Saturday, July 30, 2011

on beauty that made me laugh in delight

Strange, wonderful world. Every day is a surprise lately. I'm changing things in my life, and everyone reacts in surprising ways to my news. With much more grace than I expected. And this is such a beautiful, beautiful world. Of that I'm more sure every day too.

Drove through what they call the "Texas Hill Country" today--this area in the center of Texas that has these wild shrubby hills, and around every corner, another breathtaking vista. Seriously, I'd round another bend and put my hand to the windshield wanting to touch the beauty in some tangible way. And then I'd take a deep breath in like the beauty was filling up my lungs. I was breathing in peace and the powerful beauty of nature that makes everything in life seem less dramatic or worrisome.

Then stopped at Canyon Lake, hiked down the hillside to the lake and sat on a rock until the sun came out from behind a big cloud and started sizzling my skin. Watched the beautiful child play at the waterside, then traversed back up the hill, my heart pounding from the foreign exertion, so delighted even as I was heaving in in and out because I've found a medication that finally helps my chronic health condition. I collapsed on my back at the top of the hill under a shade tree and laughed.

I'm moving away from Texas in a couple weeks. Don't know if I'll take another drive through the hill country. Makes it all that much more sweet. Today was a gift.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

On Mohawks & Meditation

So I was watching So You Think You Can Dance (dumb name for the show, but gorgeous dancing!) on hulu last night, and every week I'm just totally crushing on Sasha's hair! She's not my favorite dancer, but she does have my favorite hair ;)

Not to mention she's just so goddamned FIERCE! Look at those arm muscles! Sorry, I digress :)

I recently chopped off most of my hair and have attempted tiny little faux-hawks, but I wanted to do a little more with it. Now, I highly doubt I would look good with the sides of my head actually SHAVED, so I just went across the sides with a 1 inch guard. And the results are awesome! I don't look like a mushroom-head anymore, and this is something I've never done before with my hair (which, you know, is rare for me since I love me my crazy styles!)

My hair lately has become symbolic to me (see also Hair as Metaphor post). It's a symbol of change, and quite simply, a symbol of freedom to me. Looking in the mirror reminds me of the inner and outer changes I'm making in my life. Even just swishing my neck back and forth without the weight of hair makes me feel liberated, like I've suddenly become taller, my neck elongated like a gazelle.
I'm also working to teach myself to be more aware of the world around me, to really experience and take in the sensory data of the present moment. And alternately, trying to let go of those things I can't control, those things in the future that I used to obsess about. This also is liberating. Taking the world as it comes, living in the present instead having my head worrying about three hours or three weeks or three years from  now.

It's such a beautiful, beautiful world. It's as if I have new eyes to see it lately.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Girl in the Steel Corset REVIEW

So I've been raving all over the place about how much I loved The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross and thought I'd give it a proper review :)

This novel reinforces my love of this steampunk wave that's hitting YA. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare was one of my favorite reads last year, and this series by Kady Cross has started off just as delightfully and well deserves the comparison.

The part of the book that sticks with me most is the way Finley has to work to bring the two divided parts of her personality, light and dark, into harmony. This is just such a powerful metaphor! Like Darth Vader or Ged from LeGuin's The Wizard of Earthsea, peace is only achieved when balance is attained--neither dark or light can be entirely ignored or sublimated. Instead, both are embraced. So beautifully done by Cross in this novel. It will leave you thinking long after you finish the book.

And the second aspect that cinched the awesomeness of this novel? Perfectly timed romance and plenty of butt-kicking action! Strong heroines FTW!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Writer's Dilemma: Mediating Vs. Participating In A Moment

So, part of being a writer is CONSTANTLY WRITING, EVEN IN YOUR HEAD!! A few days ago a rain-storm blew in (a rarity in a drought-ridden Texas, a veritable magical moment), and I stood outside, feeling the alternately hot and cold winds blowing my hair back, and then the tiny rain droplets driving against my skin, my eyebrows, my lips, my forearms... and immediately, even IN the moment, I wanted to be writing ABOUT the moment!!!
Now, this can go two ways. #1: You can miss participating in the moment because you are too busy analysing and dissecting what is going on. This can separate you from inhabiting the moment and simply experiencing sensation. Writing becomes a form of mediating the present, separating you from it and isolating you.

