Category Archives: process

Preparing for the Darkest Night


Event: Book Reading & Signing (RSVP on facebook link!)

995 Palm St. San Luis Obispo, CA

Wed. Dec. 20, 330-5 PM

let go of the surface, dive into the dark

relinquish hecticity for the calm, chewy center

drop down into the earth' rhythms, your rhythms

find what you are searching for

newgrange winter solstice sunrise ireland

I am revisiting the town where I grew up this week.

And this Thursday, we are all revisiting the darkest night of the year, the Winter Solstice (Danu Forest’s lovely symbolism really feels magical in its ability to connect you through time and space to other cultures).

And so, as part of this revisiting process, I am reconnecting to the intentions I set for myself at the beginning of the year, which had gone suspiciously silent after various stresses and fears throughout the year.

The moon circle I attended to reflect on the December supermoon helped reconnect me to those intentions, and so I am diving into books about ancient Celtic rites and how to meditate on one’s chakras and yea, self-acceptance, yet again.

Why do I hesitate to believe in powers I can’t see? Because it requires faith. And there is no faith without trust. And trust. Is hard.

What are you reconnecting with?

What are you struggling with, as we approach the longest night of the year?

What are you looking forward to, after the light starts to be reborn?

If you’re on the Central Coast, I hope to see you on Wednesday, where there will be singing and costumes and history talk for all.


Image via Newgrange

Why Writers Write…and All the Rest

(We have two events coming up, at OHS in Portland, and Vintage Books in Vancouver, WA! See details below)

The book is released!

And my spirit feels like it has been released as well.

margaret pinard grasping root launch pdx another read through

As I drove home after the launch party for The Grasping Root, I felt valued. All sorts of warm fuzzies from friends made me feel seen and my work validated.

‘Two years of soul sweat,’ as I said, and most of the toil invisible to others.

But this brief flare of glamour and clamor and attention is not why I write.

No, I write because it fills me up. This community gathering and learning and celebrating is what makes all the rest of the work worthwhile:

  • the months of self-doubt while making drastic editing changes
  • the frustratingly repetitious work of formatting the manuscript
  • the constant reevaluation of one’s own abilities when forecasting promotional campaigns months into the future
  • the tedium of reworking one’s biographical blurb to fit everyone else’s needs

While you’re in that rabbit hole of creation, you have a goal. (This goes out to the NaNoWriMos out there!) It is the light at the end of the tunnel, where others pick up your book, their eyes light up, and they tell you they loved when the MacLeans sing together, or when Alisdair gives a poignant reminder of their old home, or when Muirne decides to go out on her own to resolve her own flawed understanding…

Yes! Characters have flaws! Just like we do! And that is why historical fiction is my favorite way to show people themselves. It’s a little removed, the conflicts are different but the same, the inner struggles are tweaked but recognizable, age-old dilemmas. And the triumphs give us hope.

I hope.

Here’s to you, reader, who helped me see the light at the end of this tunnel and helped birth another book.

There will be a Goodreads giveaway for this new book as a thank you! Starts November 27th.

I will be one of 90 authors at Oregon Historical Society’s Holiday Cheer event! Turning 50 this year, it is a wonderful opportunity to meet and chat with Oregon authors of all genres. Talk is free, books are not!

  • Sunday, Dec. 3rd, 12-4 PM
  • 1200 SW Park Ave

The next public event for The Grasping Root will be held at Vintage Books in Vancouver, WA:

  • Saturday, Dec. 9th, 1-2 PM
  • 6613 E Mill Plain BLVD
  • Co-hosting with Lars Hedbor, author of the Tales from a Revolution series!

The Grasping Root is available in paperback at Another Read Through Bookstore,  and can be ordered through other bookstores or Amazon. Ebook copies are available through Smashwords and Kindle. It will soon be available from Multnomah County libraries, too!


Photo credit April Lampert

Samhain, Giving Up, & The Grasping Root Launch


It is one week since I resolved the last edit for The Grasping Root, folks, & since I am the The Last Word on these things, that means it’s…

grasping root remnants book cover


How did I get from my last post to this one, you ask? I’ll tell you.

