Wednesday, December 31, 2008


May all good things come to you and your beloveds in 2009.

Monday, December 29, 2008

beautiful day


A warm and lovely day. I am still cutting stuff down, trimming trees and chopping back things that grow over each other...

But only in short breaks. I am goingthrough the the copyedits for Sacred Scars. It's good. I think. I am pretty sure...The copy editor is brilliant and loves the book, so the comments are really helpful...

These are succulents. Cold rainy days (like all of last week) bring out more color in them for some reason.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Spiders were involved, yes...

.... but in a strange way.
The leaf happened to float into two sharply angled web anchor strands. They had crossed in mid-air, each one leading to a spider's web 15-20 feet away--in opposite directions--from the accidental (Or maybe spiders plan these things) touch-and-stick juncture that the leaf happened to intersect as it fell. Such a sweet, unlikely coincidence. I just love things like this.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Gravity: there is a way around everything

...walking outside, I glanced up when a crow squanked, and saw this. A silk oak leaf, questioning, no, refuting gravity. On a still, breathless day, it hung, about 15 feet over my head, with nothing between it and the sky. I stared at it for five or six minutes before I went to get the camera. Click the pic to see it more clearly....
I figured it out, but it still seems impossible.

Friday, December 12, 2008

 These are bird of paradise blooms, starting to fade...

I remember the first time I saw one. I was 17, and had hitch-hiked to California from Colorado, where I grew up. I just stood in front of it and tried to square it with any other life form I had ever encountered, and couldn't.

They are as common as roses here. There's a giant variety, too, that blooms white. I have a few. The biggest is 25' tall. The seeds are fringed with an insane orange fuzz...They are African natives, but seem to like California weather well enough.  

I started thinking about them because of this night's work. A boy, raised in confinement, has found a way out. He is starting across the chaparral desert--and will soon see a bank covered with these blooms. And he is going to have to stand in front of them and try to believe that they are real. I hope he can. He is so damaged. So isolated and hurt. This might be the angriest story I have ever written.

Friday, December 05, 2008

My Parents

My parents in 1941.
They were part of the "greatest generation"--the incredibly hardworking people who pulled this country out of the depression and onward, through WWII.
My father was a young teen during the depression. My mother was a tween. She used the same 6 bobby pins for five years. She learned to sew her own clothing. Her family owned a dairy. My grandfather just kept delivering milk to the families who were not able to pay their bills until he went broke. They never recovered financially.
My father worked two after school jobs at 17. His father owned a grist mill and he worked there, too. So, three jobs, really. His two brothers worked just as hard and they all made it through The Colorado School of Mines in about six years, taking turns: two in, one out, working full time.
I keep thinking about them lately. How they managed.
One Christmas, when I am sure there was very little money, my mother bought a few small gifts and hid them all over the house. When we woke up Christmas morning, there was a green string for me--and a red one for my sister--each tied to a branch of the Christmas tree. We followed the string, winding it up as we went all over the house, out into the yard, the porch, the garage. Sometimes the string was overhead, or wound in a back and forth pattern around chair legs... it was a great Christmas. It took an hour or more of laughing and complaining and teasing and criss-crossing and untangling, to open two or three presents--none of which I remember at all.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I have sago palms--apparently both males. Because I have never seen anything like this one before. She lives in the gardens around the Alamo. Isn't she a an odd, creature-from-the-Pleistocene kind of way.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

WorldCab: Voices

For a long time, I have made a point of talking to cab drivers. I jot notes, or sometimes, now, I record them. The conversations are one person's take on whatever comes up. They don’t represent whole countries, accuracy, or the ultimate truth about anything.

In San Antonio, TX, at NCTE last week: A cab driver from Sudan told me he wishes people understood how big Sudan is, and that in many areas, things are all right, even good. He got tears in his eyes talking about Darfur, then said his brothers and a cousin are starting a building business in eastern Sudan, where he is from. He smiled and nodded in a perfect cadence, like he was listening to music I couldn't hear, while he outlined their business plan. He said they had found a good Kenyan source of building materials, cheap enough to get a good start. He has been in San Antonio for 10 years. His English and his Spanish are nearly fluent. He said there were over a hundred languages in his homeland, with most people speaking Arabic and English, at least a little. He is seriously considering going home. If he does, he says, he will figure out how to take a few years supply of Tex-Mex hot sauce. Saying that made him nod again, made him grin. He knows his brothers will like it, too...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

This snowy tree is in Boston, behind the oldest church in America at the foot of a hill that bears the weight of hundreds of old, old, old, slate gravestones. It is
Bookshelves of Doom has my interview up today. I am honored. 

