Posts Tagged 'Harmony'

“Life, Amplified”

By Karis Walsh

I’ve suffered for my art. I had to test drive a Mercedes on the steep and winding McMurray Road in Tacoma, Washington. What a drag! I’ve had to sample a variety of drinks, from scotch to beer to bourbon—including an (admittedly) enjoyable experiment with tequila, limes, and salt. Ouch! And I’ve had to endure a series of short trips to some of the most beautiful places in the Pacific Northwest, like the Olympic Peninsula and Cannon Beach and Spokane. Yes, some truly painful experiences. All in the name of research.

But since the time I started writing ImprovisationImprovisation 300 dpia spin-off from my first book, Harmony—my neighbors have been forced to suffer for my art as well because I bought a version of my character’s electric violin for myself. Tina Nelson is a violinist in Andy Taylor’s string quartet and an avid fiddle player who spends evenings in pubs playing her flame-red electric violin. Like Tina and Andy, I play the violin and viola. Unlike Tina and Andy, I don’t play very well, but I adore both instruments. I started with the violin when I was in the third grade, and it quickly became a family joke that everyone would evacuate the house when I started to practice. Luckily for my parents and sister, I rarely chose to do so. I stopped playing after a few years and started again as an adult, adding the viola to my caterwauling repertoire of instruments. The few people who are unfortunate enough to hear me play—including my music teacher and my wine-drinking adult chamber music group—would probably tell you that the last thing I need is to be hooked up to an amplifier when I play. But, using research for Improvisation as an excuse, I gave in to my long-repressed desire and bought a gorgeous maroon Yamaha electric violin.violin

Each book I write transports me to a new universe, and I bridge the two worlds by collecting objects I find in real life that remind me of the fictional one I’m creating. By the time I type “The End,” my desk will be cluttered with these things. This morning, I did a quick inventory of the stuff I’ve gathered since 2010, when I started writing Harmony. I have stacks of research books on a variety of subjects from raptors (for my upcoming novel Wingspan, February 2014) to polo rules and regulations (for Mounting Danger, October 2013). I have piles of sheet music, a tray covered with a collage of sea glass photos, maps from all over the Pacific Northwest, cigar bands, and geometry texts. Even better than these souvenirs from my imaginary voyages are the people I’ve collected along the way. New friends I’ve had the privilege of meeting on the internet and in person. More than royalty checks, more than the print books with my name on the cover, the readers and other authors I’ve met have been the true reward for the time I’ve spent writing and editing my books.

But the favorite inanimate object in my collection is definitely this five-string violin (in case you’re curious, the 5th string is a modified C-string, so I can play either the viola or violin parts). While it doesn’t seem logical to amplify the sounds created by a semi tone-deaf and rhythm-impaired musician, I actually play better when at a higher volume than I do on my acoustic instruments. The tentative, trying-not-to-make-a-mistake player fades away when I’m plugged into my amp. Maybe it’s the forgiving quality of a more rock-and-roll sound, or maybe it’s simply the joy of making music with gusto. Whatever the cause, enthusiasm and delight more than make up for the occasional missed note or awkward phrasing. And, funny as it sounds, the small mistakes and slides and sharp or flat tones don’t make the music sound wrong. They make it sound unique and interesting. This violin has taught me a lesson I plan to apply to my life—no matter whether I’m writing or loving, playing music or pursuing hobbies. What have I learned? To crank up the volume, push past the mistakes, and express myself with passion. To live life amplified.

…what matters is that we seek love throughout the year

By Karis Walsh

I’m the first to joke about the monotony of seasons in the Pacific Northwest. Rain, slightly warmer rain, rain, slightly colder rain. We’re green and damp and mossy year-round. But we web-footed Washingtonians and Oregonians have learned to recognize the four seasons by subtle clues – the feel in the air, the urge to be active or to hibernate, the type of drink in our coffee cups. It might look like a solid year of rain to an outsider, but every season has its distinct flavor and scent and mood.

In my new book, Sea Glass Inn, Sea Glass Inn 300 DPImy character Melinda Andrews has gone through a year of upheaval. For Mel, each season has been marked by a life-changing event, and – in the age-old tradition of life imitating art – my own year has mirrored hers in many ways. We both experienced a year of change and growth and hope.

Spring: A Venti Triple-Shot Latte to chase away the breezy chill in the air and wake us out of hibernation… Although Sea Glass Inn doesn’t begin in the spring, Mel’s personal story begins there. A divorce. Change. At the time, all she can see are the endings of relationships and familiar lifestyles. But the invisible seeds of new beginnings have been sown, and although she stands at a crossroads – nervous and alone – she boldly takes her first steps forward into a new life. That’s what I love about Mel. She insists on looking at the destruction of old ways and seeing the potential with optimism. It’s not always easy to do when we’re hurting and in turmoil – she knows that, and we know that – but it’s always worth making the effort. My own spring was filled with changing relationships as well. Some ending, some growing stronger and more cherished. My optimism came out on the page as I wrote my fourth book. Nothing like a little romance to rebuild our faith in love’s promise.

