Events, General, Readings

Art, Sacrifice & Prayer for the Day of the Dead

“life looks forward death looks back life looks forward death looks back life looks . .” 

Stitched Mouth by Charr Crail

I was planning a trip to Mexico during the week of the festival Dia de los Muertosthe Day of the Dead to see my friend, Rose, when a small bookstore in San Miguel de Allende, whom I had contacted, offered to host a book event for me. Great! I chose Art, Sacrifice & Prayer for the event title because these are such powerful themes in Hispanic Indigenous Mexican culture and so much part of the Day of the Dead.

Preparing for my trip, I go over selections from my novels to read. I expect to read from my new novel, Pillow Prayers. But what about my previous Southwest novels of magic realism, Sundagger.net and Spiral, with characters who could have been ancestors of the families and tourists who celebrate Dia de los Muertos in San Miguel de Allende?

I thought of the time, the spring of 1999, when I went car camping to the ancient ruins of the Four Corners, which had been a dream of mine from childhood. My boyfriend drove his car, so all the way across Northern California, Nevada, and Utah I was free to write, taking voluminous notes about the astounding landscape I saw outside my window.

We drove through the technicolor desert of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments, 4,000 years of Native American culture one archeologist called “an outdoor laboratory of our history on earth”. I saw not just potsherds, petroglyphs and pictographs but also the world’s richest deposit of dinosaur bones, fossils 75 million years old, including 25 species of newly discovered dinosaurs. Who left such mysterious art behind? What sacrifices were made to create it? Was this religious art? What did it mean to the artists?

At every historical site of these ancestral Puebloan people,named ‘Anasazi’ (enemy ancestors)  by the Navajo, I scribbled in my notebook. My mind was racing with images for my next novel.

We reached Chaco Culture National World Heritage Site in New Mexico, the land sacred to the Pueblo tribes. I saw the Great House, Pueblo Bonito, the largest ruin in North America, five stories high with 600 rooms and 300 kivas, bigger than the Roman Coliseum. It had been built along the axis of the rising sun at the equinoxes. Archeo Astronomy it is called, the study of language in the architecture, building in relation to the stars.

The circular kivas with their foot drums, benches, pottery, and stone-lined vaults below ground, fascinated me.

I learned of the sun dagger phenomenon on Fajada Butte that I could see from the campground, jutting out of the flat desert canyon. On only one day a year, the summer solstice, the sun pierces a carved spiral hidden at the top of this butte. Who carved this timepiece, matching art and stone to the heavens? What did it mean?

Climbing the North Mesa, I stopped by a lopsided tiny house without a roof sinking into the sand. The entrance way suggested a crooked smile while the two window openings peered across time at me with heavy-lidded eyes. A sad-faced house, yet sweet. I imagined a story of sacrifice, art and prayer. Thus Sundagger.net began, a story of one family, two worlds, many lifetimes.

Back home in California, I worked from voluminous notes describing the remains of corn husks, blankets made of turkey feathers and dog hair, silver frogs on jewelry, pottery with parrot images, and much more.

A few years later I wrote the prequel, Spiral.  I took another trip, this time by myself, following the same journey I had my characters in Spiral  take, traveling North to Chimney Rock National Monument in Colorado. I camped beneath the farthest outlier of the Chaco Culture, where an exact, but much smaller replica of Pueblo Bonito was built in 1084 AD and then abandoned soon after. Why? How?

Today, preparing for my reading in San Miguel de Allende, I skim books, marking scenes that show my characters struggling with desire, making art, sacrificing for their dreams, inspired by their prayers.  Here’s what I’ve come up with for now.

One family, two worlds, many lifetimes

 

In Sundagger.net, Sara, a single mother, comes to an Oakland sweat lodge after 9/11 to pray for her missing son, but sees an ancient, shocking vision instead.

 

Magic realism and epic adventure in the American Southwest

 

In SpiralWillow abandons her sacred pots in Chaco Canyon to take her son Little Hawk on a dangerous journey where he discovers a circle of skeletons in a tower.

 

 

 

In Pillow Prayers, Love Ruined, Love Found, After the Summer of Love, street artist Ruth finds a place to paint in a zen pillow stitchery in San Francisco, befriending skeptical grad student, Lonnie and the stitchery owner, Beth, maneuvering toward tragedy.

