Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Publishing. Old, New, Self, Indie

          Traditional  publishing is still undergoing a sea change, a departure from many of the old models. It is a painful, wrenching///exciting, amazing new phase for storytellers and story sellers. The big-6  publishers are downsizing staff and have been for years. They are looking for new ways to be efficient and still create and sell great books. They are experimenting with incredible multimedia projects, and are sizing up the oncoming waves of reading devices and other story-vehicles. They still support great print books while releasing great ebooks. People who work at publishing houses are generally smart, dedicated to their work, and love a good story. They are also innovators who know how to adapt or morph.

          It’s an echo of how itunes wiped the slate and gutted the album format. The big music studios said there would be a gazillion garage bands with 30 fans each. They turned out to be almost right. Even the TV mega talent shows rarely seem to launch careers the way the studios once did. On the other hand, the indie bands are thriving and I love the idea of artists of all kinds finding their audience, mega, big, small, global or local.  Art belongs to everyone.

          For now, at least, the publishers still offer writers what they always offered us: a long, steep learning curve that will eventually qualify some of us for access to incredible editors with critical reading skills and DEEP story experience--as well as informed and energetic marketing staffs.  If a writer can captivate someone who has spent years reading and developing's a good sign that lots of readers will find the work compelling, too. A sign, not a guarantee. There are none. There never have been.

          Almost every career writer I know asks writing-friends to beta-read their raw work. I do.  I often spend time on rewrites before my editors see it. I spent my learning-curve years in writing classes, reading a hundred or more books about writing, studying literature, reading, reading, reading, writing, writing, writing, and going to endless writer's conferences. I took notes while famous authors, incredible editors, artists, and agents shared what they had learned along the way. I still go to conferences. I get to speak now, but when I am not speaking, I am listening and I still take notes. I did all of this and more because no easier way was offered to me—or anyone else. There was no other way to enter into the career I wanted more than anything. I assumed a 5-10 year craft learning curve because that's what we were all told by the writers we listened to.  

          And now we are living in the golden age of self/indie-publishing. It is fascinating to me.  2.7 million indie books were released in 2010. Wow. I just clicked in “self publishing” and there were about 10,200,000 hits. Wow again. It’s an industry.

*(and as of 4 28, click brings up about 49,200.000)*

*(and as of  June 5, 2013 it's 174,000,000)*

          A very few indie publishers have done really well. Some of these writers already had traditional careers and preferred to run their own show. Others are very good writers and marketers who came prepared and have worked hard. I admire indie authors.  I want to try indie pub for some of my stranger/odder works next year. I can only applaud the time, energy, and money indie writers have poured into their work.  The people who have done well have earned it!  I am cheering for anyone who has even modest success on their own. I know they are doing ten jobs, all at once. I just want to say this:

          Almost no one expects musicians to get good on an instrument without years of lessons, books, years of practice. There is a similar learning curve for writing. Mine was longer than I thought it would be. Traditional publishing used to give writers a free way to test readiness. I have a pile of rejections. Now writers are told to query agents first. They offer the same readiness test. If you get a positive response to your query, you send the manuscript or part of it and get more feedback, sometimes detailed, sometimes painful. For absolutely no fee at all, agents will let you know where your stand because if they take you on, they will have a stake in your success. Ditto old-school publishers. They put up the money and pay and train the staff that will help you polish the work. Then the pour more money into marketing. They literally invested in your success.

          Indie and self/publishers do not offer that kind of service. It is almost certain that no craft/art/market specialists will be reading your work with that kind of careful, invested  attention. It will get published anyway.  

          Without mentors and teachers and beta readers, learning to write is like deciding to knit, buying yarn and needles, then sitting in your room alone, waving them around and hoping for a sweater.  

          Storytelling is as old as humanity and as common as rainy days. Many people are interested in getting good at it. If you don’t have critique partners, consider finding some.  Take classes, read the kind of books you want to write.  Read books about writing. Your library probably has a stack of them. Ask librarians and independent booksellers what is flying off their shelves. Assume they will have different answers in a few months. Save up for conferences and if they offer critique staff, sign up to have your work evaluated. Take notes. Sift all the comments carefully. It’s your work, shape it. Experiment with guided revisions. Learn. Get good. Then publish any way you want to. There can never be enough good books.  

