In case you missed in during all the news about who’s fighting who and who’s suing who, Avalon, S.C. was released on August 6th. Available for immediate download from Amazon to your device. And I know–you’ve already read it while I was posting chapters. But reading it like a regular book is a whole different experience. So in case you haven’t done so already, here is the link to buy.
Cover art for my third book has been quite a journey. But I have the finals now, which I’ll share with you after a little of the story.
Last year this time–Thursday, November 1st, 2012–you were waking up a little queasy from a night of excess. Halloween always involves some excess. Taking the kids Trickertreating, sampling their candy, maybe just another little taste. Handing more out every time the doorbell rings, a little extra when the 5-year-old neighbor girl shows up as the most adorable zombie princess ever, and oh why not, I read somewhere that Halloween candy straight out of the bowl has fewer calories. Somebody threw a party–did you know that we spend more on Halloween than any other holiday except Christmas?–and although it was the middle of the freaking week, you had an idea for this really cute costume and so you went and there was fuming punch that had quite a kick.
You stumbled into the kitchen a year ago this morning for a cup of strong coffee, along with a little hair of the dog (2 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups).
How much difference a year can make.
Today is still the day after Halloween, but that’s not nearly as important as it being the day after Samhain. Last night, somewhere off the coast of South Carolina between Beaufort and Charleston, there was an misty island with a fire burning that shouldn’t have been there.
If you’d been in a boat nearby, you could have seen the fire because, on Samhain (not to mention Beltane), the boundaries between our world and the Otherworld are weak. On Samhain, druids used to summon spirits and other creatures from the Otherworld into ours to do their bidding. One thing for certain: you didn’t wander around with a carved gourd or a turnip.
I got the signed contract from Soul Mate Publishing today for Avalon, S.C. And–you’d think this wouldn’t surprise me by now but it always does–the infamous cover art form.
I was SO disappointed to discover that they had removed the “Heroine: facial hair” line on the questionnaire. I think we call all agree that Sabrina doesn’t have any facial hair. I was all ready for that one.
It does still have: HEAT Level: (Erotic, Sensual, Sweet). Hmm, that’s not quite as easy to answer as Strange Bedfellows. What do you think? Certainly doesn’t qualify as erotic, although maybe the Chapter 60 is slightly warmer than Sensual.
But in the end, none of that is really important. I have firmly established myself as an author who prefers OBJECTS to PEOPLE on the cover. Although Rick without a shirt would be a lot more appealing than Walter without a shirt.
But Avalon, S.C. is filled with significant objects. How to choose, how to choose?
- The goddess pendant that George had made for Nimue?
- The brooch, the divining rune, and the 3 Roman coins would make a nice tableau.
- The island itself isn’t strictly an “object,” but it would make a nice background for a cover if done correctly.
- The stones?
- The painting of the pregnant golden-haired woman standing on the beach? Framed, so it would obviously be a painting and not just a knocked-up heroine.
- A bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin, olives, and a shaker? Perhaps sitting on top of a James Bond novel?
- How about a taser and a roll of duct tape?
Accepting feedback and opinions from my blog community. You got most of these images last week, but I’ll add a few more at the bottom for your amusement.
(Note: sorry I’m a day late posting. Yesterday I had a very limited amount of time, and it was a choice of writing or blogging. Which would normally have meant blog, but Sir Kay is hot on the trail of adventure right now. He and Oswald are currently in Tintagel, the fortress where Arthur was conceived and the childhood home of his lady love, the princess Elaine (oldest sister of Morgan and Morgause).
Which they only used, because Duct Tape hadn’t been invented yet. Hey! I just realized I missed a great opportunity. George could have left a roll of duct tape for Nimue back when he was courting her.
We’re almost at the end of Avalon, S.C. Only five chapters to go (and four of them happen on Beltane)! By next Friday (Oct 4th), I’ll have posted it all.
You’ve by and large stopped commenting, which I’m going to assume is because you are so caught up in the story that you can’t think of anything else to add.
So . . . you going to a Beltane party. As George put it in his journal, Beltane is basically an orgy with religious overtones. You definitely don’t want to get out to the island and realize that you’ve forgotten something critical. Maybe we should prepare a checklist of what to take.