 

 

 

Art, Sacrifice & Prayer
Monday, November 5, 2018.  4:00 – 6:00 pm
GARRISON & GARRISON BOOKS
Hidalgo 26
Centro
San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato
37700

Events, General, Readings

A mystery in a new dimension: Bears Ears & Grand Staircase Escalante

Dinosaur's tail embedded in sandstone, Grand Staircase Escalante

I’ve been looking through Sundagger.net and Spiral for scenes to include when I read at my Pinole Library event coming up.  Whatever I choose will include pictographs, petroglyphs and potsherds—clues that point to a mystery in a new dimension at the now threatened Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Parks.

Valley of the Gods, Cedar Mesa, Bears Ears National Park

It was famed Southwest mystery novelist, Tony Hillerman, who penned the phrase “A mystery in a new dimension,” about my novel, Sundagger.net, which I wrote, awestruck, after traveling to the Four Corners area of the Southwest. Tony Hillerman could also have been referring to the magnificent Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Parks with their 4,000 years of Native American culture and more than 100,000 sites of Native American archeology.

 

Holding broken potchards

Bears Ears, the largest park in the United States at 1.9 million acres, was designated a National Monument (Park) by President Obama in 2017 after thirty Native American tribes, including the Navajo, Hopi, Ute, Zuni, Paiute, and Apache, advocated for its protection as a sacred site.

“This place is a part of the history of all the Native peoples in this region. It’s like a book for us, and when many tribes have a chapter in this book, it tells us a lot about why we are the way we are. But it’s also part of the history of the peoples of the United States and the world.”— Jim Enote, Pueblo of Zuni

Petroglyphs at Butler’s Panel, Bear Ears National Park

Grand Staircase Escalante National Park, designated by President Clinton in 1996, was envisioned as an “outdoor laboratory.” Here are buried the richest deposit of dinosaur bones in the world, with fossils 75 million years old. So far twenty-five new species of dinosaurs have been discovered.

Dinosaur’s tail embedded in sandstone, Grand Staircase Escalante

But there is great danger that these precious parks will be destroyed. Under the threat of President Trump’s illegal action to gut Bears Ears by 85% and Grand Staircase Escalante by 60%. the National Park land will be ripe for “development”: private mining, fracking, conglomerate agriculture, and industrial off-road recreation. Already an extremely rare dig has been looted.

The pre-puebloan people of my novels Sundagger.net and Spiral known as the Anasazi disappeared by the 13th century, leaving behind their petroglyphs, pictographs and potsherds. We cannot let their mysterious, sacred land disappear too. We just can’t let this happen.

Click on the haunting music video Stones of Chaco Canyon above to experience being awestruck as I was by this very rare and mysterious land.

Upcoming Events

Pinole Library hosts
Hidden Treasure: A Mystery in a New Dimension
with author Margaret C. Murray
reading from her novels Sundagger.net and Spiral
Wednesday, April 11th 6:30- 7:30PM
Pinole Library
2935 Pinole Valley Road
Pinole, CA 94564
510-758-2741


Half-Price Books hosts
Meet & Greet: with author Margaret C. Murray
Wednesday, March 28th 7-9PM 
1935 Mt. Diablo Street (across from Todos Santos Plaza)
Concord, CA     94520

925-288-9060

 

Events, General, Readings

If you were at my writing salon . . .

Salon: A gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation.

Awaiting the guests at the Writing Salon
Awaiting the guests at the Writing Salon

I had everything ready, flowers on the table, chairs in place, my Bavarian China tea cups and saucers. The fire was going strong and my German Shepherd, Maisie, was ready to greet the guests. Soon they would arrive!

It was shortly after 7PM when the writers appeared. The living room was soon crowded with nine enthusiastic guests from Pinole, Walnut Creek, El Sobrante, Richmond and Point Richmond, CA. ( One more writer outside didn’t knock on my door alas, thinking he had the wrong time.)

We began with a animated discussion of what a salon is and what it means to read our work aloud (it means everything). I shared a story I read in the biography of Nobel Prize novelist, John Steinbeck. In his early years as a writer, Steinbeck had a habit of greeting his friends by reading his latest writing aloud to them. Courageous!

For an ice breaker, I asked the writers to randomly choose quotes from authors I featured in my From Heart to Paper Writing Workshops. We discussed what the quotes signified to us as writers. It was amazing how whatever quote we chose at random so aptly mirrored our own writing lives.

