creative ramblings & reverie

Sunday, May 2, 2021

The Persian Warrior


I'm delighted that my good friend Jeanne Althouse and I have once again had stories published in the same journal—this time, in the wonderfully-named The Plentitudes, which did me the additional honor of naming this Spring issue Warrior, after my story.


"The Persian Warrior" is part of a set of pieces inspired by masks that I began last year.  My concept with this string of stories was to explore masks as a physical embodiment of (or facade for) identity—how they can equally disguise identity and create it, conceal and reveal, in different contexts or with different personalities.  How they alter reality physically, mentally, and emotionally.  How important they are in various cultures.


This quote from a Billy Collins poem, "In the Evening," seems to introduce the series well, as it follows related characters back and forth in time, at different points of their lives.

       "And the past and the future?

         Nothing but an only child with two different masks."

image:  The Persian Immortals, Berlin Museum

Monday, April 5, 2021

Writing Spaces


Nothing is written in stone . . . 

Spring is written in blossoms, and those essential intimations of continuation.

image:  A Cambridge Diary

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Writing Spaces


It's rare anymore that I write with a pen on paper, but it's still, always, a pleasure.  Sometime before Christmas I bought some Faber-Castell Pitt artist's pens, one Phthalo Blue, another Sanguine—a name I love, as well as the color.  Just now I discovered Pale Geranium Lake, scrumptious name too, if not with all the undertones.

image:  photographer unknown

The X Vials


The newest Catamaran issue (Spring 2021, Vol. 9, Issue 1) has a fabulous cover—perhaps more striking than ever, and probably in honor of the interview with author Jane Smiley featured in it.


My story they've published here, "The X Vials," is a real (and unreal) departure for me—my first serious magical realism venture, written as the unreal happenings of 2020 began to change lives in ways we couldn't have conceived.  This is my meditation on the situation we found ourselves in, truth much stranger than fiction, but fiction one way of coming to terms with that unpalatable truth.


The main character, Consuelo, is a shaman and the keeper of a scent library—an important resource in the days the story deals with.


"She realized just how precious they'd become—the aromas she'd carefully collected and assembled in her jam-packed library to loan out when needed (ignoring fines for overdue and missing scents when they were crucial to a borrower's well-being).  Rain on a childhood driveway.  A fireworks celebration.  Sacks of dried pimentón in the old market district where Catalan rope makers gathered.  Brazilian coffee beans in copper roasters, piñon smoke in old churches on Christmas Eve.  The Shalimar worn to dances by a mother faded to a photograph.  Sage smudges.  Hay and saddle leather in a dusty August barn.  That heady mixture of voodoo, vetiver, amber, and jazz—the sorcery of New Orleans before the hurricane and flood.  Frying bacon.  Baby powder.  Crayons."



image:  Mari Kloeppel, Catamaran

Digging through the Fat


I'm really pleased and honored to have had links to three of my online publications, "Death in Tesuque," "In Suspension," and "Komorebi," promoted by Digging through the Fat in their Community No. 64.



image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Orchids, Hawi

Blue Monkeys Revisited


For many (many!) years I've worked on a novel about the Greek myths and Minoan Palaces.  I spent a month in Crete researching ancient sites and modern cities, staying for a week in Chania on the west coast before starting to take road trips all over the island—finding small mountain villages with war memorials and bags of wonderful cherries for sale, El Greco's birthplace with orange orchards and a tiny Greek Orthodox chapel, a rugged mountain haunted by the ghosts of lady archaeologists, a shepherd out in nowhere with his flock, an isolated tholos tomb, monks in the valley below Phaestos—the green Messara with its rivulets of sheep—singing or chanting as the evening came on.  So much more, all in the novel, which I still turn to revising every so often.


I haven't found a publisher or agent for it, so a couple of years ago started sending excerpts to journals. Three have been published in three separate journals, as detailed here.  Then I started thinking I might pull the excerpts back together into a loose-knit and far shorter novel, the main questions being "How short?" and "Which excerpts?"  I knit together a collection of "novella" length, called Blue Monkeys after the most significant segment, and submitted that to a contest in 2020—the Eyelands Book Awards—given by a publisher based in Crete. Appropriate, I thought!  And though it didn't win, so wasn't published, it did get designated a Finalist in the unpublished novels category.



image:   "Ladies in Blue" fresco, Knossos


Death in Tesuque


Back in her hometown just outside Santa Fe to cater her best friend's wedding dinner, Nina Perry's culinary sensations are decisively upstaged by the sensation opera diva Didi Vallance causes—turning up dead in the bride's swimming pool.  Given Didi's talent for antagonizing those who know her best, Nina can only hope it wasn't her father, Noel, who strangled his ex-wife after the shouting match she'd overheard while dishing out paella.  She's somewhat cheered to find that the detective on the case, Gilbert Jaramillo, is not only dishy but also willing to consider alternate scenarios.

This story was published in Fiction on the Web, an online journal based in England, in November 2020.

Here, Nina describes the meal she serves the wedding guests before her ex-stepmother (soon to be ex-ex), meets her end.

"Francesca had hired me to cater the reception, Sunday evening, after the wedding.  We'd set Spanish wrought-iron floor candelabras among the tables, and a line of farolitos on the low patio walls, lit by the wait staff as the dark came on.  I'd given the forty-seven dinner guests tiny picadillo empanadas, pink grapefruit guacamole, and griddled cornmeal gorditas with goat cheese and roasted red peppers or with manchego and dandelion greens; and then two humongous paellas—seafood with smoked chorizo, and vegetable.  A flan de naranja with a good dose of Cointreau had seen the party through until the cutting of the Mayan chile chocolate wedding cake."



image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Abiquiu, New Mexico