Posts Tagged 'Karis Walsh'

“Sea Life”

By Karis Walsh

Tales From Sea Glass Inn 300 DPITales from Sea Glass Inn, my tenth novel, was released this month. I journeyed back in time with this one—back to the setting of my third book, back to memories of Cannon Beach, and back to the time I spent working at the ocean after an oil spill. I was accompanied by Pam and Mel, as well as eight of their friends, neighbors, and guests. As if the tour bus wasn’t full enough on the trip, I also had another element in the forefront of my mind as I traveled through these novellas—the ocean itself.

 

I often feel that my settings are characters as much as they are places, and this is most true when I’m writing about the sea. For many of us, the ocean seems to speak to something deep and primal. The throbbing beat of the waves, the taste of salt on our lips, the shifting sand under our feet. We connect to nature and the timelessness of tides and the vastness of the world in a way we can’t in any other place. I’m sure there are as many reasons for the ocean’s effects as there are people who experience them, but for my novellas I came up with four key ideas. Being near the ocean heals us. It provokes creativity. Its beauty causes passion to flare inside us. And the concentration of life along a narrow strip of shore, singing to the constant beat of waves and tides, turns communities into families.Ocean1

 

Like the beach, the women in this book are nurturers, healers, creators, and lovers, but their hearts carry the sludge of old wounds. As they scrub the oil off the birds and beaches, they find themselves washing away their own pain until their hearts are clean enough to love again.

 

I love walking along cool mountain trails next to trickling streams. I am awed by the scorched and prickly beauty of Texas. I am far from the ocean now, but I felt close to it while I wrote these tales. I hope my readers are able to hear the oceancry of gulls and smell the tangled seaweed and feel the ocean in all its healing power on this second visit to the Sea Glass Inn.

 

“All the Rage”

By Karis Walsh

I’ve never been a trendsetter. No one looks to me for the next fashion statement or hairstyle. (Although, with all the flannel I wear, I seem to have anticipated the “Lumber Sexual” movement. Minus the beard and ax.) I’ve also never considered myself to be a trend follower. I’d definitely come in last place in any “Name the Kardashian” game, and I don’t buy clothes based on appearance, but rather on three strict criteria: they must be cheap, comfortable, and not need ironing. But there’s one thing I started doing way before it became popular.

 

I’ve got goats.

Emma and Shasta

Emma and Shasta

 

You see goats everywhere now. Jumping around Facebook wearing pajamas, cavorting on television ads, and yelling on YouTube. Twelve years ago, when I first got a sweet little goat named Domino to keep my horse company, I didn’t realize I would eventually be part of a worldwide craze comparable to the invention of parachute pants or the Jennifer Aniston haircut. Yes, it finally happened—I’m part of a trend. And although I spend more time cleaning the shed and buying hay than you usually see in goat videos, I also get to experience the joy and laughter these wonderful creatures bring to life as they butt heads and jump on spools.

Shasta and I share a hotel bed

Shasta and I share a hotel bed

 

I’ve also shared a hotel room with two of them as we traveled from Washington to Texas, but that’s another story… (you can read it at http://kariswalsh.com/2014/01/27/traveling-cross-country-with-goats )

 

In my newest novel, Love on Tap 300 DPILove on Tap, Tace Lomond is as non-trendy as I am. She lives a quiet life in her own small corner of the world, limited both by life’s circumstances and by her own doubts and fears. Her new tenant, archaeologist Berit Katsaros, is the opposite—she’s all the rage in the small college town of Walla Walla, Washington. On the surface, one woman is world-traveled and hip, while the other feels that she’s provincial and boring. As the story progresses though, they manage to see beyond trends or lack thereof. They see beyond the details to the substance and value underneath.

 

I’m not sure what to do with my newfound sense of trendiness, my close brush with a pop culture fad. I’ll have to decide later. Right now, I need to fill my pockets with dried figs and pretzels and go visit the goats. Trends come and go, but goats are always hungry.

Kismet

Kismet

“Voices in My Head”

By Karis Walsh

SCENE: INT. THERAPIST’S OFFICE

 

  1. X: What seems to be the problem?

 

ME: (in a shaky, haunted whisper) I see fictional people.

 

Fourteen of them, to be exact.

