November 29, 2015

The Writing Life Where I’m From-West Virginia with Cat Pleska

I live in a vast region called Appalachia. Within the confines of the region (its boundaries vary at times, depending on demographics, economics, and whoever you talk to) live 29 million people. The backbone of the Appalachia Mountains stretches up through the middle of the region, from Georgia to Maine. Appalachia encompasses parts of 13 states. West Virginia, where I live and am a seventh generation native, is the only state wholly within the geographical/political designation of Appalachia. 

I refer to West Virginia as the “heart” of Appalachia. It’s a heart that’s been beating since its formation from Virginia in 1863, during the Civil War. A state that is much maligned (WV—the genesis of the oft denigrated hillbilly) and often misunderstood. However, I like the mystery we seem to generate, maybe because I’m a writer. 

By nature, we are a resilient and resourceful people, and we’ve had to be. Our vast resources: coal, timber, gas, have been coveted by outside interests for 150 years. Often colonized so that extraction can take place without spreading the wealth with the citizens, we have a roiling history that has made us tenacious. However, we have never forgotten our manners or our connection with the natural world and with people who come here. Still, with the downward economic situations that have existed for decades, many ask: why not move? 

But we are characters—vivid ones—living in a dynamic, beautiful landscape. We are attached extraordinarily to our land. And why not? The scenery is knock your socks off gorgeous.

For many reasons, we stay, and for me it’s a place where I know a secret. I have traveled extensively and even lived in another state for a short time, but it’s here in this funny shaped, little state I make the most sense. And I think for the many of us who stay, we know the secret appeal of this area: its people and culture.

Eventually, being from here helped me make sense of my life and that was a boon when I turned to writing my memoir. It helped me understand that as an only child of loving but troubled parents, I had a regional and state history I could emulate, that of the courage that seemed to be my birthright. We often take the long view: this too shall pass. So I could write about difficult times and struggling lives, from a backdrop of dramatic history and recovery. 

In my memoir, Riding on Comets, I write about growing up in a working class, dynamic family. A challenging family: when I was five, my grandfather took me with him to visit his bootlegger; when I was 12, my mother left my father after his drunken rage; when I was 16, my mother was hospitalized to undergo electric shock therapy. 

One thing I knew for sure: these people loved me and I loved them. Even though my parents were unable to realize all their own dreams, as best they could, they lifted me upon their humble shoulders so that I could reach for the stars and ride on comets.

From within the confines of this small, great state, this West-by-God-Virginia, I have. 

The winner of this book will receive a signed paperback copy of my memoir, Riding on Comets.  I will mail if you live in the US.  Leave a comment and your contact info for your chance to win.

Riding on Comets is a memoir about an ultra-sensitive child who grows up in a working class family in West Virginia. A calm, innocent beginning soon builds to a wild ride, as Cat appears to  follow in the footsteps of her family who seemed to her like giants, until loss and love teach her that life is to be experienced, held on to, and cherished, despite difficulties and despair.
Told with exquisite sensory detail, with acute empathy and lyricism, Cat tells her own tale in a family of storytellers, about a different kind of Appalachia. Not one that is agrarian, but industrial. Not one with weak women, but against great odds, empowered women. And even though the men seemed determined to destroy themselves and others, Cat finds out she can self-empower too, and intuitively stretches beyond the landscape of dysfunctional to the land of love and forgiveness. 

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November 22, 2015

Frances Pauli, Washington and Dragons

When most people think of Washington State they immediately bring to mind Seattle, constant rain, and copious amounts of coffee. While all of these are iconic to Washington, the vast majority of the state lies on the "other side" of the Cascade Mountain range, and over here on the dry side, things can get a little bit different.
The coffee, however, is not optional. 

So grab your double tall and wander with me across that stunning, snow-capped barrier and into the rest of Washington. Keep your eye on the horizon. As soon as we pass that summit, we're on fire watch. While the west side enjoys a hearty daily sprinkling, in central and eastern WA, dry is the theme of the day. From the pine forests of Cle Elum to the wide grasslands of the Columbia Basin, wild fire is a real and present danger.

Today the skyline is clear and we travel though some of the signature sunshine this side enjoys almost year round. The days are golden, and so long as we're not aflame, the journey can continue south, through the wine country of the Yakima Valley to where the Maryhill Museum and Stonehenge monument keep watch over the Columbia river, boasting some fantastic views along with art, wine, and a full sized replica of Stonehenge. (link to 

Or perhaps we could head in the opposite direction, north along Hwy. 2 to the Methow Valley and the North Cascades Highway where the town of Winthrop recreates the Old West for a steady stream of tourists. The ranchers in the Methow run range cattle up into the hills for grazing in the summer months. Watch the roads for stray cows, bears, or even one of the area's elusive wolves. 

