Risky business

I want to be seen.

Don’t get me wrong, I still want to be heard, but some of the time I want to speak with my hips, my hands and my false eyelashes (because belly dancers wear them now … they’re like weights for your eyelids).

While I’ve never vomited before performing, my stomach used to roil (and not because I was doing belly rolls) and my head would spin without my ever turning my feet.

That stopped last August.

Not because I got on the stage when asked, but because a caring teacher planted the idea that I might be ready and, a few months later, another teacher lovingly pushed me into scheduling a performance.

In my head, dancing on a stage is the equivalent of submitting stories: you’re inviting judgment. You may be hoping for feedback, but the opportunity for a negative response is there, which, given the involvement of your heart in whatever you’re doing, could be rather painful.

But I’m realizing that the greater risk lies in practicing, but not showing.

If you never risk being seen, you slowly fade until your spine is a thin line of vapor.

People squint at you and still can’t see who you really are.

So, *deep breath*, even though dance is ephemeral, video changes that. I’m posting the dance that took me over to the other side, to that place where it’s not only OK to be seen, but where the graciousness of your audience can fill in all the thin spaces.

Whatever you do, take the risk and let yourself be seen.

(Not so) fatal mistakes

snake venom
A snake is milked at a snake farm in Chiang Mai. Courtesy of Steve Belcher via Flikr

“[Snake milking’s] a hands on job where you put your fingers millimeters away from the sharp, fangs of asps, vipers, cobras, corals, mambas, kraits, and rattlesnakes. One slip of a finger and, well, its all over.”


While writers can publish in an instant, we have the option of a do-over. Did I really mean to say that? If I tweak this paragraph, does it read better? You can spend too much time editing, but, generally speaking, your work is stronger if you and the work get a cooling off period and can come back to each other when things aren’t quite so exciting.

Which may be why I like writing about people who have to make fast choices with high stakes. Today, while working on SIGHT (book two in my supernatural noir series featuring David Delsarto), I created what I thought was a one-off character.

I borrowed Tarkan’s green eyes because I’ve been warming up for belly dance to his music and gave them to a smart entrepreneur selling above-board and black-market snake venom out of a tiny apartment in Seattle.

After doing a bit more research, I realized my snake milker would need hundreds of snakes to remain profitable, which altered the size and location of his apartment. He now lives in a loft in Sodo and by that time, I’d grown attached to the snake milker and decided to broaden his role in the book, giving him a few more critical scenes with my killer.

Like writers, snake milkers learn by experience, but if I’d been a snake milker, that first mistake — the size of his apartment — could have been fatal. Good thing I catch some of my thrills vicariously.

Cursed guitar playlist

Writing about a cursed guitar’s made me break my usual habit of writing in silence. I just wrapped the draft of RIFF, the third book in my supernatural noir series featuring David Delsarto. Never mind that I thought it was the second book when I was writing it. (I’m tending to book two now.)

But here’s some of the great stuff I was listening to. Be sure to check out 74-year-old Beverly “Guitar” Watkins while she tears up the strings. May I be at least half as hip when it’s my time.

Happy listening.