 

Tales From Sea Glass Inn 300 DPII’m going to need intensive psychoanalysis to sort through all the characters who have taken up residence in my head this year. For the anthology Sweet Hearts, I was given the amazing opportunity to work with two wonderful BSB authors, Melissa Brayden and Rachel Spangler, and to revisit two of my favorite characters, Kate and Jamie from Worth the Risk. In the resulting novella, “Risk Factor,” Kate’s friend Myra Owens has a chance to find romance with Ainslee Cooper when Myra starts a riding class for wounded vets. Over the summer, I wrote four novellas for my 2016 release Tales from Sea Glass Inn. So, there are two main characters in each of the five novellas, plus appearances by Mel and Pam (from Sea Glass Inn), and Jamie and Kate…

 

It’s getting crowded in here.

 

All of these characters are unique people in my mind, with pasts and talents and secret hopes specific to each of them. But, disconcertingly, they are also fragments of me. There’s always some sliver of connection between me and the people I create, whether it’s a shared hobby, a common fear, or a similar incident from our pasts. Sometimes, all these voices in my head can be overwhelming, but I love them too much to kick any of them out before their stories are told.

 

Sweet Hearts is about beloved secondary characters and second chances. These women didn’t find love the first time around, instead remaining somewhat in the background, but in this anthology they are faced with the possibility of romance and have to discover whether or not they are brave enough to grab hold of it. As soon as I heard the premise for this collection, I knew I wanted to tell Myra’s story because her voice was still loud in my mind even after I had finished Worth the Risk. She was fun to write as a secondary character because she’s smart, compassionate, and very strong, and she gained depth and texture in my mind as a main character. Like me, she loves horses, but she uses her passion in a wonderful and life-changing way, for both her and her students.

 

Melissa, Rachel, and I live very different lives, and the characters we’ve created in Sweet Hearts are as diverse as we are, but these three novellas are united by a powerful and enduring Sweet Heartsconcept: the healing power of love.

Sex and PB&Js Or… Let’s Call a Nipple a Nipple

BY KARIS WALSH

When I was at the Lone Star LesFic Festival in Austin, I was fortunate enough to be on a panel discussing one of my favorite topics—sex. A question from an audience member got me thinking about the sex scenes we write and the vocabulary we use for them. She wanted to know if the authors on the panel kept lists of phrases and words we used to describe actions and body parts, crossing them off as we used them in books and making sure we came up with new imagery for every scene. The question is an interesting one, and the responses to it were as varied as the panelists, but my short answer is no. I was intrigued enough, though, to want to write out a longer explanation.

 

I spent an enjoyable chunk of time with a thesaurus while I decided what would be on my list, were I to write one. Scrumptious mammarian nugget, mouthwatering womanly chasm, and moist wormhole of rapture (the last in case I decide to write sci-fi). Needless to say, these would be immediately edited out of any document I submitted and would never see the light of publishing day. The fact is—without introducing items from a sex store—there are only a few body parts that play a significant role in sex. I say, call a nipple a nipple. So how do we, as writers, come up with fresh and unique sex scenes for each book, without resorting to the giggle-inducing euphemisms?

 

PB&JLet me pause for a moment to explain the second half of my title. I’m not talking about bringing PB&Js into the bedroom for some sex play, since the thought of the resulting mess kicks my OCD into overdrive. I’d have to throw out the sheets—and possibly the mattress as well—the next day. Yech. Okay…my anti-anxiety medication is kicking in and I can continue… The question in Austin made me think of an analogy of sex to the sandwich we all know and love. The ingredients are simple, few, and easily procured. But ask five people how they prefer to construct this basic sandwich, and I’m sure you’ll get at least five different answers. Crunchy or smooth peanut butter? Raspberry jam or apple jelly? White bread or full-of-fiber-seven-grain-with-flax-seeds? What’s the reason for this seemingly infinite variety of combinations? Personality. Character. Personal taste, personal history, personal appetites.

 

Character is the key to making a sex scene ring true, feel erotically charged, and affect the reader (and the writer, I must add). When the two characters involved (or more, if you’re MJ Williamz) bring their pasts, their needs, and their varying degrees of ability to understand each other into the bedroom, the resulting scenes feel authentic and different from any other scene with any other characters. The basic act can be straightforward and the vocabulary can be simple, but no other characters would have the exact same experience.

