I was working on a large abstract painting on Facebook Live when my friend texted to say Ruth Bader Ginsburg died. I kind of broke down during the show – which involved reminding everyone to double check their voter registration status and make sure they vote, giving a mini-lecture on the Constitution, and a few tears. My friends and I decided that the painting, which I completed despite my state of shock and grief, because art is totally my coping mechanism, would be a tribute to the Notorious RBG (a moniker she enjoyed, even saying that she had something in common with the Notorious BIG, both being from Brooklyn). I decided to call the painting Gratitude because I am extremely grateful to Justice Ginsburg for her relentless fight for equality for all under the law, the strides she made for the representation of women, and the fortitude with which she hung on for so long, despite her advancing cancer, in order to protect the Constitution and our fundamental rights through these strange and uncertain times. If the Notorious RBG could have picked her time to go, it wouldn’t have been today, and yet she went today, on Rosh Hashanah, a day of great spiritual significance in the Jewish faith. While many of us, especially women, are grieving this loss tonight, I hope we wake up tomorrow emboldened, empowered, and inspired. It’s up to us now to carry on her legacy and keep fighting for equality.
I have to say today is the first day in the two years since I quit my academic career that I miss teaching. But there is other work for me to do, work that has taken precedence and has fought for its priority position in my life. Things like abstract expressionism and writing feminist fiction – ways in which I can hopefully inspire more people than I would have in the classroom. And I’m happy to announce that it’s been a particularly good day for a certain feminist historical novel with ghosts and hurricanes in it. The free promotion of the Storms of Malhado ebook is still going on, and today there were so many downloads that it pushed my book to the top of the Amazon Best Seller’s list in two categories. It made it to #1 in Occult Horror (though I promise the novel is not scary, just eerie and with occult elements in it for sure) and #6 in Historical Fiction. #6 in Historical Fiction is big because Historical Fiction is a wide and extremely competitive category! Usually after such a successful free promotion a book tends to do pretty well, gaining actual sales and hopefully many reviews! So I am definitely hopeful as far as my writing is concerned.
Actually, I am stubbornly hopeful about everything else too. This is definitely a challenging time in oh-so-many-ways and while it did seem like Ruth Bader Ginsburg held our broken world together and now she’s gone, and while the responsibility of picking up the pieces is daunting for sure, I do believe we will woman up and keep forging ahead.
I started painting tiny saints this morning. The world needs more tiny saints. Though in the end we all have to save ourselves.
After a few kind of blah days, today had a different energy to it – perhaps the New Moon? There were several moments of serendipity in which I felt connected to people I’m close to (obviously not physically, haha!). After finishing Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia last night, I’d been thinking of mushrooms and resolving to paint them, when my friend in the Netherlands sent me pictures of mushrooms she was photographing in a forest. Y’all know I love serendipity like that!
The rest of the day also had its fun moments, its sparks of connection, and just overall a good sense of flow.
I started working on a picture book about 2020. John has been telling me to make a picture book with my art in it for a long time, and I was mostly afraid of going down the editing rabbit hole, but here I am. This crazy year deserves a special keepsake.
Meanwhile Storms of Malhado is still free on Amazon for the next three days, and at tippytoes, one of the cutest stores on Galveston Island, housed in the beautiful historic Trueheart-Adriance Building, the paperbacks sold out. I’m promptly and happily restocking them. It turns out that with proper placement this book can do really really well. Which I already knew, but it’s good to see it actually happening.
After yesterday’s big blue painting, today I figured it was fun to create something really small: teeny tiny carousel horse paintings that can be used as luggage tags or Christmas decorations, or any number of things. Because obviously carousel horses are very useful, especially teeny tiny ones.
Today was also the first day of the free promotion of Storms of Malhado on Amazon. And I was featured as Author of the Day on ManyBooks. I really like the questions they came up with for my Author Interview, and the collage they made of my headshot and the cover.
It inspired me to create a little Media Hub section on this website to show off some articles and interviews about my work. I usually like to have a room for that at the gallery, modeled after my favorite guest bath in my mentor’s house, which I like to refer to as the Bush Bathroom as it contains letters from the Bush family. But with no gallery visits during the pandemic, I felt that I needed to do that in a virtual space.
I read some stuff about Mars Retrograde and learned that the color blue is supposed to mitigate the effects it has on us. So today I decided to make a big blue painting. It definitely helped. I think it’s a soothing presence.
Editing Glory Days, or rather getting reacquainted with it, is moving way too slow. Or perhaps it’s supposed to be slow right now, the process of immersion gradual and somewhat magical. Perhaps I’m supposed to be patient with it, which is not my strong suit.
