss of relative quiet falls over me. I hear the noise of my teeth rubbing together, the sound of locks clicking open on lockers, and a thousand conversations in the hall but I can’t hear any whispers.

They come back. This time I understood them.

You’re useless. Nothing. Nobody.

“No, I’m not.” My response startles my lab partner, who raises an eyebrow before going back to the experiment.

Then who are you? What can you do?

“I’m a swimmer.”

“Yeah, sure you are, dude.” My lab partner smiles. “Best in the state in the 50 meter. Everyone knows that.”

But the whispers say “A swimmer who can’t swim. You’re nothing.”

They’re wrong. It stings anyway. They keep it up all day. I’m nothing, useless, I’ll never get in the water again. They’re wrong and I don’t believe them, but the more I hear, the more I think about it. If I’m not a swimmer, if this thing with my ears doesn’t get better, who am I? When I couldn’t hear the gun, I started from the block just a second after the other swimmers. Not enough to hurt me in meets but enough that I couldn’t get my best time. I haven’t set any records, haven’t seen any improvements since the infection started.

And you’ll never set any records again.

I know the whispers lie, but it’s hard to hear them, over and over again, and not start to wonder if they’re right.


On the third day I can’t take it anymore. Every hallway, every classroom, every where I go in the school I hear them. Over and over again, repeating the same terrible lies. (I’m sure they’re lies. Really. Except what if they’re not?) The whispers have me half convinced. I break my word to my parents and head for the deserted pool. There, with ear plugs and water between us, I don’t hear them. But I can’t swim forever. Two hours in my arms burn. I’ll get caught for cutting class soon. Does it matter? If the whispers are right, nothing matters. I swim another few laps before I get out. The whispers start again in the locker room.

I’m not going crazy and the weekend proves it. Two days away from school, and I don’t hear them. I hear the water in my mouth and the rustle of the newspaper when I fold it. It should be a gift but the only thing I’m grateful for is getting away from the whispers. On Monday-

“Doesn’t matter if you hear us. It’s still the truth. You might as well kill yourself.”

For a second, just a split second, I think about taking that advice. How I might do it, how it would make people feel. Instead I add lying to cutting class and call the doctor’s office. I pretend to be my Dad. The whispers tell me I’ll never be as good as he was, never have it together the way he does. I talk over them, asking the receptionist to change my appointment. She gets me in that afternoon, and when I check in I lie some more about why he isn’t with me. I’m shocked it works. I remember what the whispers said.

There’s a loud pop when the tubes come out, a bright pain that radiates down my jaw. Pop and the world goes quiet.

“That wasn’t so bad, was it?” The doctor smiles.

“It was wonderful.”

He tells me a lot of things, but I’m focused on how I can’t hear the air coming through the vent anymore. There’s only one class left in the afternoon, and I might as well miss it, but I go back anyway. The whispers are gone. I walk the halls, check the locker room. Nothing. I’m in the auditorium back stage when the drama club starts to file in. I can hear them but nothing else, no lies, no threats.

Are they there, still trying? Still talking to me? Just in case I tell them, “Doesn’t matter if you’re there. I don’t have to listen to you anymore.”

A movement behind me makes me jump. I would’ve heard it a few hours ago, but now the girl surprises me. Pale, tired, she looks half dead with dark circles under her eyes. “You hear them? The whispers?”

15. March 2015 · Comments Off on Writing and Quilting: Editing my Stash · Categories: Experiences · Tags: , ,

The odd thing about writing is that it spreads to take over your life. You find yourself in meetings thinking about characters or editing for other people when you should be talking. In my case, writing is oozing into my two hobbies, running and quilting. My running is getting the same treatment as Under A Blood Moon, where I’m adding quality words, or runs, to make the overall product better. My quilting suffers from the opposite problem – I’m cutting out yards of fabric as if they were wordy paragraphs of purple prose.

I’m willing to bet that most of you aren’t quilters, and you probably aren’t familiar with the concept of a stash. It’s exactly like hoarding fabric, except that no quilter admits that. T-shirts proclaim “whoever dies with the most fabric wins.” There are “Fabric Acquisition Road Trips” cleverly called FARTs and fabric swaps. The goal is always to have more fabric. One of my quilting friends has proudly filled an eight ft. by ten ft. shed. Since quilting fabric is meant to last for a hundred years, the amount of a quilter’s “stash” can easily grow to surpass a thousand yards.

My own meager stash reads like a history of my life. I found quilting when I was 17. Here was a room full of caring, open women, the wise Aunts and Great-Aunts I never had. They talked about everything, helpfully corrected my mistakes, and were genuinely interested in sharing their craft with me. My mother and I were never close. I had no girlfriends. The camaraderie of women was a new and wonderful discovery. All of my fabric from those years is feminine – tiny calico prints, big flowers, pastel pinks, and purples.

A square from my first quilt, tiny light blue, purple, and pink flowers mixed with a pink-purple. I loathe calicoes now.

A square from my first quilt, tiny light blue, purple, and pink flowers mixed with a pink-purple. I loathe calicoes now.

Fast-forward a decade, and I was working in Washington DC, one of a million drones for the federal government. My greatest fear was that I would wake up forty years later, having wasted my life in the same building, at the same job. My fabric: skulls, screaming ghosts, bats, and spiders; a not-so-subtle expression of rebellion sewn into traditional patterns.

I liked this fabric so much I had it made into a dress. The skulls glow in the dark!

I liked this fabric so much I had it made into a dress. The skulls glow in the dark!

And now? Now I’m buying batiks, saturated color that doesn’t have a wrong side. Some quilters frown on bold colors, saying they take over a quilt. That’s what I love. I like creating a pattern of lines and geometric shapes, creating order with color. Modern style quilts, with their hard lines and 1960s feel have become my new favorite.

Back to the editing: I’m getting rid of fabric. That’s a shocking confession for a quilter, but there are things I’m ready to let go. Editing my writing has taught me that less is more and it that applies to my fabric. When I got rid of 22 yards this week I realized that every yard felt like a burden. I felt a pressure to use that fabric as soon as I could, and guilt over the way I carried it with me over various moves and over the years. Getting rid of it took an item off my to-do list and freed me up to take on other things.

I don’t know what those other things are. Right now, writing is the focus of my life, quilting doesn’t seem as important. I’m pretty happy about that, and I’m excited about the future. But while I’m looking forward to road tripping to Bouchercon (a conference for mystery writers) this fall, I still might stop at fabric store along the way.