Saturday, December 31, 2005


The painting is done. The photography is done. The prints are on their way to author and publisher. So, yesterday Orion and I played some Little Tikes basketball and after, I lay in the sun and worked on nothing but my tan. Okay, I at least neutralized the blue.

But this morning I look out on the deck and it's a different place. The sky is dark and forboding. The empty chairs, the canopies the trees, are still and waiting.
The sky is more and more like the painting.

The pool beckons. I so miss swimming. I'm thinking seriously about looking for a wet suit so I can stand the cold. These thoughts may pass soon. My reprieves are generally very short lived. Our dinner guests will go tonight, tomorrow will be a new year and likely, I'll be back in the studio before everyone else has breakfast.

Then, it's hours until then. Lots could happen. And I'm thinking about slicing through cold, cold water.

Happy New Year. Have fun. Be safe.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Chirp, chirp

It's a normal day when I take coffee into the studio with me. When I take a carton of orange juice, it's serious. I'll be gone for a bit, doing whatever it takes to make the art that needs to happen, happen.
You can thank Ben for the photo. I thank him too, for keeping me from falling into chasms, and Pete, for handling everything there is to handle so that, once in a while, I can disappear.
But then, I'll come back. I always do, so far...

Year of the Rat

Hi everyone, it's Ravyn, Lisa's webmaster, graphic artist, and Number One Flunky....

While the Boss Rat is busy doing her thing, i thought i'd say a few things about rats :-)

According to Chinese astrology, 2005 was the year of the Rooster, but, around here it seems like it was truly the year of the Rat. Quite a number of ratties joined the family this year: Vanda, Harlan, Ravyn (Blogger), Grim, Grammy, and..... the as-yet-unnamed "G" rat that i commissioned as a Christmas gift for my hubby.

Here is my mom (Grammy herself) on Christmas night, Grammy rat in hand, and her three grand"ratties". From left to right: Jenny, Ally, and Nikki. My mom is thrilled with the Grammy rat - she actually requested it, after taking possession of a Poe rat. And Lisa really enjoyed doing the baby ratties.

Here is a photo i took of the G rat, when he arrived (conveniently as the hubby was out doing some last-minute Christmas shopping, hehe). i'll post a photo of G with his rat soon. He is not Scottish, but he sure looks good in a kilt, and i thought it would make a really cool rat.....

i really love the way Lisa can put so much personality into these tiny sculptures. i guess that's why i've commissioned so many - i look at them as little rattie portraits - and everyone loves being "immortalized" as a rat.

More rats are coming.....

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Sleep, please

Maybe it's just me, but I was wondering if it's just my kids who, shortly into Christmas morning, have secured the Darth Vader Voice Changing Mask onto the Furby?

I don't know. Maybe kids all over are doing just that.

I do know that I passed the shelf a moment ago and Vader's voice, quite distinctly, began to sing.

....lullabye, lullabye...

Now the eldest sit around a tiny table engrossed in Orion's Playdoh Chomp and Chew Diner. I just heard Bridget exclaim "This is so cool. I didn't know it would be so demented!"
Orion, non-plussed, plays Tak...

Mom soaks it up for later, and sometimes dreams of painting. Oh and sleeping. A bit of sleeping would be very good.

From our front door to you...Merry, Happy and Joy to you all. Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 23, 2005

another near silence

I seem to be the last person standing in a house full of people after a long day of cooking, shopping, laughing, tidying, hanging lights and putting bright red scarves, hats and bows on a plethora of black rubber rats.
Ok, well, Gurtie is up too, on my lap enjoying the lights and helping me answer dozens of emails. I love that word, dozen. It's one of those that gets weird on you when you put a bit of effort into it.
It was a good day, with parodies of mom, old stories and familiar zingers thrown between sibs. It was a good day of the last piece of another project falling into place unexpectedly. This one involves art by myself and stories set to them by Gene Wolfe and which should be out in the spring.

Tomorrow we'll all be here together, each bringing bits and pieces of all the other times we've spent together on such days and nights. Tomorrow will add it's bits to the montage that holds past and present.
It's a colorful, many textured, ever changing thing that looks a bit different to each of us, and is cherished by all.

Now I'll reluctantly remove a warm Gurtie from my lap, turn out all these lights and sleep.

All my best to you,

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

12:12 and all is well

It's just past midnight and the house is mostly dark and very quiet. Tomorrow night, daughters and sons and friends will begin to gather, filling it with sound and light. We are strange birds and we will make strange bird noises. We will tell stories that only strange birds would tell and make jokes only strange birds could understand.
We will cluster around tables of food and light and celebrate being strange birds in the way that only strange birds do.

Strange birds everywhere will do the same.

While I have a quiet moment to say it; wherever you are, (or who, or what, or why, or how) thank you and.....Peace.


Monday, December 19, 2005

Magic Worm Blower

Today was actually a regular sort of work day, except that calls and emails and packages kept coming in all day with funny and nice birthday wishes. Thanks to everyone for good wishes and comments too!
Among my favorite gifts were a singing e-card from Hy that Orion and I spent twenty minutes watching over and over and each time, collapsing into the chair laughing, a new Bill Hicks dvd from David (who is Aubrey’s dad and my friend.) Then, there's the graphic from Ravyn, which is exactly what I must deserve for making her a rat, twice. My favorite thing about the graphic is that the puppet has the look of a puppet who has been slipped a very puppety surprise.

In the goodie bag from Ben, (among things I shan’t name here and one thing that absolutely has no name and if it does I don’t want to know) is a Magic Worm Blower. I’m so touched. It’s just f*d up enough that I know he means it from the heart. Awwwww…

Soon off for an obscenely good dinner at one of my favorites and Kong, later, with friends (from Pete)

Hmm. Now I must find some of those Magic Worms....


I thought you were entitled to the Magic Worm Blower instructions as well, then I realized that I cut off the bottom, which says:

Keeps crawlers off the bottom, increases the size of skinny crawlers.

--Talk about your nematode hell. SHEESH So wrong, on so many levels. Ben loves me.

Happy Birthday, Evil Boss Lady :-)

i'm a bit behind i know, but, i've finally finished my little "portrait" of my evil RatBoss (hmmmm a boss Rattie.....), for her 29th birthday.....

Here's the link to the original photo that i "traced" with Adobe Illustrator to make the "portrait"

Since she's on the left coast, i'm not *quite* as late as i could be, hehe.


(oh, and you ROCK!)

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Done, not undone

There is a mountain of boxes by the front door. The gift pieces are all done and I rewarded myself with the longest, hottest shower in the history of this house. Clear white zen.
The holiday project was hard work. I learned a lot and will be happy to share. Overall, it has been a good experience. I'm honored so many wanted me to make things for people they love. Very cool indeed.

The studio is papered with notes and quick sketches. I think I mentioned a while back that I work whether I'm inspired or not because good ideas nearly always find their way to the surface when I'm working. Maybe it just puts my brain on the correct channel. Unfortunately it works this way when I'm not looking for new ideas at all.

Next is a January of finishing up projects already in the works, a male version of Relic (I'm really looking forward to doing), a painting to replace "Star Play" at Worlds of Wonder. And, the fortune teller, who's wheel is now done.

Now I'm sitting looking at the fire and thinking about water. Years ago I wanted to make a sculpture that would work best underwater. Something that currents would move in a way that winds couldn't. It's not very practical, true. And some of my friends, okay, most of my friends, thought it funny. It can be funny, sure, but I still don't hate the idea. Maybe one day, many years from now. I can dream, can't I? Beats shuffleboard. Besides, I have no idea how shuffleboard is played, just that my grandmother played it and it looked really, really boring.