 

How did this come into play in my latest book, Mounting Evidence? In this instance, the location was the most important variable. The two characters, mounted police lieutenant Abby and wetland biologist Kira, have spent a lot of time and effort building walls around their personal lives and protecting their home space, for different reasons. Their first sexual encounter is outside and in a neutral place, where they can let their guard down for a brief moment. The two later scenes are in places that have greater emotional impact and represent a true sharing of their inner lives. The parts involved are lips and fingers and thighs. Nothing as fancy as a moist wormhole, but the events are significant to them and will seem to the reader—I hope—to be genuine expressions of the emotions specific to them.Mounting Evidence 300 DPI

 

So…sex and PB&Js. What are my personal preferences? As far as sandwiches go, I like smooth peanut butter and cherry jam, with a ratio of 1.5:1 jelly to peanut butter. Even though I like most sandwiches cut on a diagonal, PB&Js should be cut across the middle. And, although I prefer artisanal breads with good chew as a rule, peanut butter and jelly belong on the soft, mass-produced bread of my childhood. As far as sex goes? Well, I prefer having it to not having it, and that’s all I’ll say about that…

“In Search of a Good Cup of Coffee”

BY KARIS WALSH

I’ve been in Texas for eight months now, and I’ve learned quite a lot about the food culture here. If I want good barbecue, the best sour cream enchiladas in town, or an extra-large portion of anything, I know where to go. Every restaurant in town offers chicken-fried steak and tea so sweet that my mouth is puckering right now just thinking about it. Hot and spicy, fried and greasy, served with a smile and a slice of pecan pie. But finding a good cup of coffee? Good luck.

 

There are two Starbucks in my city. Now, some of you might think that’s a lot in such a wee-bitty town, but others will wonder how I can survive with such paucity—especially since I’m originally from the Seattle-Tacoma area where you can’t drive a half-mile without coming across some sort of espresso stand or café. When I’ve ordered lattes in one of the few non-chain places that offer something besides plain brewed coffee, I’ve had servers say Wow, that’s complicated! and Wait, let me write that down… Such comments don’t inspire much hope that I’ll end up with a great cup of coffee. So, more often than I care to admit, I load my two puppies in the car and we drive the half-hour round trip to the nearest Starbucks where I get my triple venti soy latte and the dogs get their puppuccinos.

On my lap, checking out the menu. He likes the sausage breakfast sandwich best

On my lap, checking out the menu. He likes the sausage breakfast sandwich best

 

You’re right…I could get a fancy espresso machine and brew my own coffee, but the three of us enjoy our regular outings. Dexter, our Brussels Griffon, will wake out of a sound sleep in his car seat and sit up when I’m about a block from the café (admittedly, he’s just as familiar with several other fast food restaurants in town). Brigh, our new terror-terrier mix, is quickly learning the joys of the drive-thru window.

Dexter at Starbucks

Dexter at Starbucks

After too many years without a dog of my own, I appreciate the companionship these puppies provide. Coffee, a scone, and two furry bodies waiting for their share. What a perfect way to start the day.

 

I’ve always been a dog lover, and writing Blindsidedblindsided was fun because of the added canine connection. Both of my characters share their lives with dogs. Lenae McIntyre has her service animal, Baxter, and Cara Bradley is puppy walking (reluctantly at first) Pickwick. Lenae relies on Baxter for more than guidance—his genuine friendship is comforting after the betrayal of a less-than-honest girlfriend. Pickwick offers Cara the warmth and company she craves. The uncomplicated, dependable relationships with the animals help Lenae and Cara connect with each other. Slowly, they learn that a human relationship can offer trust as well—and so much more.

 

I had fun writing about Cara’s frustration as she worked with her energetic puppy, but she’s getting some payback. Now I’m dealing with the reality instead of the fiction of having a puppy in the house. And like Cara, I’m loving every chewed-sneaker, ignored-command-to-sit, trip-to-Starbucks minute of it. Yes, I could roast some beans and brew a gourmet cup at home, but it’s about more than coffee. It’s about a shared ritual, whether with humans or animals. And it’s worth the drive.

Brigh sleeping on the way home

Brigh sleeping on the way home

 

For a copy of my own fusion chicken-fried steak recipe, check out my story “East Meets West” in the upcoming anthology All You Can Eat from YLVA. For more about my experiences in Texas, visit my blog at http://kariswalsh.wordpress.com/.

“The Big Move…or, Now I Understand Why There’s a Liquor Store Right across the Street from U-Haul”

BY KARIS WALSH

As some of you know, I recently moved from my beloved Pacific Northwest to my beloved in Texas. My move has closely coincided with the release of my new book Wingspan, and I’m celebrating both this month. I’m excited to be in a beautiful home with a huge state to explore, new friends to make, and new experiences to…well, to experience. But (again, as most of you probably know), I have a difficult time with change, even positive change. Moving was stressful, made more so by the continual fiascoes along the way.