We started with non-fiction. A writer read a revision of her prose-poem about driving in the rain. I believe we all felt as if we were driving with her, passing the majestic redwoods of California dripping with rain, seeing the manzanitas as ancient native inhabitants, feeling this miracle in nature as we listened to rain on my roof.

Another writer read from her memoir-in-progress describing a recent birthday. The selection began with her waking up to the bedside digital clock, its red dial ominously ticking, foreshadowing the unforgiving passage of time, perhaps disappointment or resignation. But, surprise! The first-person narrator, having reviewed the past, experiences a rush of gratitude for her own rich life.

The last non-fiction reading  was another surprise: a  proposal  for a digital workshop to create online presentations to woo prospective employers. The writer wanted our feedback and we gave it. So much variety!

After a too-short intermission with animated conversation, wine and sparkling drinks, we turned to fiction: a Y/A novel of WWII Amsterdam about the attempted rescue of a Jewish child;  lovers holding hands in an unnamed landscape of brilliant stars; a family in India struggling to survive in the face of British colonization and lastly, I read an excerpt from Spiral where Willow, an Anasazi mother and her son, Little Hawk, prepare to scale a haunted mountain to find Grandmother.

The fire and the book remain after the salon.
The fire still burns after the salon is over.     Photo by Vivienne Luke

Besides reading aloud, we also shared how and why we wrote what we did, giving each reading a rich context.  I  described the archeological findings and archeoastronomy of Chaco Culture’s monumental Southwest ruins which provide the background for the epic adventure Willow and Little Hawk take in Spiral. Sharing the context makes all the difference!

 Here are some of the heartening email responses from writers who attended the writing salon.

I am inspired by your writing and your innate ability to bring out the very best in everyone who read their excerpt.— Julia A.

“Thanks so much for the sweet and inspiring evening last night. It was a very rich experience with beautiful people. Thank you. Already I am inspired to begin editing my book. — Ellen R.”

Thank you, all you writers out there!
—Margaret

Events, General, Readings

So you’re curious about attending a Writing Salon

Salon: A gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation.

Awaiting the guests at the Writing Salon
Awaiting the guests at the Writing Salon

I had everything ready, flowers on the table, chairs in place, my Bavarian China tea cups and saucers. The fire was going strong and my German Shepherd, Maisie, was ready to greet the guests. Soon they would arrive!

It was shortly after 7PM when the writers appeared. The living room was soon crowded with nine enthusiastic guests from Pinole, Walnut Creek, El Sobrante, Richmond and Point Richmond, CA. ( One more writer outside didn’t knock on my door alas, thinking he had the wrong time.)

We began with a animated discussion of what a salon is and what it means to read our work aloud (it means everything). I shared a story I read in the biography of Nobel Prize novelist, John Steinbeck. In his early years as a writer, Steinbeck had a habit of greeting his friends by reading his latest writing aloud to them. Courageous!

For an ice breaker, I asked the writers to randomly choose quotes from authors I featured in my From Heart to Paper Writing Workshops. We discussed what the quotes signified to us as writers. It was amazing how whatever quote we chose at random so aptly mirrored our own writing lives.

We started with non-fiction. A writer read a revision of her prose-poem about driving in the rain. I believe we all felt as if we were driving with her, passing the majestic redwoods of California dripping with rain, seeing the manzanitas as ancient native inhabitants, feeling this miracle in nature as we listened to rain on my roof.

Another writer read from her memoir-in-progress describing a recent birthday. The selection began with her waking up to the bedside digital clock, its red dial ominously ticking, foreshadowing the unforgiving passage of time, perhaps disappointment or resignation. But, surprise! The first-person narrator, having reviewed the past, experiences a rush of gratitude for her own rich life.

The last non-fiction reading  was another surprise: a  proposal  for a digital workshop to create online presentations to woo prospective employers. The writer wanted our feedback and we gave it. So much variety!

After a too-short intermission with animated conversation, wine and sparkling drinks, we turned to fiction: a Y/A novel of WWII Amsterdam about the attempted rescue of a Jewish child;  lovers holding hands in an unnamed landscape of brilliant stars; a family in India struggling to survive in the face of British colonization and lastly, I read an excerpt from Spiral where Willow, an Anasazi mother and her son, Little Hawk, prepare to scale a haunted mountain to find Grandmother.