There's no Ben-ism for today, because there was no Ben. Music though (as you seem to be enjoying this):
Neutral Milk Hotel
Charles Ives
A ballet mix (Ballintine)
Bad Religion
Toad the Wet Sprocket
John Prine

Last week I couldn't find a spring on the floor. Tonight I can't find the floor. But the door stands out. It states, in big orange letters, "Nothin' can go wrong now!". I close it behind me.

Sleeeeeeeeeeeeep. Tomorrow is another day and we will each be a little changed.


Saturday, December 17, 2005

Kitty Evil?

The studio is a dangerous place right now. Looking around, one can see numerous pointy, slashy, poisonous, mashy ways to die, or at least earn an ambulance ride. Orion is not allowed in here until we clean this place up, including our holiday language. Still, we are busily sending holiday gifts like the elves we are and all to arrive in time.

I can hear Orion from the other room. Lately, he's attaching the word "now" to all his requests. "Want to play with me now?" "I want chips please now." "Can we ride in the gold car now?" I noticed the 'now' adds a mysterious new layer of cuteness, and could possibly be somehow, cutely evil. Now, with distance between us, I hear how exactly like a cat's 'meow' Orions "now" is. It speaks to us on deeper levels. It behooves us. It draws us. It drives us to McDonalds...

I wonder, if on some level, he is aware of this.

Or, it could be in my head, the association with Gurtie's evilness. Though, I've meant to confess to you, sorry, I begin to love her. ?? I hardly ever post anymore without her in my lap.

Hmm. Do cats and preschooler's have a private language? Is there a conspiracy underpaw?

I think I need a hug...

Thursday, December 15, 2005


Whatever so troubled me yesterday was gone this morning. Cured by sleep, or coffee, music or nice emails, it is gone. Thanks!
I made grits for Orion, with cheese.

Ben is back today, with the whining, the complaining, the groaning, the snappy comebacks and verbal abuse. Awww, I missed that guy...

The mold for "Emily" failed two days ago. I knew we were pushing it. There's no backup. It's not practical to keep mulitple molds. The rubber won't survive long term and would eat up loads of space. Instead, we keep a master of each sculpture. Ideally, I replace a mold when it starts to show the least sign of stress, but once in a blue moon, one goes without warning, just a parade of special effects.
Today's Bennism: "Could be worse, you know. We could be ugly."

The end result was that several people who had ordered "Emily" got statues with individually hand-carved faces by yours truly, who has become quite adept with both the Dremmel and the file.

Tonight was a session for Pete's comic. That was almost like a break, because all that was required of me was mostly listening and commenting. I got to flex my fingers and s t r e t c h.

Now I write this, and eat oranges, wish good dreams to kids , stretch one more time, work on an outline for Lost and Found and paint. At night, music and oranges work better than coffee.

One more marathon day tomorrow, then things should get a bit easier. Yes, Lisa is working way too much, making her a dull girl indeed.


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Indigo Wednesday

I've been really sad all day without knowing quite why. I have things to be sad about, as everyone does, but none of them are an exact fit.

What helps most is that how I spend the day is the same whether I'm happy or miserable.

What hurts most is that how I spend the day is the same whether I'm happy or miserable.

This may be less true another time, but for now I work, believing the answer is in there. And I do the things that must be done, because they must be done. Cats must be fed.

So, in that way, today was no different than yesterday, but mostly it was a strange day with Ben still away. A one-girl show with non-stop music and mostly non-stop art. Hyde has gone. I kept her under such control I feel nearly apologetic. Next time I'll let her make something.

Unified Theory
Pi (soundtrack)
Kronos Quartet
The Decemberists
Bad Religion
Zero 7

Sometimes music is better than coffee, which is nearly gone and somewhat cold, so back to it for me. I think, Chemical Brothers will do it.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Not for my readers, who are cool.

But for those who visit this site looking for gossip about someone completely not me: Go home little sheep.

Does anyone besides me miss Jerry Springer?

Harlequin Helix

Today is more like yesterday than yesterday and even longer.

Ben is sick, poor guy, so Pete subbed in the studio. Good job too.
I’d poured a casting mix into harlequin molds and gone back to peer at them twice already. Was it really that cold in here? Or was something wrong with the mix?
“Hmmm. Nothing’s happening,” I held my fingers over one, “—wait, there’s heat.”Pete said, “Then…something’s happening.” “Yup. Where there’s heat, there’s… happening,” I said. Immediately a sort of mental wormhole opened, back to the morgue and Dr. Bill, every winter night shift, saying, “Is it cold?”
We roll our eyes and recite, “oh yeah, it’s cold.”
To which Dr. Bill answers, as he’d answered every midnight for two months, “Then it’s dead! Becawze…( in the Baptist Revival voice he thought so funny) where they is ah-heat, they is ah-happenin’.” I could almost smell the bleach, and mint, and death.

As Neil Gaiman wrote Harlequin Valentine, he would phone and say, “Tell me more about the morgue.” Some of the stuff I told him made its way into the story. But there was more that didn't, and plenty I didn’t tell. Memories mostly blend or slide over one another, but my time in the morgue is clear and self contained. It’s its own world, with a spectrum that won't admit to yellow. Once in a while I take an odd step and slip headlong back into it. Today I did for a moment. But mostly it was yesterday, again.
It’s like what? Very good! You are correct. It’s like time travel.

We have officially closed submissions forTINY STORIES, the project . My sincere thanks to everyone who sent stories. You all deserve grand kudos. This was not an assignment for the faint-hearted. In mid January we’ll contact everyone who submitted and then list the names of those chosen. By then, Bob and I will have already begun to put the thing together. We’ll keep you posted.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Color Day, Monochrome Night

A long day of painting small sculptures, making notes, ordering supplies and listening to Ben's monologue to himself as he worked on the kinetic fortune teller. Today was drilling holes and attaching the pins that will slow the wheel to catch it on a particular fortune (determined, of course, either by fate or physics---up to you.) The trick isn't attaching the pins so much as creating the right conditions for the particular clicking sound I want. Supremely important, for such a wheel, at least for me.'s my wheel, for now.

Aubrey woke me at 5:30 for walking. We walked. Sheesh.

As for "Good Night and Good Luck": I won't attempt writing about this movie. What I will say is, see it, please. There are many reasons for seeing it and none for not.

Today's Ben-ism:

"Every moment of brilliance costs an hour of psychosis."

Lots of Chemical Brothers today, and some Porcupine Tree, Neutral Milk Hotel and a bit of, well, the Floyd.

Lots of Holiday sculptures are going out tomorrow. I'm getting up when I wake up.


Sunday, December 11, 2005

Hands Spring says Ravyn, via paint fumes

This is a tiny part of the studio floor, where I dropped a tiny spring which, of course, bounced silently into a secret place where it could spend a possible eternity. Despite this obvious down side of such a studio floor, there are good points.
One being that the floor never looks dirty and that a drip of paint or whatnot is not a problem. The other is that one can do things like this should the urge strike (as occasionally, it does):

And here lies a tiny spring!!! Gee. This would be an amazing thing indeed if it were the spring I dropped...

Today it was light outside when I woke. I thought I'd somehow overslept, but then realized it was Sunday, so snuggled down into the covers again. Of course that was Gurtie's clue to start her morning campaign for food and attention, so there was nothing left but to get up early.
It was a day for working hard, well past very tired, even with much appreciated intermittent neck rubs that only seem to help when they hurt. I thought to ask Santa for a professional massage. After all, I've been good. The juggling of projects isn't likely to stop anytime soon. New ones seem to sneak aboard at least as quickly as others are completed. I'm getting better about stopping to stretch, and the Ben unit, who is off today, says he'll help install a barre on the back deck for me. That will help indeed. Ouch. and, did I mention, ouch?