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ah, the scream of the wind, the smell of the smoke...

None of the major fires are near me.
The worst of the Santa Ana winds are north of here, too.
So far. It's early fire season.
We name fires here, usually by the local name for their location.

For those of you with friends and relatives in California, here are two websites to add to your ready-reach pile...

Cal Fire:

Calfire Google Map

There was a canyon fire in San Diego yesterday, put out before it could spread. We heart our firefighters. Mucho y siempre.


Monday, November 10, 2008

This is a self-contained, climate controlled, enclosure. It is the setting, with some alterations, for a project that is just sliding from concept to story now. So I will be writing the future, this year, sort of the future, anyway. I am really excited about this project. And the other new project, which takes time in the opposite direction--sort of the other direction, anyway.


Thursday, November 06, 2008

Lost in translation

Shopping for a French-made kitchen tool, I came across this product description. It's a warning to us all that translation isn't easy...

MIU France Professional Stainless Steel Mandoline
Key features MIU France 18/10 Stainless steel twist. Dishwasher unharmed
Built in 2 mm, 10 mm julienne vegetable blades; adjustable square blades and adjustable waffle blades.

Convenient telephone dial adjusts widths and thicknesses; no more than swapping blades in and come out. Includes stocky storage caseful. Non-slip feet and palm. Stainless steel refuge bearer.
Complete statement by the hand put up be downloaded hither:

MIU France's Professional Stainless Steel Mandoline really is the flagship posture of the Mandoline run along. Instead of the removeable blades set in other models that feature to be swapped come out to exchange cuts, the Professional Stainless Steel edition is completely sef-contained. There's no talents to slack or stay fresh caterpillar tread of, and heaviness and breadth is go down by the leisurely to habituate telephone dial on the face of the mandoline. Just same homogeneous models that betray with respect to 2 to 3 epochs as a great deal, you tin apace shift betwixt julienne vegetable, square and waffle cuts every part of according to the twitch of a lever tumbler. The consummate hand-book put up be downloaded hither: . This Professional0 carries a unitary yr manufacturers warrant and storage caseful. This is a unitary clip appropriate force and quantities are modified.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Happy Election Day.
Be glad, be glad that you live in a country where you have a voice.
Use it, or stop complaining.

Young People:
Happy Election Day.
Be glad, be glad that you live in a country where you have a voice.
I hope you have been paying attention to the election, that you have some opinions, that you have decided who you would vote for, if you could. When you can vote, do. Demand good government. Insist on justice for all. Keep America free.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Sacred Scars manuscript, a hundred and seventy pages longer than Skin Hunger, is off to the copyeditor. I will see it twice more as the editorial process continues, and will change a few things, because I can never read anything I have written without revising--but the book is almost finished and will be released Fall 2009. I feel like I have just gotten back from a long, harrowing trip, a twenty hour flight, amazed to be alive. I have no idea what to do with myself.

The artists who worked on Skin Hunger have provided art for Scared Scars. Cover art copyright David Ho (Thanks David!)Interior art, Sheila Rayyan (Thank you, Sheila

Thursday, October 02, 2008

final revisions, sequestering, thanks

This is the Paris Ministry of Culture. The facade is like lace-- rigid, metal, architectural, lace. In a shifted form, it made the transition from reality to fiction recently.

click to enlarge, to see the pattern...

The Sacred Scars final revision began at 6am this morning. A thousand thanks to everyone who has written to me about Skin Hunger. Encouragment: literally, "the act of transmitting courage" is something most writers need now and then....

And now, into the cliffs...I will be there awhile.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


I just finished a kitchen chore; the way I do it is incredibly efficient. My mother, a farm girl during the depression, could squeeze more meals out of the contents of the pantry, the chicken coop, and the garden than anyone else I have ever met. She taught by example. My father and his brothers grew up in a 700 square foot house. They all three graduated from the Colorado School of Mines, by alternating--two in school--one out, working full time. They lived together in a shed up the hill from the old mill.

My parents are the reason I loved all the looney places I once lived-- fishermen's cabins, tipis, adobes, old trailers, most without electricity, some without running water. If times get tougher, I will be more prepared than most of my friends.