The fire and the book remain after the salon.
The fire still burns after the salon is over.     Photo by Vivienne Luke

Besides reading aloud, we also shared how and why we wrote what we did, giving each reading a rich context.  I  described the archeological findings and archeoastronomy of Chaco Culture’s monumental Southwest ruins which provide the background for the epic adventure Willow and Little Hawk take in Spiral. Sharing the context makes all the difference!

 Here are some of the heartening email responses from writers who attended the writing salon.

I am inspired by your writing and your innate ability to bring out the very best in everyone who read their excerpt.— Julia A.

“Thanks so much for the sweet and inspiring evening last night. It was a very rich experience with beautiful people. Thank you. Already I am inspired to begin editing my book. — Ellen R.”

Thank you, all you writers out there!
—Margaret

 

Events, General, Press Release, Readings

The Spirit of a Novel

How to begin writing a novel?

How to keep on writing?

I don’t often think about these questions while I write. Mainly I just keep on in my writing groove, inspired by the vision I had at eight when I read The Boxcar Children, by Gertrude Chandler Warner, a teacher turned children’s writer. Did you read that book too? I wanted to write just like Gertrude.

Many Rivers pic
Many Rivers Books & Tea

I started thinking about how I write a novel while waiting for my daughter at Many Rivers Books & Tea, a bookstore on the corner of Main Street in the Sebastopol, CA.  Though it was Sunday, my daughter was at school—she teaches 4th grade this year—preparing the next week’s lesson. We were going to celebrate Annemarie’s birthday by having tea together. But my daughter was late, so I browsed the aisles of books, teas and objects designed to further the bookstore’s mission “to provide customers with tools to support genuine spiritual practice.”

Soon I got into a conversation with Jim Wilson, one of three owners of Many Rivers Books & Tea, that continued until Annemarie arrived. Then we had tea and she bought two bags of rune stones for her class studying medieval England. I got a present too, because Jim invited me to read at the ongoing “Thursday at Many Rivers” event on April 9th, 2015.

So how does writing novels fit in with spiritual tools and spiritual practice anyway? Four words came to me as if displayed across a screen of a Powerpoint presentation: Earth, Sky, Spirit, Story.

I realized I begin a book starting with the earth and write from the ground up.  I write from the place where my characters are, seeing what they see. With them, I look upward to the sky, searching for—call it spirit, a vision—and from that cloud-spun, high unknown space, the story emerges. I do this again and again, beginning in the same way: earth, sky, spirit, story. It becomes a practice.

Decades ago I began writing Dreamers from the vantage point of the cobblestone streets of Pittsburgh during the civil rights upheaval of the 60s. As a streetcar turns the bend in a snowstorm, it smashes into Thomas’ brand new, borrowed Impala, upsetting baskets of newly-clean laundry. It is this seemingly innocuous accident that drives the love affair of Thomas and Annie.

Chaco Culture
Chaco Culture

In my novel of magic realism, Sundagger.net, I compare two deserts, chapter by chapter, matching the actual Anasazi ruins of the American Southwest with the spiritual desert I experienced working as a tech writer in Silicon Valley.

 

SPIRAL front cvr167px
Spiral Coming in April, 2015

 

Spiral, the prequel to Sundagger.net, begins with Willow, a girl coming of age, standing at a dry riverbed, searching Chaco Canyon for a famed hunter with whom she’s desperately in love. From the desert floor, Willow talks to lizards and to crows.

The ancient Anasazi of the Four Corners area, where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona meet, knew the connection between Earth, Sky, Spirit and Story too. All you need to do is to look from their amazing Great Houses to the heavens to realize it; they designed their buildings and created rock drawings to align with the equinoxes and solstices.

Mesa Walls in Chaco Canyon
Mesa Walls in Chaco Canyon

I too followed the same migration route my characters take in Spiralbeginning from the Great North Road, sixty miles long, which you can only see with aerial photography. At my Reading on April 9th at Many Rivers Books & Tea, I’ll share selections from my novels as well as a short videos from my three trips to the Four Corners area, where I explored Chaco Canyon, NM and its furthest, northern outlier, Chimney Rock, CO.