Girlfriend’s panties (apparently don’t need those)
___ Boss, but DON’T confuse with girlfriend
___ Paper and pencil to be able to talk to boss’s dad, if needed
Sexy new age consultant (sorry, Chai. Maybe next year)
___ Girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend. Seems like a strange thing to take to the party, but apparently “we” have a plan. Maybe he’s a gift, since he’s so nicely wrapped up in duct tape.
___ Taser, in case of emergency with duct tape.
Thermos of Martinis (nope, we’re going to risk the Beltane punch, although that might turn out to be a really, really bad idea. Particularly considering how Mr. Lust still has a thing for the boss)
___ Alarm clock? Don’t want to oversleep and end up staying on the island!
Camera? Apparently no reason to take a camera; the pictures somehow refuse to turn out. I guess what happens on the island stays on the island.
___ Camping essentials: flashlight, matches (although it’s hard to believe we’ll need those), toothbrush, blanket.
Anything I’ve forgotten?
___ Condoms. Like I said, don’t want to forget something critical.
Tom commented on Chapter 30:
“Interesting dream there. Wonder what that portends. And, why was there not more commentary on it by Rick? Seems a little strange to me that he would have this dream about sacrificing Lacey and then not really be bothered by it.”
I never realized just how large a part dreams play in my novels until I was doing the serious editing pass on Return from Avalon (and Points West). In that book, Arnie dreams almost every night. Whoever or whatever (can’t tell you, because that would spoil the book for you when it comes out any day now) is driving his life uses dreams to communicate. He dreams constantly about his spirit Continue reading
“What’s in a name? That which we call a turd
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
– Willie “the Snake” Spear
Sorry, I’m totally into my new novel where the “I character” is sarcastic, anachronistic, misquotes writers who haven’t even been born yet, etc.
Anyway, now you’ve met “Bessie,” as she was called in the original version. Another warm, fun character. My sister christened her Clarissa; SusanH added “but called “Issa.” So that’s where she is . . . for now.
As promised, you now get a chance to live on in history (or perhaps infamy) by giving her a new name. You did such an outstanding job with Amos/James–a total of 41 names suggested (culling down to 20 was pretty easy; every discard after that was painful)–that I’m delighted to give you another opportunity.
Clarissa was born in 1970, so there are more name options open–although it was still in backwater, S.C., so the distinctive names for black women that were beginning to appear in the cities were still a few years away. “Sassy, but not cute and not too new-fangled,” the name should suggest.
Incidentally, Bess is the soprano star of Porgy and Bess, my favorite Operetta. “Porgy, I’m your woman now” still gives me goose bumps. But still.
Incidentally, Tuesday was the biggest traffic day for this web site (still hasn’t come close to the other one yet–wonder where all those readers disappeared too?). That was the post on the Medicine Wheel. I’m sure that says something, but I’m not going to speculate on what it is.
For some of you , this novel will be your first introduction to the Medicine Wheel. So today I’m going to give you a very brief overview of the Wheel.
Caveats: the Medicine Wheel means different things to different people. So virtually NOTHING that I can say will be true for everyone. To those of you to whom the Wheel is a significant part of your spiritual practice I say, please be open-minded and gentle with me.
WHERE DOES IT COME FROM? The Medicine Wheel, as most of us experience it first, comes from Native American spirituality. There are many very old–even ancient–structures throughout the United States that were built by Native American people, as well as many thousands that are new, constructed by the current owners or users. Here is one of the best known, located at the summit of Medicine Mountain, nearly 10,000 feet above the Bighorn Range in Wyoming. This wheel is 80 feet across and with 28 spokes emanating from a central cairn, and was built by Plains Indians 300-800 years ago. This particular wheel is aligned with the movement of the sun. Other important medicine wheels include one at Moose Mountain in Saskatchewan and one in Majorville, Alberta that is believed to be 5000 years old, making it coeval with the pyramids in Egypt.
Note, however, that similar structures exist in Europe as well, although not nearly as popular as stone circles or standing stones. So it is not a uniquely American invention. The Wheel has also been adopted by Neo-Pagans and other New Age spiritual groups, so it can no longer be considered the unique property of Native Americans.
