Season’s Turning


May your heart be as light .…


Sum­mer is wan­ing.  In the morn­ings, the geese cry to each oth­er as they turn their atten­tion to warmer climes.  The days grow short­er, the sun­shine tak­ing on a fad­ed, old-gold cast.  The flow­ers in my gar­den are long gone, their seed pods spread­ing their trea­sures in the hopes that spring will be a lush one. An equinox looms on the hori­zon.

Usu­al­ly the end of sum­mer tugs a cord of sad­ness in me, and I begin my qui­et spi­ral into sea­son­al depres­sion.  This year, I’m feel­ing the oppo­site.  It feels as if I’ve emerged from the sum­mer of end­ings.  Now I get to rest, to qui­et­ly cre­ate, to look toward what is instead of what is not.

This sum­mer was hard for me, for many.  I lost a friend to can­cer.  I said good­bye to a fur­ry com­pan­ion of 15 years.  Oth­er pets were in and out of the vet’s with too much reg­u­lar­i­ty.  A few friends lost fam­i­ly mem­bers.  A few friends had seri­ous health con­cerns.  So many across the world were vic­tims of dead­ly hate and mal­ice.  And our US pol­i­tics spun out of con­trol.  Friends still argue, divi­sive, about who should take the reins of our gov­ern­ment.

More per­son­al­ly, the words came grudg­ing­ly, and I had to fight every sen­tence before it would let me con­sign it to a page.  It felt like a dust bowl sum­mer, where noth­ing thrived save the heat and the wind, the empti­ness and the nev­er-end­ing grit.

So the cool­er weath­er and soft­er light feels like a bless­ing, an open­ing.  It feels like an oppor­tu­ni­ty to step back into cre­ation, and car­ing, and nur­tur­ing.  The soft­ness lifts the heart a lit­tle, soothes it.  It makes way for won­der­ful new things to peep through the door.  Like a new kit­ten (lit­er­al­ly).  That’s a good thing.

One of the lessons of this sum­mer is to live with­out regrets as much as pos­si­ble.  It’s a les­son that spi­rals around and around, orbit­ing me, mak­ing sure that I don’t for­get it.  It makes me impa­tient to do more, but hap­py to at least do.  It reminds me to savor.  It gives me back my words.

I hope your sum­mers were easy and kind, full of laugh­ter and explo­ration.  I want to hear what you did in your sum­mer.  Please share your sto­ry, even a lit­tle one.

May our autumns be gen­tle and abun­dant with all that is good, true and beau­ti­ful.  May all our hearts be as light as a feath­er.


Literally, a kitty.

Lit­er­al­ly, a new kit­ty.

Different Lenses


Find Cotton Valent on Facebook @CottonGallery

The Star” by Cot­ton Valent


Old pho­tos tell sto­ries.  ::stage whis­per::  They steal your soul, you know.   I joke, but I do love the old­er images that show us a time oth­er than our own.  Not nec­es­sar­i­ly bet­ter, but dif­fer­ent.  Old let­ters tell sto­ries, too, through the paper they’re writ­ten on, the hand­writ­ing, the ink, and of course the con­tents.  Tak­en alto­geth­er and they open a win­dow onto anoth­er time and place, a time of ideas we’ve lost, and mind­sets lim­it­ed by what we didn’t yet know, or were unwill­ing to grasp. We are giv­en the chance to expe­ri­ence life, for the span of the pages, through another’s eyes.

For me, tarot cards open win­dows as well.  I had a ton of them at one point — 35 or so decks–which, look­ing back, seems exces­sive. I guess I felt it was exces­sive then, too, as I gave most away. They should be loved and used.  No point in hord­ing, or keep­ing things in a box.  I feel this way about any­thing “col­lectible” whether rare or not.  You won’t do any­thing with it once you’re dead.  May as well enjoy it.

A few years ago I put away my tarot decks.  Stacked them neat­ly in a tray in their wraps, then let them col­lect dust.  There “wasn’t time” for them, and I wasn’t read­ing for any­one any­more, even myself.  I had no more ques­tions to ask.  Life was life, and you take it as it comes, and you make things work.

