A long time gone

I’ve been away from the blog for a long time. I had thought to return with an explanation, but that would involve looking back at a year so awful that in the end I simply gave up on it. I don’t want to look back. What’s gone, is gone. This year is about looking forward, so here are three things that are happening.

dog

We are leaving the little house behind and returning to England, most likely in September. This could be temporary. It could be permanent. We don’t yet know. Our reasons are as varied as the landscape. All anyone needs to know is that it is a good decision, and we are very excited about the next leg of our journey. It looks as though we’ll be staying with a friend until we get ourselves sorted, and from there, our first choice of a new home is Haworth, land of the Brontës. I think village life will suit me after three and half years of rural isolation. I’ll post more about the move closer to its time.

ponies

I have started a new project, one I feel strongly about. Its working title is We Were Always Here, and there is a website to help me keep myself organized through our move. Think of it as cloud storage for my notes, links, and some of my initial research, which right now mostly involves making lists. I won’t be able to do much work on this project until we get ourselves settled in England, but at least its there. It exists, and if you’d like to follow along, there is also a twitter (@wwahsff). I’m going to keep any personal thoughts I have about the project here on erzebet.com. I do have thoughts, and I will share them as soon as I have time to gather them and write them down.

field

My work with Papaveria and Hadean, my writing, my artwork — indeed, my entire creative output — all took a hit last year. A big hit. Yes, we managed to publish a few truly amazing works, and I did get some books bound, and I may have even finished a piece of art and started a few short stories. But overall, too many things that should have been finished were not. Part of this was because I had to make the switch from almost twenty years of working on a Mac to suddenly working on Windows, something I’ve still not come to terms with. Part of this was because my mother died last year, right after the Mac packed in, and right after that, my oldest daughter began a nine-month stint in prison. Now you know some of why I don’t want to look back at that year. Some. I don’t think I’ve ever been as shut down as I was in 2014.

This year, I am finding my voice again.

Scientifiction

“Scientifiction goes out into the remote vistas of the universe, where there is still mystery and so still beauty. For that reason scientifiction seems to me to be the true literature of the future.

“The danger that may lie before AMAZING STORIES is that of becoming too scientific and not sufficiently literary. It is yet too early to be sure, but not too early for a warning to be issued amicably and frankly.”

Mr. G. Peyton Wertenbaker, author of “The Man from the Atom”, taken from “Fiction Versus Facts” by Hugo Gernsback in AMAZING STORIES No. 4, July 1926.

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A special offer from Papaveria Press

Goss Collections

On June 30 Papaveria Press will officially announce the release of the much-anticipated Songs for Ophelia, a remarkable collection of eighty poems by award-winning author Theodora Goss, with an introduction by Catheynne M. Valente. This collection will be released with a companion volume of Dora’s In the Forest of Forgetting, originally published in 2006, with an introduction by Terri Windling. This matching set has cover art by the amazing Virginia Lee.

If you visit the Papaveria website, you’ll see that we’re offering a pre-order discount if you buy both books directly from the publisher.
(Offer is no longer available.)

Now, I know that a good many people prefer to shop on Amazon. Free shipping and fast delivery are excellent draws and I, as a tiny independent press, cannot match that. But I do depend very much on direct sales, so if you are a patient person, then this offer is for you.

Speaking in Pearls by Jane Yolen

You will also find books on the Papaveria website that you won’t find anywhere else online. You can see the other editions that are available here. Most prices are in USD to make things easier for my American customers. Come buy! Or if you can’t buy, then please help spread the word about this special offer.

Thank you!

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Garden: word to the wise

If the soil in your garden is clay, do not wait until the sun has shone on it for two weeks to dig a vegetable bed. Also, pay no attention to those people who say you should never work with wet clay soil. As I’ve learned, it’s the only time you CAN work with it. Yeesh.