If you write for kids and YA, consider

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Writing updates #7

I am tracking the progress of Book #3 of A Resurrection of Magic. NO spoilers will be posted. I promise.

If you want to go back to the beginning:

Or you can just start here:::

A Resurrection of Magic is a trilogy. Two books are finished: (( see the books))  and I am writing the third one now. In these books there are two voices and two stories that go back and forth, every other chapter. The stories begin  200 years apart and the first one causes the second one...

The city of Limori is tense this morning, on the edge of something I can't predict. The magistrates--mostly descendants of the old royal families--are hiring guards and training them to fight.  The merchants--including Hahp's father--see an opportunity to break the stranglehold of the magistrates control, their laws, their fees. The wizards are not what they seem to be.  And the Eridians are learning that their beliefs are based on one girl's fears, and her genius, and her love.

Everything in this picture has a story.  The sugar  bowl was my Aunt Mollie's. The button jar took twenty years to fill.  I bought the bracelet from a beautiful Apache woman on a train in New Mexico.  The lovely blue paperweight is a gift from the fabulous  I found the carved deer bone in Colorado when I was ten. I heard my horse's hoof click on it as we scrambled up a bank, caught a glimpse of the shape. So I tethered my horse to a willow tree and slid back down to look. Sadima has found something this morning, something that scares her, and gives her hope. 


It's getting harder to make sure there are no spoilers. The book is about 2/3's finished so everything is becoming more tense, tighter, harder to talk about without actually talking about it.  I can tell you this: there will probably be some kind of bloodshed soon. 

Afternoon shadows on my phytolacca dioica. The trunk is nearly six feet wide now.  Every part of this tree is poisonous: leaf, root, bark, flower and seed. It reminds me of Somiss: amazing and deadly. 

9. 30. 2011
Hahp has done something he didn't think he *could* do. I am wondering if he can live through it. If he can't, everything changes. Writing involves every part of me and I am sitting here crying. I hate the wizards. I understand them--I do. But I hate them.  

If you could fly high enough, the wind sifting through your fingers, your hair tied tight with a thread from the hemline of your robe, Limori would look like this tonight. The bonfires, the torch runners,  the lanterns on the carriages as people try to get out of the city.
Anger and fear.
Fear and anger.

10: 04: 2011
I have been reading research the past few weeks, mostly about ancient civilizations. I am trying to understand Limori better, how every set of rulers, every war, marks every generation that follows it.   

A colonial graveyard in Boston. Most of the inscriptions are too weathered to read.  There is a much older graveyard near Limori, next to what is now Malek Park--Hahp's father bought the land and couldn't care less about the history that lies in the ground.  Sadima hid three  keys there once, and now has them back. She is trying to remember what doors they open.  She can't remember that she never knew.

10 10 2011
Late last night, Hahp heard a voice I thought he would never hear.  This is getting so strange. It always feels like the characters lead me along, now it feels like they are dragging me away from what I thought would happen toward reality. Their reality. 

This is  Volubilis, the southernmost Roman city ever built. It's in what is now Morocco.  Stone survives.  I kept thinking that while I was walking around, staring at the remains of baths, barracks, grand homes.  Stone survives. The cliffs outside the city of Limori have held magic and magicians for so long that there is no clear  beginning point of their history.  I thought it had been hundreds of years. Now, I think it might be thousands... 


This morning two characters will meet ....two people I thought would never meet... I have no idea what I will do if one of them doesn't survive the meeting.  I am afraid to finish the scene. 

This was taken out a train window and the human brain follows the laws of motion to blur what is close and make it easier to see what's in the distance. Staring out train windows is apparently a lot like writing a novel.


10 23 2011
I woke up with the ending in my head. I have a lot to write to get there, and I am sure it will change as the characters live through it--and it is off in the distance and blurry. But I can see it from here. I can. 

