Magic is the World and it is Ordiniary

blog hop 2016

I miss Magical Realism. My last novel, Western Song, is a contemporary western love story which features a bull-riding ranch owner and Thai immigrant mail order bride and nary an alternative world view in site. Pretty gritty and down to earth these two as they struggle against their circumstances which include falling in love against their best instincts. And just recently, I’ve developed a book proposal for a new publisher of historical fiction for schoolkids grades 3rd through 8th. The company has a very interesting premise that includes alternatives—but alternative paths and choices—not alternative world views where, as Bruce Holland Rogers writes in his article “What is Magic Realism, Really?”  “..angels really do appear and to whom God reveals Himself directly…”

I’ve had a very interesting journey with Magical Realism.  Like many authors, I have books that don’t quite seem to fit neatly in those categories the markets and publishers want us to fit into. I understand why they desire this from writers. Sales. Bottom lines. Our world has become about sales and bottom lines. A series I have that follows the story of a psychic tracker and his nemesis a black magician did not seem to fit anywhere. Were they mystery? Fantasy? Thriller? Sci-fi? A case pro and con could be made for each category, but not a single case strong enough for one.

And then I found Magical Realism.

I’d been acquainted with the genre, of course, through college and then my master’s program. Gabriel Garcia Marquez and One Hundred Years of Solitude is required reading wherever you go to school. So, I suppose I should say, I became re-acquainted with the concept. And I dug deeper. And Eureka! I found my answer! This is where my Stone Quest series belonged!

Only…once re-acquainted, and acquainted with Zoe Brooks and her web site and her blog hops, and delving ever more deeply, I found my further education revealed a deeper truth. Revealed to me the very center of what, again as Rogers asks: What is Magical Realism, Really? Because the core tenant of Magical Realism is: the magic is ordinary. To the people who inhabit the world of a magical realism novel, their world is filled with enchantment and mystery and to them that is as ordinary as being thrown by a bull or caught in a snowstorm high on the range is to my Wyoming Cowboy. He may curse a little at his goldurn luck, but this is his world and he fully accepts it.


In the first book of the Stone Quest series my tracker Luke Stone is endowed with psychic gifts which he describes vehemently as dropping down upon him from out of the blue, and all of which he tries as hard as he can to push away.


There goes that category!

But what a wonderful education! Lose a category, gain insight. Not such a great loss.

And then…comes the fourth book…

Much of it is already outlined. Scribbled down—usually with notes I can barely read, but there on paper;  the rest rumbling around in my head, characters jumping out at me at night, jabbering away at me, at each other, forcing me to get up, write their declarations down.

But this is the thing. By the fourth book, Luke has fought sundry battles, he has studied under erudite masters, and with each triumph, with each illumination, he has edged closer and closer toward a greater and greater peace with that constant source of mystery, confusion, and pain he has carried since  youngest childhood. By the fourth book Luke has already slid towards an alternative world view that “includes miracles and angels, beast-men and women of unearthly beauty…” (Rogers); he has, in other words, already slipped into the acceptance of the magical as…ordinary.

The entire Stone Quest series contained metaphysical/psychic elements; contained elements of magic. I have pieces that deal with Native Americans that are true Magical Realism. My blog last year was about the Cahuilla Indians and Magical Realism.

But now, finally, I will be able to bring that element, construct a the full world, to create a universe of magical realism where “the realities of characters or communities… outside of the objective mainstream can be explored…and miracles are right around the corner…” (Rogers).

I cannot wait to embrace the totality of this world.

I cannot wait to see where it’s contours will take me.

This post is part of the Magic Realism Blog Hop. About twenty blogs are taking part in the hop. Over three days (29th – 31st July 2016) these blogs will be posting about magic realism. Please take the time to click on the links below to visit them and remember that links to the new posts will be added over the three days, so do come back to read more.




wash_photos_bill_003_(402x519)Sometimes categories feel like gilded cages. Sometimes they feel like steel traps. In todays’ literary world, largely thanks to Amazon, the lid has blown off the publishing world, and anyone now has access to what once were the forbidden gates. Of course, now along with the profound, we have much profane, but that’s another story.

