27 February 2018

More from my own shameless commerce division...

Tomorrow is the day, y'all. Tempest goes live on Amazon for Kindle, and the paperback will hopefully follow soon. This was an incredibly personal piece for me to write, and I feel like I've just come out from under something very heavy with it going to release.

Pre-order has been open for a month, and I'm learning more about marketing a book as the month crawls on. Tomorrow will be a bit of a release for me because I can change gears from PLEASE BUY MY BOOK IN ADVANCE to releasing teasers and hoping that some of the folks reading Wanderer on Kindle Unlimited will hop over to Tempest when they are done.

You won't hear me compliment myself often, but I really do feel that Gin's story needs to be told. One of my muses told me recently that he was glad to see Gin coming into her own a bit more through the story told in Tempest. I hope that others will see that in her and will find her story empowering in some way.

I remember when I read the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind, one of the things that struck me over and over is how I could actually see myself in the characters - no small feat for an epic fantasy that spanned more than ten novels - and I hope that people find something familiar in the characters I have created in the Orana Chronicles.

Oh, let's be honest, I just hope that people will read the books and love Gin and Sath and the others as much as I do. If you have read Wanderer and have pre-ordered Tempest, you have my thanks.

20 February 2018

Poems from the Bus, Vol. 2


There is a dancer in my brain.

She remembers all the random dance classes we have taken and a lot of the routines from flag line in high school.

She knows the names of all the moves and steps in Bellydance and can point them out when she sees them.

She sends gentle shocks to my hips when I'm sitting on the bus home and listening to my favourites from Beats Antique and Solace and Linkin Park. I shimmy and then remember I'm in public.

There is an actor in my heart.

She can recite the litany of productions I was in during school and uni. She remembers the songs from the musicals and the blocking from the number from Godspell. 

She laughs at the memory of the C clamp hitting my forehead or the reason that the platforms in The Shadowbox looked like landing strips at a dark airport.

She is in cahoots with the dancer when Here Comes the Sun, Layla, or a myriad of tracks from Cold Spring Harbor come on the radio, spurring me to find a staircase, an air guitar, and a tissue and join the manic dance number that preceded the bows.

There is a linguist in my hands.

She lives to turn a clever phrase from auditory to visual. 

She is magic. 

She is dance and art combined with elation and heartbreak. 

She speaks for me when I cannot stand a single auditory word more or I will shatter into a thousand letters and words and conjunctions. 

She sweeps in, wearing the opera cloak my brain and heart loaned her, and she makes sense of my nonsense, creating sentences and paragraphs out of stutters and false starts.

She is brave. She knows how to use language, not just speak it. Language is her weapon, her balm, her vehicle and her get-away.

There is a coward in my soul.

She looks at the gentle sway of the dancer and reminds me of how clumsy I am.

She applauds the soliloquy of the actor and reminds me that I'm too old and fat to be cast as anything but an afterthought.

She understands perfectly the message that the linguist delivers and reminds me that I am only a mediocre second language learner with no real claim to anything but my own remedial English.

There is a dancer in my brain, an actor in my heart, and a linguist in my hands - with a coward as a gatekeeper.

- N Dunne
19 February 2018

18 February 2018

Poems from the Bus, Vol. 1

To A Woman on the Bus

You caught me looking at you
Your beautiful skin and demure eyes
Your lovely and bright headscarf covering your hair
Comparing my own unruly ginger locks and freckled skin and dingy raincoat

You caught me looking at you
Dark eyes uncertain
Dark glances from others on the bus
Dark feelings swirling in a vortex of discomfort
Comparing our own motives and agendas and beliefs.

 You caught me looking at you
You held my gaze a moment
Your expectations plain
Your daily experience of mistrust and unfounded fear
So I smiled at you and you smiled back and we both continued on our way

You caught me looking at you
But it was really me looking at me
Because we are the same.

-N Dunne
18 Nov 2015

15 February 2018

Second verse, same as the... Nevermind.

Sometimes I am overwhelmingly glad that hubs and I did not have human children.

Students leave the building, Parkland High School.
Image courtesy of USA Today
Yesterday was one of those days. I cannot even imagine what the parents of the surviving students had to talk about last night when they got home - or the silence in the homes of the victims. My thoughts and prayers go out to the idiots who think that it is all right for a country with so many problems - often touted as the true causes of this kind of mass violence - to give access to weapons that can fire that many rounds that fast to anyone that passes a background check. I passed my astronomy tests in college but I am no astronomer nor do I have even a rudimentary understanding of physics. Keep your handguns if you must, this is the Wild Wild West after all. Keep your hunting rifles if you have to and you don't have the skill to hunt with a bow. But for the LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY can we NOT just say, finally, that having a weapon capable of this kind of carnage is NOT OKAY?

Or, is it okay with you that these sorts of things occur? Don't get me wrong, it is not an either or by any stretch, but I have to wonder. Dunblane happened in 1996. Firearm restriction legislation happened. Go and google how many mass shootings have happened in the UK since. I will wait.