This tree is on Oahu, Hawaii, in a botanical garden filled with odd and amazing trees.  I didn't write down the scientific name...but the common name is "cannonball tree". There was a warning sign, telling people to stand back. So I was respectful and quiet, and  can tell you that the fruits are huge, heavy, smooth and that they smelled--impossibly-- like vomit and a strange, distant, perfume.  As I walked away, one of the fruits fell--on the far side of the tree, nowhere near me, and I had this tiny moment of feeling like it meant something, like the tree was telling me it could have hurt me, but hadn't.  Sadima feels that way this morning. Like she has been warned, but also spared.

10 30 2011
There is a boy who has been fighting for years just to stay alive. He is hiding, standing in the dark, holding his breath, wishing he'd had the courage to jump into the deep water six years before. He almost wants to be found. He is longing to end the fight, to stop the fear, to put down the double-edged knife of hope.

11 14 2011
Sadima is in Market Square this morning.  All around her people are scared, close to panic, staring upward...   

 I have no idea what she is going to do--or not do.  She has a reason to live now, though, and that changes everything.

This is me, hiding behind the French edition of book #2. My series title is : A Resurrection of Magic.  Their title for the trilogy is:  The Price of Magic.  We are both right. 



I stopped writing last night in the middle of a scene because I wasn't sure how Hahp would react to something. Prisoners who have been kept against their will for years carry their fear and rage in different ways. Hahp has, for most of his time in the cliffs, blamed his father. That's changing and I need to understand why, so I hope he will tell me. I know this much : his feelings, his reasons, aren't simple. They are tangled, barbed. I am not at all sure he will tell me the truth...or if he will talk to me at all.
trees from three continents, now imprisoned in my yard

In the city of Limori, like anywhere else, the people who have read the history books understand things people who can't read never will. Over almost 200 years, Somiss has stolen, bought, preserved and studied almost all the books the royal families once owned. He will not make the mistakes the ancient wizards made.

This is a little tangle of barbed wire I dug up in the garden. In Colorado,  it was common, a leftover from the range wars. Farmers used it to keep free range cattle out of their corn. The cattlemen cut the wire every chance they got. It was a small, strange war to settle who owned the land that had been stolen from the First Nations--the people who came here from other places many centuries before Spain decided to colonize Mexico, before Englishmen sent their second sons to a new world to make a fortune from slave labor. And all of this happened thousands of years after the incredible building that eventually became the Pantheon was built in what eventually became Rome, Italy. History is always shameful, sometimes glorious, and always still in progress.



People who have have impacted each other's lives for over two hundred years are standing in Market Square about 30 paces from each other--and they don't know it. The wind is rising and rain is starting to spatter. The South Enders know it's time to go home, but they can't. They just...can't.  I am  trying to stand close enough to peek over their shoulders so I can see what they see coming from beyond the trees. .

This tree lives in WI.  You can tell it loves the wind--and fears it.


12 19 2011

I know these entries are getting farther apart. I apologize. I am living in Limori now, barely coming up for food and water.  I am on Chapter 64 and holding my breath because the characters I love best are all in danger. The city is full of anger and blame--almost none of it aimed at the real source the problem. 

The sky, seen through a Giant Bird of Paradise tree, There is a rat's nest on the right, and an empty bloom sheath on the left. I could smell the flowers still, a little, but the rat-stink was much stronger.


12 28 2011

Today in Limori's South End streets, Sadima  heard a shout behind her. She recognized the voice, but she didn't look back. She didn't walk faster or slower and she didn't try to hide....she just kept walking. Sometimes that's all you can do.  

This is my Euphorbia.  It's a succulent, not a cactus, but the thorns are about 2 inches long and needle sharp.The white sap is milky, caustic, and poisonous. It drips out of even the smallest scratch. The plant was about two feet tall and a foot wide when I freed it from its container and introduced it to real dirt.  It has grown slowly, relentlessly.  It's well over six feet tall and at least six feet wide now.  If I wanted to take it out (I don't, but if I did) it would be almost impossible. It intends to take over the world. How did I not see this coming? 


Wednesday, September 14, 2011


As long as six years ago, speaking/appearing in schools, I began to hear about librarians being fired. Schools with no trained librarians became the norm in some states--or there might be one librarian serving 6-10 schools, spending half the day driving.