Now, for the Indie Writer/Indie Publisher it is incumbent upon us, and not our publisher/agent as we are they and they is us, to decide into what category our books fall.

Sometimes this is easy—if we are a strictly category writer.

Sometimes this is pure unmitigated torture and no matter what we chose, we get it wrong.

I have struggled with this placement with most of my books.

When I first discovered Magic Realism,  I heaved a heavy sigh and shouted, “Eureka!”

But as I educated myself on the parameters of this beautiful and ephemeral genre, I realized I was mistaken. Just cuz you got magic don’t make it Magic Realism.

Looking back over my work; thinking back over my years as a writer, and pondering my schooling in just what Magic Realism is as I have read about it and as I grew to understand it, I find it quite interesting and fitting that the work I have crafted about Native Americans is the work that can be truly classified as Magic Realism.

The Mexican critic Luis Leal wrote “To me, magical realism is an attitude on the part of the characters in the novel toward the world or toward nature.”

Further, he explained, it’s an acceptance, without comment, without wonder or awe, of magic in the real world.

One of the first times I experienced this type of acceptance was when I was interviewing Dr. Katherine Siva Saubel for a play I would eventually write about her and the Cahuilla Indians of Southern California entitled WE ARE STILL HERE.

I was speaking with her brother, Alvino as we were sitting at the gathering site on the Morongo Reservation that was just behind Katherine’s home at one of the many Cahuilla Festivals I had been invited to attend so that I could gain more understanding of Katherine and her People. Alvino was pointing out the craggy hills that surrounded us, dotted with jagged and rounded rock and scrub pines that bent and twisted as if wheezing for oxygen.

“See that over there?” Alvino pointed with his hand raised at eye level. “See all those marks– those indentations in the hillside? If you go up to there, walk around, you’ll see those markings are all gathered in three distinct sets. That’s because those are all places Temayawat sat down to rest. So you’ve got one place where he rested his bottom; and two places where he set his ….you know…” he indicated around his general private area. “He had big ones, of course. He was one of the Creators. Round. Heavy. So they’re gonna make big marks. You go up there. You’ll see them all over the hillside.”

Katherine Saubel was a devout Catholic. The first day I met her, she sat with me for over five hours. She told me the Creation Story of the Cahuilla Indians. She told me about the twin creators Mukat and Temayawat; about the Moon Maiden, who taught the People how to be men and how to be women, and how to wash. She told me about the death of Mukat, killed by Temayawat, and about how the people mourned and wept and rolled in the ashes.

And as she told the story, as if these people were her kin, I could see that Katherine believed every word as absolute truth.

She believed every word as absolutely as she believed every word of the story of Jesus. For Katherine held Jesus closely to her heart.

Two distinct belief systems. Some might say opposing. But she wouldn’t. Never. She held them securely at the same moment in her heart and in her mind.

She also said that Jesus, in the Bible, spoke directly to the Native People.

“He spoke to all the Nations. It says so in the Bible. And we, the Native People, Indians, are a Nation. Jesus spoke to us.”

One of the greatest gifts I was ever given was the gift of Katherine’s story. Her brother told me she gave it to me because she trusted me to tell it truthfully. And with respect.

The Cahuilla Creation Story—when the People tell it, gathered around the fire once upon a time, now more often than not at a Community Center or even at someone’s house—takes over 12 hours– overnight to complete.

I, of course, had to pick and choose which parts to re-create in the play.