Or #2: (and what I think this moment with the rain storm was): The words streaming in your head become another facet of participating and being fully alive in the moment. It's not just experiencing sensation, it's the simultaneous desire to express and communicate the sensations. I believe this can enrich the moment without separating you from it.

Does this sound like a small distinction? Maybe. But it's an important one to me. At least as I walk in this world, trying to fully PARTICIPATE in my own life instead of glossing over or over-judging moments to the extent I forget to live them.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The World Breaks Open

Yesterday was quite horrible, but today surprisingly peaceful. Things, they do expand, and hopefully, holding to beauty and integrity will count for something. Here's hoping, raising my wine glass to toast bright life in all its strange manifestations. I hope all my dear readers will pardon my emo and ambiguous tendencies lately ;) I write in riddles and metaphor what I cannot quite yet speak out loud.

Joseph Campbell, my beautiful guide in times of uncertainty, writes:

The sublime in contrast to beauty? That which is beauty does not threaten you. Even the terror of tragedy is not as threatening as something that blows you to pieces.

Have you experienced that? A moment that blows you to pieces? Those moments enlargen us, make that wild thing caught inside our ribcage expand beyond the confines of skin. "The world breaks open" Campbell writes further.

Yes, yes, yes.

The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.

This is a profound thought.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Life got ya down? Read a book!

I hadn't read a book in two months before yesterday. I've always been an avid reader, so this was quite strange for me, symptomatic of other difficult life things going on. But I started reading yesterday afternoon and haven't stopped yet. I'm on my third book, and after having no desire to read for so long, it feels like a rush of energy and life. And each of the books I'm reading is so GOOD!! Look for some glowing reviews to come! Each of these are Advanced Readers Copies, coming out later this year, except for The Girl In The Steel Corset, on shelves now!

Drink Slay Love. by Sarah Beth Durst. This book is as wonderfully tongue in cheek as the title suggests, delightfully self-mocking the vampire lit genre it participates in while also providing such a great, well-told story. Pearl's journey of awakening to having a soul works well along-side the humor--the story was fun as well as poignant.
 Goliath by Scott Westerfeld. The master of storytelling at work again! Seriously, I said it of the first two books in the series and I say it again: reading Westerfeld is like taking a master class in good storytelling. The steampunk world he creates is SO intricate, SO complex, and SO perfectly executed. Alex and Deryn's story comes to an exciting climax in this end of the trilogy!!!
Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross. Also steampunk, but of a completely different variety than the one above. This has a delicious paranormal flavor. I'm only about 5 chapters in, but I can already tell from the break-neck pace of the beginning, excellent characterization, and already-intriguing romance, that I'm going to love this book :)

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Dark, Dark Forest

Thinking about hero journey's lately. For my book, and you know... life. Though I feel decidedly unheroic lately, some of Joseph Campbell's (the popularizer of The Hero's Journey idea) stuff lingers in my mind, for my fiction and who knows what else.

He writes: When you cross the threshold, you are passing into the dark forest, taking a plunge into the sea, embarking upon the night sea journey. It involves passing through clashing rocks, narrow gates, or the like... You may be dismembered, lose everything you have...As you now go towards the center, there will come more aids, as well as increasingly difficult trials. You have to give up more and more of what you're hanging on to. The final thing is a total giving up, a yielding all the's a move into a field of action of which you know nothing. Anything can happen, and it may be favorable or unfavorable.

Let's talk about characters and the hypothetical, a far more comfortable place of metaphor (fiction and metaphor are what we have after all, when we cannot speak directly. It's why fiction began, to touch on truths we otherwise cannot pronounce or get across our tongue). I think of Hansel and Gretel, walking into that dark forest, getting lost, stumbling upon what they think is a haven that turns into a house of horrors. I think of Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown and the dark, dark forest that will imprint him for life. So many dark forests in fiction, lush with lostness.