Watching the debates, I was thinking about my parents, and when I came into my office to continue the revision of Sacred Scars, I realized why. Hahp and the other boys were raised in luxury by people who had been raised the same way. All but Gerrard. And that makes all the difference just now. Necessity is a great teacher.

The picture is a wall in Modena, Italy, the backside of a restaurant with a strip-mall-esque bricked, modern frontside. Limori is full of buildings look like this wall: A long history, in layers. One of them is an unfinished stone monstrosity begun by the last king before the magistrates took over. It is shrinking now, as people find ways to carry off the stones.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Grampa Joe

These coat hooks hung in the flour mill that my grandfather opened in Golden, Colorado in about 1925. When bagged flour became common in grocery stores, the mill closed, then reopened as a feed store that served ranchers and poultry farmers and horse breeders for another 30 years. Millet, a common feed grain, is about the size of a ball bearing. Scattered evenly across 20-30 feet of a smooth cement floor, in an enormous room that provides a long approach run, it allows a child to slide/roll/fly/rocket along until she runs out of millet.
Yesterday, on a whim, I tested this general procedure using an old asphalt driveway and a zillion pea-sized drought-year- olives that had fallen from the trees that overhang it. It worked. And it reminded me of these hooks, now on the back of my office door. So they hold Sadima's old shawl now. And her new keys.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Getting down to it....

The ending(s) of Sacred Scars are coming together. Sadima's story is nearly finished. Hahp's has a little farther to go. He is still alive and I am hoping...

Monday, September 01, 2008

Thomas Marsham's passage

It took me an hour to find this image in my files. I remembered it, the arches, the various colors of stone and brick, the proximity of ancient and modern. It is the place where Sadima is shivering, standing straight. She is becoming something I never expected, but completely understand.

I am going to be adrift and weird when I am finished with this book, which will be soon. I will have to start the third one asap.

This is Volubilis, the southernmost Roman outpost. The restored arch (brick) frames the original Roman construction beyond it. Soliders lived here. Click to enlarge.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Susan Raab, author of An Author's Guide to Children's Book Promotion, and book publicist has interviewed 16 people for Teachers for a New Era, a project supported by the Carnegie, Ford and Annenberg foundations, intended for student use at the University of Connecticut. She grabbed me in the aisle at the Bologna rights fair last spring and was kind enough to include me. Susan is a great interviewer. She somehow encourages you to examine your own thinking, and draws out what you believe in, too. She asks good questions, but way more than that, she listens so intently that you forget the tape recorder is on. Among the 16 interviews there are writers, artists, reviewers, and more, from all over the world....

Here are the: interviews

WRITERS: If you have limited time, please start with Leonard Marcus. His books and this interview are a gift to everyone who cares about and wants to understand the birth, history, and current direction of American children's books--both the art and the business--and a quick look at what is happening internationally. He is also one of the nicest people on the planet.

ILLUSTRATORS: Don't miss the wonderful Marla Frazee whose work is amazing and who somehow turns an interview into an inspirational class session--as well as a very personal exploration of her own love of picture books.

Friday, August 22, 2008

exits and traps

This image is from Morocco. It's also in South End, Limori, one of the exit-alleys, lined with vendors and kiosks. It eventually leads away from the ale houses and the sailors and the squalor, back to cleaner, better parts of the city. It's one of the alleys that Sadina cannot walk. She just can't.
I realized something this morning:
It's weird how much of every book is autobiography. Oblique, maybe, but true, true, true...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

payingwriterjobs: filling the gaps

I have used this list off and on for years whenever publishers take six months to produce a contract that *still* needs minor amending, then another two months to write the check--or when they cancel a project because marketing was really hoping for something that would work with lavender glitter and a charm bracelet--or when an editor changes houses and the new one isn't really interested in historicals just now--or B&N decides they won't stock the next of a series so acquiring more titles is no longer of interest...etc, etc, etc....
Let's just not go into why I am suddenly reminded of its usefulness...
But it has saved me, and my bank account, a number of times.

The Official Rules:

This is a mailing list for PAYING writer and editor jobs. It can be Freelance, Staff, Contract, or Permanent, but must PAY. No work for free or chit-chat allowed. This is primarily a network for writers and editors who are looking for work and editors who are looking for professional writers. This is a moderated list, which means the owner approves of all postings.