EDUCATION is being gutted to meet budget cuts.


Do we want to create a low wage-earning underclass? Because this is how you do it.  You make education--even a self-guided/public library education like my own-- harder and harder for people of limited means. You take away the level playing field of good public education. You let the universities charge fees very few can afford. This dismantling of public education and public libraries is underway and growing.  And it is the the worst betrayal of the American Dream I can imagine.

Please, look into what your own state is doing and make some noise. If we don't, no one will.

find your congressional reps here

Find your senators here:

Sunday, September 04, 2011

writing updates #6

I have been blogging about the writing process of A Resurrection of Magic. It's a trilogy.Two books are available now. I am writing the third one while you read these words... If I am not asleep.

If you want to go back to the beginning:

Or you can just start here.: 
A Resurrection of Magic is two stories that go back and forth, every other chapter. There are two protagonists who live in the same city, 200 years apart. The first story causes the second one.



The time lines finally came together last night. It will be very strange for me to know that Hahp and Sadima are breathing the same air, hearing the same thunder, and that, after all that has happened, they might meet. If they can both just stay alive long enough.

(( Adding this later. No. The synchronization was a mirage/misjudged. It took another 11 days for this to be true))

This is the German translation. The cover art is perfect for Sadima today. She is hiding, scared, and sure of what she has to do now. 


Last night I wrote late ~~ and  loose and free~~running to keep up, amazed at the beginnings of a weird thing in Market Square, the tension between sincere people who all believe their way is  the only way...
It is so interesting to write like that, like a reporter recording a war or a famine or an overspill of magic...hearing conversations, seeing the a bystander, not a creator.  These people are real to me.  So even though I read (and appreciate and love) every single message from people who can't wait for me to finish the third book..and even though I know my publishers have been incredibly patient and feel the same way...

I will be very sorry to leave Limori and everyone I love there. I know I am going to feel strange for a while, like I can smell smoke and don't know where the fire is yet. If you live in Southern Ca, you will understand that last sentence. If not: 

I took this shot of smoke-drifts through a plane window on my way home from the amazing Baltimore Book festival last year. The instant I was on the ground I called the fire info # and was told it was on brushland and almost out. THEN I could go get my bag and wait for the shuttle. I don't think I will ever stop wondering about Limori and the people I have come to love there.


9. 9. 2011

Power outage last night...stopping my work abruptly.  But before the lights went out, a really amazing connection between two of the characters emerged. Something I wrote in the first book suddenly made sense to me in the third book. It feels so odd when things like this happen. Like I am  just a set of fingers for the characters to use as they get all this written down, sorted out, recorded accurately.

These are covers from two of my series for young readers. They both come from dreams I had in third and forth grade--incredible, vivid dreams. Every night, I would close my eyes here and wake up there. After adventures with gypsies and dragons and faeries and unicorns, I would find a place to sleep in the woods, in some friend's cottage, in a faerie's tree nest. I would go to sleep there---and open my eyes here, just in time to get ready for school. It was like having two lives.  

Excerpts:: :

Art by Sandara Tang, who is based in Singapore.
If she were closer, I would kiss her on the cheek.


9. 12. 2011

My writing has been interrupted for a couple of days. Back to it today.  Limori feels strange to me--not because I was gone, but because things are  happening in the city that I can't quite see, can't  figure out. I think Somiss has passed some turning point, and has very nearly left his humanity behind. It makes me think about Hitler, Stalin, damaged people corrupted by power into thinking complete, hideous nonsense and somehow believing it.

This is the everglades in Florida. The water/sky resonance is like a trance.  The beauty seeps into your skin and you forget about the alligators and the water moccasins.  



AMAZING writing day yesterday. Hours and hours of typing fast to keep up. So many things are happening at once. The city of Limori is dangerous now, for women, for children, for anyone walking alone.  Hahp needs a way out. Sadima needs a way in. I don't think either one knows what to do now.  I certainly don't..   

Everglades, FL USA   thanks! SCBWI
for the amazing day         

Birds can feel the air changing, fear congealing into anger.