At the top of Chimney Rock, Co
At the top of Chimney Rock, Co

NOVEL WRITING AND MY SPIRITUAL JOURNEYS TO FOUR CORNERS

Earth, Sky, Spirit, Story
with Margaret C. Murray
featuring her upcoming novel, Spiral

Thursday, April 9th, 2015
7:30 – 8:30 p.m.

Many Rivers Books & Tea
130 S. Main Street
Sebastopol, CA 95472
707-829-8871
www.manyriversbooks.com

                      

Events, General, Readings

Road Trip to the War Gods


I was on the seventh day of my road trip. After days of driving and camping—interspersed by a stay in Flagstaff with my friend Joyce—I had  finally arrived at Chimney Rock, Colorado, the site of my upcoming novel, Spiral.

Chimney Rock at first sight
Chimney Rock at first sight

I had been working on Spiral, a prequel to Sundagger.net, for five years now and I just had to go see for myself.  I had to take the same pilgrimage my characters Willow and her son, Little Hawk, take after they flee their home in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, and set out for Chimney Rock, the furthest outlier of Chaco culture.

Driving from California on Highway 40 to Flagstaff and from there to New Mexico, I was intent on first spending a few nights at Chaco Canyon World Heritage Site where Spiral begins.

The Pre-Puebloans (otherwise known as the Anasazi, a name given to them by the Navajo, meaning “enemy ancestors”) likely came the same way, from the South.

Heading North to Chacra Mesa
Heading North to Chacra Mesa

Like me, these ancient migrants would have passed by the same red rock mesas. They too would be inspired, awed, by the deep color of the high desert, the vast vistas and endless sky.

Maybe they too were anticipating a great spectacle–those ceremonies in honor of  solstices and equinoxes  held in the Great Houses of Chaco Canyon.

Bumping along on an unpaved dirt “washboard” road, I slowly drove through the Navajo Reservation, stopping my car in front of the only sign for 23 miles:

Bumping along on the unpaved dirt "washboard" road into Chaco Canyon National Monument
Rough road into Chaco Canyon World Heritage Cite

 

ROUGH ROAD
May be Impassable
Travel at Your Own Risk

The ancient people would have experienced rough travel without cars, wagons, wheels, horses or any other means of transportation.

A thousand years ago, this same road would likely have been full of people migrating to and from Chaco to witness the sun’s return or thrill at the lunar alignment.

 Fajada Butte, Chaco Canyon
Fajada Butte, Chaco Canyon

What a surprise when I turned a rocky bend and saw Fajada Butte. How close and massive it seemed from the dirt road, like a cathedral carved from sandstone.

I’d been to Chaco Canyon two times before but never approached it from the South.

I felt a strange kinship with this great rock.

At Gallo Campground in Chaco, the wind blew my tent away before I even got it secured in the ground. With the help of the campground host (from Vallejo, Ca!), I tied it to heavy metal rings. I slept that night surrounded by mesa walls, greasewood and blowing sage.

South Gap in Chaco seen from Pueblo Bonito

The Pre-Puebloans would have come through the South Gap into the Canyon. On the far side of the gap are more than 50 pit houses.  Are they “motels”  the migrants camped in while at Chaco?

Across Chaco Wash is Pueblo Bonito, the grandest of the Great Houses, where I stood while taking this photo. Debbie, the interpretive ranger who took me on a tour of Pueblo Bonito, said the arriving visitors likely might have been thrilled by the noisy celebration, the singing in many languages, dancing and music from flutes, conch shells, rattles, foot drums and more.

So many people to see the show! Was it like our rock concerts? Disneyland ? Or like High Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral? Who knows? The only evidence are ruins and potsherds.  There’s so much mystery here.

Leaving Chaco Canyon reluctantly (and missing the Full Moon ceremony), I drove to Navajo Lake  where I camped a few days and then headed northeast over the Colorado border to Chimney Rock.

And now, finally, I’ve arrived. Even from so far away on the road, I am repelled first sighting the mountain. It’s chilling just seeing bulbous Companion Rock and high narrow Chimney Rock on a dark mountain of chert and lava rock.  I’m amazed at how close my feelings are to the atmosphere of terror pervading Spiral that Willow is so desperate to flee.

Post Office boxes along the road
Post Office boxes along the road to Chimney Rock

Still, looking out of my car window, I take comfort in all the mailboxes along the road, proof that ordinary people live beneath this mountain that appears so isolating and ominous seen from afar.