Summer: An Iced Latte to cool us off on those rare and lovely sunny days… In the book, we don’t see Mel in the summer, but we follow her memories back to the sunny day when she bought both a painting and a new home. Summer is warm and beautiful and fertile. It’s the time to fill our worlds with new experiences, new places, new people. Travel and taste life when it’s at its most bountiful. Stuff ourselves with the raw materials we need in order to create. For Mel, it was an inn, a chance for a new life. Rooms to restore and decorate and fill with guests. For me? Small journeys to favorite places. Locations that will be filled with my characters and their stories in future books.

Autumn: A Pumpkin Spice Latte to soothe our souls, quiet our minds, and gather us close to home for the holidays… Our story starts in the fall, when Mel makes her big move to the Oregon coast. This is a season of huge growth for her. An awesome blend of hibernating – as she settles into her home and works to restore both the inn and her own life – and of exploding out into the world – as she finds her way through some rough spots and toward a second chance at love. Mel and I were closest during this season. Partly because I was working on the final edits for her book, and partly because I also got to experience the wonderful dichotomy of settling in with work at home while, at the same time, branching out with new connections and friendships.

Winter: A Peppermint Mocha with Whipped Cream and Sprinkles to both refresh our minds and warm our hearts as we burrow in for winter and look forward to spring… Our journey with Mel ends as she moves through the winter and into a brand new spring. This one will be as filled with change and growth as the previous one, but now she is stronger and ready for whatever life throws at her. She’s been tested and she’s succeeded. Both Mel and I are looking forward to the spring and the new relationships and experiences we’ll discover there. Because it doesn’t matter what the weather brings or what the seasons look like as they change – what matters is that we seek love throughout the year, in all its forms and ever-evolving glory.

Unleashing My Inner Redneck


I recently celebrated the first anniversary of the publication of my book Harmony. And what a year it’s been! I’ve (mostly) enjoyed the struggle to overcome my procrastinating nature as I wrote and edited my next novels. I’ve loved meeting readers and other authors and the talented BSB staff. And I’ve appreciated every moment I was able to dedicate to creating and writing and brainstorming. But one of my favorite by-products of this writing life has been the way my characters influence my hobbies, how I spend my free time. I played along with Andy, Brooke, Jamie, et al. as I practiced my viola, experimented with new recipes, and read financial books and magazines (because I really needed to find a way to invest that spare ten dollars I carried around in my pocket). And – for “research,” of course – I’ve smoked a few cigars, spent far too much time playing pool, and tried my hand (so to speak) at tequila body shots. (Hey, I strive for accuracy no matter what the personal cost.)

Now I’m working on my newest book, a romantic intrigue called Mounting Danger. Because of the storyline, I’m taking polo lessons again and hiking through Tacoma’s Point Defiance Park. But I’m both excited and worried about the effect my character Rachel will have on me. Unlike her sophisticated polo-playing counterpart, Rachel is a ranch-raised, backcountry woman. She’s everything a cowgirl-turned-cop should be – dusty and sweaty and hard-working and honest to a fault. While I’m writing about her, I’ll get to revel in all my redneck traits. And believe me, I have quite a few of them. I’m more at home in cowboy boots than in heels, I own more than one pair of coveralls, and I admit to having a pile of spare fence posts covered by the Washington State flag (local slang for a blue tarp) in my backyard. And while I was sitting in the pasture writing this blog, I had a determined goat trying to nibble on my computer. (Will the excuse “Sorry, but my goat ate my flash drive” work the next time I miss a deadline?) Over the next few months, Rachel will be part of me whether I’m riding, cleaning the barn, or possibly learning to two-step as I release my inner redneck cowgirl. Why am I worried about Rachel’s influence on me? Because – again, in the name of research – I’ve been searching through “horse-for-sale” ads as I try to find the right mount for her. I’m fairly certain one of them will find its way into my pasture, and I’ve reached my quota of animals. (Of course, I say the same thing about books, but I don’t stop buying them!)

Maybe someday I’ll create a character with a more useful (to me) hobby of housecleaning or weeding or closet organizing. But probably not. Besides, how much organizing does my flannel-filled redneck closet need? Once the flannel is sorted into categories – dress, casual, ripped-beyond-repair, should-never-be-worn-outside-the-house – what’s left to do? So for now I’m happy to explore, through my characters, some of the careers and hobbies that interest and inspire my little Renaissance soul. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go horse shopping…


by Karis Walsh

After a short break to celebrate the publication of my second book, Worth the Risk, I’m back to work on Something New. I’m glad to be moving on to a fresh project, but I am still struggling to adapt to the writing process. My control freak side believes I’ll be successful if I sit at my computer for a specific amount of time and aim for a specific word count every day. And that side of me is partially right – writing requires self-discipline, persistence, consistency. But I’m discovering that my real flashes of inspiration choose to completely disregard my attempts to schedule them. Those bits of dialogue that ring true, the personality traits that suddenly give life to a character, the strings that connect scenes so they form a coherent story – these ideas usually strike at inconvenient and unexpected moments. I can’t count how many times I’ve had to turn off the shower or treadmill or Sonicare so I could scramble around (soapy or sweaty or trying not to swallow toothpaste) for a piece of paper and pen. Often, my regular writing time is devoted more to deciphering and transcribing what I’ve scribbled on the back of receipts or junk-mail envelopes than to coming up with anything new.