And you, over there, waving your hand madly to add that once they took away the guns there were deaths by stabbing and that people are being run over by cars...of course, these things are happening. Our world is populated with horrible people and with very sick people who do horrendous things. That falls under that other category of issues that need fixing. Those types of events can be tied, I think, to violence being so prevalent in our culture. Those types of people are the ones being failed by mental health care in this country. But the numbers don't prove that a knife or a car can take out as many people as quickly as an AR-15 - believed to be the type of firearm used in Florida yesterday. 

Y'all, I'm so left leaning that I've almost fallen over. I'm basically a socialist. This is not news to anyone that knows me well. I spend as much time being sad for the state of our world (yep, the whole world and not just the United States) as I do being afraid for the world. What happened yesterday is not okay, and there is international evidence to support the idea that if we could just stand up to the NRA and the other lobbies and restrict the KINDS of weapons available, we would be safer. Why is that such a hard thing to do?

30 mass shootings this year - 18 of those at schools - and we aren't even two months in yet. How much is too much?

09 February 2018

Of crowdfunding and its tenuous link to socialism

Willow's Creative Process
I'm off work today because I have an appointment here in Greenville later, and of course, that means CLEAN THE KITCHEN and THINK ABOUT ALL THE THINGS that would make for great blog posts and/or new novels. Most of the time it stops there with the thinking, but not today. Lucky, lucky, Lettuce Readers.

I got to thinking this morning about crowdfunding. A good friend of mine and fellow Rennie/HOEF-er has posted a Go Fund Me for her precious boy, Rowan, who was hit by a car after accidentally getting loose. It could happen to any of us. It has happened to me, minus the car, when my three greyhounds got out the front door of my house - not once, but three times - before I learned that if you closed ANY door in that house the pressure would cause the front door to pop open if it was not locked. I know that terror. I cannot imagine the rest of it and hope that I never will. Please follow the link above and if you feel so inclined, donate - but at least give it a share.

I've actually been thinking about crowdfunding a lot because I'm staring down a summer without my bi-weekly allowance from the university where I work. Nine-month employees are required to sign up for that deferment annually, and somehow this past August it completely slipped my mind. My paychecks are a bit higher this academic year, but with each one, I'm reminded that I will essentially be living on what I can hustle through freelance interpreting gigs over the summer. I am investigating Patreon as a way to supplement what I'm earning via interpreting so that I can continue to work on my novels, but I'm not sure that it would work OR that I would be able to live with myself. (This is the point at which socialism comes in, in case you guys were wondering.)

To me, one of the basic tenets of socialism is taking care of each other. Sharing your wealth, sharing your food, sharing whatever you have with everyone else, regardless of what they can share with you in return. Socialised medicine happens when everyone shares the burden of paying for everyone's health care, for example. We already practice some socialism here in the US - I pay a part of my taxes to support education, even though I don't have children. Other people do, and those children will grow up to lead our cities and states and country, and I don't mind helping them.

The idea behind Patreon is a simple one. In the past, creative types would find wealthy patrons to support them so that they could create their art. Now, instead of one wealthy patron, this outfit seeks to connect people who want to support artists of all genres with those artists. I first learned about it because of an artist that I like, Amanda Palmer (the link there is to her Patreon page). She was in on the ground level and has an excellent explanation of the difference between Patreon and Kickstarter on the page linked above. If you browse around the site, you will find just about any kind of artistic endeavor you could possibly imagine - most of which have at least a few dollars of funding. While this is a way for well-known artists to take the producer/middleman out of the equation, for some this is their sole means of being able to do what they love.

This would be the second point at which I bring up socialism. You like to read fantasy novels? I like to write them! Perfect! Not exactly. I am just starting out as an author/indie publisher, and I can already see improvements in the second and third books in the Nature Walker Trilogy when compared to the first book. I'm learning. I'm listening to my beta readers and editors. On the rare occasion when someone leaves me a review or contacts me to talk to me about how they found the first book (or my back catalog of dog books), I get feedback that I can use to become a better writer. All of this I do in my limited free time when my brain and my hands are not overwhelmed with work from my day job that pays for our house, food, car, etc. etc. etc. I just wonder how much better and more organized I would be as an author without the weight of the day job - and that's what a program like Patreon could help me discover.

But the point of this post was not my financial woes, it was how wonderful I think programs like Patreon, GoFundMe, Kickstarter, and others of their ilk are in our society today. As an American, I was raised to look at socialism as an evil thing that took away my unique ability to DO IT MYSELF. These organizations allow others to offer help so that it isn't all on me or other artists. I saw someone say on Facebook yesterday that you can't pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you don't have any.

Now, can I accept those bootstraps if they are offered? That's another blog post for another day. 

01 February 2018

Hey, y'all...guess what?

What is it they call it on Car Talk? "The Shameless Commerce Division?" Yep, that's pretty much me today. Click below to pre-order.


(Amazon.co.uk and other Amazon sites pre-order coming soon!)

Of sadness and happiness and being oh so very lucky...