At one of our early performances in Southern California close by the Morongo Reservation and Katherine’s home, Alvino was seated next to me afterwards. He leaned in close to me, but this time he was not talking about craggy hills. He was expressing displeasure with me. There was a part of the Creation Story I had left out that he felt was very important and that I needed to put in. It was a part about Coyote stealing Mukat’s heart and eating it before he returned to the People. “You need to put that in there. That’s very important that Coyote did that. And from the blood of that heart, the tobacco tree grew.” I promised I would make the amendment. When I told the cast, they were thrilled, and the changes were added for the next performance.

When I next saw Alvino, it was at the September Harvest Festival. He crooked his finger as the Indian/Cowboy band struck up, and we kicked up our heels pretty good, so I wager he’d forgiven me.

The re-enactment of the Cahuilla Creation Story is I believe one of the purest examples of Magical Realism I have ever seen.

Not written, you understand.

For I did not write it.

Great God, no.

I was merely the vessel of – as I was told – ten thousand years of the passing down through the generations of the story of this wondrous indigenous people—born—not crossed over from some land bridge up there in Alaska someplace, as Alvino told me many times– but born right here in Southern California.

And Alvino and Katherine and their brother Paul did not believe in the Creation myth– this was their story, their history. This is their truth.

This post is part of the Magic Realism Blog Hop. About twenty blogs are taking part in the hop. Over three days (29th – 31st July 2015) these blogs will be posting about magic realism. Please take the time to click on the button below to visit them and remember that links to the new posts will be added over the three days, so do come back to read more.   

Follow this link to enjoy all the other blogs!

blog hop 2015 dates

Is it or Isn’t It Magic Realism and Does it Matter?


Magical realism, unlike the fantastic or the surreal, presumes that the individual requires a bond with the traditions and the faith of the community, that s/he is historically constructed and connected. (P. Gabrielle Foreman. Past on Stories: History and the Magically Real, Morrison and Allende on Call. Magical Realism. Ed. Zamora and Faris, p. 286).

Magical Realism takes the supernatural for granted and spends more of its space exploring the gamut of human reactions (Susan J. Napier. The Magic of Identity: Magic Realism in Modern Japanese Fiction.).

Magic realism (is) a kind of modern fiction in which fabulous and fantastical events are included in a narrative that otherwise maintains the ‘reliable’ tone of objective realistic report. Designating a tendency of the modern novel to reach beyond the confines of realism and draw upon the energies of fable, folk tale, and myth while maintaining a strong contemporary social relevance. The fantastic attributes given to characters in such novels-levitation, flight, telepathy, telekinesis-are among the means that magic realism adopts in order to encompass the often phantasmagoric political realities of the 20th century. (The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms).

These are but three of hundreds of definitions one can find on Magic Realism, but if we sort through them we find, of course, a basic agreement on the basic tenets: a mixture of the real with (for lack of a better word) the supernatural, “a strong sense of contemporary social relevance,” a sense of indigenous cultures, and the very strong sense of a “taking for granted the supernatural.”

“A bit of history tells us that the term “magical realism was coined around 1924 or 1925 by a German art critic named Franz Roh…” (Alejo Carpentier, The Baroque and the Marvelous Real). Not a surprise that the term should come out of Germany in the 20’s, or that the movement should be rising there, though the literary movement is, of course, associated with Latin America. Latina journalist and social critic Isabel Allende transported the movement further in her feminist writings that protested elitism, racism, and sexism. And what better vehicle than Magic Realism to infuse and uplift her writings of a group mired in social and political powerlessness and suffering domestic brutality?

My question is—how much of the intellectual definition in fact can be transported before the genre is disfigured or transmogrified into something else entirely? Does it matter?

In today’s literary marketplace it seems at times that it is all about the label—though in truth, Magic Realism does not seem to entice anyone to pounce upon the BUY NOW button. Still, a category is a category, or a label is a label, and it would matter to the loyal group of readers.

Is Magic Realism the same as Surreal the same as Metaphysical the same as Paranormal?

Don’t cringe—of course not.

But where exactly does one draw the line?

For example, at last count there were over one million words in the English language—with new ones added and deleted continuously. Language is fluid. Are genres? And if so, how much so? Who decides?