WHY A WHEEL? The compass points–north, south, east, and west–each have a particular spiritual meaning and are associated with a particular animal (but not the same animal for different tribes and cultures). In addition, the directions are associated with the elements Earth (North), Air (East), Fire (South), and Water (West), with the myriad of images and connotations of those as well.
SO WHAT IS IT FOR? Again, answers depend on the particular spiritual practice of those who built it. For some, it is a sacred locale where the power of the directions and the elements is focused. An outdoor temple, a place to pray or meditate or merely seek peace. To others, “walking the wheel” is an essential part of their practice.
MY FIRST ASSOCIATION WITH A MEDICINE WHEEL came at a retreat center in East Texas called Earthsprings, near Crockett, Texas. I spent 3 days there in solitude, gently guided by Glenda Little Hawk Taylor, one of the wisest women you’ll ever meet. A significant part of my weekend was spent walking a medicine wheel. And even though calling me an “open-minded Norman” is charitable, each time I was rewarded with some revelation or insight. I was the only visitor on the land that weekend, but the center is open for retreats and workshops as well. http://earthsprings.net/wp/
This picture is not from Earthsprings, but is very reminiscent of the Medicine Wheel there. Nothing fancy, but very much a part of the land and the nature around it.Here is an example of a Medicine Wheel built into an herb garden. This is from a beautiful website named World Wide Wheel, and includes instructions on how to walk the wheel. Their URL is:
- Purification before entering sacred space is done through smudging (burning sage, sweet grass, cedar, or tobacco) or using a rattle or drum.
- Centering: Breathe deeply and slowly – allowing thoughts to flow through. Become calm and peaceful. Merge with the balance of nature around you.
- Form an intention for your Medicine Wheel walk: PRAYER, CLARITY, OFFERINGS.
- Offering: a way to give thanks for life, for abundance – for all ones blessings. Given to the 6 directions, take a pinch of tobacco, cornmeal, a strand of hair, etc. – raise the offering to Father Sky, making a prayer of thanks to Creator.
Many tribes believe following the movement of the Sun is the Trail of Life. Walk from East to South – South to West – West to North – and finish the Sacred Circle at the beginning of the east. Envision your own Trail of Life. One offers a prayer at each directional stone and then acknowledges Eye of The Creator, Father Sky and Mother Earth.
- Ending your Ceremony: Think about the ceremony and the energy generated. Ask for the rebirth, clarity, peace, calmness, etc to follow you into your daily life. Give thanks for this process that is already happening. Send this energy out from your body into the space around you…and then become aware of a more beautiful world around you.
You can build a wheel in your backyard, much as George did in the woods behind his house. It only takes a small investment in a few rocks at the nearest landscaping supply store if, like I, you live in a place that has no rocks of its own (you can collect your own rocks on trips and carry them home in your airline baggage, but you’ll end up paying more than if you bought them locally).
One more picture, this of a very picturesque Medicine Wheel overlooking the sea.
The other woman who won’t behave is named Chai Fox. She has two designated roles; 1) Guide into the Mysteries of all that is New Age (a mutual friend recommended her to Rick), and 2) Rick’s Lover for the middle part of the novel. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 17, where Chai first appears.
Chai Fox looked 95% normal when she opened the door. Long colorful print dress set off by a huge pewter and crystal amulet and another couple of coral and turquoise bead necklaces. Long straight dark hair held back with an ornate hair pin that if it wasn’t ivory or bone was a damned good plastic imitation. A single piercing in her nose with a plain emerald or another good imitation; a gold ring in the corner of her right eyebrow. Large earrings featuring feathers. Tattoo on the inside of the ankle but none visible above that. Chai must have been slightly on the wrong side of forty, but the wild get-up made her look young rather than silly.
“Ah, Rick.” She took my hand in both of hers, much more of a caress than a shake. “Tatum told me that you had an open mind and a first class wit, but she didn’t mention the word, ‘charmer.’ Guess I’ll have to get on her about that.”
Up close the distinct smell of patchouli with a gentle hint of orange teased my smell buds. Chai had a spray of freckles across her nose that added a touch of innocence at odds with the rest of an impression that screamed, “No innocence here.”
