This post is in honor of Brain Tumor Awareness Month.
Most people would rather not talk about the tumor. Plus it’s over, right? Docs took IT out two years ago. Why talk about it now? You’re fine.
Except I wasn’t. Sure, I kept telling myself all was better now, as fine as could be expected. Refused to look at the bad stuff. Wanted to be a good patient, good wife, make the most of life. And to shut up.
But. As long as “fine” and “could be expected” were the focus, I couldn’t get back to being me. My brain didn’t seem quite right. And mostly, I wrote shit. THAT I could never accept.
So I started complaining, just a bit at first. Told doctors it was NOT acceptable to not write fiction. I made them angry, seemed ungrateful. I laid out clearly that being able to clothe myself, clean the house, hold a job was not enough.
No. I wanted my life back.
And when I told them about pain and dizziness when I tried to create characters or stories, they looked at me like I was crazy. That was fine. Most people think writers are crazy. We were making progress.
After saying the same things to one neurologist for three visits in a row, he finally said, “Well of course you’re having trouble with linguistic thinking. Topomax suppresses that. People have trouble recalling words and such.”
The very drug that had restored my ability to function after a “brain incident” was taking away the things that made me myself. And it took 9 months to get a doctor to say it. Sort of like an afterthought. It never occurred to him that I might accept more pain if I could write again, imagine … etc.
So now I’m writing. My husband’s thrilled because I’m not only easier to live with, I’m back to being me again. Most days, that slight pain or dizziness is just an afterthought. Less of an issue all the time. We don’t have to talk about it, except…
I would never have gotten here if I had accepted being “fine.”
Check out the many patient stories at the Brain Tumor Assn website.
Y’all have been so supportive that to thank you I’m sharing a scene from the middle of PARADOX. You don’t have to know much about the story to “get” this scene: Adele is an art crimes investigator. Mark is a dark ops agent assisting her in Morocco. Eannatum is a 12-inch, stolen Mesopotamian sculpture. And duende is a word that doesn’t translate from Spanish. ~Lucie
“Seeking the duende, there is neither map nor discipline. We only know it burns the blood like powdered glass, that it exhausts, rejects all the sweet geometry we understand, that it shatters styles and makes Goya, master of the greys, silvers and pinks of the finest English art, paint with his knees and fists in terrible bitumen blacks…” ~ Garcia Lorca
We arrived in Chefchaouen as the sun set over its deceptive, blue-wash walls. The center of Morocco’s most profitable industry, hashish, its loyalty rested with the drug cartels, not the king. Constant glimpses of gun barrels and gun-bulges under clothing didn’t surprise me, but what I never expected—what the FBI could never prepare me for—was the mystical quality of Chefchaouen’s old town.
Originally painted by Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, its kaleidoscope of periwinkles, aquamarines, sapphires and indigos created a feeling of serenity and, at times, the illusion of walking through sky. In its maze of twisting alley-streets, just wide enough for two astride, Mark led me around blind corners, each revealing a new shade of blue with smiling faces offering a room, handmade jewelry, or a smoke of the sebsi hash-pipe.
The streets smelled of freshly baked bread, mint tea and cannibis. I knew this mystic medina veiled a ruthless web of intrigue–and in my beaded evening bag I held Eannatum, the trophy I had stolen from that ruthless, hash-web’s kingpin.
“So beautiful,” I said as we turned a corner laced in orchids.
“It’s a brilliant deceit,” whispered Mark. “The blue represents heaven and hope but it also provides this sense of tranquility, lowering your guard.”
“So they can pick your pocket?”
“Don’t have to. You’ll lay down the cash yourself.”
“No, thanks” we repeated again and again to the predator guides offering to lead us through town. Mark knew these streets, didn’t need a guide and didn’t want their prying eyes.
An ultra-aggressive one followed us demanding payment for guide work never done. When we turned the corner, Mark flashed his gun. The man left.
Why were we here? was Mark insane? Like a crystal blue labyrinth, each curve, every archway revealed new secrets. Between tea shops and trinket stands, an old man winked at me, mimicking a smoke; a young boy offered us the greatest sex through a riveted purple-blue door; and a beautiful waif offered the “finest trip” up a staircase.
“Mesmerizing,” I said.
“I thought you would like it. Under better circumstances, I would bring you here as a tourist.”
Mark’s eyes constantly checked every direction for threats, his hand rested on the hilt of his Smith and Wesson.
“Look out!” he called as a soccer ball flew next to me, two boys in pursuit.
“Sorry,” said one in perfect British.
With the silk hijab over my dress, I didn’t stand out as much as before, but I was still wearing chopped-off, sequined heels. We were obviously outsiders. Mark pressed on through sky-blue twists and turns until an elderly woman in an orange dress, green and yellow scarf, greeted him.
“Assalam Oualaikoum, Mr. Norquist,” her head slightly bowed, she shook his hand then touched her heart. She started to shake mine but Mark interrupted.
He said “Aisha, we need to disappear.”
She led us into a wider street with royal blue arched doors. Aisha opened one of them and we went inside what appeared to be a tiny bakery. A man stood up fast and, head bowed to Mark, shook his hand and touched his heart.
His voice quivered. “My home is honored by your visit, Mr. Norquist.”
Mark spoke coldly, forcefully, in a voice I had not heard before. “Make me disappear for a few hours, fast.”