My Version:

Payingwriterjobs is a group-generated listing of paying jobs for writers. No chit-chat, no communication between contributors, no nurturing, no writing advice, NO guarantees about the jobs listed. It isn't a list for beginners--but many beginners in one field of writing are professionals in another. The list assumes that professionalism: each writer will do his/her own research on any work offered on the list and be smart enough not to apply for work she/he doesn't know how to do. The purpose is to match professional writers with real jobs. Members are expected to contribute to the listings now and then by searching the internet for relevant postings--craigslist, industry rags, whatever. There is a moderator. To reiterate: NO ONE is guaranteeing anything to those who use the list.

Friday, August 08, 2008

writing about writing about writing

Just a quick note to say I am asking writers to respond to this:

The hardest thing about writing is....

Your answers will help shape the book about writing that I am slowly compiling. I want it to be truly useful--or what's the point? Two lists have already given some great responses. I hope to get many more. The answer can be about any aspect of the endeavor: craft, time management, how you enter "the trance", art vs commerce, character control (or not), writing through personal crises, the business end of writing, your mother in law's insistence that it's a cute hobby as long as your house stays nice (oh, no, wait, that was me, years ago)...and whatever else stands between you and writing a brilliant book.

Anyone so moved can certainly answer it here. Anyone preferring privacy can email me at kathleen at

Thanks for writing, for leaving your work for family, friends, and readers to enjoy, thanks for saving literacy.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Tannery

This tannery/leather dyeing enterprise is 400 years old. It is a family-run business in Morroco. When you ask to be shown around a little, one of the kids will lead you up long narrow steps to the rooftop, and give you a sprig of mint to hold under your nose. It doesn't help.
There is a tannery in Limori's South-End, too. It is guarded by a vicious dog. He is Sadima's very first friend.
click the picture....

Monday, July 14, 2008

fantasy writers--read this list

Excerpted from Sharyn November’s summer 2008 article for Locus magazine:

“I took a quick, informal poll of my bookseller and librarian friends and offer it as an anecdotal request: They are tired of faeries, werewolves and other shapeshifters, vampires, dragons, the Greek gods, trilogies, pirates, zombies, teen superheroes, the teenage Evil Genius, any kind of boarding school setting, “mean girls”, underground cities, (especially New York or London), the Victorians, the Male Chosen One (any genre) and retold fairy tales." Sharyn November, Locus YA issue, 2008 **see also below**

Since this list reinforced what I thought/feared must be true by now, I asked permission to post it. Sharyn said: "....please do add that all of those rules go out the window when something is wonderfully written. "

Writing me to inform me of a spelling error (ok 2 errors), she adds: "... knock-off urban fantasy and anything triggered by a tattoo."

So, writers, that's the assignment: Fresh fantasy ideas would be very welcome. Wonderful writing always is.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

sacred scars update, quick and done

Jux has survived, a homeless, familyless child in a starving city with cobblestone streets and an inept king. He has loved only one person, and she is in terrible trouble.

Sadima is running, sobbing in each breath, too terrified to even look back.

Hahp is standing before a wall of stone, shaking, knowing he must walk through it, knowing what it will do to him.
This is a ceiling from a Paris renovation of an historic building. Standing beneath it, I thought about massive wealth, the options it brings, the art that money midwives. Somiss's mother has ceilings like this, painted, with gold leaf on the rosettes.

Adding this on June 2, 2011:  Updates on the third book in progress can be found here:

Saturday, July 12, 2008

the woman through the window

This bronze is in a gallery in Paris.
I stared at it through the window, walked by twice, hoping the shop would open. When it did, they let me photograph it, and others...I have better pics from inside the shop. But it was this window-glare-muted-first-glimpse-image that sparked a book idea that is just growing in my head like strangler vine at the edge of the garden.

The artist: Dirk De Keyzer has many more wonderful bronzes.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

the trees, the trees, the trees....

Trees are everywhere in my world. Yours, too. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the Bodhi tree which shaded Buddah's enlightenment, the Christmas trees, my father's fruit orchards, my screwy Scotch-Irish family tree, the silk oaks, pindo palms, beaucarneas ,and bananas outside my door. The pine trees I grew up with in Colorado and the pine forest where Sadima is hiding. I will be with her there all day, but first...
This is a baobab tree on Oahu, in a botanical garden. Lynne Wikoff was kind enough to provide contrast in scale. It was amazing to just stand there and look up. This is a smallish Baobab. This is a big one, in Africa, their home. I have a baby baobab. My son started it from seed. It's about six inches tall in a four inch pot. Amazing.