I stood in her hallway and made the acquaintance of her Shih Tzu Valentino, a prissy, silken prima donna who demanded adoration, while Chai fetched a wrap and her large, colorful woven bag. When she returned to find me cross-legged on the floor with Valentino sprawled across my lap she gushed, “Why, he’s never like this around men. You must have an old soul.”
I peered down at the bottom of my shoe before replying. “No, he must be mistaken. I got these shoes less than a year ago.”
Chai rolled her eyes. “Oh, you. Well, I can’t say I wasn’t warned. About the wit, at least.”
Jay-Lo earned me another eye roll. “Oh, my. A vintage Mustang. I do so appreciate original equipment.” Fortunately, part of Jay-Lo’s original equipment was the bucket seats, sparing my date the decision about whether it was too soon in our relationship to scoot over on the seat.
Chai chatted easily and effortlessly about nothing while we made the ten minute drive to a seafood restaurant on Bay Street. The place was filling up rapidly, but Chai managed to score us a table with a view of the water.
“I’ll have a martini, dear,” she told the waitress. “Bombay Sapphire if you have it. Dry but not bone dry. Please tell me it’s after noon.”
“Make that two.”
“And a martini drinker as well. What was that I said yesterday about destiny?”
“I believe it was, ‘The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time.’ Or wait, maybe that was Winston Churchill.”
Chai shook her head. “I don’t know who said that, but it definitely wasn’t me. I would have said something like, ‘You can make your own bed, or you can make your own destiny, but only the truly great can make their own destiny in bed.’”
“Bravo.” I clapped to show my appreciation.
Chai studied the menu for about a minute before closing it. “Tatum is always badgering me about becoming a vegan, but I swear I don’t see the point. Surely the goddess would not have put prime aged beef on earth if she had not intended for her devotees to savor it.”
“Nor would Prometheus have bothered bringing mankind fire if he knew we were only going to use it to boil water for tea.”
“Well, maybe Chai tea. Chai is a taste that everyone of taste loves to taste.”
I intended for Chai to be a bit of a caricature. A humorous opportunity to accentuate the delightful kookiness that generally comes with people of her bent. She’s also the quintessential cougar, as well as frank and open-minded about sex (it is out of fashion to use the term “loose”).
But Chai is NOT BEHAVING EITHER. Absolutely refusing to be a caricature, and has turned into quite a complex character. She is warm, deep, and knows when not to chatter. I confess to liking her a lot, although I didn’t intend to make her particularly likeable, certainly not to fall for her.
I think part of the complication is that the island of Avalon, S.C. is a lot more complex that I originally saw it, as is Rick’s relationship with the island. True, the mystery of the island (more on that later) is the heart of the novel. But Rick didn’t have a lot of sensitivity, at least in the beginning (he’s growing fast. And so when Rick and Chai went out to visit the island, sparks flew. I intended for her to shamelessly seduce him back at his house; instead, they had a deep (no pun intended), spiritual sexual experience on the island.
So now what? She doesn’t really want the role of Woman-that-ends-up-with-the-hero-in-the-end, but she sure is complicating things for now.
The novel that I’m working on now (and hopefully you’ll be reading in a couple of months) has the working title — which almost certainly won’t be the real title — of Avalon, S.C. The hero, using the word loosely, is a hot-shot reporter (32) who is in a bit of hot water for sleeping with the newspaper owner’s daughter (19). Thoroughly bored with covering high school sports, he answers a want ad and accepts an offer from Adeline Foster (mid 40’s) to investigate what happened to her father, who disappeared 6 years ago. The offer includes staying in her father’s cottage in White Sands, a backwater South Carolina coastal town, population 643.
I grew up in just such a town; more on that later.
Adeline Foster has behaved surprisingly well for a wealthy double divorcee. She was targeted in my outline to “Make a pass?”, but declined. And yes, you heard that right: I have outlined a book for the first time. More on that later as well.
The first woman who won’t behave is Sabrina, a waitress at Peckerwood’s, the only restaurant in town. Her designated role was local color. Here is an extract from the chapter where she first appears (WARNING: this is a first draft, one draft earlier than the one you read in Strange Bedfellows. I don’t do any polishing at all for the first draft, so it’s pretty raw. And probably filled with errors. It’s not necessary to point them out).