Our host pressed us toward a storage room that contained large sacks of grain next to plastic-wrapped bricks of hashish. He sat us down on the floor within a clump of them, spoke a few quiet words with Mark. Then he turned out the light and closed the door. The floor felt cold, damp with the only light coming from that crack under the door. Mark got up and started rearranging the bags to make a little chair for me. One bag came open spilling grain all over the floor.
He said, “Have a seat.”
“Won’t we ruin something?”
He smiled, pulled me up and said, “He doesn’t bake really. Our host is a trafficker and paid informant.”
“Will he turn us in?”
“No, he’s completely terrified and thus loyal.”
“To the CIA?”
“No, to Mark Norquist, trafficker. He wouldn’t dare turn on me.”
Click. The door opened. In the same instant, Mark pulled a gun with his right hand and pushed me onto the floor with his left.
“I brought you some blankets and batbout,” the host said, his hands trembling as he laid out the stew with bread on a box. “I apologize I cannot do more without…being seen.”
“Any sign of Richter?,” said Mark, lowering his gun.
“No sir, Aisha told a tale of you going away a car. They left.”
“Thank her,” I said, but the man never looked at me. Instead he kept his eyes on Mark, lowered whenever he spoke.
With a dismissive air Mark said, “Keep me invisible.” The man left, his hand shaking as he closed the door.
“Mark, he’s completely terrified of you.”
I frowned. All I could think about was what he might have done to make this man fear him. Had Mark become the very evil he was supposed to defeat? Instinctively, I reached for the P229 strapped to my thigh. Would I have to use it on the man who put it there?
I’ve been extremely immersed in finishing Paradox. Books get to that point where they take on a life of their own. So please accept my apology for not posting that in honor of paper book lovers, DISTORTION is on sale, paper only:
And here’s my latest book column in ionOklahoma Magazine.
Art inspires new ideas. The main reason I freelance is to feed my creative impulse. Two new articles accomplished just that:
Inspired by a faculty exhibit at Northern Oklahoma College in Tonkawa, “Creators” is all about the magnificent cracks in each life. I highly recommend the exhibit, including the image I feature at the top of this post by Audrey Schmitz, and the entire issue of Art Focus.
And I was honored to interview NY Times bestselling author, Ally Carter, for my ionOklahoma book column this month. She’s amazing! Check out her new book, All Fall Down.
Sorry to be so silent lately. I’m crunching out some ideas for a feature. After the brain surgery, I felt a creative rejuvenation beyond the everyday until I had a brain “incident” last February and had to slow way down. Now I feel a similar, boundless energy but not from recovery, from writing.
If you can imagine it, you can make it happen was my motto for many years. I’m writing from that space just now. Fewer features since I’m working full time but still committed to my regular clients.
In the interview, he talks about the Veils, Halos and Shackles anthology focusing on the abuse and oppression of women around the world. You can read more about it at https://www.facebook.com/veilshalosandshackles I’m honored that he chose one of my poems for it.
Meanwhile, I’ve recently interviewed a couple of physicists in chasing this fresh freelance idea. Maybe one of them will help me bend a little time-warp … for blogging of course. I promise to put up a new art crawl as soon as that warp presents itself.
Congratulations to my friend Peggy Chambers on today’s release of her romantic thriller, Secrets of Sandhill Island, from Wild Rose Press. I got to peek at a few scenes during the editing process — poignant, heartfelt and fresh. Don’t you love stories of mature love? ~ Lucie
Here’s a note from Peggy:
I am proud to announce my new romance suspense novel Secrets of Sandhill Island is being released by Wild Rose Press Wednesday, January 14, 2015.
If you love a suspense novel with a mature romance running through it set on a tiny tourist island, you will enjoy Secrets of Sandhill Island. On a tiny island in a ramshackle beach house, Meg, an heiress, is hiding from her family’s dubious past. Her true love, Evan, died thirty years ago in a storm at sea, she thought. Did her father really have her lover killed and if so does everyone on the island know about it but Meg?
“This is from Graham.” The man plunged the hook deep into Evan’s chest. Blood spurted every direction as Evan’s eyes bulged and he gasped only once. The man in the ski mask quickly pushed him over the side into the dark, churning water.
Meg will have to give up her life as a hermit if she is going to live life again. Secrets of Sandhill Island will be available in Kindle and paperback formats January 14, 2015.
Sometimes an image stands out for its ethereal beauty or thought-provoking depth. Sometimes it reaches out and grabs your attention. Art that demands a second look can help you open up to a concept you never considered or just take your breath away.
The beautiful, unnamed work featured above is part of an exhibit in Hoboken focused on peace called PAX. This powerfully quiet piece connected with me today amidst the chaos, especially the hi-res version at nj.com (click into slide slide show image for the full version). It looks like an awesome exhibit if you’re anywhere near New Jersey. (Please write if you can identify the work and artist(s). I’d love to interview them.)
In New Orleans at the gallery Twenty-One Fourteen, the collaboration between Margaret Meinzer and Ben Gregory has resulted in works that play with your imagination. “Luncheon on the Grass” (below) is just an appetizer. Click the image for an online collection of both individual and collaborative works. Even better, drop by the gallery while you’re in The Big Easy.
No artist has ever captured “Courage” like the people of Paris today, breathtaking: And from Times Square: