Events, General, Readings

Honoring Tony Hillerman

If you‘re like me, you loved all the Tony Hillerman books.  To honor this famed mystery writer of the Southwest, I’m having library readings at Sonoma County libraries and I’d like to invite you.  As you see, I already had one reading event on September 16th–thank you to everyone who came. It was inspiring!

Margaret C. Murray Reading in Honor of Tony Hillerman

Tony Hillerman (May 27, 1925–October 26, 2008) was an award-winning American author of detective novels and non-fiction works best known for his Navajo Tribal Police mystery novels set in the Southwest. I was very honored that he agreed to endorse my first novel, Sundagger.net, an endorsement that appears on the cover of my book.

When I had finished writing my first draft of Sundagger.net, set in the Four Corners area of New Mexico, I wrote to him to ask his opinion and thus began a correspondence that lasted until he died. I think of him as my teacher, my mentor, and my ally.  As a writer in the world, I want to be how Tony Hillerman was with me–funny, open, giving, generous, very knowledgeable, encouraging, and insistent on practice as the key to success. “Keep on writing” he told me in his letters more than once.

Tony Hillerman influenced me long before I wrote Sundagger.net. In particular, I was drawn to his stark, evocative descriptions of the Four Corners area where the four Southwest states converge–New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah. There he set his Jim Chee-Joe Leaphorn mysteries, dipping in and out of  Navajo and Hopi landscapes to unveil and eliminate crime.

Tony Hillerman was the master of crafting a fascinating story. For me, all these 29 books were an “easy” read, pure enjoyment, that put me in touch with the pleasure of life. His Native American characters especially were quirky, comfortable, the kind of down-home people you could relate to–at times grumpy, jealous, self-serving, duty-driven, burdened with work, love lost, but in the end, bigger than all that and always very human. And women held a place of honor and respect.

All the Tony Hillerman mysteries unveiled a Native American point-of-view that opened my eyes to a different, deeper world. Touching on reservation life, they described traditional Navajo ceremonies and medicine men, attitudes toward death and burial, as well as political and social issues that affect us all in the bigger community, for example, the stealing of antiquities, illegal aliens, drug dealing across borders, and the embezzlement of billions owed by the federal government to the Indian nation.

Each book embraced a dimension I can only describe as quietly spiritual, based on venerating the magnificence of sky and earth. This was recently illustrated in a new coffee-table photography book, Tony Hillerman’s Landscape, written by his daughter, Anne Hillerman, that I refer to in my reading events.

Here’s a letter Tony Hillerman wrote me that I display on an overhead projector. In it, he points out different attitudes of the Navajo about modern individuality based on their Changing Woman origination story. What Changing Woman might think of a vision questAfter receiving this letter, I revised a chapter in Sundagger.net where a group from the San Francisco area set out on a camping trip to experience a vision quest of their own and end up in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, home of the ancient Anasazi. During my event, I talk about the letter and read sections from the chapter.

Please join me to honor a master of story-telling.

You are  invited to bring your favorite Hillerman book–and  to read an excerpt aloud to our audience.

Hope to see you at the library!

FREE AND OPEN TO EVERYONE.

 

General

It’s all about relatives & music this Saturday

It’s about relatives and music at my event coming up. I know the music by Chris Goslow will be fabulous. As for me, I want to conjure up relatives, blood and adopted, sane and crazy, good and bad. Here where it’s going to happen:

Saturday, September 10th, 6:30-8:30 PM
Infusions Teahouse
@ Whole Foods Center
6988 McKinley Street
Sebastopol, CA 95472

I’m looking for relatives, yours and mine, as I practice reading from Sundagger.net and my brand new, upcoming Dreamers into my tape recorder, trying on characters and scenes as if they were dresses, hoping for the perfect ones.

