Home for Wayward Writers, the Observatory

My nerves flutter as I pull open the door. Anticipation for what this week will bring feels like butterfly wings against my composure. Even so I smile as I enter.

The room is empty and the windows are dark. The fireplace gives the only light, a soft orange that dances intimately across endless book spines and titles. The stone floor is cold beneath my bare feet.

Bare feet? I look down and see that I’m wearing a black dress with no sleeves, and no shoes. The hem whispers against my ankles. A low fog floats in gentle currents close to the floor. I track the movement with my eyes.

There’s a door in the left wall that wasn’t there last week. It stands open to the night beyond. The ghost of a smile that rests on my lips gets deeper. Someone has been busy.

I move toward the door without a second thought. The fog swallows any sound of my steps and beckons me forward. The hush is bigger than that, though. It envelopes the whole space like a spell.

On the other side of the door is a huge expanse of grass, shadowy green and dewey against my skin. Before me a tower reaches high into the night sky. Stars glitter in the vastness above, in the absence of artificial light. A crescent moon hangs close to the horizon, only a few nights past new.

I gravitate toward the tower, which I believe is the point. An arched door waits silently, the word “Observatory” shining in silver letters despite the lack of a light source. I brush a reverent touch over the letters. I have not seen this place in a long time.

I let my gaze scan upward over moss-covered stone. From this angle it’s impossible to say how tall the tower is. Hinges creak as the door slowly opens beneath my touch. I press forward.

Inside it’s warm. There’s just enough light to see the staircase that spirals upward along the wall. I look down and see that the fog has trailed me.

I push up the stairs, gathering my skirt in my hands so I don’t trip on it. The air here is thick, tangible like velvet, and moving only when I cut through it. My hair hangs heavy around my shoulders. The curls come alive in the humidity.

At the top of the stairs the space opens to one large room. A balcony wraps the outside, accessible by open archways. A breeze tousles my hair and tickles my face. In the center of the room waits a silver basin on a stand. When I was here before the scene was different, brighter and alive with a collective energy of writers who had found a common place. Now it is inky and unlit.

I stare at the water in the bowl, as black as the night is. I dip my finger in and a gold luminescence ripples across the surface. I walk to the wall and trace the word “Capricorn” in cursive with my fingertip. A pale glow marks the track of my touch. It starts as a dull hint of light that gets brighter, then flashes when I finish the word.

“You remember,” a voice like the darkness says. I can feel the words rumble in my core and my exposed skin thrills.

“It was the first prompt you ever gave me, the first time your words were written. It’s fitting to write it now, don’t you think?” I say without turning to him.

I hear a rustle and he steps up beside me to study the word. He stretches out his arm, his hand open, palm facing the wall. The letters’ light gets brighter.

“It’s perfect,” he answers. I can hear the smirk in his tone and I don’t miss the echo of my words to him last week.

My gaze maps a course from his hand up his arm, over his robe, to his face. His silver-green eyes shine as brightly as the letters on the wall and, I see now, the water in the basin. His lips are hooked up at one corner. His dark curls fall in tight coils that beg me to bury both hands in them. He doesn’t return my attention.

“What do you say, Muse? Do you have a word of inspiration for our writers?” I ask.

“More than a word,” he says.

He turns away from the wall still without looking at me. He sweeps over to the scrying basin and holds his open hand above the surface of the water. He steadily lifts that hand, pulling up an image of the same crescent moon that graces the sky outside.

“Writers, this week my task for you is to write a scene that occurs by the light of the moon. You may choose existing characters or create some for this exercise. Regardless of the action you choose to drive the scene, the lighting should be a main factor. Focus on your environment. I want you to pay close attention to how the light affects your characters – what they see, what they might miss, where the shadows play. You may choose to write a fight scene, or something quite the opposite.”

Now he cuts his eyes to me with a wicked smile.

“You could write a simple conversation, or an introspective moment for a single character. Whatever you choose should be outside at night. You may even decide what phase the moon is in.”

He moves his hand from above the image of the moon to below it, so that it seems to sit upon his palm. The room gets suddenly bright. For a moment the walls are covered in shining, scrawling script. Just as quickly the words are gone, save the one I wrote.

When I look back to the basin, I expect him to be gone. He’s not. He’s watching me over the gleam of his crystal ball, which casts shadows that don’t quite hide that naughty smile. He says, “Happy writing.”

Home for Wayward Writers Grand Opening

I draw in a long breath in attempt to squash the nerves that are fluttering around in my stomach. No use in doubting myself now, I’ve already bought the place. I look down at the curling skeleton key in my right hand then back to the big, wooden door in front of me. First things first.

I reach my left hand forward and gently press my fingertips against the door’s surface. The wood ripples and writhes beneath my touch, then distorts. I watch lines come into focus and connect. I feel ridges rise, other areas sinking simultaneously, until it all comes together into a carving of an open book. Golden script etches itself above the book’s pages.

“Home for Wayward Writers.”

Can I really do this? Can I create a nook in the universe for others like me? Can I carry the banner for a while?

The key goes hot in my hand. The lock on the door flashes. My fingers release the key and it floats into the keyhole on its own. It turns with a resounding clunk. The door swings open. I step inside.

My feet drag to a halt just on the other side of the threshold, my breath catching in my throat. Huge windows let in long rays slanting across the large space. Every wall is lined with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. Two ornate staircases on either end of the room lead to a second floor where more bookshelves silently wait for curious eyes. Throughout the bottom floor are tables for writing and overstuffed armchairs for reading. There’s a fireplace on the back wall, mysteriously already lit.

“What did you expect when you accepted so much?”

The voice is a silky bass and suddenly right beside me.

“It’s perfect,” I answer, my voice barely more than a whisper.