For me, the largest question revolves around taking the supernatural for granted. Currently, I am working on a mystery series, Stone Quest in which the lead character, Luke Stone, is a psychic visionary. He has “fantastic attributes”: he has psychic visions and he has the power of healing; however, not only does he not take these attributes for granted, he fights like hell against them. As the character progresses through the series, he discovers even more “attributes”, which I won’t reveal here (spoiler alert!), and his battle with his “supernatural” self is a decisive part of the plot. I had at one time called the series Magic Realism—but have since stopped. I was for a while referring to it as Paranormal—but in today’s literary parlance paranormal means vampires and witches and things not of this series, so I have removed that moniker as well. I toyed with Metaphysical – but that didn’t seem quite right, so have now settled upon Mystical and so be it. For now.

I believe my choice to no longer designate the Stone Quest series as Magic Realism was the correct one, though, honestly, it saddened me because so many things about Magic Realism and its definition lure me: “Magical realism manages to present a view of life that exudes a sense of energy and vitality in a world that promises not only joy, but a fair share of misery as well. In effect, the reader is rewarded with a perspective on the world that still includes much that has elsewhere been lost. (David K. Danow. The Spirit of Carnival Magical Realism and the Grotesque). And of course, the master, the king, Garcia Marquez said “realism is a kind of premeditated literature that offers too static and exclusive a vision of reality. However good or bad they may be, they are books which finish on the last page. In other words…the magic text is, paradoxically, more realistic than the realistic text.” (Scott Simpkins, Sources of Magic Realism/Supplements to Realism in Contemporary Latin American Literature).

Ultimately, whatever I call it, the readers’ experience is up to me.

Unfortunately, it is also up to me, as an Indie author, to guide my readers to my books. And that is where the labels and where the accuracy of those labels comes into play.

We do owe our audience accuracy—and that means marketing accuracy as well.

Later this summer, I am planning on beginning my very first romance novel, Western Song, a contemporary western romance, adapted from an award-winning screenplay. The story has both Native American and Thai characters, and in the original screenplay, I touched upon both the religion and mythology of both cultures. Lots more room to grow these in the novel form. Lots more room to call upon Magic Realism here without jeopardy of compromising the integrity of the genre, too.


Watch this space…

This post is part of the Magic Realism Blog Hop. Twenty blogs are taking part in the hop. Over three days (6th – 8th August) these blogs will be posting about magic realism. Please take the time to click on the link at the top of this post to find out about the other posts and remember that links to the new posts will be added over the three days, so do come back to read more.