Funnily enough, there are forests in my fiction, and they do not bode well for my heroine :) Oh, the cyclical stories that we eat up and repeat unconsciously, the "sea of stories" which we enter into and repeat and repeat and draw and recreate meaning from.

I have no conclusions. I pass from uncertainty to uncertainty. My compass is broken. I forage for food and seek nourishment. Day to day, until the light filters down through the leaves and eventually, I know again where is the solid ground.

Oh so many gorgeous covers!!!!

There has been a rush of gorgeous cover reveals lately, ones that I just want to stare and stare and stare at. 2012 is going to be a beautiful year on the bookshelves!! I'm so overjoyed for my fellow writers and so excited to devour each one of these books as soon as I can get my hands on them!!!  Click on each cover to go to the Goodreads page for the book!




Wednesday, July 13, 2011

New Tattoos!

So I realized, crazy of crazy, I hadn't yet posted on my blog pics of my lovely new ink!!! I got my advance check recently, and my first stop was the tattoo parlour, natch ;)  I finished up my half-sleeve (that turned mid-way through into a 3/4th sleeve), gorgeous roses and lilies down my arm and up onto my shoulder and back. And, with no further ado, voila! [uh, yeah, these angles are a little awkward, so lemme explain: 1) inner arm 2) back-ish view 3) front and inner arm again]

Yes, I am in love with my new lilies :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Giveaway! Win a copy of DEAD BEAUTIFUL, SHADE and an ARC of VARIANT!!

I just hit some follower milestones on here and Twitter, which means it's time to spread the love with GIVEAWAYS!! I'm clearing out my bookshelf before I move. I enjoyed each of these books SO MUCH and am happy to share these amazing reads with you all!

Up for grabs, one lucky follower will win all three: an Advanced Reader Copy of VARIANT by Robison Wells, due out October this year from HarperTeen, DEAD BEAUTIFUL byYvonne Woon, and  an old ARC softcover of SHADE by Jeri Smith-Ready!!!

Just comment below with your name, email, and count up your entries by adding up the below:
+2 for new blog followers
+3 for old blog followers
+2 for re-tweeting (include twitter name please)
+3 for blogging about the giveaway (include url please)

Monday, July 11, 2011

WORD WAR: How Twitter Can Help AVOID Procrastination!!!

So upon entering into the nifty Twitter world after I got my book deal, I've made a bunch new writer friends, figured out what a hashtag is (and also since walk around hashtagging my REAL LIFE, making a hashtag sign with my fingers like they used to do with air quotes!), and last, but not least, learned about #wordwar.
I don't know what brilliant writer person fighting procrastination came up with this idea, but I could kiss them. How it works: word wars occur when someone declares one on Twitter, and other people chime in using the #wordwar hashtag to see who can write the most words in an hour. I've only done it a few times, but it always creates exponential word count. I write more in that hour than I do entire DAYS other times.

It's not about the contest part of it, not really. It's just this wild community activity--you know that AT THAT MOMENT you and writers across the country, even the world sometimes, are all writing together. And you can't stop and crap around on Facebook or refresh your email for the billionth time that day. You just write, and the hour slowly passes and the page & word count grow and you just. keep. writing.

And that, my friends, is how I finished my first draft of Book 2 today. The fabulous Bree Despain called for several wordwars today, and after two of them, I'd written 3,000+ words and wrote through the end of the book! Very Exciting Things!!!

So there you have it. Twitter not only helping AVOID procrastination, but also AMPING UP PRODUCTIVITY. If I was hashtagging this blog post, it would be: #awesomethingspeopleusetheinternetfor

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Big Brother Brain: I'm my Own Thought Police

Lately self-reflection has made me realize many things about myself. Not all of which I can even put into words, but one thing in particular I realized is my tendency to self-police--not just my behavior, but even my thoughts. There is this Bible verse that I seriously internalized as a teenager: "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Taking captive every thought? Determining if it is good or bad? Check. You see, in spite of what one might think upon my crazy punky exterior, I'm highly conservative in my behavior. I was always The Good Girl. There were lines, and I stayed inside them, boundaries, and I stayed far within. What I believed for a long while was religious zeal was in actuality a serious self-discipline that I internalized early. Any "bad" thought, I captured and buried.