Over the course of several weeks, I made the drive from Washington to Texas, back to Washington, and back to Texas. If you’re interested in hearing more about those trips, including the, um, interesting story of the night I spent in a hotel room with two goats, please visit my blog: http://kariswalsh.wordpress.com/ For now, though, let me tell you about the fun I had getting my belongings to my new home. The process of packing, decluttering, donating, and transporting was a good lesson in what stuff means to me. What could I part with? What few precious things did I pack in my car instead of shipping? What really mattered to me?

I—rather foolishly—thought it would be easier to ship my things in a U-Haul crate instead of driving a moving van and towing my car. I should have been warned when the moving men had to go to three different U-Haul locations before they were able to pick up the crate I had reserved weeks before. But, no. I thought that was an isolated incident. Hmm…

With the crate loaded, I packed my dad and my favorite, couldn’t-bear-to-lose items in my car and drove to Texas. With only a suitcase full of clothes and a travel case of toiletries, I figured I’d live like a hobo for a few days before the rest of my things arrived. But it was a couple of weeks before an e-mail informed me that my crate was in town and that I would receive a call from the local U-Haul w/in 24 hours to set up delivery to my house. No call. So I called them, twice. No return call. (I never did find a telephone number that went directly to the location where my crate was—I always had to go through a non-local dispatch center. These people are as protected as the president during an international crisis.) I finally was told they wouldn’t deliver it as planned—I would have to rent a truck and do it myself. Here’s what followed when I arrived:

ME (at 9 a.m.): Hello, I reserved a truck and trailer to haul my U-box.

The clerk (after clicking away on his keyboard for ten minutes, in sloooow motion) found my reservation, told me the truck was due back at 2:30, and quoted me what sounded like a very low price.

ME: Does that include the trailer for hauling my U-box?

CLERK: You need a U-box? Let me make sure we have a trailer for that. (He goes outside and walks around the building before coming back and clicking some more). Yes, we have a U-box and trailer ready to go.

ME: Is it my U-box?

CLERK: No, it’s an empty one.

ME: I’d rather have the one with my belongings in it.

CLERK: Oh, you already have one filled? (Some more clicks, some paperwork to sign, and he hands me a key.) Do you mind bringing the truck back here at 2 to pick up your U-box?

ME: What?

CLERK: That’s when the manager will be here. He’s the only one who can drive the forklift and put your crate on a trailer.

ME: (sigh) Why would I want to rent a truck for the day if I can’t get my crate until this afternoon?

Let’s zoom ahead here. Past me leaving in my own car and returning in the afternoon to learn (from the four people working there, none of whom was qualified to drive a forklift) that the manager had something else to do and wasn’t coming to work that day. Past me asking how difficult it was to become qualified to drive the forklift (one button for up, one for down. How long does it take to master that?). Past them telling me that to come back at nine the next morning, and that my crate would be ready to go.

"…except to my house."

“…except to my house.”

So, we arrived at nine. And sat on the car bumper to watch the manager (in flip-flops and pajama bottoms—were they recommended in his forklift safety course?) spend—no lie—two hours getting my crate. He set out cones in a small square, moved EVERY U-box in the warehouse because mine was on the bottom in the back, hauled an empty crate off a trailer, and loaded mine on the trailer. Then—as a crowning touch—he spent fifteen minutes using the forklift to put a bright orange drapery over the crate so I’d be a moving advertisement for the company. It said, in huge letters, “Making your move easier…” Really? It took us less time to drive the crate home, unpack everything and move it into the house, and drive truck and trailer back to the store.

All told, my belongings were held hostage in my new town for almost two weeks. After the first few days, I was expecting to start receiving ransom notes, the words pieced together from what I’d written on my boxes. “Send cash, or we’re getting out the box cutter!” I felt like a hostage as well. I felt transient, unsettled, not quite myself without my things.

Kendall Pearson, one of the characters in Wingspan,Wingspan is held hostage, too, but by her desire to fit in. A painful past keeps her from being able to be openly and completely herself. She hides behind a safe job, conventional clothes, and carefully controlled speech. But the things she can’t resist—like her classic Corvette, her secret architectural drawings, and the wild piece of land she buys—scream who she is even though she tries to stifle her personality. She has to learn to embrace these outward reflections of her inner character and desires.

So…I have my belongings around me again. I still haven’t completed the chore of unpacking boxes, but my things are here, and it feels good. Am I defined by them? No. Could I survive intact even if they were gone? Of course. But my stuff—my books, my instruments and music, my kitchen gadgets, my stacks of sticky notes—reveals who I am. I got rid of a lot of the excess and kept what mattered, what was really me. Finally, I can feel settled.


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