I’ll start with mothers and sons in Sundagger.net. On the first page, Sara McLelland, a mother of a grown son and a teenage daughter, arrives at an Indian sweat lodge. Sara feels at home there. Two Crows, the sweat lodge leader, greets her with the Lakota welcoming words, “Mitakuye Oyasin,” which means “All my relations.” This speaks to Sara. She feels comfort that we are all relatives and send prayers for her son, Dan, who is traveling in the Middle East in the wake of terrorist threats after 9/11.

I could read a scene about mothers and daughters too. I’m thinking of when Sara takes her teenage daughter, Elana, on a weekend trip. In a swimming pool on the beach in Southern California, Sara learns more about her daughter and herself than she is prepared for, seeing Elana in a new and vulnerable way.

And I have to read from Dreamers, a dangerous romance of the ’60s. It’s full of relatives. I’ll begin with the Prologue. Annie sits in the Pittsburgh airport waiting for her long lost love to come through the Arrivals gate, reconnecting with herself, her memories and especially her father.

I must include birthdays too–My last selection will be when Annie gives her father a present on his birthday, the same day as Mozart’s, and shares some news Dad welcomes without having any idea what it really means.

There’s so much to choose from–So many relatives! So much music!  What a night.

Maddingly clever, soothing and entertaining music
by pianist and music artist Chris Goslow.

 

 

 

Sundagger.net, a story of one family, two worlds, and many lifetimes.

 

 

 

 Dreamers, an interracial romance of the ’60s.

Events, General, Readings

Special Event Music & Reading at Infusions Teahouse

Someone close to you just have a birthday? My granddaughter, Emma,did. Her mother is having hers next Saturday. Someone in your family getting married soon? Having a baby? Leaving home? Someone starting school? Emma’s starting kindergarten and her big sister Sophie’s going into second grade. Maybe this sounds a little like your family. We all have relatives.

Let’s celebrate with a Special “All My Relatives”Musical Event & Reading at Infusions Teahouse. Come join Chris Goslow and me. Relax and enjoy dinner, fine tea and chocolate during an evening of music and readings featuring performances by musical entertainer Chris Goslow and Sebastopol’s own, author Margaret Murray.

Saturday, September 10th
6:30-8:30PM
Infusions Teahouse
at Whole Foods Center
6988 McKinley Street
Sebastopol, CA 95472
707-829-1181

Maddingly clever, soothing and entertaining music
by pianist and music artist Chris Goslow.

 

 

Margaret Murray reading from Sundagger.net,
a story of one family, two worlds, and many lifetimes.

 

 

 

Plus sneak preview reading from her new novel Dreamers, an interracial romance of the ’60s.

Free Gravenstein Apples at the door!


General

I Hate Romance Novels & Now I’ve Written One

It's a romance of the '60s.
Dreamers, a Dangerous Romance of the '60s

I hate romance novels and never buy them, never even look at them at the supermarket checkout counter. Why? The very first sentence turns me off. I feel angry. How stupid the writer of this must think me to expect I’ll believe this  preposterous story! The plots are stupid and embarrassing, the settings outlandish, the language trite, the characters cartoonish. “When you’ve read one, you’ve read them all,” as my dad would say. Another word he’d use is “trash”.  According to Wikipedia, “Despite the popularity and widespread sales of romance novels, the genre has attracted significant derision, skepticism and criticism.”

Given all that, why the hell did I subtitle my new novel, Dreamers, a dangerous romance of the ’60s?

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I liked historical romance novels once–when I was young, a pre-teen, maybe as old as thirteen. What I liked (though I didn’t realize it then) was the secret, forbidden, dangerous adventure of sex! Yes, I loved all the twisted longing in the historical romances about pirates, counts, renegades, swashbuckling commanders, deposed kings and would-be outlaws. And oh, how I longed to be their women–those princesses and countesses, those ladies-in-waiting, the half-naked milkmaids and abandoned orphans, so young, so innocent and so beautiful with wet, red lips and long, curling tresses. All those women destined for capture, for adventure in their rags, their voluminous silk dresses, who were seduced and Yes! seduced in turn. I wanted to be them! I reveled in the veiled sensuality, the heated embraces, the–sex.

What is romance anyway? Is it love? Is it illusion? Is it dreams? Is it reality? According to Wikipedia again, the bottom line is that, for a book to be a romance novel, the romantic relationship between the hero and the heroine must be at its core.

In many ways Dreamers is the opposite of romance. Neither the hero, Thomas, or the heroine, Annie, believes in romance nor has faith in the other to provide it.  When he meets Annie accidentally, Thomas, the black actor from Pittsburgh, is mired in a painful, impossible affair with Lana, a rich, self-absorbed WASP from Connecticut. When she meets Thomas, Annie, naive as she is, struggles in a bind of acute family tension, wrapped in a rope of self-criticism too tight to breathe in, much less prevail against.

What is worse, the fact that their relationship is interracial makes all thought of romance a forbidden secret played out in the prevailing strife of the civil rights showdown in ’60s America.

But, though in many ways Dreamers is the opposite of romance, Thomas’ and Annie’s relationship IS the core of the book. What they both believe in is the pursuit of their art; for Thomas, art is theatre. For Annie, art is music.  And they believe in each other.

As artists, we are all romantic dreamers. All art is romantic and allows, even demands, we fall in love with it. It’s we who are the romantics.We have to fall in love with a book in order to even want to turn the page.

I’m hoping you’ll fall in love with Dreamers,and that’s why I wrote it.

 

Events, General

3rd Year in a Row at the California State Fair Authors’ Booth

Meet me in the Authors’ Booth. I’ve been invited to the California State Fair Author’s Booth in Sacramento for the 3rd year in a row and I’d like to invite you too.

My first year in the California Author's Book at the State Fair

The California State Fair is held at the Cal State Expo in downtown Sacramento from July 14th through July 31st. I’ll be there four days: July 19, 26, 29 and 31st. Here’s a calendar showing all 37 of the California Authors and when we will be appearing. Notice the fabulous photos of rides at the bottom of the calendar! It’s that much fun, believe me. Naida West, renown novelist of California history (No Rest for the Wicked, River of Red Gold, Eye of the Bear) is coordinating the entire author line up for the fourteenth year. Here’s what the Sacramento Bee has to say about Naida and the Authors’ Booth.

I’ll be showcasing my novel of magic realism, Sundagger.net, and taking orders for my upcoming novel, DREAMERS, a dangerous romance of the ’60s. I’d love to see you. We can talk about books or whatever else interests you.I am eager to hear what you have to say.

Here’s me in the Author’s Booth last year.

What was I thinking about?  Authors and Books by Dead Guys. I was wondering if the only books that count are those by dead guys.

So let’s make a date. All you lovers of books (And maybe also fabulous state fairs, beautiful horses, amazing livestock, popular music and top-of-the-line amusement parks) come on by the Authors’ Booth in Building C where the county exhibits are, right next to the buildings full of glorious newborn pigs, goats, sheep and cows. Look me up on BookTour for  directions.  I’ll be  looking for you.

General

A Book for a Haircut

A Book for a Haircut?

I sold my novel for a haircut. I collected on the haircut two mornings ago and I must say it was clearly worth it.  For about fifteen minutes afterward, I felt like I was back in my teens when I could get a thrill styling my hair, making myself “prettier” in the mirror, a thrill as wild and satisfying as writing a good story. Now my hair is wavier, lighter, and fuller.

You see, my hair has been carefully sculpted because the hair cutter is also a sculptor. Hair designer, Aaron Poovey, specializes in metal and marble.  He makes marble polar bears 2-1/2 feet tall that you can sit on while you are waiting for your haircut outside his “salon” in  his one-story house in Sebastopol, CA.  In his yard, colored glass and metal sculptures twinkle in the morning sun from where they stand tall on their pedestals and on beds of white stones.

Sitting in the styling chair, I feel special. Because hair is important–or has been for me since I was seven and jealous of one classmate’s long ribboned braids and another’s dark Shirley Temple curls. Going gray in my twenties, I decided natural was best, and for better or worse, that’s what my hair is now. I’ve never paid for a hair cut with my book before. So this is a special event.

In the chair, I notice the small bears of green and brown marble, the miniature spiraling, dancing metal figures perched on chairs and small tables, cluttered countertops and window ledges. Sculptures rest on top of magazines and used paperbacks, framed by hair spray and  “mud” as Aaron describes the gel used to style hair.

Why did I sell my book for a haircut? It was because of what Aaron Poovey said to me when I met him at an “Art at the Source” event at a nearby artist’s house (AKA “art at the source”), produced for the last 17 years by the Sebastopol Art Center.  We were talking about how to succeed in the business of being artists, being fully self-expressed. We were talking about what it takes to be creative, to write a book for example or play music or make a sculpture like that gentle marble polar bear I sat on in Aaron’s front yard, head bending low as if weighed down by melting ice flows and the increasing possibility of extinction.

I mentioned that sometimes friends, family, or anyone else I talk to, tell me they have an idea for a book, or they’ve always wanted to write a book, or they know they can write a book because they’ve been thinking about it for years. They want to know how to go about it, how to publish it, how to make a success of it. “So do I! I’m learning as I go,” I want to say. Still I yearn to launch them on their creative journey, but what guidelines are there?

Here’s what Aaron said and it’s the truth. “When you start out, you don’t know how it will end up. I never know what I’ll make, what the marble will become. It’s an adventure, a process and you have to do the work. Give yourself permission to fail.” Yes, yes, I agree. And again he says, “You have to do the work.”

Aaron has designed a perfect artist’s life; he has no need to create art for money, since hair design, which Aaron began in San Francisco when he was 18, provides a good livelihood. PLUS (and this is what really inspires me) he loans his big pieces to friends and admirers for six months, after which time they can return it, or buy it, or borrow another. He has created his own lucrative fan base irrespective of the traditional marketplace.

All this is music to my ears. So of course I rush away from the spectacular art show in the artist’s house and soon return with my two books. “This is a novel of one family, two worlds and many lifetimes, “I tell him, holding up Sundagger.net. “And here is Dreamers, a dangerous romance of the ’60s. It isn’t for sale yet,” I say as he rifles through my paperbacks.

He doesn’t have fifteen dollars for Sundagger.net and I don’t have the hundreds required to buy the marble bears, but he gives me his business card for a haircut and I give him my book. When I come for the haircut, Aaron says he is enjoying Sundagger.net. He likes the details, the genre–New Age types meet Native American culture is how he described it. I can live with that.

A haircut for a book. My hair looks great. I have his number: 707-829-9848. I’m going to keep going to him. I can check out the still, white marble polar bear. I can sit on it again, if it’s still there.

Events, General, Readings

So I wanted to do a reading at the solstice

Sundagger.net

I’ve been wanting to have a book reading of Sundagger.net at the summer solstice coming up  and now I’ve got three events planned, two in Sonoma and one in Sebastopol!  There’s going to be live music and video too. You’re invited to drop by for tea or coffee,more than a few good words, and to join in a celebration of the sun.

Sunday, June 19th, 1PM and 4PM
Barking Dog Roasters, Sonoma, 95476

1PM–Headquarters, 18133 Sonoma Hwy,
707.939.1905

4PM–Downtown Sonoma, 201 West Napa St
(in MarketPlace 
Shopping Center),
707.996.7446

Tuesday, June 21st 5:30PM
Infusions Teahouse @ Whole Foods Center
6988 McKinley Street, Sebastopol 95472
707-829-1181

The Solstice is a powerful time of the year, the time when the sun and the earth are closest (the summer solstice) or farthest away (the winter solstice).  Sundagger.net begins and ends in a Native American sweat lodge at a solstice! The sun dagger phenomena in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico inspired me to write the book.

The sun dagger is featured in my chapters where Rowan, the network analyst from the fictional telecom, TekGen, is hustling to jumpstart his new project, called, aptly, sundagger.net. You could say the sun is a character in my book.