(Note for future me: heat fires clay. You knew that.)

little lizard

Here’s a lizard I rescued from a water bucket. I thought he was a goner, but he perked up after a moment in the sun and scampered off (after posing for a photo). That’s it. That’s all I’ve got. It’s crunch-time with work and I didn’t schedule posts for this week (or last week, oops) so we’ll see how much, if any, blogging I can manage.

There’s also that thing where the more that grows in the garden, the more I want to grow, or maybe it’s the more I do grow, which means this is the season to question everything. To blog or not to blog? To care or not to care? I said I would, and I will, but I’m not sure my current blogging format is working out for me. We’ll see how we get on as the season passes.

Garden: nature close up

No garden last week. All I did was pull up some grass, fuss over the seedlings, and watch some gladdies pop up in places I’d forgotten I’d put them. Dis, however, took it upon himself to show me how to use the macros on our camera. The first two photos are his, and the last two are mine. I love shots like this. I love the little details. I love the intricacies of the natural world.

dandelion

stag

violet

wildflowers

Elsa’s Diary

Fifteen weeks I’ve lived here. The grass in Callan’s field is almost over my head. Maman says the farmer will cut it soon. Until then, we’ll play hide and seek.

in the tall grass

And go for long walks. I like those best.

on the path

Wildcard: three links, three insights

Three links caught my eye this week. The first was You’re Not As Busy As You Say You Are, which caused the immediate reaction of Oh, really? But I read the article and in the end I did find some things of interest, such as the idea of ‘contaminated time':

To be deep in the overwhelm requires not just doing too many things in one 24-hour period but doing so many different kinds of things that they all blend into each other and a day has no sense of distinct phases. Researchers call it “contaminated time,” and apparently women are more susceptible to it than men, because they have a harder time shutting down the tape that runs in their heads about what needs to get done that day.

How about the tape that runs about what needs to get done this year? This month? Are you a list-writer? I sure am. My lists get buried under lists, and yet I still think I need to keep all of that stuff in my head, all the time. Garden lists, shopping lists, work lists, critter lists… Do you wear busy like a badge?

The art of busyness is to convey genuine alarm at the pace of your life and a helpless resignation, as if someone else is setting the clock, and yet simultaneously make it clear that you are completely on top of your game. These are not exactly humble brags. They are more like fretful brags, and they are increasingly becoming the idiom of our age.

I thought maybe sometimes I do wear my busy like a badge, even though I certainly don’t mean to. But here is where it really hit home for me:

Busyness is a virtue, so people are terrified of hearing they may have empty time, as Tim Kreider wrote in “The ‘Busy’ Trap.” It’s the equivalent of being told that you’re redundant or obsolete.

In the age of the internet, if we aren’t out there all the time, on Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr or take your pick, as far as the online world is concerned, we are obsolete. Poof! Gone. It’s a funny old world. Maybe this has played a part in our love affair with overwhelm. I’m going to start boasting about the long, slow days, the days in the garden, the hours daydreaming, long walks with the dog. I’m going to make sure I have those kinds of days and appreciate them when I do.

The next article that caught my attention was A Personalized Approach to Productivity — one for the writers among us.

This is the kind of advice often given to writers: early morning writing hours, daily word or page counts, stringent deadlines. It reminds me of nothing so much as the myriad diets I’ve been on over the years: the enforced exercise, obsessive point or calorie counting, weekly weight goals.

We all know what happens with most diets: we fail at them. And as we fail, we feel even worse about ourselves than we did when we began.

This is such a healthy article I couldn’t help but share it. There are so many articles on the internet about how a writer should work: Ten Habits of Geniuses; One Hundred Rules of Writing; Sit Down and Write; The Daily Routines of Famous Writers; etc. What about how each individual writer should work? Never mind what Hemingway did. What works best for you?

One of the reasons it took me seven years to write my last novel, for example, is because of a number of catastrophic events: my mother’s house was destroyed in a hurricane, several people I loved died, I had some health issues to fight through. During those times, my self-opinion was pretty low. I called myself every name I mentioned earlier in this post. But I can see it now for what it was: I was overwhelmed and barely holding it together enough to keep my paying jobs. I think it’s okay that I didn’t get much writing done during that time. I’d love to be a sacred vessel for my art, unperturbed by mundane afflictions, but I’m not. I’m human. And while my humanity is vital to my work, it also sometimes makes it impossible to get it done.

