Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Standing Under Time


Time, as something we fall through like a haze of cottonwood fluzz, does not exist. 'Time' is a convenient name that we ascribe to an ontological experience. To say even that this experience “shapes” us gives the name a certain agency that is questionable, if not dangerous. But language such as I have used is not very interesting. It lacks context. Time as the flow of water will do nicely, since it is the metaphor Heraclitus offers us.

The Nightingale’s Stone
is an important book for me because it describes occasions wherein I “stood under” Being and Time through heartbreak. It is often all too easy to describe past experiences of Love as illusions. This is nonsense. The fever and confustication that Love causes makes nearly everyone an unreliable narrator—if you believe in absolute truth—because none of our narratives can be trusted. That river, Time? Too much of it passes under the bridge we are standing on.

If you pick up the book, you will notice that my conversations with Anton take place in the present. Or at least what passes for it in words, which means I used the present tense. My description of what brought me there was all in past tense. The reason was simple: the subject of narrative concerns what was. The act of narration concerns what is. Like all simple things, I have not figured it out.

All writers must face Time. I do not mean narrative time, or nonlinear vs. linear time, but the words I choose to describe those times. If I am alone, which I am as I write this, and there was a time when I was not alone, how do I accurately treat that experience?

What if the place where I was coupled—and single—is the same place? What if it is a moving place? The place ‘moves through Time,’ but it obviously moves in space because it is a Washington State Ferry. This adds a further dimension: that of iteration, because the Washington State Ferries lack bow and stern. They simply have “ends.” They go back and forth. It is interesting that in English, one begins with the return, but from where?

“Back and forth” seems to call for the present tense. There is an implied immediacy, and since the present is actually timeless, going back and forth in present tense reflects how some ontological truth that lies beneath our fragile conceptual framework of space, time and causality. If I describe my lover’s infidelity in present tense, it throws the reader into the immanence of that sorrow.

That is one facet you may choose. Another facet is that my lover is long gone—an interesting temporal collision. His last lies, and what I had to return to him liberated me. I was miserable, but am now grateful for it. Have you noticed that Time often hinges on that conjunction ‘but?’

Or should I mix times? Should I add a future tense? Thinking back to when I had some inkling of how happy I would be when he was no longer in my life? Would I do this all again? Or would the ferry be something truly different, if only for this chronological epiphany? How would Heraclitus describe the Puget Sound?

Rules? Useless in this case. I have to write it out and then read it out loud, for the ear is often the best judge of how the heart philosophizes.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Welcome to the Family

Oscar and Trudi von Hippe: from The Shadow Well
Siblings are strange beings. Like many members of our immediate family, we have no choice in our relationship to them. As such, it often seems like the relationship is defined in terms of absolutes. Either we are inextricably bound to them, or we sunder ourselves from them utterly.

But that is not always easy to do.

This illustration is from the forthcoming novel The Shadow Well, and this is David's interpretation of Trudi von Hippe and her brother Oscar. The climax of the novel occurs during a masked party in celebration of Trudi's birthday, but Oscar had designs of his own.

Oscar is being facetious here, for he had little desire to welcome anyone to his family, for that would mean parting with a portion of the von Hippes' wealth. And his sister.

If you are curious about her veil, I would recommend re-reading Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Minister's Black Veil." The points of connection are general, but very important. As for her eyes? Well, you'll have to read The Shadow Well.

(Look for more of these previews of the novel, due out this October.)

Friday, June 5, 2015

Asymmetric Reflections

On any given day I am given to reflection. The past seems to consist of nothing but whirling fragments of time, and polished upon their surfaces are images of beauty. The edges are sharp with disappointment. The future is a shifting conglomeration of speculation containing protean shapes made from causal assumptions, desires and cynical reproaches. The present is not fleeting. It simply is.

But some days seem especially fraught with reflections.

Being a Gemini, I am particularly sensitive to issues of reflection, of symmetry. Psychological studies too numerous to name in a blog posting assert that human beings are drawn to symmetry, but while the dream of mathematics makes symmetry possible in that cold, a priori universe, existence is anything but symmetric.

What tree have you ever seen that is truly symmetric? A Japanese maple is a perfect example of a tree that would be hideous if it were symmetrical, and that is why it so perfectly suits the artwork and spirit of its namesake. In Japan the aesthetic of wabi-sabi reveals and revels in mutability. There is no perfection, only glorious mutability.

I have grown this way and that. I have been restrained, pruned, truncated. In other ways I have been allowed to grow, to flourish but sometimes the dead branches remain upon me for far too long. Eros and the Desire for Eros have been among the sharpest of pruning shears.

And yet through the years, the blades have dulled and rusted. As a catalyst for change, for art, they now lay upon the ground—nearby, for I can still see them, still remember how they cut me—but they are no longer dangerous. I keep growing. While Eros may cut, Agape waters, and Philia is the sunshine I need to flourish.