I some­times drift away from a pas­sion to nev­er real­ly pick it up again.  I’m famous for dab­bling.  Or–as some­one once told me–I take in all I can from some­thing, and when it no longer nour­ish­es, I slough it off, like a snake does its skin, then move on.  I thought that was a very gra­cious way of putting it.  In this case, how­ev­er, it didn’t feel true.

Last week, I met with two friends who also do the tarot thing.  Before we met, I pulled out a few decks to see if I want­ed to take any of them with me on the vis­it.

In going through the dif­fer­ent cards, I felt I was throw­ing back the cur­tains on a win­dow, exchang­ing my black-and-white view to one of col­or and bird­song.  I had a sense of com­ing home again.

I most­ly used tarot for inspi­ra­tion and sto­ry­telling, for clar­i­fi­ca­tion, insight, and even focus.  And when I call them win­dows, I real­ly mean lenses–often 78 dif­fer­ent lens­es in each deck.  They remind me of the gels I used to use when doing light­ing design back in long ago.  The light fix­tures we used were always the same, but by plac­ing a dif­fer­ent col­ored or tex­tured gel front of the beam, it changed the way we saw what was on stage.  Mood, focus, dri­ve, sub­text all changed with the use of a gel.  And that’s how tarot works for me.  I have a sub­ject I’d like to see revealed or enhanced, or what­ev­er my focus is … and the card gives me a new way of view­ing it, of con­sid­er­ing it.  Pret­ty much as sim­ple as that.  There are oth­er ways of using them, of course.  This just hap­pens to be mine.

For twen­ty years I’d used them.  Some of these decks are old friends.  They fit my puny hands.  There’s a whis­per­ing *whuf­fle* as they’re shuf­fled togeth­er, a worn soft­ness to their edges from repeat­ed use.  The col­ors please my eyes, the illus­tra­tions intrigue, inform, reas­sure, and reveal.  I love how their depict­ed arche­types and inci­dents cov­er the whole range of human exis­tence.

I’d missed them, and not even known it.

Tarot has its lovers and its haters. For me, they’re a tool, and like all tools it depends on what you do with them.  Evil and good come from the hand which wields the tool.  It is one aspect of my life I don’t talk about much, though.  I find it’s less social­ly accept­able to read tarot cards than it is to be a role-play gamer, which is weird to me, but hey, I don’t write the social norms … I just try to change them.

I real­ized that I’d put aside my cards–my form of med­i­ta­tion and inspiration–because I’d also stopped being in a com­mu­ni­ty which val­ued such tools.  The greater world didn’t seem to have room for them, or me as a user of them.  There’s a lot of side-eye to side­step when you pull out a deck.

And that’s fear talk­ing.  I may write about social­ly unac­cept­able peo­ple, but I’ve always tried to pass as social­ly accept­able myself.  Some­how, after step­ping away from that com­mu­ni­ty, my use of the cards made me an out­lier in my own eyes, and set me up for judg­ment.

Guess whose voice was the loud­est Judgey McJudger­son?  My own.

So … all this is to say, “Just do what brings you joy.”  As long as it harms none, go for it.

As for me, I’m back to my old morn­ing rou­tine of a card with my sec­ond cof­fee, and a page of poet­ry.  It sets my brain right, starts the day with imagery and lyri­cism.   And we all need a dif­fer­ent view on the world now and then.


What’s your jam?  What have you giv­en up from imag­ined peer pres­sure, or the real thing?  What would you do again, if you could? What tool do you like to view the world through?


"Ace of Cups" The Druid Craft Tarot. Illustrated by Will Worthington

The Druid Craft Tarot. Illus­tra­tions Will Wor­thing­ton


Star Wars Sans Spoilers


Don't ruin it for others! I mean it!

The nos­tal­gia is strong with this one.