They notice  changes in pitch, in song, in everything.

and they always know  when  it is time to flee.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Critiques. The short answer is: Yes! If my own books aren't eating me alive.

I have been doing critiques for writers' conferences for years.  Because I couldn't attend SCBWI LA this year to do them at the conference, I decided to make amends to the 18 people I had let down by doing their sessions by phone and Skype, expanding from 20 minutes to at least an hour, and doing only 1 a day so that I could focus on each writer's work. This arrangement gives me enough time and emotional bandwidth to do my own writing, too, which is ever and always my priority.

The sessions have been amazing.  Each writer provided ten pages and a synopsis.  I read each ms carefully and marked up the pages with comments and suggestions.  Then we scheduled a phone or Skype appointment. 

At conferences, even the ones I love best, there is always a hurried feeling. This time, I could focus on the work, not the clock. We began by talking about the author's intent. Then we did a line by line examination of the 10 pages/synopsis. Once I understand what a writer is trying to create, I can focus on character voice, how to gracefully salt in backstory, build a seamless movie in the reader's mind, make sure the plot works, etc, etc...tailored for each writer. I always give concrete examples to support concepts and try to make sure everything is useful and tied to each writers' current work.  With a longer session, I could do all of that MUCH better. I can't describe how lovely it has been. I have never done crits like this, without a conference as the backdrop.  Each one was targeted and long enough to teach, instead of explain, writing skills.

So thanks to everyone who has been in touch. Yes, I am doing longer format critiques when I can fit them in. As much as I love to teach, I love writing far more, so I am sometimes unavailable. For rates, choices and all other details, you can contact me at kathleen duey at earthlink dot net 

*I feel compelled to add--I will send you the info and never bother you again. I only do a few critiques a month--and sending out the info to those who request it is NOT a way to build a mailing list. You will never hear from me again. I promise. I don't want a lot of critiques. I want to work with a few serious writers and save them all a couple of years. 

****Almost every critique so far begins with a discussion of voice. One writer I helped just sent me a redone/re-imagined first page. The voice is **astonishing.**   ((yay!))

*** Yes, I can evaluate a manuscript written for adults. Half my fan mail comes from adults. I am an adult. The writing skills needed for YA storytelling are the same as those needed to produce stories for adults.   

*** Long session yesterday and it was like watching a flower bloom. Lovely! 

***Two more long is so much fun to watch people light up when I point out the places where the text fails the story and they begin to see how a word, two words, can make all the difference.  

*** A great session with a writer who had created a really interesting premise, then got lost in the woods trying to do re-writes. We spent most the time relocating the core of the story, then finding ways to salt it into the shadows, the daily life of the character, the escalating uneasyness of the reader.
Photo by Roxyanne Young, author and friend...taken in San Louis Obispo 2012.  I got to teach two three hour sessions with published and prepublished authors. It was fun!

***Someone has asked if I am a harsh critiquer. NO. I'm a writer. I have friends who beta read my work before my editors see it. I know how it feels to hold your breath while someone reacts to your manuscript. I tell the truth, yes. Always. And I try to make it so that you can apply whatever skill we are addressing to everything you write from then on. 

Me. Closing speaker for the SCBWI international LA conference, staring out at 1200 writers and hoping to say at least one thing they could take home and USE. 

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Thanksgiving. It's complicated.

Thanksgiving is an odd holiday for me.
It's complicated.
Or maybe three times.

My grandparents moved  from Tennessee to Colorado when my father was five years old.  I loved my  quiet and reserved Grandpa and tried to love my irritable and opinionated grandmother. Grampa's Thanksgiving prayer was always short and sweet, but I remember him including the "Cherokee Nation" once or twice, because his mother--my great grandmother--was half Cherokee. He explained to me that the earliest colonists would never have made it through the first winter without a lot of "Indian" help. He said all the tribes got a "raw deal".