Which I've realized lately has stunted my freedom and expansion of thought. I couldn't be free and consider all possibilities, even for a moment! Safety first, toe the line, behave!!! It's been such a practiced internal response to "dangerous" thoughts that I still find it difficult to break, even though I'm aware of it now. But I know that not doing so leads to repression and bottling up everything inside me until it erupts. And that, in the end, leads to unkindness--both to myself and to others.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Hair as Metaphor

I cut a bag-full of hair off my head this week when I was on retreat. Bought scissors at the store and started hacking (fear not, I've cut my own hair for years now, it's not that crazy!). Literally a bag full:

It was well several inches past my shoulder. First I just cut it to my jawline. But I could still feel it's weight on me. So then I cut it shorter. Still, it was on me. So then I took the scissors and did some serious hair-slaying.

You see, my hair has always been metaphor to me, I think, a way of expression other than writing or speaking or dancing. At times deep in my chronic illness in the past, it was the only voice I had available to me. Now I speak and express in many ways, but my hair is still always a way to show on the outside what is going on on the inside.

My hair has been speaking loudly over the past couple months even though I wasn't paying attention. But that was the problem. I wasn't paying attention. I was asleep. I mean, I bleached the front half of it to re-dye the pink and blue, but then just never bothered to finish the process. Not because it looked good. I walked around w/ yellow hair for a month, putting it a ponytail or a bun or ANYTHING to get it freaking OFF me. It was a hassle, not expression. And I found myself hating it. Every heavy ounce of it that I had to wrestle each morning and still feel the weight of every day. Buns are heavy when you have thick hair like mine. You never don't feel the weight.

God, how rich a metaphor for the rest of what was building up in my soul, that I was also bearing-but-ignoring. Joseph Campbell writes:

"When you wander, think of what you want to do that day, not what you told yourself you were going to want to do."

I told myself years ago that I wanted long hair. My hair started much like it is now, about an inch away from my scalp. But I've always wanted long hair, on and off since I was a kid. Like really long hair. Obscenely long. So I've been working for three years now to get long hair. It started to get annoying, but then I thought: Heather, you're moving to Minnesota! You're going to want that long hair for insulation! You can get through this last Texas summer keeping it off you!

Goals are great, commitments are important in life, but not when they are stifling the voice of everything you want today. God, what a squelching of choice, of the present breathing space and depth for change! Alan Watts is helping me to understand, probably for the first time in my life, that what matters in our thought life is not the past, or the future, but to fully live present in this moment now. It's revolutionary to me. It's freeing. It makes everything and anything possible.

I came home and re-dyed the short bleached bits. When I pass a mirror now, I smile every time. I run my fingers over and over through the short choppy hair and I smile wider.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Me, Galadriel, & Motherhood

Day Two of Magical Retreat!! I am feeling 1000% percent better about everything, more centered, happy, productive, creative, thoughtful. Basically I've felt and thought so many things the past few days I know I'll never be able to get it all down in words. It was like an explosion of self, revealing all these little (and BIG) facets that I just never have the time to work through. Very Good Things.

One of the things: sometimes, being a mom and wife feels like this scene w/ Galadriel in LOTR. When Frodo offers her the ring, and she sees another explosive path she could take.  She's just become translucent with darkness and power, and there's a breath where she might take it, she might do it:

 ... but then she takes control of herself and it all evaporates again. She closes her eyes as she acquiesces and says this, words that haunt me: "I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel."

Sometimes I can't decide if this is tragedy or heroism. I'm pretty sure that line's not actually in LOTR from what I remember, but it seems it would be very in-line w/ Tolkien-ism--fighting off the incredible temptation. She thinks of it as a test she has passed, but sometimes I think that is CRAP!!! I think of the liberation, the power, the unknown and adventure. An adventure that does NOT end before it begins due to the abyss of self-sacrifice.