I’ll be building on the solstice reading event I had at the Pinole Library last year. It began with a simple Native ceremony that included  drumming and singing Lakota sweat lodge songs. The ceremony consisted of “calling in the Four Directions” (East, South, West and North) and honoring their power. We also announced our intentions for the evening and spoke of our reasons for coming. It was really inspiring, especially with the participation of Ko Blix who showed his video Stones of Chaco Canyon, on YouTube. You can see where the sun dagger actually slices through a spiral cut in stone on a butte. The pictures of the Chaco ruins and the sun dagger in the video are awesome.  The original music by Chris Goslow that accompanies the video is eerie in its melodic synchronicity.

Events, General, Journal

Dreamers is gone….to the Printer

Dreamers, a novelI did it. I finally sent my novel, Dreamers, to the printer.

Today, Tuesday, April 5th, 2011, at 12:44 PM. ( I couldn’t help looking at the time, embed it in my memory.) I felt like crying then and do now as I write this. Why?  I’m happy, that’s why. It’s such a big deal.

Okay, it’s not the final-final, just the preview advance copy, and I’m printing only a few books to send to book reviewers to ask,  to respectfully request, their endorsements to add to the final.  “Advance Copy–Not for Sale” it reads on the back cover.

When I say I sent, I really mean “uploaded”; here in the electronic stratosphere of Northern California, I can send my brilliant blue cover file and my 374 page text file electronically to Kentucky where the printer does her magic. The printer’s a huge corporation, not a “she”, but hey, the Supreme Court ruled last year by  5-4 (Citizens United v. FEC ) that corporations are people with feelings and rights, so I think of my printer as a “she”.

So I sent my book to Kentucky with a click of my keyboard. But this techno-miracle is nothing to the miracle of Dreamers itself. I don’t want to talk  too much about this as I’ll lose it here tonight, and have to stop writing here at the computer. Like with the cryingg – Look at that, I just misspelled a word. So what, you say? Spelling matters in the book world. It’s like dropping off a high wire if you’re a squirrel. It’s like this feat of Dreamers at the printer.

You see, Dreamers is a novel that took too long to write.

Yeah, that’s right. I started it in 1969 in New York where I was teaching 6th grade at a private school in the East Village. One weekend or another, I wrote a few pages in my studio walkup on West 96th Street. It wasn’t called Dreamers then. I don’t think it had a name but it had a trolley  (remember trolleys?) that crashed into a brand new Impala during a snowstorm in Pittsburgh, PA the town where I was born. And that’s still the way the story begins, more or less.

I was twenty-four and dreaming of becoming a great female writer, a combination of Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner, or maybe James Joyce and Tolstoy depending on who I was reading at the time. I have to add “female” because it didn’t escape me then or now that all my writing heroes were men.

This would be my second novel. My first, “Hobbyhorse”,  was written in college, and I had 5 copies typed out on onionskin, one I had left on a toilet in an art gallery on Waikiki Beach.

A little later, I was reading the New York Sunday Times book reviews when I saw a small boxed notice of a winter Writer’s Workshop at the Provincetown Fine Arts Center on the tip of Cape Cod. Norman Mailer was one of the participant mentors. Reading that, I applied, sending in my few beginning pages in right away. Norman Mailer was shocking, prolific, a rebel, and a successful literary bad boy. I wanted to be part of whatever he was doing.

It’s still 1969. Come the 3rd of August and I’m in San Francisco now, having migrated out of New York on a romantic whim, when I get a telegram saying I’ve been accepted at the Provincetown Fine Arts Writing Workshop and what’s more, have been offered a full scholarship from the American Federation of the Arts to go there.

What a miracle! It’s out of this magic that Dreamers was seeded. I had an Alice-in-Wonderland kind of experience that winter in Provincetown and left the following spring with a seedling, half of a first draft. “Momma’s Old Clothes” was the title, after the dirty laundry that fell out of the Impala when the trolley crashed into it.