After setting up my tent at Ute Campground, I drive to the park entrance and learn I’m not even permitted to go up Chimney Rock alone.  So instead I and five other tourists take a fascinating guided tour with Wayne, an interpretive guide and volunteer.

Wayne, Chimney Rock  guide, talking to tourist with walking stick
Chimney Rock guide, talking to a tourist in red shirt

 

Today Chimney Rock is the powerful landmark and spiritual center for the Pueblo People–the Taos, Acoma, Zuni, Hopi, Tewa and more.

The two towers signify the Twin War Gods of the Taos Pueblo who slay monsters to help their People. The war gods are also revered by the Navajo who know them as Monster Slayer and Born-for-Water.

 War Gods?  Yes, of course!

After my climb to the top, I understand why.

At the summit!
As far as I could go!

 

Events, General, Readings

New & Dazzling

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

New from WriteWords Press

A dazzling travel memoir… 

 

 

EAST, A Woman on the Road to Kathmandu
EAST, A Woman on the Road to Kathmandu

EAST: A Woman on the Road to Kathmandu

by  Shelley Buck

 

 

I’m so happy to be offered the chance to introduce Shelley Buck at her book launch for EAST at Diesel bookstore in Oakland. I am her publisher, after all! And what a wonderful high-flying ride I’ve had helping Shelley to bring EAST to print, like watching a kite in the wind.  Shelley will be reading selections from EAST, recreating her travels (of the mind and spirit as well as body) from Oakland through Europe, Greece, Turkey, Iraq and beyond.   I will also be reading from my novel, Dreamers.  It would be great to see you there too.

Book Launch  at Diesel Bookstore

Sunday, October 13, 3 PM

5433 College Ave.

Oakland, CA 94618

707-829-1181

Admission Free

Shelley Buck, Author
Shelley Buck, Author

East is the true story of one woman’s overland journey across Asia. Inspired by a book purchased at Fred and Pat Cody’s legendary bookstore on Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue, Shelley Buck took off alone in 1972 on a journey she hoped would take her from England to India and Nepal by public transit. East chronicles that journey and Shelley’s emergence into adulthood.

Following her return to California, Shelley Buck became a founding editor of the feminist news syndicate, Her Say, now archived at Harvard. Shelley currently edits ePícaro.com—an online journal of travel narratives. When not breakfasting with white-faced monkeys in Costa Rica, or hitchhiking through the Khyber Pass, Shelley lives with her family in California’s Santa Cruz Mountains.

EARLY PRAISE FOR EAST

“She captures a bygone time and place when young people took to the road, crossing the Bosphorus and then the steppes and deserts of the Middle East, to the Indus Valley and the Himalayan foothills beyond, often by public transport. Buck’s unique vantage point as a female traveler who refused to be deterred by those who said she couldn’t or shouldn’t travel on her own across lands now long-closed by war, makes for riveting reading.” —Judith Pierce Rosenberg, author of A Swedish Kitchen

“A compelling read, sensitively written by an informed and courageous woman. I felt that I was taken along, tucked inside her backpack.”—Nancy Pringle, Eureka, California

For more, see www.shelleybuck.com.

EAST Book Launch @ Diesel Bookstore
Sunday, October 13, 3 PM
5433 College Ave.
Oakland, CA 94618
707-829-1181

General, Readings

Dungeons & Dragons: Reading in My Old Hometown

Reading at Awesome Books

This was to be my first ever reading in my old hometown of Pittsburgh, PA and I was returning not only for this event but also for the reunion of Sacred Heart High School, Class of 1962. I’d be reading from my latest novel, Dreamers, A Coming of Age Love Story of the ‘60s, a story that echoes and frames my own childhood like an old family photo album.

The sky was a perfect blue, made bluer by the  white puffy clouds floating between skyscrapers.  My son, Jonas, also participating in the reading, led me down historic Liberty St toward Awesome Books. The light through the fall leaves on the tree-lined sidewalk radiated with pure possibility. A Columbus Day Parade was marching by as we walked into the bookstore for the first time.

Dan of Awesome Books and me

Awesome Book Store is a small, vintage, independent bookstore, classical in style. Every item–counter, cash register, bookshelves, tables, chairs, and the books themselves–was carefully placed for maximum artistic effect. There was an old typewriter casually positioned on a small wicker chair below a framed sign promoting future book events. Large, well-shined wood tables held all the latest titles of books I yearned to read.