I’ve found this same dichotomy to be true in other areas as well. I’ve recently returned to music lessons after a year-long hiatus, and the transition back to regular playing has been painful. Partly in a physical sense because my muscles are out of shape and I’ve lost the tiny calluses on the tips of my fingers that protect them from the viola strings. But I also mean painful in an aesthetic sense. What skills I once had are rusty, so my flaws come shining through. (While not exactly tone-deaf, I certainly qualify as tone-hard-of-hearing. And – something you might witness if you ever have the dubious opportunity to watch me dance – I am rhythmically challenged.) I’ve been trying to tackle these problems by spending an allotted time each day on etudes and scales and shifting exercises; but, while the routine of practice will help, I know it won’t make me a musician. Real musicality – beyond mere technical proficiency – will only come if I am open to the moments outside of my practice time when I have some little epiphany about the meaning of the music. The connections to a piece that are only allowed in when I’m relaxed and simply listening – not frantically trying to get my posture and fingering correct. The unplanned realizations that hit while I’m walking outside or lost in thoughts of love and suddenly some nuance behind the composer’s notes becomes clear.

Writing, music, life. We try and try to plan them. To schedule and organize and control every detail so we can make progress or meet goals or simply get through the day. But the real magic happens in the between times, when a jolt of meaning slips through the cracks and refuses to be ignored. And then we find ourselves turning off the shower and leaving a trail of soapy, soggy footprints as we go in search of a pen or a paintbrush or an instrument or a lover so we can express the inspiration that has grabbed hold of us. Because if we ignore it in the moment, its power fades away.

Violas and Ponies

Multi-talented author Karis Walsh talks about her newly released novel, Harmony, and her upcoming works.

Something New…

By Karis Walsh

This has been a year of new experiences for me. Some
positive, some not so much. Some I actively sought out and some were forced on
me. One venture I chose willingly was a series of polo lessons at a local club.
Since I teach horseback riding, I’ve found it helps me better communicate with
and understand my students if I constantly remind myself what it’s like to be a
beginner. To be excited and confused and sometimes overwhelmed with
information. And to struggle with the body’s often clumsy attempts to obey the
mind’s orders. So at least once a year I’ll sign up for something out of my
ordinary routine and give it a try.

My forays into uncharted territories have yielded mixed
results over the years. I’ve begun hobbies that will last a lifetime, like my
return to music lessons after an absence of almost thirty years. Others turned
out to be strictly one-time flings, like skydiving. Glad I did it once. Never
want to do it again, thank you very much. (Unless the plane’s on fire, and even
then…) Oddly enough, after thirty-five years of riding and over twenty years
of teaching in the hunter-jumper field, my attempts to learn new equestrian
disciplines have led to the most growth and challenge – and often frustration.
Whether riding gaited horses or competing in trail classes, I’ve had to ignore
my ego-driven voice (but I already know
how to ride a horse
) and be open to a different way of doing things. My
skills and past experiences are always helpful, of course, but if I’m
constantly talking about how much I already know, I’ll never learn anything

Polo was definitely a humbling experience. I have to pause
briefly here and say a couple of things about D. Jackson Leigh’s book Call Me Softly. First, although I rarely
read equestrian-themed books because I too easily slip into teacher mode and
find myself scanning for errors and inaccurate equine information, I really
enjoy her writing. She’s obviously well-informed about horses and riding, and
she’s a talented storyteller as well. I trust her to know what she’s talking
about, and trust her to lead me and entertain me with a story. Second, I’m glad
I read this book after I started polo
lessons or I might have been a bit discouraged by the discrepancy between her
character Swain’s and my own experiences on the polo field. There was nothing
“warrior-like” about my playing. And while women might have wet themselves
watching me, it was only because they were laughing so hard. I’m quite capable
of cantering around on a horse, and I can swing my polo mallet and hit (usually)
the ball. But doing both at the same time? Not happening.

In my August, 2011 release Harmony, my character Brooke has a new experience as well. Sex.
With a woman. Right before her wedding. This is a life-changing event for her
and one that leads to a struggle to break free from her own doubts, and from
the conventions and expectations imposed on her by family and society. I
enjoyed taking this journey with Brooke as she faced the vulnerability that
comes when we bare ourselves to the unknown, the thrill that accompanies the
uncovering of a truth hiding deep within us. I hope you’ll also want to share
her story of passion and identity and self-discovery.

So what about you? What new experiences have you had
recently, and were they one-off things or here to stay? What have you always
wanted to try but haven’t yet done? I say take the step. It’s worth it.

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