Saturday, July 05, 2008


My friend Katie Davis has a great interview up on her blog, about her new book. Take a look!
In the interview, she mentions teachertube.
Wandering around there, I came across this slide show, basically, of statistics.
I am writing something called Free Rat. Well, I will be writing it as soon as I turn in Sacred Scars and a few other things. And it is about the future the slide show describes, the connectivity implied. I thought I was exaggerating.
Guess not.

Friday, July 04, 2008

research: Mmm...mmm, good!

I have written over forty historical novels for middle grade readers. Research is an old friend, a good friend, and I employ all its tricks and tools to enrich my fantasy novels. Two great sources:
which links thousands of small rare and used bookstores
(and a few large ones)

The University of Idaho maintains a massive, worldwide list of primary source repositories. I have used it extensively; it's remarkable.
Primary sources are diaries, old newspapers, rent receipts from the 1800's, illuminated manuscripts for the 1200s, any kind of record left behind by real people. Fascinating!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Book-building, again

Fez, Morocco: South-End, Limori
South-End is a dockside slum in Limori, the city where my novel Sacred Scars takes place. This is the second in a trilogy, and the first title (Skin Hunger) took place in the largest part of Limori, the center, with Market Square and the public wells , where most of the shops are.

Limori rises like this, from a bay. The buildings are like this, old, jumbled, brick and mud. Limori has a second, higher hill--Ferrin Hill--that is visible in from the highest parts of South-End as line of tree-covered foothills that shelter the mansions of the wealthy. And beyond that are the black cliffs at the north end of the city.

South-End is where the ships come in with all kinds of goods. Hahp's father's fleet has made a fortune.
Sadima is there now. I am so worried about her. Inside the stone cliffs, Franklin is frantic, torn, caving in on himself. In those same cliffs, 200 years later, Hahp is fighting for his sanity, his life. Gerrard's secrets are keeping them both alive.

And I must go back to work.

If you enlarge the picture, you will get a real sense South End. The piles of stuff in the foreground are heaps of sheep skins. Fez is a tannery town, the home of the worlds oldest university and a thousand other interesting things. Look closer. On the thousand-year-old brick and adobe-wash buildings--there are hundreds of satellite dishes. The King provides internet access.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Back from ALA, back to work

My camera died. So this picture was taken in the Emirates, but it is the same variety of palm that lines the walkways of the Anaheim Convention Center where ALA was held this year. They are 40 or 50 feet tall and truly magnificent.
I saw lots of friends. LOTS. I love writers--they are generous and kind and funny: All good things. My signing was great and encouraging--a lot of people came up to me with kind words about my books, and I feel very ready to get back to work on Sacred Scars. Before I went I was wussing out on a tough scene. I can write it now, I am sure.

The Newbery/Caldecott acceptance speeches were incredible, just-flat-out, goosebumps great. I am so glad I went. I wasn't going to, but Ellen Hopkins had an extra ticket, so last minute, I did. Thanks Ellen!!
ALA rocks. Librarians will save the world if we just fund them well and get out of their way.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Fern and Me, we talk












Australian tree fern fronds un-spiral themselves to become lacy, lovely, arching 5-6 feet long. This one is just outside my office door.

We discuss characters, plot points, all sorts of things. Jux is trying to get himself killed and I can't bear to lose him. Fern says I should relax and trust the little street kid. I am trying.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Tomorrow is the day, 6 years ago, that my son Seth died. He was twenty-five. I still cry every day. I can now weed the garden or do the laundry while I cry; you learn what you have to learn. But I would do anything to bring him back, to let him have the rest of his life.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Happy News.

The deal with S&S Aladdin just closed. I will soon be writing the four book set: The Faeries Promise. It's set in the same place as The Unicorn's Secret, an eight book set, also from Aladdin.
Lord Dunraven's lands were the focus of my dreams in the 3-4th grades. For about 18 months, I went to sleep here and woke up *there*. And when the stars came out there, I would fall asleep and wake up *here*. It was like having two lives. I can't wait to start.
.The picture is the North side of Lord Dunraven's castle (currently in either Bologna or Modena, Italy, my photo notes got lost.) A girl with wings is trapped there and has been for a long, long, time. She has a terrible responsibility. She didn't ask for it, and she doesn't want it. But there it is.

time, time, time...