I slide my attention left to him. He is a tall and slender muse with ebony curls that fall around his shoulders. He has an olive complexion and a timeless face. I can’t see his eyes but I know they are pale green and silver. He wears a black wizard robe that absorbs the light that touches it. Somewhere in those folds is a crystal ball. He’s a character who has been with me for a long time.

“I did, at least, expect you. You’re going to help me,” I say.

The corner of his lips hook upward. His curls shiver. Finally he looks at me.

“I have been waiting a long time for you to write me again,” he says.

The words send chills across my skin.

“It has been a long time for us both. Maybe you should give the first prompt, then,” I say, lifting an eyebrow.

He slowly shakes his head and his smirk turns into something more impish. He says, “The day is not my domain.”

Ah, yes. How could I forget? His crystal ball glows with the moon’s light.

“Of course, you’re right. Not everyone is here,” I say.

I lift my right hand, palm facing up. An old metal oil lamp appears there, its surface black and its spout long. I rub the side of it.

Smoke rolls from the end of the lamp to coalesce at my right side. I watch it take form, wavy hair that glints red, eyes that burn with amber light, smooth brown skin of a bare upper body. White linen pants hang dangerously low. He wears black metal bracers.

He looks around for a moment. Then his gaze goes to the muse then to me. He smiles like a late-summer sunset.

“It needs a bedroom, but it will do,” he says.

It’s my turn to smile. I say, “All in time. I imagine there will be quite a few additions. For now why don’t you get us started.”

“My pleasure,” he says like a wolf. “Writers, for your first task I bid thee consider what home means to you. This could be a chance to explore a character’s history. How has this character’s background shaped his or her definition of home? You could also use this prompt more personally. What is that makes somewhere home for you? Is there a person who influenced how you feel now? Has this concept changed for you? Respond in whatever format you’d like, story, memoir, poetry. Anything goes. Good luck and happy writing.”

“Well done, Genie,” I say with a smile.

“It’s good to be back in action,” he says, his lips forming a sly smirk.

“Indeed. Welcome home, boys,”

Rainy Day Thoughts

As a writer it’s easy to get discouraged. Too often I think about how it took me twelve years to complete what I thought was the end of my Order of Crows series, and finally be working on publishing the sequel to Cadillac Payback. It’s all a matter of perspective. Rather than thinking about how it took so long to accomplish what seems like a small thing when weighed against mainstream authors who somehow crank out a book every year, what about the fact that in twelve years I have written five books. Just because four of those books aren’t published yet doesn’t downplay that I did it.

If you have a dream, I urge you to keep doing it. Don’t give up because you think it’s taking too long. Genius takes time. Talent is built and honed, not something that comes naturally. Don’t rush your process because mainstream media say you have to produce on a schedule. Don’t give up. One day you may be wondering why it’s taken so long to get where you are. The next day maybe you’ll realize what you have already accomplished is no easy task. Be proud of yourself, and keep looking forward.

Now, did you catch the hint up there in that first paragraph? “What I thought was the end of the Order of Crows series.” It’s not.

Carry on.

Cadillac Payback Playlist

Do you ever wonder if an author was listening to music when he or she was writing? If a book became a movie, do you think about what might be on the soundtrack? I do. For me, music is an integral part of writing. Certain songs just fit the mood perfectly, or maybe the lyrics hit close to home for some characters. Today I’ve decided to share a playlist of songs that influenced the writing process for Cadillac Payback.

  1. Long Snake Moan – PJ Harvey
  2. Dirtywhirl – TV on the Radio
  3. Come With Me Now – Kongos
  4. Fortunate Son – Creedance Clearwater Revival
  5. Four Rusted Horses – Marilyn Manson
  6. When the Saints Go Marching In – Louis Armstrong
  7. Texas Flood – Stevie Ray Vaughn
  8. Blackwater – JJ Grey and Mofro
  9. Go Back Home – Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir
  10. Poison Trees – The Devil Makes Three
  11. Down to Rest – O Death
  12. Magic Blood – Man Man
  13. The Good Times are Killing Me – Modest Mouse

Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLSgJKLWWisA-eTfP_-RcWeOhxAfZj6N7R

Hello, World

Eventually, the roads converge.

When I was young, I wanted to write. I moved through my world with that always as an end goal. I wanted to write, and I did. I always had a project or two that I was working on, quietly, of course. Sharing my words was a terrifying prospect.

I remember back in school, when they told us we had to choose a career path and figure out what we wanted to be when we grew up. I cycled through ideas and dreams, thought about physical therapy or being a translator. In college I switched majors from international affairs to journalism. I thought I would go into event coordinating and promotion. All the while, I was writing.

Somewhere in young adulthood, I found an online writing community. For the first time, I was not only writing, but other people were reading my words. It was that fateful turn of events that made me realize that there is another goal, a step farther than just creating worlds and characters. What point is there in creating if nobody ever sees it? In all my years of searching for what I would be when I grew up, I never considered it would be what I’ve always been: a writer.

So here I am, world. I’m a writer. And I’m here to share my worlds, my heroes and villains, my words. About five years ago, I self-published one of the first legitimate novels I started (some twelve or so years ago). Admittedly, I didn’t work much toward promotion and networking, and all the other hard parts of being an independent author. It’s time.

My debut novel “Cadillac Payback” is currently getting a little rejuvenation, and a second edition will soon be available. I am most excited to announce that the Caddy crew also gave me a sequel. I am extremely proud of this book, and I can hardly wait to share it with the world.

I think I should take a moment to say thank you to everyone who has walked this road with me. I’ve had an incredible roster of helping hands and encouragement along the way. I can only hope that eventually I’ll make you all proud of me, too.

This time, I’m doing the damn thing.