And then, alternately, I think this is one of the best metaphors of motherhood I've ever seen. Not all of motherhood! I love being a mother! But you lose autonomy. It is the way of nurturing another being. It's impossible to avoid when kiddos are still babies. You are at their beck and call. You cannot be All About You anymore. You're serving someone else, but it's not like slavery. It's a mystery really, the combination of love, of becoming entwined with another person so that it by necessity changes who you are. Being a wife has elements of this too.

I think (or god I hope!) that by nurturing one's inner life, it stops becoming a case of Loss, and instead is emblematic of transitions, crossing thresholds and morphing continuously, always AWAKE and PRESENT in your own life. Embracing those bits of domesticity, caretaking, and nurture that yes, are partially self-sacrifice, and another part Something Else Entirely. Some part I've can't describe yet, but maybe is part of being human, of having a womb, of being part of the process of giving life. And I don't think is limited to those w/ biological wombs--it's about all us who take on caretaking and nurturing roles. Which hopefully, is all of us.

But I don't want to deny any longer that part of myself that envisions the other path, that considers it as a free and viable option. It's living for fuck sake. It's supposed to be a wide life. We are supposed to feel everything, to be so awake to the world that it is not the past or the future that fills your wild mind, but the present. There's so much here, now. Love the hell out of this moment and be open to the divergences of the next threshold, the forkings and widenings of the path.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Wilderness

I'm away! Tucked up in a bed and breakfast deep in the Texas hill country. I've been thinking ALOT. Too much-- it was tumultuous in my head as I drove up. I stopped and wept by a river that miraculously both actually had water in it and was completely deserted. Alone by a river, my favorite place to be. Then I arrived here, laid down on the bed, and stopped my own swirling chaos thoughts to read Joseph Campbell.

The tumult slowed, the chaos quieted. I'm reading Campbell's Reflections on the Art of Living and realized that another term for "retreat" (other than, you know, "run away!!"), is withdrawal or departure. Campbell writes:

The hero's journey always begins with the call. One way or another, a guide must come to say, 'Look, you're in Sleepy Land. Wake. Come on a trip. There is a whole aspect of your consciousness, your being, that's not been touched. So you're at home here. Well, there's not enough of you there.' And so it starts.

Wake. Yes, wake. Wake up! Look around you! Be engaged in your own life!

Campbell's a romantic in the old sense, and by god I am too. Transformations, resurrections, thresholds to new life and experiences, new ways of looking at the world: these are the things of the great stories. We'll see. I haven't been alone with myself for a whole four days in... um, a decade? We'll see what restless dragons are coiled in my head and what jewels may be lying beneath.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


My advance check came in last week, and I decided to do something completely spontaneous and whimsical--take myself on a writer's retreat--just me, no responsibilities, no being a mom for a few days, no pressure. And I was thinking about the word "retreat" and the meaning of it resounds with me in the way perfectly encapsulated below:

Yes, the look on the middle dude's face, exactly. That's how I feel. Though it's not exactly running away when really what I'm running is TO something. To me. Back to me, to figuring out what is going on with me lately, to deal with some of these crisis' that have reared up and taken a chomp out of my belly, completely taking me by surprise and hurting like hell. The thing about motherhood is, it's hard when any deep self-reflection is limited to the hours between 1-5, and then you have to be ON again.

So I'm going off for four days to an undisclosed location. I'm going to rediscover the things I love and what brings me bliss, and I'm going to write passionately. I'm going to read things completely unlike what I "ought" to be reading. I'm going to watch movies completely unlike what I usually watch (I'm thinking of finally seeing some of the Bergman films I haven't yet). I'm going to listen to songs without words. I don't know if a four day retreat is all it will take for me to get my shit together, but it's a start.

Here's some simultaneously awful (in that it's tearing like a bowling ball through my stomach) and wonderful advice from Joseph Campbell:

Just think, 'Where do I feel good? What is giving me joy?'