We're heading out tonight to see "Good Night and Good Luck". When I'm busy, most movies have to wait for the DVD release, but I want to give this one my full attention.

Friday, December 09, 2005


Aubrey woke me at 6am, to remind me I said I'd try morning walks with her. But then, before I knew it, it was actually morning. Forget that. The stars were still out. No way.

It was crisp and chill and we walked with long strides past houses that reflect 1950's visions of the future. Some evoke a sort of Jetsonlike charm, some old hollywood, most show a touch of a dated sort of elegance. A few now reflect current desert sensibilities, i.e., they hunch behind walls. I remarked that my favorite house doesn't have the look of 50's California. Aubrey replied, "Right, it has the look of 50's Florida. Gotta be some sort of geriatric wormhole." And then there's that one house from Tatooine.
It was a good walk, and when we got back our house was warm and cozy.

Then later, off to shop for her formal gown, which was not terribly hard, and had it's truly comedic moments.

Orion plays Sly Cooper, which has music that reminds me of Angelo Badalamenti, making me think of Ennio Morricone soundtracks and how he sometimes very effectively scored simple, childlike music for violent or shocking scenes. The music alone carries a false sense of security, so when contrasted with the visuals can be unsettling in a unique way. I like that quite a lot.
Contrast is good. In art and words as well as in roller coasters and fun houses. Just when you get really comfy, things get weird.

Several hours of work on the Ben/Lisa project. We will try to post some photos soon but seem to be in a standoff about who will actually stop drawing and do it.

Let's see, the Ben-Ism for today is: Right. And every time I laugh I die a little inside.

Orion is just beginning to understand that if he will let me work for awhile, then after I will give him my full attention. I'm going to do that for a bit, then get back to the studio.

I've picked and am eating the first orange from the tree by our front door. It is obscenely delicious.

I've finished the ratty portrait for Ravyn, who has recently experienced moments of true brilliance for which I am entirely grateful. The little statue is of Ravyn's mom and three granddaughters, in rat, of course. Something sweet and nice. Yes, I can do sweet.
Comfy? Good.

Thursday, December 08, 2005


I spoke with Bob Podrasky last night. We will be deciding in the next few days whether it's time to officially and finally close submissions for Tiny Stories - Call for Submissions. I believe we most likely will, so that work can begin on the project in early January. If you have something nearly finished, or have a sudden inspiration, the time to act would be now.

Today is cold and rainy. Not so cold as in other places, but cold enough that paints and casting materials behave differently and coffee and hot chocolate taste better. I’ve managed to put Hyde away for a bit. She quietly hyperventilates in the corner so I can make lovely things for people who ordered holiday gifts and later, go to Orion’s class party at Chucky Cheese. That’s no place for Hyde.
She is ever present now, but it becomes clear to me that, though my hands shake just a little when painting the tiniest detail, I’m most definitely the one in control. At least, for now. Last night my brain really wanted to play until late, late, late, so Pete took care of things this morning and I slept in. I got some good work done for Lost and Found in those wee hours. Now I’m listening to Chemical Brothers and Porcupine Tree and painting.

It’s a good day.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Hyde approaches. Sucking and Blowing defined

I don't want to frighten anyone, but it seems Hyde is beginning to get loud. Ben, studio partner and best bud, couldn't be happier.

I hear quotes of mine are finding themselves onto the web. I feel it somehow balances the universe to add some of Ben's to the mix. It's Karmic, sort of.
A few notable statements from today:

"Yeah? I'll tell you who likes Christians. Lions."

"You handed me two. I asked for a couple. Two is hardly a couple."

"Morals are definitely overrated."

Ah, Ben..........

Another common exchange, especially when work gets intense, goes like this:

"How'er we doing?"

"Well, we're either sucking or blowing."

Interestingly enough, Pete told me today that he heard (X-Play/G4) that sucking applies to a short-term assessment or to an immediate situation and that blowing refers to more long-term conditions.
You know? That feels oddly...right.

I finally got a photo that shows the eyes of The Children's Hour.


And, here they are. If you missed the rest of him, he's here:
The Children's Hour

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Press "X" to Jump

While I was miles away in winter, the very good Daddy took the Orion to the Tamale Festival, where he enjoyed some outdoor non-video game jumping. Apparently fearless in air as in water, he prepares to jump.

And, he's off! So, I suppose, am I.

And, with typical joyful abandon, he jumps, and jumps, and jumps. Yes, the desert has its good points.

Oh yes, Lorraine did indeed wear her pajamas to the airport and dropped me right at the door. As someone who has grown used to living in a vacation sort of place, who has been known to visit the grocery store in pj's and coat, and who is not surprised to run into 'speedo man' at the post office, I was non-plussed. She was actually cheerful and lovely and got coffee for us first.

I had a very long and busy day in the studio but very good. Then a meeting with Ben about projects for early next year, sending images and art out, answering emails.

Hyde, the name I call my creative drive, is making lots of noise. I try hard to quiet this by writing notes with quick sketches and promises to work them into the schedule. This may work, or may not. Sometimes you can resist scratching an itch. Sometimes you cannot. Sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you are. In the long run, if no one gets hurt, what difference does it make if I step outside of Lisa for a little bit and become the lunatic some people kindly refer to as the visionary? It's mostly harmless as long as she stays in the studio. Yes, that would be the studio full of knives and razors and um, power tools of all sorts. It would be the Lisa who's family bet on when she'd clean her brush in her coffee, or sip mineral spirits. (They longer do this as they are banned from the studio when Hyde visits.)

I am very busy (and happily) painting "Luck's Dancer" and other gifts. I especially enjoy the thought that someone likes something I made enough to give it to someone they care about. That's very cool.

On Saturday afternoons I work on a very irreverent project with Ben. On Thursday nights I work with Pete on a comic project. On Friday mornings, I work on Lost and Found and other book projects. In between are meetings and correspondence and a big block of studio time, broken into smaller blocks of various sizes interwoven with everyday life. Somewhere in there I must fit some Hyde time in, otherwise, the noise will get louder until I do.


Sunday, December 04, 2005

arrrrrgh. Ok Nora. Yes, Lisa was there too, eating cookies and Hershey's kisses all day...and signing some things too, but mostly eating evil chocolate things Posted by Picasa

Snow and Signings

Yesterday was as snowy as I could have hoped. Just right, actually. The reading and signing went very well, but went on for much longer than anyone had expected. Still, Neil made lots of people very happy and I got to spend time with some nice people.

It has been a weekend of new insights and winter scenery, crisp air and new friends and cats each with unique personalities. And birds. It’s very hard not to notice the woodpeckers especially.

The sculpture was finally unpacked and discovered to be unharmed during its long trip. It now sits comfortably back in its nook where it belongs.

I will be leaving tomorrow somewhat changed, in the way that stepping outside of daily life changes us. I’ll be glad to see my family waiting for me back home in the desert and already begin to miss the ones here in this pristine winter.

snow Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 02, 2005


I left the desert dressed in layers which mostly came off in the plane, because it was 75 degrees or so outside and at least 80 in the cabin. Three or so hours later it was 17 degrees outside and I started thinking about longitudes and the shape of the planet. I put the layers back on but after a very long walk through a warm airport with heavy bags, forgot about longitudes and weather patterns and just enjoyed the cold air on my face outside.
Kelli Kelli Bickman slideshow made a very nice dinner and the evening was fun and I'm tired but still sort of looking out the window once in a while, hoping for snow. It's dark and quiet and I will fall asleep happy for the change of scenery. Tomorrow is the signing and later I will unpack the sculpture and try to get a couple of photos up then.