Me and Sandy at a McDonald family gathering, early 90's.
Sometimes you can get a text message that makes your whole day. Sometimes the message breaks your heart. Sometimes...all of the above.

I got the photo to the right during a class this morning, and as soon as I saw that it was from one of my favorite cousins, Margaret, I had an idea of what it was. I opened the message and my breath caught in my throat.

There is so much in this photo to unpack, and I'm only just scratching the surface, but here goes. On the surface, this is a picture of me and my cousin Sandy who left us last month due to a degenerative muscle disease that he has had for many years. Most of the time my husband knew him, Sandy used a wheelchair. I honestly can't put a date on the last time he was independently mobile like he is in this photo. Sandy and I...I don't know how to even begin to describe our relationship, and if I spend too much time trying this post will be over before it begins and I will have to walk away and compose myself. There we are, though, pouring over what I'm sure is either photos from an Amy Grant concert or Camp Glisson, just as we always did at the quarterly McDonald family gatherings that I attended every three months of every year of my life until I went to live in England. How many extended families see each other THAT much? My mother's people are close, y'all. Close.

My father's family, the Allens, usually saw each other at Christmas and very often my Aunt Inez (the one of his four sisters that was the closest to my father and was very much a second mother for me and Susan) would join us when we hosted the McDonalds - but the rest of my paternal extended family just wasn't as close in the same way, I suppose?

The second thing I noticed in this photo happened as I was trying to identify when it was taken. When you have a get together EVERY three months there are a lot of possibilities. First thing I noticed is that it is not Christmas. How do I know that? Two things:

  • My dad, who is in the background holding a child, is not wearing anything red, green, or otherwise both in a plaid. The man is nothing if not consistent. Also, I am not wearing shoes. Leaving aside the jokes about being born and raised in the Southern United States, I would have had shoes on in December. It really does get cold in Georgia, I promise.
  • There are no presents or wrapping paper anywhere in the photo. One thing I remember clearly about the number of McDonald Family Christmases that my parents hosted was that there was always a mountain of wrapping paper for me and Susan to clean up when it was over. 

Next, I had to confirm that it was indeed at one of the 8 parsonages where I lived growing up. I'm guessing from the curtain and the photo behind Sandy's head this was taken when Mom and Dad were in Commerce. The dish in my hand is one of a collection that had a rooster right in the middle of the plates and bowls that my parents had. I'm sure there is nothing but whipped cream in it, either.

Further, once I enhanced the photo a little I could see that the necklace I'm wearing is most likely my Sigma Beta Sigma necklace that I wore my freshman and sophomore years of college. I stopped wearing it when I got to Maryville in 1991 because MC did not have social greek organizations and I was 19 and all about BLENDING IN so the necklace stayed at home with my folks.

We are narrowed down now to somewhere between August of 1989 and June of 1991, and I'm leaning toward the spring gathering in 1991. My hair was short, but not yet the gorgeous Molly Ringwald inspired orange that I dyed it shortly before graduation in June of 1991. THAT IS MY NATURAL HAIR COLOR, PEOPLE. Also, please note the Artist-Wanna-Be pose that I'm striking in that chair. Back then I was in theatre and was going to be an actor, and since Sandy had been involved in theatre and performing, it was an easy match.

So, if this is around March of 1991, I was 19 and a half and Sandy was 28. We were the two edges of the gap in age for our McDonald cousins. Susan was the youngest (she is 4.5 years younger than I am) and Havelyn (not pictured) was the oldest. There were 7 of us and we ranged in age (at the time of this photo) from 14 to...I don't know, Havelyn might have been in her 40s then? Susan tended to be more into playing with our second cousins who were all younger than she, and I desperately wanted to be cool like my older cousins. Sandy never treated me like anything less than an equal, even with the nine-year age gap. He came to visit me when I was at Young Harris and he wrote a song for me afterward. It is one of the great regrets of my life that I no longer have the cassette that he gave me that had that song on it.

So while this photo initially brought tears to my eyes because I miss him - I miss this kind of family, this kind of gathering where we are all happy and enjoying each other's company and not worrying over ill health or missing the latest family member to leave us... I am happy in those memories in a way I haven't been lately. I've put Amy Grant back in my Spotify for Sandy, to remember how he took me and Susan to see her in Atlanta at the Omni. I'm going to the Highland Games and repping Clan Donald, even though I've only gotten my own genealogy back to the ancestor that left Scotland for America.

I said to Susan today that we were so very lucky to grow up in this family, filled with love, always visiting and keeping in touch. In the world today where so many people have so little and families aren't always able to see each other as often as they would prefer, I can say with pride that I did not have back then that I was raised part of the McDonald family (or clan, as my Uncle Lewis used to call us). Raised up in love.

In which I apologize profusely if you are not a fan of Mystery Science Theatre 3K...

If you ARE a fan, think "King Dinosaur..."

Upcoming Appearances, 2023

At 742 North, Rock Hill, Fall 2022 So I sat down the other day and looked at my travel calendar for this year. Whew! There is a lot coming u...