Sabrina, 10 years younger and 30 pounds lighter than Darla, flirted with the customers that filled half the tables as she passed out menus and delivered steaming plates. She didn’t even bother to ask what I wanted to drink; she just took one look at my face and poured me a cup of coffee. She also wasn’t wearing a wedding band.
“You must be that guy staying over to George’s old place. Know what you want for breakfast, or you need to see a menu?”
“What do you recommend?”
She closed one eye and pretended to peer out the window. “Looks like a biscuit and sausage gravy kind of morning to me.”
Wow. A woman who poured coffee first and asked questions later and knew exactly what I wanted for breakfast. Maybe she was the one destined to keep me straight. Thought I’d try my hand at the flirting game. “Sounds perfect. Bring me some, and will you marry me?”
“Sure. I’m off Monday if you can wait that long. Or will you have forgotten me by then and gone on to the next girl?”
“Woman, I’ll still remember you a week from Monday.”
While I savored the perfect flakiness of fresh buttermilk biscuits and a cup of coffee much better than I would have made . . .
* * * * *
“Sabrina, where do people shop for groceries around here?”
“Oh, I’ll take care of all that once we’re married, darlin’. But for now, you can get most anything you need at Hanson’s. Selection’s not so hot, but there’s one of everything that’s essential. Otherwise, you go to Beaufort.”
“Bad selection or a bad road. Hmm. I’ll have to ponder on that, beloved. How about getting my TV satellite working?”
“Call George Foster. Man can fix anything. He got my washer working in 20 minutes, didn’t even order a part, charged me twenty bucks for labor and a penny for the paper clip, thought he was taking me to the cleaners.” Sabrina laughed. “Oh, wait. You haven’t found out where he went to yet. Maybe that’s your answer. Put up some billboards, maybe take out a classified ad. ‘TV satellite needs repairing, call anytime, I’m desperate.’ George never could resist a challenge.”
My proposal had of course been sheer tomfoolery, but I was liking this woman more and more all the time. She could banter with the best of them and never missed a beat. “Everything else at his cottage is in tip-top shape. Wonder why the TV doesn’t work?”
“Maybe because nobody bothered to pay the bill and turn it back on?”
“Sabrina, you’re a genius. Can’t wait ‘til Monday; perhaps we should elope. What time you do you get off today?”
“I’ll probably get off about fifteen minutes after we get married, depending on how long it takes you to get me home.” She opened her mouth in a big exaggerated O. “But I got to pick up the kids from mother’s after work. So maybe you should order some fruit to go with your meal. I’m sure we have some . . . cantaloupe.” Another big O.
Holy shit. Rick Whittaker, the fastest wit in the Palmetto State, and I’m no match whatsoever for a peckerwood waitress in small town, South Carolina. I did a couple of half bows before her, acknowledging her as the master of the day.
“OK, one last question. Two, actually. Know anything about a woman George may have been dating named Lacey? And what do you think happened to him?”
“There’s nobody named Lacey around here, and I never saw George with a woman. He was slightly below average on the flirting scale.”
“So where am I?”
“Well, if you’d been less than a solid seven I’d have never agreed to marry you.”
Wow. I felt flattered, and at the same time totally ridiculous that I felt flattered.
“As to where he is, up to now I couldn’t even speculate. But you being a high-power investigative reporter and all, you’ve already found the answer more than likely. He’s with Lacey, that’s my guess.”
Left her a $5 tip, already looking forward to tomorrow. If she does that well with all the guys, she probably lives in a mansion and drives a BMW.
Sabrina immediately charmed me, just like she did Rick. Occupational hazard, I suppose. Almost immediately she expressed her desire to audition for the position of “woman-that-the-hero-ends-up-with-in-the-end.” I don’t really have an issue with that, since the position is currently unfilled. However, there is one major problems: Rick has a short-term interest coming up soon, so Sabrina can’t get in the way of that.
I went to visit my daughter at school just before Christmas, and while I was there I sought her opinion on the topic. Then, I wrote to my writer’s group to ask their opinion. But as I was pointing out some of the options in the email, the answer came to me. Love it when that happens.
So while I’m not totally sure that Sabrina gets the part, her audition has gone well. As long as the other woman who refuses to behave doesn’t get in the way.