But oh, how long it took for that seed to bear fruit. I’m too exhausted to think about it. I need a rest after conjuring up these old stories. You can imagine how much more there is to tell.  It’s too much for one night–how long it’s been, 42 years from then till now. I’ll write about it some another time. Tonight I’m going to watch an old movie and forget about it. But tomorrow I’ll be checking my email to see if the printer got the files and if they’re alright–as in, all right. Oh my god. What if it all disappeared? Oh, sure I have backups. That’s not what I meant. You get it, don’t you? Disappeared, as in dreams that are lost forever.

Events, General, Journal

New! WriteWords Press is Expanding

NEW!  WriteWords Press is set to launch two more books in 2011!  In addition to Sundagger.net, WriteWords Press will publish:

Dreamers, an interracial romance of the ’60s, by  Margaret C. Murray

Floating Point, Endlessly Rocking Off Silicon Valley, a memoir by Shelley Buck

WriteWords Press began on a gray day four years ago.  It was January 19, 2007 and I was in Martinez, CA. I had just walked into a small old brick one-story office to register the fictitious business name of WriteWord Press at the County Clerk Recorder’s office.

The quaint town of Martinez lies on the water’s edge where the Sacramento River meets the San Francisco Bay. In the goldrush days, it was a ferryboat transit point across the Carquinez Straits on the way to the gold fields.

There were many birds in the wetlands near where I had parked my car. A few gulls followed screeching as I walked the two blocks down Main Street to the County Building.

It was a new moon in the sign of Capricorn, signifying a goat who climbs mountains.  I had the planets of Mercury (mind) and Mars (energy) in the sign of Capricorn when I was born and I was going to need that mountain goat energy now.

Ahead of me were two couples applying for marriage licenses. One couple was young with both sets of parents as witnesses, the other couple  past middle-age, like myself. We all stood in a straggling line that ended at a glass-windowed linoleum countertop.  On the other side of the glass, a harried clerk with touseled hair sat hunched over her computer.

I felt focused, clear-headed and resolute. Why was I taking on this Olympian task of launching WriteWords Press? Simply put, I was ready. I was ready to put my novels into the world.

You might say I’ve been addicted to good books since I was seven and could read. I had studied the great works of English and American literature as an undergraduate and graduate English major.

I practice the art of fiction reading and writing as a way of seeing beyond myself, into the meaning of my life, the way one might practice meditation to gain awareness. I had written at least five unpublished novels.

What’s more, I was sick and tired of hoping I’d write the perfect query letter to the understanding publisher. I was sick and tired of mailing out novel manuscripts with the accompanying SASE (for Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope).

No, I was finished with all that. No more did I want to spend my time frightened of the big, brown, stuffed envelope with my returned manuscript that sooner or later would appear in my mailbox.

No more did I want to spend my time praying for the agent who would recognize my work and take me on despite the overwhelming odds. The truth is I HAD that agent decades ago, a famous agent from New York City.

All that long ago, water under the bridge, and I was not looking back.

But neither the couples to be married at the registrar’s office, my planets in Capricorn, my publishing hard knocks or my literary expertise would have kept me in that line I was standing in. No, I owed my courage to more.

A lot of it had to do with my children, especially my oldest son who complained loudly in no uncertain terms, “I don’t want to have an failed novelist as a mother!” I couldn’t let him down! I deserved to give Chris a better image of his mother than that.

Then there was an educational program I had begun a year before.  I did it to come to terms with myself as a writer. But an amazing thing happened. The terms I assigned to myself disappeared. Instead I was coached to strike out into uncharted (and up till then unacceptable to me) territory.

But was it really unknown–this new independent publishing world? From my years as a technical writer, I knew well the nuts and bolts of writing, editing and putting a book together. With each contract job, the documentation, user manuals, white papers, and procedures I was hired to write took shape and direction on my watch.

I would not wait any longer for someone else to take me by the hand. I would make it happen myself. Why not take a leap into a new land and birth a small press? Yes, I was ready to become a small press publisher.

And now, four years later, WriteWords Press is expanding!