Where would I be reading? The Awesome clerk, Dan, motioned me to a door, part way open, in the back where the event would be held. Inside I found a dark room, dreary, nearly empty too, cold and gray and windowless with a swath of scribbled brown paper on one wall, a bookshelf, a mirror and lots of boxes. It reminded me of the old coal cellar in the basement of my house on Foliage St. There was a small circle of green folding chairs set up surrounding a circular card table below one overhead light bulb.

The starkness emphatically spoke to the economic precariousness of independent bookstores working on a shoestring in this age of corporate, internet book aggregates.

This was not a medieval dungeon such as appears in any popular fantasy novel. It could have been Les MiserablesLa Boheme or another romantic musical. Yet it felt so familiar and spoke to those deep stark roots where Annie and Thomas, the main characters in Dreamers were born. Maybe it was that dungeon where I locked myself in all those years conjuring up Dreamers I thought.

But even so, a dungeon is a dungeon, but dragons are both different and personal. My dragons were spewing their usual fire, taunting me with gloomy predictions; you’ll have no audience, no books sold. You’ll fall flat on your face. You’ll get dizzy and confused. And so on. The flames were full of general, debilitating angst.

Still, looking around, I realized that this small room reminded me of something else–the dark, cold inner circle of the Native American sweat lodge that I write about in Sundagger.net. It would be empty too, barren and cold before the door was shut, before the hot stones were brought in, and before the singing and drumming began. Here appearances meant nothing.

Reaching to the Awesome Audience

This was a place of purification, where all distractions were eliminated, where all that mattered was the story.

I began my reading by saying, “You are my hardest audience.” Oh, I could feel those dragons hanging from my neck. Facing those classmates of long ago and my family from far away, you could say I had more to lose here than in any other place I had read.

But my dragons were just ghosts. The audience filled the room in a very big and inspiring way, like the sky outside on that beautiful October day. I had no doubt we were together again for a reason.  Listening to my son bring alive the powerful role of Thomas, I felt free of both dragons and dungeons too, transported into that space where I wrote the book. It was the ‘60s again, when the Civil Rights Movement was at its height, when all was romance, epic and life-changing, and dreaming was as common as breath. I had come home at last.

Events, General, Readings

Music of the ’60s to Read By

In my book readings, I’ll be calling up the power of  music as well as story. I’m having several book readings coming up and I’m including music I’m wild about. Great music from the ’60s, music I’ve been listening to with stars in my eyes still.  Yes, and the words too mean something still. Like this song.

This is the music the characters in my novel, Dreamers, listen to also. Like  “So Long, Marianne” by Leonard Cohen.

As I wrote Dreamers, I heard music all the time.  I put that music into the book. There’s 32 pieces of music mentioned, classical titles, pop and rock & roll, plus other genres. Think of Elvis, Arethra Franklin,the Beatles, Dylan, Joan Baez, Leonard Cohen, Judy Collins, Simon and Garfunkel and The Youngbloods.  Remember this one “House of the Rising Sun”?

Dreamers is full of music. My next reading  is June 21st, Thursday night, in Boulder Creek, CA a sixties town if I ever saw one. I’m reading from the first scene in the book which begins with Annie sitting in the Pittsburgh International Airport waiting for Thomas to arrive. It’s 2008 and she hasn’t seen him  in nearly forty years.  A song by folk artists Peter, Paul and Mary is playing over the airport loudspeakers. Here’s what it might have been. John Denver, the composer, is  singing along too.

Dreamers takes place in 1966 when Thomas arrives back home at Christmas after five years away in New York City, trying to make it as an actor. Returning to his family home, he hears his sisters and son listening to WAMO,  a radio station in Pittsburgh. Back in 1966, there wasn’t any hip hop just a lot of R&B, blues, jazz and pop too.

When Thomas’ Momma arrives home that evening from church choir practice, she laments that Thomas should have been there with her to sing “Amazing Grace”. Here’s a powerful version of that traditional spiritual. Amazing Grace by the Soweto Gospel Choir, South Africa

Also in Dreamers are Chopin, Mozart, Beethoven, Handel and other classical composers that Annie, majoring in violin, knows well. In one of the first scenes I read from, Annie’s coming out of the Pittsburgh Playhouse, having just seen an outrageous production of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream put on by the Negro Ensemble Company of New York. As in Shakespeare’s time, all the actors playing women are men–black men in this case, shocking casting in the volatile Civil Rights Era of America. Annie has the music of Mendelssohn gliding through her head as she steps out into the cold, Pittsburgh night.