These cobbles are in Paris. I have moved them to Limori's slum South-End, a dockside squalorous place--and where Sadima is now.

The writing is flying again. The time line is resolving itself. About 200 years pass in one story and less than 10 in the other. I have been pacing a lot, considering various devices. But the every-other-chapter format is enough. I don't want devices and visible structure to upstage the characters. Not even a little. So I am going straight at it, and I think (hope, want to believe) it's working.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


I get emails and letters from people who read my books. It's wonderful. It keeps me going. I am so grateful. Some of them say things like, "I am such a fan " or, from the youngest readers, "I'm your biggest fan!!!!!!!!". (Current record number of exclamation points 62). Sometimes people send me stories they have written using my characters. Sometimes I get wonderful artwork.
This morning there were more missives than usual, and it set me wondering. Mr. Google, Ms. Firefox and friends, always eager to help me avoid real work, led to this:
There are two proposed etymologies, which seem to me like phases in the same process.
1. Fan is a shortened form of "fanatic". Fanatic, in 16th century England, meant "insane person". The Latin root word is fanaticus, which also meant "insane person" but adds the nuance of "divinely inspired". Similarly rooted words meant "sacred place" or "temple" Somewhere around 1647 'fanatic', the adjective, began to mean "extremely zealous" and a few years later, it slipped into noun-hood.
2. The word "fancy" was used in 19th century England to describe a longing or wish. Then it was used to describe boxing enthusiasts. The first shortened form was "fance", then, later, "fan"--both words born to describe boxing enthusiasts. Since most boxing enthusiasts then were very, very enthused, the word fan was later transferred to people who were excitedly devoted to other things.
and now, off to write about a fanatic...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Limori's neighborhoods

.Limori, once you are up the hill from the docks, out of South -End's squalor and jumble, is a city of wood and brick. Beyond that, Ferrin Hill has estates, massive homes of quarried stone, built, like castles, to last generations. I realized this morning that I pictured the neighborhoods around Market Square like some of the older ones in Boston-a city I have visited only three times.
Writing about book-building here has made me notice where things come from, how I paste realities together to form a tangible fantasy, while I think I am just following the characters around. The Eridians have basis in fact, too. Writing all those middle grade historical novels left me with piles and e-piles of research, all of which include great stories I couldn't use at the time. America has a long history of cultural experiments.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

cottonwoods: life, not death.

I am writing about water. Which made me think about cottonwood trees.
Which made me remember the Alamo.

Left, the Alamo. Right, the Alamo museum,

Alamo, in Spanish, means "cottonwood tree". The Omaha tribes named them maa-zho. Lakota call them canyáh'u, which means "peeling off the bark". Alamo, in Texan, means, "never give in" which is far different than "never give up." The Alamo, which was moved to San Antonio, is associated with death--brave, stubborn, glorified death.

But the cottonwood tree meant life on the great plains in the millennia before wells and dams. If you see them at a distance, you know you won't be thirsty long. They line up along creeks and rivers. They put little white mary-poppins umbrellas/flotation devices on their seeds so their children can root downstream. I have had two close cottonwood friends. One was scared and scarred by a fire in Grand Junction, Colorado. The other one still holds a rope swing across Clear Creek, in Golden Colorado.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

This is a ceiling, a dome that is part of a hotel lobby in Abu Dhabi, a hotel built, in part, to receive royal visitors. I took the shot straight up, bending backward to try to get the kaleidoscope effect that was so amazing standing beneath it. The curved balconies are really balconies and the gold is really gold.

This dome found its way into Sacred Scars yesterday. It is now part of the palace in Limori, part of the king's library. The arrangement of the books is designed not for ease of use, but for difficulty. Knowledge is power there. And power, in that world, it not shared. Nor in ours, sadly. Not often enough.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Keys to...?

These keys are part of collection belonging to a wonderful school principal in Abu Dhabi. I stayed with her for a week--it is an astounding and interesting city. The big key on the left is the key to the cage in Sacred Scars. The other two are tucked in Sadima's bodice as she runs. I have no idea what they open yet. I don't think Somiss knows, either...

Sunday, June 01, 2008

BEA (book expo america) Independent booksellers are to literacy what water is to gardens.