When I was in forth grade, my father began to buy me books about the Cherokee. I remember him turning it into a math lesson:  Great Gramma was 1/2 Cherokee so Grandpa was 1/4,  which made my dad 1/8 and me 1/16th.  My father was proud of our fractional heritage. I heard him tell  people that he had both Irish and Cherokee blood, so I started saying it too. The books he gave me on birthdays and Christmases taught me more about about the Cherokee culture. I read about the atrocities, too, the 1500 mile forced march from the Cherokee's home to a reservation in what became Oklahoma was called the Trail of Tears. Underfed and exhausted children who died were left by the wayside. Some mothers pretended their babies were alive, carried them day after day, desperate not to leave them to the crows and coyotes and ants. Old people who could not keep up were left behind, too. And there is more, so much more to lament and be ashamed of in the long, cruel history of the "settling" of America. I finally realized years later that was what my grandfather had called a "raw deal."

my great grandparents and their first four children.
My great grandmother was half Cherokee. Her other half  never came up at the dinner table. My grandfather never mentioned or prayed for that side of his heritage and I don't think anyone ever wondered why. I didn't. The books all said many Scotts-Irish people and others  married Cherokee people in Eastern Tennessee long before and long after the Civil War.

 My grandfather died when I was eleven.  Years later my cousin told me they found his KKK card in his sock drawer after the funeral. He was a gentle, kind man and I was stunned. Some people said that  when he was growing up the Klan was like a service organization, a club that helped out members in need. Maybe he believed that. I can't. It weighed on my heart and still does. I can't reconcile it with the sweet and soft spoken man I knew.

One of my cousins researched our family history. He found relatives none of us had ever met and documents we had never  known about. There were a few vague references that made me wonder if we had a third heritage that had never been talked about or honored. But all hints were blurred and old and where there was ink on paper, it was faded and uncertain. I wanted to have more strains of humanity in my genes. I was writing by then and visiting schools. I would have loved to claim a broader heritage -- but no one found anything of substance. I was sure I would never find out, never know.

Years later, when my father's Alzheimer's became profound, I was the one who took care of him, spending many hours every week  in the fenced-in old house that had been transformed into a small care facility. I spent the last few months of those days sitting with him, interpreting his tangled, associative way of speaking for the caretakers on staff, and treasuring the times when he was suddenly himself for a minute or two.

One day, about six months before my father died, we were sitting side by side on the slumpy green couch in the TV room. He was relaxed, not agitated or scared as he was so often then.  A new employee walked past us, a wonderful caregiver who had come to the US from Haiti. My father focused on her as she asked him if he would like a glass of water. She waited for him to answer and when he didn't she patted his hand and said she would ask him again later.

As she walked away, Dad gripped my arm hard enough to hurt. "You can't tell anyone," he whispered, then repeated those four words two or three times, looking into my eyes.
"Ok," I answered, "tell them what?"
"That we're part negro. Give me your word."
He was shaking and sweating and I wanted to ask him so many questions but I knew he wouldn't be able answer them. At that stage of his decline, his clear moments were truly just....moments. So I told him it didn't matter anymore, that lots of  families had mixed heritages, that it was common and accepted by most people.
He cried.
My father cried.
And then he thought I was his brother and he asked me if I wanted to go fishing in Oregon come spring. I sat there, feeling light and changed, holding both his hands as I promised to get his tackle box cleaned out soon.

So my family tree is taller and wider than I thought.   I am very thankful for that.


*Adding this later, their children's names:  William Wynne, George Franklin, Andrew Thomas, John Kinser, Ira Walter, Samuel Edward, Joseph Lequire, Rosanah Arty, Lennie Ann, and James Harvey Peery

Friday, July 29, 2011

writing updates #5

I have been writing about my writing, avoiding spoilers, but trying to paint a portrait of the day-to-day oddness that is the core of writing any novel.
I want to thank the kind people who have been waiting for this book for far too long (there are reasons, not interesting ones, for the delay).  

Welcome!!  readers from the Philippines, Germany, Poland, France, Canada, Russia, United Kingdom, USA, Georgia, India, Australia, South Korea,
Latvia,Czech Republic, South Africa,
Hungary, Macedonia, Malaysia, Ukraine, New Zealand, !!  