I am alone in the warm sunlight of the dawn. The mountain remains intricate with memory, but the sea of my desire is calm. I am free to love the wider world.

Monday, June 1, 2015

We are here in your garden



We are lions-toothy leaves and eyes watching you hate us

Crow black, rat grey, dandelion yellow

We will remain.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Flying Dreamer


The ballistics of sleep have thrown me above the forest.

I wear a thick leather collar around my neck. It is old, worn, and I know it was around someone else’s neck.  I cannot tell, but I think if I could bite it, the leather would taste of sea salt: a mixture hinting of weeds, fish and what the low tide reveals. My collar is attached to a long thin chain, made of some metal, as light as smoke and as strong as time.  The chain descends into the trees and I cannot see if I have been tethered or tangled there. 

I realize that the distinction is important. I glide downward.

(A preview of the "Sleep" suite from Hyperborea.)

Friday, May 22, 2015

A Novel House

"I may need an editor for this."
"The house became every maze of rooms and hallways Aideen had known. Every haunted turn revealed her mother’s empty death-room, or the lonely darkness of the School Halls, or the muted staircases of the Karver House. Now her breath came in quick snatches—she had forgotten the last trick of weavers. Aideen bent in the darkness with empty hands that once handled oceans of skeins—she had no clew to ravel and so find her way back through this labyrinth! Succumbing to despair, she knelt and cried.

From "Aideen's Story" in The Shadow Well.

There is a large labyrinth I have been walking through for many years now. For a while, it stood on a hill quite some ways away from me. But I finally entered it, mapped it, and moved into it.

I am now in the process of "setting up home" and I am speaking of The Shadow Wellthe next novel in my Hagen chronicles. It takes place largely at a stately home called The Heusermarck where I was employed for some time.

A novel is much like a house. Is it a new one? Old houses can be new stories, and of course new houses may be old ones. This insufferable metaphor could be from the perspective of a reader, but I am talking about writing novels.

Finishing a novel feels much like moving into a house. I do not mean the first draft. There is a lot of ink, both digital and physical spent on the discussion of actually writing down the words. I could post another entire essay about choosing which house, hardwoods or not, neighborhoods, and the investment aspects of a property.

I will not do that. I'm simply talking about this phase, which is actually moving in.

When the first draft of The Shadow Well lay on my desk, it felt like I had moved into a mess. And of course how much of our messes do we bring with us? In the rush to move we throw everything into boxes. Granted, yes, there are conscientious disciplined novelists who actually pack sensibly, and discard unnecessary items before they move. I am not one of them.

I have been throwing out things this whole time. Some of these phrases and passages, once so meaningful, are now in the way. Karl Yangler's grand walk through Hagen? It's a love letter to the City of my Birth, but reading someone else's epic love letters can get rather boring.

And another thing to do is remodeling, and for both getting rid of detritus, specifying demolition, and then guidance in building newer structures it's best to hire a professional to do this.

I am speaking of editors, of course. Some writers may not desire or need an editor. Yes, I know what some of you are thinking. "Everyone thinks that."

That all depends on what sort of house you want. My friend Mel on Orcas Island has a rather eccentrically built house that he designed and crafted all his own. He  plans on dying in it. It is concocted of driftwood, plywood, ply-drift wood, corrugated metal and has an unconventional floorplan wherein his bedroom is tiny ("all I do is sleep in there") and his art studio is massive. Repurposed glass is used extensively, from windows to furniture, but while Mel's house is beautiful in its way, the chair made out of beer bottles is not very comfortable. It's resale value is "0" but Mel doesn't care about that.

Others may want entire houses designed, built and decorated by others. These can range from the formulaic to intricate.

The Shadow Well, has had a number of editors. Aside from David (who is currently illustrating it) Jocelyn MacDonald helped out with redesigning it and eliminating much of the clutter. Kristen Steenbeeke has now taken on the job of finish carpentry and detailing. The novel would have lain in a drawer were it not for these two women.

So if you write, take a moment to just write your editor and say thank you. A message that is out of the blue and with no specific gratitude is best.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Living Waters Reading in Tacoma


Thank you to everyone who came out on Friday, May 15th at 7:00 to hear Troy's Worktable Publishing and Hagengard Studio read from Black Psalms and The Nightingale's Stone, at the Nearsighted Narwhal in Tacoma!

If you're in Tacoma, be sure and stop by the store! There is so indie-press, hand-made literature and artwork available that you'll need to budget at least a couple hours. And if you missed the reading, yes, the above books from the presses are available at the store along with artwork and other titles.

Time: 7:00 for the reading, but the doors are open at 6:00!
Date: Friday, May 15th
Where: The Nearsighted Narwhal  2610B 6th Avenue, Tacoma, WA 98406
Google Map.
Facebook Event Page