Just got back from BEA. Thanks to everyone who stood in line so long at the signing. All the kind things you said about Skin Hunger will make Sacred Scars better.

I love BEA because I love being around book-people. Independent booksellers are to literacy what water is to gardens. There's a state by state list of children's bookstores--and bigger stores with great children's departments--on my website: wonderful bookstores. If you know a great, community-active store that I have missed let me know, please, and I will add it.

Peripheral Amazing moments:
1. The shuttle bus driver was Mayan, a life-long student of his people's history, both written and oral.
2. The Grand Central Market had Queen Ann cherries for 69 cents a pound.
2.a. I can eat 1 1/2 pounds of cherries in one night.
3. The Pharmacy at third and Broadway had hundreds of magic oils, labeled for intent and purpose: Curative; I will destroy you; strengthen love; bring gold/wealth; ambition restored; protection; etc. There was an altar with a skeleton wearing a red cape and somber-eyed patrons sitting beside it. The counter guy recited a roster of Catholic saints, then told me their names in three other languages, one of them African. He kept saying, "They are the same. All the same, all over the world, the same with different names. You can ask them for help." I sort of knew about this amalgam of religions mixed with early/primative (or new age, take your pick) belief that focusing thought and ritual can change the facts, but it was amazing to see. We all do it, one way or another, when life thwacks us hard enough...I was looking for chapstick. I found a book spark.
4. Universal Studio's backlot burned. The areal shots were astounding. The MTV awards were not delayed, the theme park never closed, the show must go on.
5. Mine, too. Back to work...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

This is a student's window overlooking a courtyard in the oldest university in the world. It is deep in the maze of the medina in Fez Morocco, the old city, a labyrinth built to discourage and repel invasions. Unesco Word Heritage Project has a quick video. It's an amazing place. Parts of it are in Sacred Scars.

click to appreciate the incredible delicacy of the wood carving.

Friday, May 16, 2008

This is a Moroccan Palace door. I just stood in front of it thinking: That's it. The rest of the doors can just go home now. This one wins...

Click on it to appreciate the mosaic details.
It's here in the blog today because I woke up thinking about it ...and about doors, what they mean to me. I have hundreds of photos of doors from everywhere I have ever been. Not sure why. But this one has found its way into the new book...the one to follow the Resurrection of Magic trilogy. It's just a note file now, but it glows in the dark for me. I know the title and much of the story. This door belongs to a man who is holding my protagonist captive. It is the door she must somehow open. So she can run.

Monday, May 12, 2008

the exit?

These stairs are in Volubilis, the ruins of the southernmost outpost of the Roman Empire, in Morocco.

I am moving them into my book, Sacred Scars, near the ancient city of Limori, placing them where Sadima might find them. But I don't think she will. Not yet.

Friday, May 09, 2008

May Gray

May Gray, That's what the locals call these wonderful foggy mornings. I love them. I get a lot of writing done. Which is good because I have a lot to do--several projects in motion. Sacred Scars is primary.

It's time to get back to work.
I live in southern CA.
This is the Atlantic , Rabat, Morocco.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

writing is so weird

The woods, the woods....


I was flipping through old pic files just now and stopped to stare at this one. This is exactly where Sadima is, where I left her last night at midnight, not because I was tired, but because it hurt. These are the trees, the fading light. She is running, jerking her long skirt free, stumbling, running...


The photo was taken in the Shenandoah Forest, several years ago at an SCBWI writers' retreat. Enlarge it and look at the horizon line, left of center. You can see her silhouette. I can.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

gravity defying plants in Paris

This living façade was intended to be temporary, but everyone liked it so much that they kept it.

Standing in front of it, I was astonished at how it made me feel. Then my analytical brain kicked in and wanted to pin the logistics, the how of the whole thing. I have two plausible theories for anyone interested. No one? Right.
However it was done, it's just wonderful.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008


The whole time I was in France, I was entranced by the long human relationship with stone. Who, I mean, really, who among us was the first one to look at a jagged piece of rock and think...I could take a year or two of my life, find some tools, chip away at it and turn it into something like these:
(as always, high-res pics, click to really see the sculpture)

It's an astonishing leap, isn't it? A leap of imagination, of mind, of concept, of art, of madness.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

By the way,
French and Italian food IS better. Fresher, realer, riper, yummier...