Hello and thank you!!   I love it when you find me on FB, here, my website:, and twitter @kdueykduey

If you want to read the writing updates in order here are the links:

......Or you can start here and fly on

Olive trees, those ancient, patient trees that watched Rome rise and fall. 
Today's writing will take me back to a place I don't want to go. The characters are real to me, especially now, in the third book of the trilogy...

I wrote most of the chapter yesterday, was amazed at the turn it took, stopped writing and answered fan messages for an hour or two instead of facing what I knew was coming.  Today, NOW, I have to go back.  

The City of Limori has been destroyed by war so many times over the centuries. Wizards and kings, back and forth, the people  swept up into a battle they become convinced is their own.
But it isn't.  It never was.

7 30 2011

This is a Euphorbia. The thorns keep it safe. And if that isn't enough, the milky white sap can burn your skin or blind you. 
I was awake much of last night and slept in until 7:30am-- unusual for me.  I have been sitting at the desk, writing notes from last night's insomnia-blast of revelations. I am just about to start writing for the day, a chapter with Hahp and Gerrard. They have learned to survive the pressure and disorientation of the dark passages they live in, the strange tests they are given. But now, the wizards are gone and everything has stopped. Why?  


The moon and one star. Taken with a shaky handheld camera, the lens madly searching for light. I held my breath and counted to sixteen before the shutter finally snapped.  
I spent a lot of yesterday rereading what I have written so far. I also read first person accounts of coal miners and documents from early American mines that describe the effects of working and living underground--and being trapped there. So now I know that what Hahp said yesterday is true, that what he is feeling is not unusual and what he intends to do is a typical human reaction. And I know now what will happen to him if he manages it... 

8. 5. 2011

I do critiques sometimes and yesterday was full of talking to people about their work.  It's always interesting and always makes me see my own work more clearly. So today I am going back into the dark stone corridors with no idea what will happen, just that I need to be there to record it when it does. 

Silk floss trees would rather be in  South America, but they tolerate California. The thorns are huge, and store water in dry seasons.  They can grow to 60 feet. mine is about 20 feet tall now.

The blooms always surprise me, like they were meant for some other more delicate, more poetic, less thorny tree. I am hoping for unexpected blooms today, for Sadima and Hahp. And Gerrard. Maybe especially for Gerrard.
A bio-green-building in Paris....the windows are  reflecting the trees across the street. Do they talk? The wall-plants and the ground plants--do they discuss flat ground and roots pointing down vs. roots clinging to wire frames filled with soil three stories up and having roots parallel to the ground?
  The grand plan for a foggy Sunday:  Three writing sessions today. First 90 minutes on A Resurrection of Magic #3. Thanks to everyone writing to ask when it will come out. I KNOW it is taking too long, but it is a complicated book and I am writing as fast as I can. It is intensely emotional for me to write--if you have read the books, you know why.  Second session will be two projects I am not talking about yet, still exploring what will come next. Third session back to Limori and book #3. Now, off to DO all that....

8.9 2011
An amazing thing is happening in Limori. Last night, the people in Market Square were stunned into silence, and so was I.  This morning, I will go back and see if I imagined it, if it was an illusion, or real. If it is, I have no idea what will happen to Sadima now, or the boys inside the cliffs. 

This is the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the picture was taken on an night walk.  When the tower was built, it amazed the world, a triumph of art and  steel, built to awe anyone who saw it. 


Did more critiques yesterday, two by Skype.  Critiques in LA: twenty minutes (they have to, the volume of writers is massive) When I do them from home, average time about an hour.  Two more today, later in the day. For now, I am about to sneak onto the green of Limori's Market Square in the middle of the night and see if I can find out who is building this thing. (see below)  And why.

This ceiling is in the United Emirates,  in a hotel that was built to accommodate royal visitors. The gold is really gold. The "opera balconies" are about 40 feet overhead.  Sunlight pours through the high windows.  Somehow, nothing echos, all sounds are hushed. So I was standing in a hotel lobby feeling like a transfixed, rural pilgrim,  staring up at a cathedral/shrine/temple roof in 1429.  Strange and lovely.