Where Do Your Ideas Come From?
Authors are often asked, “Where do you get your ideas from?” It’s a fair question. I have been fascinated with the metaphysical and the unseen universe as far back as I can remember. My favorite authors as a kid were Poe and Asimov, and then, when I got a little older, I started to delve into Jung. I did a lot of research for another book of mine, Ouray’s Peak, which is about the Ute Indians, and their world. Their lives are so connected with the Earth, with nature; they have the ability to hear and see and feel the things that lie beneath, the things for the most part that modern man has lost the proficiency for. I’ve read a good deal of Tom Brown and his Tracker series; he was a great influence. When I moved to California, I worked with Cahuilla Elder, Dr. Katherine Siva Saubel. She told me many things, among them, she told me about whistling for the wind. She lived in a dry desert climate, and when the heat became too much, she knew how to purse her lips together and blow gently to summon a cooling breeze. All of these things came together for me in the creation of the central character in the Stone Quest Series, Luke Stone. Creating Luke was akin to creating an alter ego; like bestowing upon myself those magical powers I could only read about and wish for.
The first book in the series is Desert Chimera. When we first meet Luke, he is only 28 years old, forsaken in the desert in the middle of torrential rains, and assaulted by apocalyptic visions. His mentor of seven years, the Cherokee shaman whom he calls Grandfather has suddenly died, and Luke has been on a desperate cross-country quest that has led him here. We find him praying in agony, but his prayers are answered not by the one he seeks, but by the One he thought he’d escaped seven long years ago, his nemesis, the black magician Armand Jacobi. Now, Luke must face the true horrors of his past. The ensuing battle will either be Luke’s final destruction or his ultimate redemption. During this struggle, Luke will also meet fellow travelers, whose lives will be placed in his hands, one of whom, Consuelo Arroyo, will open his heart.
Desert Chimera actually began as the play Desert Wolf. The play was produced at the Inter Act Theatre Company in North Hollywood. Besides the character of Luke, I had become enamored with the relationship between Luke and his mentor/nemesis Armand Jacobi. Desert Chimera explores this relationship, the relationship, really between good and evil, and between love and hate that dwells at the very center of Luke Stone and Armand Jacobi. The most interesting relationships, the ones we can’t forget or get over, the ones that haunt us for a lifetime, are the ones that are the most complex and not so simply reduced to right or wrong.
In the second book of the series, Gallows Ascending, Luke has left the desert; he has left Armand Jacobi, and has begun a new life at the edge of the sea in New Camen, New Hampshire. His first wife, Consuelo, whom he met in the desert, has died, and Luke meets Dr. Beth Rutledge with whom he falls in love. Accused of the murder of her daughter, stripped of her license to practice medicine, her marriage to prominent politician Adrian Mountzaire in tatters, Beth is haunted nightly by the chilling visions of a woman’s death by hanging, Then, a young boy goes missing, and Adrian Mountzaire turns up dead, lying in the sand right next to his wife. Now, Luke, the tracker, must not only find the missing boy but also the real killer of Mountzaire in order to save his newly beloved wife from the fate that haunts her dreams.
But his own dreams—nightmare hauntings—of Jacobi are never far behind him. Deep into the night, as Beth sleeps restlessly beside him, Luke finds himself allowing his mind to wander, allowing himself to unleash his psychic gifts and to furtively search that parallel universe to see if he can catch a glimpse of the man he served as disciple and almost destroyer.
The third book in the series, Neuri Shape-Shifter, finds Luke and Beth’s marriage reeling as their daughter Bridget Grace at thirteen struggles for autonomy, her psychic abilities as she approaches menses, if anything, to Luke’s chagrin, even greater than his. Adding to the tumult is the case of three missing girls vanished from the Lower East Side of Manhattan where Luke lived as the disciple of Armand Jacobi. Luke’s investigation into the missing girls takes him to the raging Vampire Club scene where ominous signs point irrefutably to Jacobi’s involvement. Then, on the day of Luke’s birthday, BG vanishes, leaving behind only a cryptic note. Gregorian chants hum, Catholic Saints animate, and fairy lanterns glow as Luke Stone is once again drawn into combat against the black magician, chasing his nemesis from New Camen, NH to Alphabet City, NY, to the Leelanau Peninsula of Michigan in a battle to save his daughter’s life.
From the power of an idea, to the love of a character, to the force of a relationship, to the appeal of place, it is from these seeds that spring the stories writers tell. But here’s the secret every writer knows: We are but the vessel. Because when we are in tune, when we are in sync, we only transcribe what bubbles up from the stream of unconsciousness; what our characters incessantly whisper to us as we scribble furiously to catch their words before they fade away.
In the end, I’ll never know definitively what power led me ultimately to Luke Stone and through him to Armand Jacobi., and through both of them through the ever-widening creation of the Stone Quest Series. I know it is a place in which I love to dwell. I found myself one late summer’s day, just as golden day was turning to purple twilight, apropos of absolutely nothing, explaining to a friend why I write: “I can create my own world,” I told him. “I can make anything I want happen there. The characters’ lives turn out exactly as I wish them, too.”
Except of course, that was a fallacy: The characters’ lives, if I am in tune—If I am doing it all exactly “write”—turn out exactly the way they dictate they should.