Provided, however, you continue in an easterly fashion, you are liable to end up in my neck of the woods.  The middle of the state, the dry scrubland of the Columbia basin with its towering basalt columns, alkaline lakes, and miles and miles of dry sage. Here you will find world famous Soap Lake, home of healing waters and mud prized the world over. The banks of Soap lake often sport petitioners seeking the benefits of the black, sticky mud...covered in it, in fact, and basking happily in the sunshine. (soap lake link:

I'm near there somewhere, wandering the desert and looking for stories. From the petroglyphs to the pothole lakes and the ancient caves at Lake Lenore, for a rock hound like myself, the area is almost irresistible.

Except for the fires, of course. After only a few months in my home here, I looked out the window one afternoon and found a wall of flame rushing across the grasslands. Four fires later, we've been very lucky, and still, I spend too many days checking the windows now, watching that horizon. The rain, it turns out, does have its benefits.

 Which is where my Kundalis dragons come from, I suppose. The fires all summer long, the forces of nature, all factors bound to work their way into a local's fiction. 

My dragons battle in the shadow of those Cascade Mountains, and if you leave a comment on the blog, I'll draw two winners at random for electronic copies of the first book: Storm Dragon.

About this author: Frances Pauli writes across multiple genres. Her work is speculative, full of the fantastic, and quite often romantic at its core. Whenever possible, she enjoys weaving in a little humor. Once upon a time she was a visual artist, but she's since come to her senses. Now she fills her miniscule amount of free time with things like crochet, belly dance and abysmal ukulele playing. She lives in Central Washington State with her husband, two children, a pair of hairless dogs and five tarantulas.

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November 15, 2015

Isla Grey is from Central Virginia

I often get asked what my inspirations are for my stories.  More often than not, they come from actual places I’ve been to and things I’ve seen.  Living in the very center of Virginia, it seems as if most of the inspiration I’m looking for is only a car ride away. One of my favorite spots, and the closest, is Lynchburg, Virginia’s Riverwalk Trail.  It’s over three miles of paved trails that let you take in the Lynchburg’s riverfront area, its historic Point of Honor home and the natural beauty of the James River while you cross over to nearby Amherst County.  There’s also Amazement Square for the kids nearby and plenty of local restaurants to pick from just a street above the trail.

Charlottesville, Virginia is a nice day trip for the family.  The town is not only known for being home to the University Of Virginia, but, Monticello, the home of the third President of the United States and founder of UVA, is a favorite tourist spot.  After taking the tour of the home, be sure to stop by Mitchie’s Tavern, which offers visitors colonial style fare.  (We often stop at the Colleen Drive-In in Lovingston on our way back. 
It’s hard to miss, with a giant ice cream cone sign in front!)
Another fun day trip is just up the road to Staunton.  While Gypsy Hill Park is a family friendly place with tons of things to do, one of my daughter’s favorites is the Frontier Culture Museum that features exhibits of American, English, Irish, German and West African farms and homes from the 17th and 18th centuries.  Be prepared to do some walking and to see plenty of chickens and cows!

While Williamsburg is a personal favorite for a trip, I often prefer to spend a few days there just to have enough time to get everything done.  Not only does it offer the infamous amusement park, Busch Gardens, there’s also Colonial Williamsburg which is like stepping back in time to the 18th century!  While you’re in the area, you might as well venture to nearby Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in America, and Yorktown, the last battle and surrender grounds of the Revolutionary War.

There’s plenty more the great Commonwealth of Virginia has to offer.  From the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay (and everything in between), there are plenty of fun and exciting adventures to take.

Isla Grey is from Central Virginia and still lives in the same small town she grew up in. She developed a love of writing at an early age, is “old school” when it comes to writing and is a hoarder of more pens, post-it notes and writing journals than she’ll ever need. Isla likes to write different types of stories from romance to mystery and loves a “happy for now but there could be some bad things coming” feel. 

When Isla’s not writing, she spends her time being called “Mom, Mama, Mommy” (well, you get the picture) by her daughter. She’s also a “pet human” to a plethora of cats and enjoys reading a good biography or ghost story, traveling even though
“there’s no place like home”, good music played loud and walking.

Isla loves movies and is the movie mistakes editor at where she talks about…well…movies.  Her book, “Asylum Harbor”, and novella, “A Voice in the Dark”, is available now.  She’s offering a hard copy of that novel if you’ll just leave a comment for entry to win.  Leave contact info so she can contact you if you win.  

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