The Two Fridas, 1939 by Frida Kahlo

The Two Fridas, 1939, by Frida Kahlo

The last article isn’t the kind of thing I normally read: 30 questions to ask yourself before you die. I’ve spent a lifetime asking myself questions — it gets exhausting after a while — but if we stop questioning, then what? I’d rather be exhausted than bored.

Grab your journal. Turn this into a self-inquiry practice. You will be surprised at all the subterranean world that comes out of you.

To live a creative life is to be full of questions, and it is to dig deep within ourselves for answers that may never come. The artist has to know how she sees the world before she can paint that world on a canvas. The writer has to know what lies in the deep recesses of the heart before she can create a living, breathing character. The musician has to know what sound sings of joy and sorrow. This particular set of questions is well-matched to those of us on a creative journey.

My epitaph shall read: send chocolate.

Studio: Songs for Ophelia by Theodora Goss

In the studio this week I’m mostly here at the computer (but still not online very much), working on this wonderful collection of poetry by Theodora Goss. It seems fair to add this and the other books I will talk about to the ‘Books I Love’ category as well as the ‘In the Studio’ category. I’m allowed to love the books I publish, right? I’d better be, otherwise what’s the point? I am certainly allowed to love books I haven’t.

Songs for Ophelia by Theodora Goss

Working with Dora has been a real pleasure. She is understanding of my delays and, best of all, she appreciates that when it comes to prepping a book for publication, I tend to work backwards. I always work backwards when it’s poetry. I layout the books first, before I edit a word, because it’s much easier for me to get a sense of flow (and to spot typos) when the work is there on the page, just as it will be in print. How poetry looks on the page matters. How anything looks on the page matters, of course, but poetry in particular should not be impeded by its layout.

Working with Dora’s poetry has also been a pleasure. She has arranged the poems by seasons: Spring Songs; Summer Songs; Autumn Songs; Winter Songs. Here is a sample of one of the season’s title pages:

Summer Songs

Songs for Ophelia by Theodora GossIf you follow Dora on Facebook, you’ll have been treated to some samples of the poems being published in Songs for Ophelia. What I will tell you here is that the collection is full of witches, willows, wizards, swans and ravens and bears and naiads and nightmoths and much, much more. In the Forest of Forgetting by Theodora GossWe will be releasing Songs for Ophelia as part of a matched set of books, the other being the reprint of In the Forest of Forgetting. You’ll be able to buy them individually, too. The idea was that the two together would look spectacular on a shelf, and they will, especially with their covers graced by these images by artist Virginia Lee.

Now let me mention one other book by Dora, one that appeals to me both as a reader and as a book artist. The Thorn and the Blossom is an accordion book as well as a being a sort of variant of the tête-bêche style of binding. Here is the blurb for The Thorn and the Blossom:

One enchanting romance. Two lovers keeping secrets. And a uniquely crafted book that binds their stories forever.

When Evelyn Morgan walked into the village bookstore, she didn’t know she would meet the love of her life. When Brendan Thorne handed her a medieval romance, he didn’t know it would change the course of his future. It was almost as if they were the cursed lovers in the old book itself . . .

The Thorn and the Blossom is a remarkable literary artifact: You can open the book in either direction to decide whether you’ll first read Brendan’s, or Evelyn’s account of the mysterious love affair. Choose a side, read it like a regular novel—and when you get to the end, you’ll find yourself at a whole new beginning.

The Thorn and the Blossom

What’s not to love about this?

We don’t yet have an official release date for Songs for Ophelia as we’re still waiting for some things to come in, but I’m aiming for June (and that’s not an April Fool’s joke — I mean it!). We’ll also release this as an ebook for those of you who prefer digital editions. I’ll post more information here as I have it.