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Surer Steps

Today was more productive. Ravyn suggests we are indeed affected by these last days of the waning moon. Then, Thursday should be interesting.
I packed shipments and cleared the studio for a new wave of work tomorrow. I don't think there is a 'cure' for obsessive interludes. Possibly the answer lies in learning to make the most of them. Oddly, I think I'm getting better at it. Certainly at juggling short-term and long-term projects. That one can get tricky. For me, it mostly involves chopping the longer projects up into bits, and fitting those between the daily stuff. Sounds easy, but it takes more disicipline than I could have imagined some years ago.
Orion has switched the language for Ratchett and Clank to Spanish. For some reason, this seems to delight him. From here, it sounds a little like Dora the Eplorer in some twisted universe. Or something like that. Not anything at all like time travel.
I spoke to Neil today, who is aware that desert weather is worlds away from the cold I'll be traveling to and suggested I wear and bring many layers of clothing. Good advice. I shall. He referred to the cold in the spirit of the Aussie "three dog night" as a "seven cat night." I suggested that I sew the seven cats together to make one good cat. I like the idea in theory, but in reality, possibly would result in a loud, uncomfortable sort of quilt. I'll stick with layers. Possibly I'll luck out and one of the seven will take up Gurtie's spot on my head. Either way, I vote for snow.

Bob Podrasky has sent me the first batch of Tiny Stories to read. I can't tell you how very cool it is to be reading these and having various images start to take shape. I'll keep you posted as we go along.

The new Worlds of Wonder Special 15 year anniversary catalog is out. It's really beautiful and if you enjoy science fiction, horror and fantasy art then you might think about ordering one. It's more like a coffee table book than a catalog.Worlds of Wonder: Store

Day is done. I'm thinking, a bit of TV and some chocolate ice cream right out of the carton. I had a salad for dinner, so this ice cream will help maintain balance in the universe. It could possibly save us all...


Sunday, November 27, 2005

Over my own feet

Yesterday was a day for tripping myself up. I put way too much time and energy into doing things that contributed nothing at all to my current schedule, which is full and somewhat pressing.
I not only strayed from my goals, but meandered obsessively. For example, I impulsively decided to do something about that closet door in the hall that has been popping open for months. Doing something included reorganizing the entire closet, which is packed to bursting (hence the perpetual failing of the latch) with games of all sorts and posters mostly of the comics, fantasy, horror, science fiction variety.
It got worse from there, involving things like miles of wire and cable, dust bunnies of the worst sort and so on until seven oclock felt like midnight, I had a terrible headache and a resistable but nagging urge to kick at the cat. Notacceptable.
If I were going to misuse time, I'd have been much better off reading, or playing games with Orion, or losing myself in some odd bit of creating art, even if it had nothing to do with deadlines or orders.
Anyway, I went to sleep exhausted and frustrated and with a headache. I woke with the headache, but not so tired and willing to let yesterday go and get on with today, eventually.

Is it the moon? Or some inner device that's off? Don't know. I need a bit of a break, I think. My brain needs a brake, I'm sure. Possibly it's that I've spent so much time making resin pieces that I haven't had any time to get this stuff out. Finding the balance, as many of you are aware, is the trick.

On to it. Sorry about the lack of photos. Will get to them. Soon. I'm packing up the kinetic piece to ship to the Neil so I can reinstall it when I get there. Ravyn is working on posting a video that Aubrey made of the thing in motion.

It's Monday, right?

Saturday, November 26, 2005


I awoke to quiet. Orion had snuggled in at some point and was pressed against my back, Gurtie was draped over my head like an ugly (but very warm) hat. Pete was sleeping peacefully and it felt cold enough to light the fireplace. One of those moments to lie quietly and appreciate...
Then of course the phone rang. Hardly five minutes later, Aubrey is dancing in the kitchen -- and singing "Ohhh, I wish for something sweeeet and fat freeeeee!" The computer is up, Orion has started a video game, Ben is on his way over and I'm making coffee, going over the list for today and checking messages all at the same time.
Well, apparently it's time to get to work. The studio will be like a beehive today. I will be a bee. No. I won't be a bee. Sheesh. I need coffee.
Hope you guys have a great day. Be back later with photos of what SlaughterHouse does on Saturdays.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Where's My Generation?

One of my favorite Far Side drawings features a city street in the midst of a huge emergency--possibly an alien invasion, I can't remember, but certainly something just that intense. In the midst of widespread panic and confusion a dog looks out a car window at another dog on the street. Both contentedly wag their tails in recognition and approval.
There's that sort of instant recognition and attraction between kids. Orion ignores babies now, and mostly any human taller than four feet, but any kid in his range wears the invisible badge of membership. "You're in the club, " it says, "and you know what I know."
The membership gets more complex by degrees, with age. The acknowledgements become more subtle. But still, teens still carry unspoken agreements that vary upon the situation. At school, they're divided into their own social groups, but outside, there's still a hint of "us" (all teens) vs "them" (all adults and all sprats). Same with twenty -somethings. Though by then, certain value systems, whether individual or imposed by fad, fashion, MTV or peers, kick in, instantly ranking and subdividing within the age group.
But by the thirties, the age identity is virtually gone. For one thing, it's awfully hard to tell who is when. We adults can find comrades via other criteria; economic, education, interests. We can be somewhat general, as in the loose bonding with attendees at a concert, a bit more specific e.g. attending genre conventions, or we can send out very specific signals. For example, I could show up in a shirt that proclaims "Silk for Calde!" Chances are, very few would respond. However, those few connections would be instantly powerful possibly because the 'club' would be so exclusive.
Still, this isn't the same as connecting with people purely by birthdate. We who are born in or near the same year have some pretty basic things in common. Of course there are exceptions where geographies and cultures separate us. But, within those parameters, there are things shared only with people our own ages. I have friends in their twenties, and in their sixties, and all ages between, but sometimes it just feels good to converse with someone my age, who grew up on the same toys, cartoons and sit cons, wore the same sort of clothes, saw the same movies and now, confront the same sorts of issues that only people our ages, and practically everyone our ages, do. I enjoy comparing notes with others who may have smoked weed at a Deep Purple concert, or saw Star Wars when it was brand new. Those conversations are fun and, heh, sort of like time travel. ( got you again, with the time travel...)
Interesting to think about changes in how we identify ourselves with others. Funny, the stuff you can learn from watching wee ones.

To Carl V: Obviously I'm re-visiting the Long Sun series. This time I'm paying attention. The thing that is most clear in every page is Gene's fascination with and appreciation of languages.

Apparently, I'm going to be at the Neil signing at DreamHaven Books, Comics and Art on Dec 3. If you're going to that one, I'd love to meet and chat with you.

And this, if you haven't seen it, regarding congrats to Harlan Ellison, who will be Grand Master for Nebula AwardsĂ‚® Weekend 2006

I'm off to the studio, while Orion hones his skills as Ratchett (with Clank, of course)...


Monday, November 21, 2005

Possibly I'm breathing some paint fumes, but I've been thinking as I paint. A lot. So will stop for a bit to write a few things down. Posted by Picasa

Possibly I'm having way too much fun painting these.  Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Prodigal Returns

Inspiration did finally come, unexpectedly at a weird moment when I was completely absorbed in sort of obsessively following and erasing a trail of footprints that lead from the front door to the kids’ bedrooms at one end of the house.
In other words, it came best described in the immortal words of Dr. Seuss:

It came without ribbons.
It came without tags.
It came without packages, boxes or bags…

It seemed to come out of nowhere. Out of thin air…

But I know, and you know, and we know it didn’t. It came from some previously stored information in my brain connecting to some other previously stored information and recombining into not only the parts for a visionary work, but the thread that would tie the parts together into something much bigger than its own space. Likely, the thoughts found themselves because, as I cleaned the footprints, I stopped directing my brain long enough to let them.