  • Pressed PAUSE and spent time with family.
  • Eliminated things in my life that needlessly complicated it (one cat, several boxes, including 20-year-old letters passed at summer camp Lac de Bois)
  • Read a lot (check out the surge in Read Books on my Goodreads!)

I was getting real fed up with the mantra, “Just Keep Going.” So I decided that what I needed was what I wanted. Social time. Alone time. Cooking time. Practicing self-love instead of driving myself to exercise like I should.

I can see I lost some of you with the phrase ‘practicing self-love’–hang in there.

Magically, those 124 decisions I had to make about word choice and sentence construction flew by. They were set in perspective. My inner samurai sliced through the Resistance without attachment.

The same day, I started formatting. Tediousness ensued. Two days later, I sent off details to the cover artist for the paperback and began the steps for the publicity campaign I planned–oh, five months ago.

But now it’s happening!

The click-click-click of the roller coaster inching up and over the zenith is now definitely whooshing into the thrilling part of the publication process, where things wizz past and you forget what you’re supposed to do and who you’re supposed to be.

As my friend April reminded me, even writers are subject to the cycle of death and rebirth, ups and downs, giving up and letting go to gain something new.

let go or be dragged proverb zen hot air balloon

SO. Future steps:

I’m still hoping to arrange pre-ordering for these last couple weeks of waiting. If I do, I’ll be entering everyone who pre-orders into a giveaway contest! Free money, free candy, free books! Sign up for the newsletter to be in the virtual Room Where It Happens.

Goodreads will host a giveaway for The Keening starting Oct 21, so spread the news to those who would love this series about a Scots family in 1822 with some hard-core grit! After that, I’ll put The Grasping Root in for a contest too. 🙂 Connect on Goodreads and follow my author page for updates!

And the party you’ve all been waiting for…


  • Where: Another Read Through Bookstore, Portland, OR
  • When: Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017, 7-8 PM
  • What: Samhain rituals! Scottish food! White Elephant Giveaways! Bringing a new book into the world and celebrating two years of soul-wringing work <3

See you there.


Images via me, ShinyStarrlight

What to do when you lose the magic

Warning: No easy solutions appended.

I’ve been feeling the loss of magic in several areas where I usually excel at conjuring: walking, cooking, writing. I usually love getting lost in a character’s journey. I feel satisfied with myself when I walk a few miles instead of using my car. I pat myself on the back when I put together an entree involving pantry staples, leftovers, and just that dash of magic that makes a dish delicious.

magic cooking illustration penelope dullaghan

But recently, these pleasures have lost their sheen.

The editing work gets done because I’m on a schedule and people are waiting for me. Or it doesn’t.

The cooking gets done if I manage to curb spending and snacking cravings, but it doesn’t give me that I-care-about-myself-therefore-I-cook feeling.

The walking gets to be more tiresome, as in lugging bags back up the hill from the farmers’ market and feeling drained, not charged with the healthy produce possibilities.

There seems to be in each of these examples a magic that is lost. A sort of pride-in-accomplishment result that has suddenly disapparated and left me with no motivation to take these higher roads.

undine arthur rackham illustration lost magic

This is called depression.

For walking, I’m not worrying about it for the moment. I’m driving more for work anyway. It’s a higher bill for gas each month which hurts my tree-hugging soul as well as my checkbook, but I can’t focus on this.

For cooking, I started replacing one meal a day with a protein shake–Soylent–in the hope that this would free up brainpower and motivation for making at least two healthy meals for myself per day. It’s helped considerably in the past six weeks.

But for writing…it’s different. Because it comes from such a personal place, it’s hard to dropkick something into starting after it’s become stuck. I’ve even lapsed on Morning Pages. Where I used to be able to summon the concentration for editing merely with setting (table, blanket on chair, pages, laptop) or sufficient anxiety-quieting props (tea mug, pretzels, music)…

It just doesn’t work.

I watch YouTube videos. I sort out finances. I clean the sink. I lay on the floor on a pillow and fall asleep. I deal with my health insurance, for god’s sake.

What am I avoiding? Is it that day, the facing of a work not yet worthy to see the light of day? Is it the editor’s comments, which seem less and less to understand my characters’ background?

Or is it the long term goal, launching the new book, and having nothing left to hide behind?

Whatever it is, it’s taken the magic out of the process.