No wonder  when Annie passes a tall, dark, handsome man on her way up a snowy Pittsburgh hill, she mistakes Thomas for the  actor playing the King of the Fairies, Oberon.

In my book readings this summer, I’ll be calling up the power of  music as well as story.  And just for this Thursday, we’ll be having our own Midsummer Night’s solstice ceremony. Here comes the sun! By you know who, The Beatles.

 

Check out all my upcoming events. There’s music in them!

 

Events, General, Press Release, Readings

Storybook & Literature Festival Free!

Northern California Storytelling & Literature Festival

Northern California Storybook &Literature Festival Returns Saturday, April 14th

 

I am honored to be one of the authors featured in the 2nd annual Northern California Storybook and Literature Festival.  Come celebrate books, reading and literacy with me. Experience  Native Californian Maidu culture too. It’s all happening at the Maidu Library and Community Center in Roseville (The Maidu Museum is within walking distance). And it all takes place on Saturday, April 14th from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

I will be speaking on the Fiction panel from 11:30 to 12:30PM.  Click on this program to see all the scheduled events and panels.

Me and Dreamers

On the Fiction Panel, I’ll be asking and answering your questions. Perhaps I’ll speak about my background growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the shadow of the very first Carnegie Library where I was, in effect, saved by books. Or I’ll share my  experience writing and publishing with a small press: How my latest published novel, Dreamers, a Coming of Age Love Story of the ’60s, was written over too many years. How a ruined dwelling in the Southwest desert led me to write my first novel, Sundagger.net, a Story of One Family, Two Worlds and Many Lifetimes. Plot, characters, setting and style also fascinate me so maybe we can talk about that. But more importantly, I’m looking forward to hearing from you–and the books you have loved, written or want to write. We’ll have lots of time to share. Look for me at my booth.

I’ve also invited Shelley Buck, author of Floating Point, to display her memoir so she’ll be there at the display table along with me, talking about her journey “Endlessly Rocking Off Silicon Valley”  on San Francisco Bay and, like me, looking forward to greeting you.

You can find us sitting at the WriteWords Press booth. Come take a look at my novels: Dreamers, A Coming of Age Story of the ’60s and Sundagger.net, a Story of One Family, Two Worlds and Many Lifetimes.  I’ll be happy  to talk about whatever you like. What writer doesn’t want to share their work!

Saturday, April 14th  10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Maidu Library and Community Center
1530 Maidu Drive, Roseville, CA 95661

Along with myself and Shelley, there will be authors from across Northern California, including New York Times bestselling author Deborah Underwood and local Roseville favorites Ann Martin Bowler and Jack L. Parker. These writers have written a variety of children, teen, adult, fiction and non-fiction books.

It’s Free! And there is something for everyone in the family. As well as author panels, the festival also features family entertainment, book signings, free crafts for children, and even advice on how to get published.

Barnes & Noble will handle all book sales and you can purchase delicious sandwiches, fries, etc. from local Drewski’s and coffee, shaved ice, pastries, etc . from Karen’s Coffee  throughout the day.

The Native American Maidu Museum and is close enough that you can walk to it.  The museum is built on the edge of an ancient village site in which Nisenan Maidu people thrived for over 3,000 years, featuring petroglyphs carved into the sandstone boulders.

It’s exciting to be part of this book celebration organized by the Roseville Public Library, Placer County Library and Sacramento Public Library. Plus I get to visit my son, Chris Goslow, and my new daughter-in-law, Charr Crail, who live in Sacramento.

As the City Librarian of Roseville, Natasha Casteel says,“ We hope the entire family will come to get inspired, use their imaginations, and meet the people that create books.”

See you there! It's Free. Stories for everyone!

Directions from Sacramento: Take I-80 east to the Douglas Blvd East exit. Continue heading east on Douglas Blvd. Make a right on Rocky Ridge Drive heading south. Make a left at Maidu Drive into the regional park. 

The Maidu Library is located at 1530 Maidu Dr., Roseville, CA  95661.

For more information, call  (916) 774-5221
On the web: www.roseville.ca.us/LiteratureFest