I was 14 when Star Wars: Episode IV came out in May of 1977.  My father took my broth­er and me to the now-demol­ished Val­ley Cir­cle The­ater in San Diego.  I remem­ber being dis­grun­tled at hav­ing to go to a movie that Sat­ur­day, as I had a book I want­ed to fin­ish!  I had no idea what the movie was about.  Star Wars?  I didn’t want to see a war movie.  What­ev­er!  It wasn’t even a mys­tery or a musi­cal!

The Val­ley Cir­cle was a huge venue, and it was packed.  We stood in line for tick­ets, and stood in line for pop­corn.  The seats we found were about 3/4th of the way back in the cen­ter sec­tion, and over to the left.  I was cranky about that, too, because all the seats were on one lev­el, and I was very short.  Nat­u­ral­ly, a ver­i­ta­ble pil­lar of a man sat right in front of me.

The lights went down.  The now-famil­iar fan­fare start­ed.  The open­ing titles rolled.  The guy in front of me slouched, and I sat up straight, eyes riv­et­ed to the screen as a spaceship–A SPACESHIP–flew by, tiny lasers pew-pew-pew­ing back­ward at …


An omi­nous­ly dark behe­moth hove into view–a Star Destroy­er!

That was the moment my world changed.

Like many of my gen­er­a­tion, Star Wars ignit­ed some­thing in me.  A pas­sion for sci­ence fic­tion, fan­ta­sy, and orches­tral music lit up, and nev­er left. What’s more, there was a BAD ASS PRINCESS!!!!  I’d nev­er seen a girl kick-ass and take names the way Leia did.

Star Wars changed what I believed pos­si­ble.  A girl could be a princess and a spy and a rebel leader and a sen­a­tor and some­one who shot Storm Troop­ers with the best of them!  With one defi­ant look, Leia Organa rede­fined the roles women could have in any world!

The rest of the orig­i­nal tril­o­gy brought good fun, good adven­ture, and more of my favorite Princess, even though the ewoks made me a lit­tle crazy.  Then came the long, sor­row­ful years of the pre­quels.  Okay,  some of I and II were okay, but for the most part, wow, tru­ly ter­ri­ble.  I hon­est­ly tried to for­get III alto­geth­er as the end­ing made me furi­ous.

And now we have Star Wars, The Force Awak­ens.

Say what you will, I loved it.  Was it a great movie?  Hell no.  Was there great act­ing?  Mm-no, not so much.  Were there any amaz­ing plot twists?  Sor­ry, nope.  Worse, they used some old, crap­py tropes that could have been avoid­ed with just a lit­tle writ­ing.

So what did it have?

SW:TFA had a galaxy worth of nos­tal­gia. It man­aged to con­jure up that old Star Wars mag­ic despite (or because of) being most­ly uno­rig­i­nal.  It brought back old friends, and it set the stage for new adven­tures.  A woman and a per­son of col­or were the main char­ac­ters.  The cast­ing was more diverse than in almost any oth­er recent Amer­i­can-made show.  The CG wasn’t egre­gious­ly used, and I liked the action scenes (we can debate why in the com­ments, if you want).  More, it didn’t take itself too seri­ous­ly.  It was FUN.

And this time, a girl is hav­ing the adven­tures: a non-whiny, capa­ble, intu­itive, kick-ass, Force-sen­si­tive, prag­mat­ic-yet-com­pas­sion­ate GIRL.  This is huge.

I adore the char­ac­ter of Rey, and I’m delight­ed that she held cen­ter stage–right after Han Solo.  She’s been giv­en the cen­tral mys­tery as well as ample room to grow, and I’m look­ing for­ward to dis­cov­er­ing the secrets of the galaxy right along with her.  Thanks to writ­ers Lawrence Kas­dan, J.J. Abrams, and Michael Arndt for giv­ing us a young woman to go adven­tur­ing with, and for some­one a new gen­er­a­tion of girls can embrace as their own.

Now just give Finn his due, and we’ll be good.

For the rest of you, go see it, if you haven’t already!  Then come back and tell me what you loved or hat­ed about it.  I want to know what you think!!

Swanky -- in that 'the future is now' sort of way. The Valley Circle Theater.

Swanky — in that ‘the future is now’ sort of way. The Val­ley Cir­cle The­ater.


But please, do tell!!


That Old Rascal, Time

It’s been almost a year since I post­ed. Not quite, but close enough for gov­ern­ment work. I’ll admit that writ­ing life, cou­pled with work life, tan­gled up with fam­i­ly life sucked the blog­ging life right out of me.

But it’s a new dawn, a new day, and I’m ready to poke at all those top­ics that once drift­ed to the top of mind like sweet smoke of a camp fire, only to dis­si­pate as the winds of anoth­er busy thing blew through. There are thoughts to pon­der and, I hope, dis­cus­sions to be had.

Let’s do the blog thing!

– kn

The Balance of All Things

All right, so it’s not the bal­ance of all things, mere­ly cer­tain aspects of my life.

This week­end, Simone and I fin­ished what we call the first reader’s draft of our sec­ond MS.  ::incred­i­bly hap­py dance goes here::  The sto­ry has seen a fair whack of revi­sions already, and we’re to the point where it’s time to let oth­er eyes peruse it, and tell us what they see.  After we have some time away and feedback/crits in our emails, we can assault it with fresh brains.  Which is awe­some.  I love this part of the process, because it’s like mag­ic.  Take a cou­ple of weeks away from the sto­ry, add a dol­lop of feed­back from our gen­er­ous and stal­wart cri­ti­quers, then see what cool things emerge.   And while the MS is out hav­ing adven­tures, I get to dive into all the things I haven’t done for the last … well, a while.

For instance, gar­den­ing.   Or, catch­ing up on the five dif­fer­ent TV shows I’ve missed entire sea­sons of.  And there’s my poor fam­i­ly who would like some atten­tion.  And respon­si­bil­i­ties like clean­ing the fish­tanks, or mak­ing sure no one starves because I’ve neglect­ed to buy gro­ceries for three weeks straight.  Which reminds me, I need to buy gro­ceries.  Or maybe I’ll clean the house.  It hasn’t had a deep and mean­ing­ful clean since Sep­tem­ber, which is, not coin­ci­den­tal­ly, when we start­ed work­ing on this sto­ry.  And in a few days, Simone and I will start on the Phase II revi­sions of our first MS.

You see how it goes.

It’s true that I some­times groan and whim­per at all the things I want/need to do, and won­der why, why, why I can’t be inde­pen­dent­ly wealthy so I can write 40 hours a week, instead of work­ing out­side the house (this moan­ing does not take into account awe­some health ben­e­fits), then I’d have all that oth­er time to do things like gro­ceries and gar­den­ing.  Which is, I believe, what most artist­s/writ­er­s/­dancer­s/cre­ation-gurus/ev­ery-day peo­ple want.  Why can’t we just live the life we love??

Then it dawned on me, and I’ll be the first to admit, I’m some­times slow on the uptake.  I am liv­ing the life I love.  For cry­ing out loud, I’m writ­ing NOVELS!  Two, so far, and many more to go!  I get to col­lab­o­rate and cre­ate with a bril­liant, insight­ful, delight­ful, won­der­ful friend on an almost dai­ly basis.  I get to play with words, and weave sto­ries togeth­er, and do research, and go on site tours, and take the Seat­tle Police Department’s Com­mu­ni­ty Acad­e­my, and dream up new and delight­ful ways to make my char­ac­ters suf­fer or find redemp­tion or fall in and out of love–or all the above!

There’s a gra­cious lot of AND in my life.

Do I wish I had more hours in the day?  Of course.  Don’t we all?  But I can’t say I’m not liv­ing my dream, because I am.  Every day that I sit down and work on a sto­ry, I’m liv­ing my dream.  And for now, my day job pays for my real job, and that’s real­ly much more than all right.

As for all the rest of life?  It will work out.  It always does.   And there­in lies the bal­ance of all things.

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