My experiences don’t lend themselves to belief in the muse, in the divine, in the gift. Why that is doesn’t matter, though if someone asked I could tell them. I could just as easily attribute inspiration to the muse, the divine, some matter of grace, the alignment of the planets or last nights fortune cookie.
What difference would it make?

None, as far as I’m concerned. The process is a wonder, whether we choose to define it in terms of science or magic. What I do know is that inspiration leaves for many reasons, among them fatigue, sadness, illness, distraction, happiness, pettiness, conflict, chocolate, people talking during movies, and uncomfortable freaking shoes.

In other words, in my experience, inspiration can be spooked. Is the artistic vision so fragile, like moments of romance, easily foiled by the most insignificant intrusion?

Perhaps that doesn't matter either. What does matter, to me, is that it seems to return exactly when we need it most. Because, really, we nearly always need it most.


Thursday, November 17, 2005


I've had my coffee. Sleep too. Not quite enough, as per usual, but I've done fine on less. So where does a person who is said to inspire others get her inspiration? Sometimes it is as elusive as the Willow the Wisp, and just as naughty. It's 10 a.m. The kids have been delivered to school and here I am with a long list of things I'm uninspired to do. I need rain. I need wind. Either would do. Anything other than this painted on ceiling that only someone who has lived under it could describe.

I can work. Of course I can work. I can always work. I'm annoying that way. What I can't do is cower under the covers, Gene Wolfe or no Gene Wolfe, though reading is partly responsible for the lack of sleep.

Music? Maybe.

This happens sometimes. It's the downside of art as a day job. The disipline of working on committments, projects, and orders is what keeps most artists from being, well, artists. Ideas I've got. Want ideas? I've got notebooks full of ideas. Stories, paintings, kinetic works. I've got em. Everybody has ideas. It's the dogged determination it takes to build them, to stick with a project that may or may not pay off for months, to edit one more time, to squeeze a moment of inspired creativity between loading the dishwasher and ordering supplies.

Hmmm. Here's what I'll do. I'll put on something. Classical. Prokofiev. No. Dvorak. And I'll tackle that list. I'll let you know where it goes...

Sunday, November 13, 2005

That future, This now.

My boyfriend and I, back in high school, used to ride our bikes down to the canal and lie on the grass while the stars came out. We’d talk about space and UFO’s and what we thought the year 2000 would bring. Back then, when my body and mind were fifteen, the year 2000 was mythically distant, more of an “if” than a “when.” It would likely never come. After all, we’d NEVER be forty! And, we’d always be good friends…
We lost track of each other, of course. I remembered those conversations, the things we thought we’d figured out, and I looked him up in 1990. I learned that my long-haired British born boyfriend had joined the U.S. army, served abroad, come home with a bad leg, a devoted Asian wife and a psychotic paranoia. He didn’t remember the boy I knew at all.
But for me, all those starry nights stayed on and became part of who I would be, decades later. Back then, we were certain that we’d be scooting about in hover cars, Jetsons-style, have robots sweeping our floors, laboratories on Mars and amusement parks on the moon. We thought people would live to be two hundred and the forty we’d never reach would be, well, young.
Well, we nearly have robots sweeping our floors. My vacuum cleaner is actually pretty damned smart.

We didn’t anticipate personal computers in millions of homes, an internet that allows instant conversations between persons continents apart, the mapping of the human genome, AIDS, cars with navigation systems, polymerase chain reaction, video gaming, blue Gatorade or turning forty.

The things that we didn’t expect far outnumber anything we anticipated, though a vital space program would sure be appreciated. I really don’t enjoy telling Orion that spaceships aren’t real.

For years I operated on the premise of my artistic dreams. Sometimes to the demise of my health, sometimes to the demise of my finances, and sometimes, to the degree that I’ve been called a visionary. I followed that vision in everything I did, sometimes not even seeing the day I was moving through. My life and my art seemed two separate entities. Eventually I looked around, noticed what time it was, and realized that I most likely wasn’t going to complete the script I’d written for my life. It was quite a shock, actually, and knocked me about for several months. I wondered how I’d failed, how I’d failed to see that I was failing, and how the hell did it get to be 2000?

It was very depressing. I was very depressed. I was so disappointed that I didn’t want to create any more. I thought about lying on cool grass under the stars and dreaming about the futures that never came, and my own, that had arrived seemingly unannounced. I sort of shut down. I spent a lot of time underwater, and sitting quietly, and being instead of doing. I read. I walked. Sometimes I panicked. Sometimes I cried. Mostly I laughed at what a fool I was. Finally, I got a good view of the now that is nothing that I’d expected and is everything I did not.

I’ve decided that it’s probably a good idea to not worry terribly about trying to control what will or won’t happen. I’ve decided that it’s also probably a good idea to keep doing what I’m doing and watch to see what does happen. I’m thinking that things will be a lot more interesting from here on out. Time will tell. It always does, dammit. Besides, I like living without the script. It takes a certain talent to do improvisation well, don't you think?

Is it Sunday night already? Well, time for tucking the Orion unit in, some hot chocolate and some time well spent reading a bit of Gene Wolfe.

Tonight's image was inspired by one of my favorite SpongeBob episodes...

Thanks for checking in.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Luck's Dancer

The short story is this: Neil Gaiman commissioned me to make a sculpture to fit a niche in his stairway wall. I did. Last year, in a somewhat slapstick fashion, (go here for his version:) he broke it. He sent it to me to be repaired and I looked at it for a long time and decided to make some changes. I’d just read his draft of Anansi Boys, and was under the influence of a different color scheme..muse?

When I was finished, the sculpture looked more like this:

The longer story of the ‘reconstruction’ and more photos are in my journal archives, beginning here: Angel's new clothes
Lots of people seemed to fall in love with the little yellow dancing jester, whom the frog was forever trying to snare with his umbrella and whom we began to call "Luck's Dancer."

I thought I'd like to have a casting of the little Luck's Dancer for myself and that others might too. And then, my friend Laura asked me out of the blue to make one for her. I considered sculpting another dancer that would be simpler to mold and cast, but, being me, I decided that: #1 Neil’s fans (and mine) would most likely rather have an actual casting from the original . And #2 I, being even more me, couldn’t pass up the challenge of molding such a complex figure (which, by the way, was not harmed in the very least, and is restored back to his original place in the universe of torturing the frog, looking even more delicious than before. )

It's the most difficult single-piece mold Ben and I have ever made. We began with a long session of sitting and talking about it, turning the delicate figure (the original is made of paper clay, which is basically blended paper mache) this way and that to imagine its mass as negative space. And, with that, imagining how liquid would flow into it and where air might be trapped, which is exactly what we had to avoid. This is part of the science of the whole business, and something we enjoy quite a lot, though it can leave one with a headache. That done, we decided the best approach would be to create channels that connect pieces to the surface (so air could escape) and to connect dead ends to other spaces. As you may imagine, air inside molds is a thing we try very hard to avoid, as it wreaks all sorts of havoc in castings. And we can't have havoc, as the SlaughterHouse motto says, "Nothin' can go wrong now!"

Opened up, the rubber mold looks like this:

The figure comes out of the mold looking sort of like this, with all the sprues attached.

I cut those off and smooth everything up and with lots of layers of paint, transform the little figure into something that feels real to me. The molding and the cleaning up are sort of the ‘day job’. It’s the painting that's fun and creative, where each figure takes on its own personality. In this case "he" as this little guy is most definitely a boy.

If you like "Luck's Dancer" and are feeling adventurous you can choose SURPRISE ME and get a truly unique treatment. Each will be a one of a kind finish. Fun for you, fun for me.

Ravyn has wonderfully created
Holiday Gifts for "Luck's Dancer" and a few other pieces we especially picked for gift giving.

This is a good step for Slaughterhouse. Thanks for looking and hope you have fun. Oh, and Happy Winter Season from Lisa, Ben and the SlaughterHouse Rats...

OH! While I have your attention---we still have a few more spaces left for TINY STORIES, the project. Bob Podrasky is in the editing ( fagblog: Reading Tiny Stories )phase .

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Wednesday morning

The nicest thing about winter in the desert is that it's not summer. Granted, swimming at midnight is nice, but believe it or not, a cloudless blue sky can start to feel like a ceiling after a while, and oppressive. I feel a bit more human when I wake chilly and put on my robe and slippers.
I can't remember the last time I journaled in the morning. The skies are full of moving clouds, there's a chill in the air and I have coffee. Ahhhhh. Gurtie is chasing some unfortunate cricket in the hall. Its only hope of escape lies in the fact that her claws have no purchase on the tiles so she overshoots and skitters into the wall.
She's just peered around the corner at me with a bit of a reproachful look, as though she hears me. She can be very creepy that way. Very creepy.
Ben will be here soon. It's a very busy studio day. We'll be like largish evil elves working at our benches, trading odd ideas that sometimes we write down. By four-thirty it will be night---another winter thing in the desert, and we will still be working away, so that it feels we've been there for days. It's like....time travel. Well, sort of.

I wish you all a very good Wednesday. Tomorrow is Mr. Gaiman's birthday. Send him your good thoughts. He was once a baby. So was I. So were you. That's a little like time travel too. Well, sort of.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Slight Right

Yesterday was a sort of accidental free day. I nearly called it a 'lost' day, but that isn't right, because it actually wasn't lost at all. It started with a sort of work hangover---one of those times when intense work/late nights or both decide to charge their toll all at once. So I woke late and groggy and shuffled through the den where the kids were eating leftover Chinese takeout and Halloween candy for breakfast, into the kitchen where the coffee was unmade. Aubrey had stayed home with the same cold she'd missed school for on Wednesday and was miserable. There was no point in taking Orion to daycare so late. He'd get there just in time for nap. He stood in front of the television, seeming to mimic a crazed angler reeling in the tie-breaking bass, but actually destroying evil robots.
Pete left to rig some show, America (the band, 70's) or something like that. Finally, Orion showed some interest in toys in his room, and ate enough of an apple to alieve my guilt. Aubrey and I put on Signs, one of those movies we watch when we're sick. Comfort movie. We watched in silence, occasionally passing the plastic candy bucket, inserting ridiculous and irreverent dialog into familiar scenes.
So, not a lost day, but a non-linear one in that it had nothing at all to do with 'the plan' or 'the list' or even the most vague expectations.
The golden thing is, I think I'm learning when to let one go. It's not really a good idea to try to fit a left-brain plan into a right-brain day. It's a waste of time. I've tried it. I only end up standing in my own way. Go right-brain.

Today was different. Up early, all day in the studio. Lots of focus. In the middle of working on one project a piece of another found its way into a waiting gap. I'm telling myself that could have happened mostly because I hopped off the wheel yesterday, aired out the gray matter. It seems to be a pattern.

So, in that spirit, anonymous, I shall let Karma take care of the treat bowl.

And now, I'll make some spaghetti.


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

In Other News...

Orion's first Trick or Treat went swimmingly, with him delighted and delightful at every door, coming away with tons of loot and forgoing the spiderman mask and becoming Spider Orion about haflway through the thing.

Back at the ranch, we discovered our honor systen ( a bowl of candy with a Happy Halloween sign) which worked so well before had failed miserably this time. It appears one Trick or Treater took the whole bowl of candy, including the bowl. I knew those little packs of Whoppers would be too much for our neighbors. Orion has discovered Rayman. Time limits are imperative. I must be vigilant. I left the spatula in the den. I'll need it to pry his fingers from the controls. I must show him there are other things to do, like books and bathtime and running around. But, I must admit it's really interesting to see how fast a little one can get really good at this stuff. sheesh.

Ravyn and I are working very hard to get the holiday season gift page up. This is the first year I've put together something like this and I'm very pleased to be able to. I think I'm going to show you some things you'll love giving, or getting. That's the idea, anyway.

Ben is back!!! Yay! Soon we'll be back at it again, making more sculptures that do things...

And, I've heard from new dad Mr. Podrasky on Tiny Stories. He is moving toward the time when he shall read and sort and choose stories to send to me. I'd better get to work. So little time, so many things to make.

And for the next few days, I'm sort of away, working very hard on "Lost and Found", which was "Lost and Found" then wasn't, but was going to be something else, but is now "Lost and Found" again. Odd, that.


Monday, October 31, 2005

The Children's Hour

A number of photos in no particular order. I don't think I've ever done a large sculpture quite this quickly. Hmmmm. I don't know that I want to again, any time soon. But I did enjoy showing you lots of the steps involved. Still he came alive for me late one evening and I'll never forget that experience, and the piece came out rather well, I think. It's not your everyday floor lamp, exactly. One day possibly I'll show you all the steps involved in making a rat...there are more than you might think, and probably different.

The Children's Hour

Closer look at his face. I'll have to try to get a better photo of his eyes during the daylight. Posted by Picasa

The Children's Hour - little puppets

A closeup of the puppets in his pocket, and a look at some of the surface texture, which I'm rather pleased with. Posted by Picasa

Here with his beacon lit. Posted by Picasa

The Children's Hour - puppet

A closer look at the puppet, who wears a fox mask. I stayed with a monochromatic finish. It just seemed to work for this piece. There's a lot going on with this piece, so I'll try to get some more photos on a less hectic day. I do hope you've enjoyed it's creation.

The Children's Hour

Busy night. Trick or Treating for Orion, I'm so ready for food and sleep. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Something October - Part 3 conclusion

“I’ve played this game before, with you. The board was bigger then. No. I was smaller.”


“I left this dream, and you came with me. And…my mother…”

“Brought…us…BACK!!” he roared the words. My hair blew back in the gust as he stood, violently striking the chessboard. The pieces flew, tiny missiles into the darkness. The board crashed into the shelves, shattering glass jars filled with horrors and sending shards flying in all directions. One tore into my cheek.
The noise was deafening. The wind was a discordant symphony of shrieks. A palm tree had just crashed onto an iron bench on the balcony, knocking it through the French door. Loosed curtains whipped in the violent, sandy air, creating strobe-like shadows. Fragments of glass littered the carpet. I was shaking, my fingers curled like two dying spiders. I pulled myself up and reached for the lamp. My hand brushed something soft…the cat? No, it was the puppet. I flung it to the floor.
Panicked, I was tangled in the covers, stumbling, half falling down the hall slapping at light switches as I went. To the kitchen, bright now as an operating room. I pressed my hands to my face like a madwoman. One cheek was bleeding. I bent over the counter, gulping air, staring at my bloody hands. Oh God, help me. I’m losing it. This time I’m really losing it. My chest felt raw. Breathe. Breathe. No. I wasn’t crazy. Just very, very frightened. The wind howled. A deck chair clattered, then splashed into the pool. Good. Something familiar. Something real.
Real? What is real? How could I know?

But I did know this: That sometimes we trade memories for dreams, dreams for memories. These were more than dreams. I was going back to a place I’d been before. A place with a door I’d left ajar. A door my mother had died trying to shut. At her death, grief had stunned me into a quiet where my inner workings would reshape things noiselessly, without expression. Now I cried like the child I had been; loudly, openly, tears streaming, nose running, body quaking. Then, after awhile, I stopped, took some ragged breaths and stood. I tore two paper towels from the roll, wet them under the faucet and wiped my face. I might need some stitches.
But first, it seemed I was ready to learn something new. October had come to the desert after all.
I tore off a dry towel, blew my nose and walked to the studio. I surveyed the evidence of years of work . My gaze rested on the stacks of drawings and blueprints for the carnival.
They were using me. I was the puppet. I’d let them in and my mother had found a way to drag them back, close the portal. Now I was building them a new home in the desert; a carnival. The were awaiting my invitation, again. They couldn’t come without it. But why the nightmares? Those were more like warnings. My mother, and the puppet…
Oh Christ! I remembered the puppet. I sank to the chair like a rag doll. Then shot up and tore down the hall to the closet where we kept all the things we didn’t know what else to do with. The puppet had been in the old box of photos from my parent’s house. I tugged it out, threw open the lid and began clawing through it. So much for not being crazy.
Piano recital, no. Birthday, no. Welcome to Virginia, uh-uh. My sister; ugly prom dress, uglier boyfriend, toss. Christmas, Aunt Ester, another piano recital. There. There it was. A black and white photo with a scalloped white border. A six-year-old Sara looked back at me through years suddenly as clear as glass.
And, this is what I knew; There was a closet in my mind where I locked all the things I didn’t know what else to do with…
She sat on her bed, a thin little girl in pajamas, smiling at the camera…like memories for dreams, dreams for memories..
Mother held the camera, but for now, the little Sara was smiling at me and the key turned in the lock.
She was surrounded by plush animals, get-well cards, coloring books. She held one hand up for the camera, for all these years, on it was a white-faced jester puppet. The puppet was the same as every other puppet given every other child in the pediatric ward. The puppet was what she wouldn’t let go of, even as nurses cut her pajamas away with scissors to get around IV’s, even when she heard her mother sobbing in her father’s arms, even as she heard herself scream in the icy bath that would stop her brain from cooking in her head..
The door swung open.


“Hi, Sis.”

“God, Sara, it’s four in the morning there. What’s happened?”

“ I need to ask you something, Evelyn. When I was in the hospital, when I was six. You were there, right?”

There was a silence. She’d dreaded this moment for a long time. I knew it, somehow. I’d nearly asked her several years ago, after our dad died, when we found the puppet.
Well, here it was.

“What the hell happened to me?”

“Sara, you were very sick. Your fever…Then Mom. Everything went to shit.”

“I died, didn’t I?”

Silence. “Evelyn. This is important.”

“Six minutes. They were ready to pronounce you.”

Some other place. Six minutes or an eternity. No difference there. I closed my eyes. Dreams for memories. Memories for dreams. I rearranged a few items in my brain’s closet. A place for everything and everything in its place. Six minutes in Hell. I’d known. In a way, I’d always known. And now I was mad.

“All this time. The nightmares, the therapy, the drugs, my work…How could you? How could you not…

She choked out the words. “We didn’t tell you, because Mom never got over it. Because she killed herself. Because you would have hated yourself for it.”

“How could you know that?”

“Because I hated you for it.” She let out a ragged sigh. “But not now. Not for a long time.”

“Thank you.”

I hung up the phone.

I was no longer alone in the studio. I knew without understanding how I knew. If you’ve ever been in a car crash you might understand what someone means when they say they read all the bumper stickers as they flew through the windshield. Time becomes meaningless.

And, there she was. Spun copper for hair, eyes green, kind and intelligent. Her dress was dry, her face radiant. She looked warm. She was surrounded by a group of children with bright, happy faces. My mother. And the chess children. It was just after midnight, but they were bathed in sunlight. Their hair blew in a breeze I couldn’t feel. The light grew brighter, blinding. I shut my eyes. When I opened them again, they were gone.

My hand puppet, back in its case, stared placidly at nothing.

The first rays were just appearing over the mountains behind me. I drove with the windows open. The dusty air flapped the papers piled in the back seat. The trunk was packed full of more drawings, as well as notebooks and discs and models, some working, some not. On top of all was a shovel, two cans of lighter fluid and a box of strike-anywhere matches. Tucked into the sun visor was a black and white photo of a little girl smiling at the camera, with a jester puppet on one hand. I fished a bottle of pills out of my purse, popped the cap and emptied them into the wind.
I had some doors to close. Some here and some in a place I knew well enough now to get around in. Neither would be easy, but I’d be okay. One way or another. I punched the CD player and ‘Religion’ cranked it up again. My sunglasses were dusty. As I ticked off Joshua trees and tumbleweeds to the beat of “Better Off Dead” I relented. I’d brought October here, and now I would send her home.
If you made it this far, thanks, and Happy Halloween.

Something October Part 2

The gallery of faces twisted with synchronized grace to stare reproachfully at me. I was newly aware of the drip, drip, drip in the near distance, aware of my vulnerable back, not daring to turn around. The pawn squirmed as I held it between my thumb and forefinger. I put it down quickly. One square forward. Fine. If my opponent takes my knight, he’ll lose his bishop. A sigh of relief escaped me when the tiny faces turned as one back to my opponent.
The drip became more distinct. I looked toward it.

It was my mother. A faint aura of light revealed her sitting in a familiar position before her easel. Her housedress was soaked, as was her auburn hair, looking inky black dripping in the half light. She was working at a drawing. I could hear the scritch of her pencil.

Wake up, Sara. Oh please wake up.

My mother, who’d been healthy and beautiful and thirty-five. Who’d walked down the steps with a basket of laundry to hang in the sunshine on a lovely summer morning. Who’d pinned up the towels and underpants and put the extra pins back in the basket. Who’d put the basket on the stoop of her pristine porch, turned and walked down to the river and stepping in, pulled great lungfuls into herself.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

Please let me wake. Her pencil went scritch. The twisted figure in the sketch had a paper mache mask. “Wrong room, Sara,” said the paper mache mouth.

I started violently, spilling coffee on the already ugly chair. It was still warm. I looked around the familiar room like a lost soul. There were my tables, littered with sketches and mechanical drawings of carousels and Ferris wheels, shelves of models, some working, some not.
“I’m working way too hard,” I said, wishing my family wasn’t quite so busy, wishing the house wasn’t quite so empty. I poured out the coffee, got a glass of milk instead.
After an hour of thumbing through magazines and half listening to television, I felt calmer and even sleepy. By eleven-thirty I was enjoying the cool feel of the sheets on my feet and the warm press of the cat against my back. The wind was picking up. I didn’t mind. It was the desert’s answer to rain on the roof and, in its own way, soothing.