To take some of the pressure off, I resorted to cooking: a scrumptious crawfish cornbread, then an elaborate moussaka that’s simmering slowly as we speak. All in all, the day felt more balanced than yesterday and held a few more reservoirs of joy. I even got an unexpected and quite lovely gift: My friend sent me a glass seashell paperweight all the way from Tennessee. It has a swirl pattern in it that looks like a hurricane, and she said it reminded her of my book. It came at a most opportune moment: Tomorrow I’m starting a major free promotion for the ebook version of Storms of Malhado, and I feel like this seashell paperweight will be good luck.
Slowly, very very slowly, I’m getting reacquainted with the manuscript for Glory Days. I decided to do a fashion sketch to get myself back into thinking about what Aimée would have worn in 1898. It helped a little bit, and I’m hoping to make more progress tomorrow.
It’s been a weird day. The stars and doing weird stuff – as if that’s what we all needed right now. Mars in Retrograde got me revisiting some old angers and dwelling on them a bit. Not good, especially mixed with the lingering sadness over my grandmother and the general uncertainty of things right now.
I did what I could to make this day better: good coffee and decadent chocolate cake, a mild incursion into editing, a healthy lunch, a long nap, an egg fried in butter, a long shower, drawing, walking the dog, a long talk with a friend, a good book, doing the dishes (that last one often does wonders). Everything helped yet nothing truly did. In the end, a little bit of much needed joy, a reminder of things that are fun, good, and positive, was waiting in my mailbox. Bright and cheerful, in double-layered cotton, the masks for my second batch of Christmas boxes had arrived from Society6. They were an instant source of joy, and a great reminder that this is what I hope the Christmas Boxes will do for the people receiving them. They’re supposed to bring some happiness and color, and if this trick works for me on what turned out to be a challenging day, then hopefully it will work too for each and every person opening these surprise boxes!
Today I painted this frog because I really wanted to play around with some of my new gold paint. I worked most of the day on an interview about Storms of Malhado – something I’ll get to share with y’all next week! I also sold one of my all-time-favorite paintings, The Blue Sea, which has been the featured piece in the gallery for over a year now. It’s found such a wonderful home, and I’m so happy!
Aimée is back from the editor and I need to get reacquainted with her. I love this story so much, I’m almost afraid to touch it. Today I only went through the manuscript reading the editor’s comments. I also played around a bit with cover ideas to get myself back into the mood of the story.
I painted three tiny abstract paintings in order to play with the new gold paints that just arrived from Amazon, and I found an old painting of grandma from Binghamton in 2001.
Inspired by a post by the Bryan Museum, this watercolor, which makes me think of Betty in Storms of Malhado, was something I just had to paint. And a few magical things happened while I was painting it. It pretty much painted itself, the watercolors being all loose and flowy and fun, the way watercolors are in their best moments. While I was painting, my friend, watching on Facebook Live, showed me a similar painting by Amanda Bennett, which I absolutely loved. We resolved to visit her gallery when we’re in New Orleans in January.
I also started getting a little obsessed with Halloween and making different ads for Storms of Malhado and The Adventures of Miss Vulpe, which are both a little scary, each in its own way.
One of the things my mentor and I have in common, aside from the art stuff, and a propensity to joke around relentlessly, is our appreciation for the finer things in life – luxury goods and luxury establishments offering unforgettable experiences. But what makes an experience unforgettable? My mentor and I love to discuss and analyze this question at length. Quality is not enough – the standardized offering of luxury can be so predictable and blah. To be truly moving, quality requires charm and a personal touch. Few people are as talented at adding those vital ingredients to an experience as my mentor is. A fresh rose, delicate water drops on its petals, a small surprise, remembering people’s names, or better yet having it displayed on a wall to honor them, remembering their preferences, are just some of the things he does to make visitors to his gallery feel special.
When we go somewhere fabulous together, we love to analyze what exactly makes the place fabulous. No detail goes unnoticed. It’s one of our favorite topics of conversation. And one of the most fabulous fabulous places where we relished in taking in the ingredients of an unforgettable evening was Tony’s in Houston. In fact, my mentor himself learned a lot from Mr. Tony Vallone, and I’m lucky that he passed on many of the lessons to me, lucky, too, that I got to experience this fine establishment and its many special touches in person. I’m was very saddened to hear about the passing of Mr. Tony Vallone today. I’m grateful that he brought such magic to Houston and shared it with us.