This is in Fez Morocco, a family business of leather tanners and dyers. It was amazing to watch them work, moving sheep skins from one basin to anther. . In Sacred Scars it is the tannery where Sadima sometimes goes to sit beneath the nearby trees, protected from interruption by the piercing stench, knowing that both Grrur and Charlie are close, as close as they can be now. 

I thought I knew what Somiss wanted, what he has searched for all this time. And I was wrong. I have three writing sessions planned today interspersed with my usual critiquing, tree trimming, planting, gardening, etc. The deepest insights come when I am outside doing something physical.  This one did, yesterday. I dropped the shovel and ran for my office.



I sort of auto-wrote something last night, right before I shut down to go to bed. I was in that tired, defenseless, fluid/creative state that disconnects writer-support from the character--and they begin to breathe on their own. I think it is the protagonist of the next book talking to me. I hope so. If it isn't, whoever she is, she will get a book out of me
someday.  (or the reverse?)

**added two days later***....below the photo is a short excerpt of what she said to me last night: 

This is an old butter churn.  I used it for years...then stopped spending every second of every day  to  grow and make I could write books. It sits on my kitchen counter, a reminder and an old friend.  The voice that came to me has a butter churn just like this one. But she doesn't use it to make butter--or anything like butter.

The Mystery Voice

“It’s not what you think, this ain’t any thimblerig. I’ve never been afraid of my mother. She’s no help, not ever, but she never hurt me nor Kerf, not once.  It’s just that no one has seen her, not even Grabbat and she wouldn’t dare buy from no one else.  I’ve wished for that. For her going missing, staying gone. I’ve hoped for the day of never again having to help her come up with enough for one of Grabbat’s little blue bags. But Kerf is sick. He needs food and I can’t leave him alone to go work the station crowd. The hat boxes are all empty. I don’t have one single thing left to sell.”


8. 24. 2011

This is Heather Brewer, me, and Ellen Hopkins, in Rochester NY, at a book festival (an AMAZING one) a few months ago. I am including it here because sometimes the weirdness of writing (like any other weirdness) can only be honestly discussed with friends who share it.  So, Yeah. We talked writing!!! And when any of us mentioned hearing voices, the other two just nodded.  

Last night, just a few minutes before I closed up shop, Hahp started talking to me on the screen. And now I understand something in Skin Hunger that had never made sense to me before. I am about to start today's work. Hahp is near the lake, searching that huge dark chamber...he is hoping.  And so am I. 


8. 26. 2011
About to start writing for the day. I kind of dread it this morning because I have come to love Limori and some of the things happening in the city of Limori are happening in my country, right now, too. So I guess even in books people are...people...wary and unfair. 

This is a South American ice cream bean blossom. It's a pretty, rangy, tree with weirdly shaped leaves. New leaves are a deep blood red that changes to vivid green as they grow...Inga edulis is the Latin name. The fruit, which is not really a fruit, is amazing. It took me a long time to try it, I think because the tree itself is so...unfamiliar. 

8.30. 2011
The thing I am wrestling with now is that I have come to love the characters or pity and understand them, or I wish I could help the hard scenes are REALLY hard to write.  I have to write with hope, but I have to record what happens without making it up.  And, yes, I know that sounds silly, but that is how it feels to me. If *I* write this story, it is going to be untrue--probably at least a little sappy with almost everyone surviving and finding some kind of life. And I know that isn't what really happens. It couldn't. 

There are too many isolated, protected, powerful people involved. There are too many descendants of massive wealth in the city of Limori, most of whom harbor old hatreds, old rivalries.  There is so much decadence, extravagant entertainments,exotic foods and a life-long feeling that they deserve to live this way as the step around the beggar children, annoyed at unpleasant smells.  But there is no one with the means to stop it because they also
 pay guards and buy their loyalty. 

I woke up this morning knowing this: There are a lot of desperate poor people in Limori, too, many more poor than rich, as is always and ever the truth.  

This is a teapot, decorated with a bracelet. It sits on a table in South End, in a quiet room waiting for children to arrive. The woman who owns the tea pot is named Theodora Nerak. You haven't met her yet, but you will.