There was the smell of sawdust. It was still, as though all the air had been pulled away, and waited to rush back in. I felt warmth on my face and opened my eyes. A hobo fire burned in an old metal barrel, its rusted holes creating a grotesque jack-o-lantern. An old man swept up wadded food wrappers, lost toys and ticket stubs and threw the bits into the flames. Shadows from the fire crawled over his intricately tattooed arms. His dirty undershirt, ripped in several places, revealed deep intaglio on his back and shoulders. A barn owl, white-faced and beautiful, perched on his shoulder. Rivulets of blood flowed from where the bird’s claws held him. More was caked on his shirt. Behind him was a tent, darker than the shadows. The sweeping man gestured to the open flap, then held out his hand. I stared dumbly for a second, then fished around in my pocket and found a crumpled twenty and three ones. I straighten the bills, folded them once and laid them on his outstretched palm. He dropped them into the fire and walked away, sweeping as he went. The owl swiveled its head to stare back at me as they retreated into the darkness.
I was inside the tent, back on the confessional stool, back in the game. I sensed others in the darkness, an occasional rustle, and muted jingles. I smelled the antiseptic, sharp and thick.
My opponent made his move. This time his hands were pale flesh, stretched tightly over large knuckled bones that looked too long. He captured one of my pawns with his bishop. My heart sank. The pieces were children. Now I knew what hopelessness looked like; it was carved into their faces. No, I was mistaken, these were not children, but ghosts of children, beyond hope or fear, which are privileges of the living. Some had been here as long as there have been carnivals. They were once children who’d laughed in the sunshine, fidgeted in church and rushed through their homework. Who’d stolen an extra turn on the Ferris wheel, chosen the wrong door in the funhouse and now they were here, wherever this was. His bony fingers handed my captured pawn to a dwarf standing beside the board, who accepted it with both his small hands cupped together. A tiny faded teddy bear lay in the square where the pawn had stood. Woodenly, I reached for it, but before I touched it, my opponent flicked it into the darkness with a finger. The dwarf pulled a pair of scissors from the impossible folds of his ragged clothing. I gagged. He motioned with his head to a bucket on the dirt floor beside my stool. I smelt his putrid breath and retched, puking into the bucket. I wiped my mouth on my sleeve, dizzy but too terrified to black out.
The dwarf screwed a lid onto a glass canning jar. Formaldehyde; that was the antiseptic smell. He held it up. The tiny body floated inside, minus the head. He waddled over to a wall of wooden shelves behind my opponent and carefully placed the jar between two identical ones. A punk show. There were other things in jars I couldn’t recognize and wanted no closer look at. And one I knew all too well. My mother, in miniature, floated in her own jar, eyes open, her pink housedress billowing around her, a line of tiny bubbles streaming from her mouth and nose. I retched again but there was nothing left.
You’re dreaming Sara. Wake up. A gossamer thread of sanity. Hear the wind?

I heard muffled laughter. There they were. The carnival troupe. Sweet Pete, Jack, Bones, Lady Lamia, characters I’d sculpted in wood or clay. My opponent raised his head. Paper mache mask with painted cheeks and a blood red grin. “Your move,” said the paper mache mouth.
My remaining sanity gathered itself and broke through my will, escaping into the darkness, leaving me with a curious sense of freedom.

“ I’ve been here before,” I heard myself, from a distance.
“Yessss,” said the mask.

Something October Part One

The thing in the studio is drying, tomorrow will be painting and photographing. In the meantime, since this is the last breath of October, I thought to post the story I wrote for the Strange Attraction anthology. It's not a new story, but I'd bet not many of you have read it. I've shortened it just a bit and divided it into parts for posting.

Something October

October doesn’t come here. It starts in Wisconsin, with good intentions, but turns tail somewhere north of Pueblo before its first taste of desert , a long haul from Blythe, California. I missed it. October wasn’t just a month for me; it was a state of mind. Today though, my mind was in the state of here and now, driving home from the foundry with a new bronze on the back seat. It was a jester dangling a tiny dead angel from a noose. I’d given the jester only a vague hint at facial features and star-shaped hollows for eyes.
I’d always loved October. The wind felt like promises. Growing up, I turned each year with the leaves. It was time for new discoveries. Some got filed with fodder, some made me a little wiser, but some would empty my pockets of all I believed, leaving room for things I didn’t want to. I closed the windows quickly against a curtain of blowing sand just ahead. My windshield was finely pitted; signatures of other sandstorms. It was nearly Halloween. As I ticked off Joshua trees to the beat of Stranger than Fiction, I relented. October was a no-show. Still, of all that mattered and all that didn’t, October always brought one particular magic: Carnival.

I was eight when I saw the contortionist. It had been a damp-chilly Carolina day and my dad and I walked about the county fair. There were calliopes and ghost houses, cows and jars of pickles with prize ribbons, Joey’s hawking their crooked games, vinegar fries in greasy cones and the Ferris wheel with its view of the river. A tent at the end of the midway held a wooden stage with a rusty tin skirt. A tattooed man stood by a sandwich board that said ‘Strange Attractions’ would appear. He tore our tickets in half with stained fingers and we stepped solemnly through the flap to stand near the stage. We listened to the vagabond arrangement of some murdered waltz. A spotlight washed over the stage and something burst spider-like from the folds of musty velvet. It was a man, long and wiry, in a black leotard and a paper mache mask. He curled around backwards so that his head and arms came right through his shins. When he skittered to the edge of the stage a yard from where I stood, I slipped my hand into Dad’s, suddenly regretting that last candy apple. Something felt very, very wrong. The contortionist’s eyes surveyed the audience and then a terrible thing happened. The eyes settled on me. The moment stretched and thinned. I looked up at my dad. His head bobbed to the music, his cigarette glowed red.
The mask was suddenly inches from my face. “Hello, Sara.” An eye winked and the contortionist skittered away, disappearing into the blackness. For a moment there was no air, then time snapped back to normal. The music played. Two clowns and an ancient poodle were exiting through the velvet. We walked back through the flap with the other patrons. I put my head down and followed my dad through the carnival’s arched gate.

I hadn’t thought about that in ages. I wasn’t even sure how much of it was real anymore, and which part was dream. Mostly that depended on whether I considered it during the bright light of day, or late, when everything was quiet but the breathing of the walls. I’d had nightmares since I could remember. I’d been in therapy, taken a prescription, tried smoking dope. Nothing helped. Finally, I’d learned to live with them. I sculpted and painted them, building a successful career. Now I was beginning the project of a lifetime, a full sized carnival to be constructed right here in the desert. Rides that employed the latest computer technology, but were built to look like they ran on magic older than the wood I’d carve their facades from.
I’d turned lemons to lemonade. But recently, the dreams had grown more disturbing, more tiring.

When I got home, the house was quiet. I was pouring myself a cup of coffee when I noticed my little hand puppet on the counter. I wondered who would have taken it from the studio, but was too tired to pursue it. I put it back in its case, then plopped down in the ugly but infinitely comfortable chair between my work tables. With the strange clarity that exhaustion sometimes brings, images began filtering back in.
It was cold and very dark. I smelled alcohol, antiseptic. I sat on a confessional stool of carved wood, smoothed by years of use. Oddly, my feet didn’t touch the floor. A single lamp illuminated only the chessboard before me. I played black. The knights had broken rank and several pawns were face-to-face at the front line.
My opponent sat in shadow, only his hands visible. The one resting on the table was veined marble. The other, hovering over our silent battle, was carved of some exotic wood. I waited.
No walls were visible in the darkness, but I became aware of a slow, steady drip somewhere to my right. Its echo told me the room was large and empty. I turned my attention back to the game. I’d seen masterfully carved sets before, but not like this. The kings were as long as my hand. Except for the rooks, the pieces had intricately carved faces round as moons and upturned in grotesque parodies of children. I thought of the sunflowers by the river. My opponent’s hand moved to his queen, touching her crown with one polished finger. I watched in horror as the little faces turned in unison. The hand paused, then chose the bishop instead, whose tiny eyes widened as he was lifted delicately and moved two squares diagonally, next to my knight, whose face now followed the hand as it retreated.
My move.


Friday, October 28, 2005

October eyes

Last night Pete heard a noise, opened the back door to a pair of eyes looking right back at him. Our guest was accomodating enough to stay put for a photo. I spent the morning working in the studio, the afternoon seeing "Stay" and the evening packing art for the World Fantasy Convention. Posted by Picasa

Another view

A better look at our visitor. Tomorrow I'll be back in the studio with an entirely different visitor. I'll be sure to take a couple of photos. After "Stay" I'm seeing nothing but grids, but I should be over that by tomorrow.