I need something else to temporarily replace my own motivation.

Ice cream?

A meal out?

The trouble is, enough layers of these temporary substitutes and you get cumulative effects that you can’t easily wash away: debt and weight. They become, in the present, yet another threat of unworthiness.

What I want is for someone to tell me what a good job I’m doing, and that I don’t have to keep up the brave face. But that’s external. What can I do for myself?

What to do?

Move. If running in the morning isn’t happening, I roll around on my bed, stretching the spine and the big muscles. I do my chiropractor’s prescribed exercises (oh yes: side effect of depression is bodily pain, easily manifested by Psychosomatic Me). I take 5-minute dance breaks from work. I watch Yoga with Adriene’s videos, particularly for Upper Back Painfor the Service Industry, and the Rinse.

Be still. Say no to the endless demands on your time, including but not limited to: taking out your minuscule recycling container, cleaning your bathtub, going out for a carton of milk, scanning social media, answering emails, popping joints, reading books you don’t enjoy, shaving, constantly reaching for your phone.

Instead, say yes to things that make room in your heart: good movies, good books, good times with friends.

friends april nesa

Spend time with good people. Not energy vampires. Not superficial acquaintances. Not people who may be good for your career. Ask for help from those people whom you trust, whom you’ve had deep conversations with, who know what an emotional toll feels like.

I went to a kickoff potluck for the Wayfinders Academy this weekend with a friend. It gave me all sorts of deja vu for when I was in Public Allies: the inside jokes, the feeling of being in a crucible, the special cheerleading provided by loved ones for your journey, and the feeling of having an openness, a kindness, a trusting nature.

Thirteen years after my PA experience, I feel the loss of that hope. I realize that it is another type of magic lost, to no longer have that feeling of possibility, of loving kindness. Now it is responsibility, obligation, and the shoulds which crowd in on me just as heavily as when I left Washington DC.

Where is the path out of this lost place? I remind myself of a few things.

Writing is what I want to do.

Success doesn’t come quickly.

This, too, shall pass.

I described the feeling to a friend recently as being suddenly outside the house of your life. You can look in the window and see the life you used to lead: commitments, joys, habits, goals. But you are outside amid a howling gale, where none of those things inside matter anymore. How do you apparate back inside, where you have control, and your effort matters once again?

Step by step.

Bite by bite.

Word by word.


Do you have comments or suggestions? Chip in below. Regular book launch programming will resume in the next post, we hope!


Images via pinterest, terriwindling

The Eclipse, The Tower, and Ploughing On

solar eclipse portland

Today is the day of the Solar Eclipse, the only total eclipse I know of until my generation is expected to die.

The week preceding the eclipse has been a challenging one personally, with health issues in my family and the end of a potential relationship before it got off the ground.

All that retrograde sh^%.

Professionally, it’s been booming: a book fair event in West Linn, a tarot card event at the day job in Lake Oswego, and an author panel at my favorite bookstore, discussing YA markets and HistFic trends.

instagram costume west linn book fair ren fair costume gypsy tarot tea

Tarot is an interesting practice. Or art, I should say.

I am a dabbler in many things, and this year, tarot is one of them.

I don’t believe a certain card can predict your future but I do believe we often hold the key to fixing our own issues, it just lies buried deep beneath a whole lot of emotional gunk. Tarot cards are simply one way to reflect on what we need, what we want, and how we are going to go about getting it.

The Tower is the card that sums up this week for me.

tower tarot card

“The Tower shows a tall tower pitched atop a craggy mountain. Lightning strikes and flames burst from the building’s windows. People are seen to be leaping from the tower in desperation, wanting to flee such destruction and turmoil. The Tower signifies darkness and destruction on a physical scale, as opposed to a spiritual scale. The Tower itself represents ambitions built on false premises. The lightning bolt breaks down existing forms in order to make room for new ones. It represents a sudden, momentary glimpse of truth, a flash of inspiration that breaks down structures of ignorance and false reasoning. Notice the lightning bolt is oriented left to right (from the perspective of the card), from heaven to earth, and from Spirit to material. The falling figures correspond to the chained prisoners in the Devil card. They fall headfirst, because the sudden influx of spiritual consciousness represented by the lightning flash completely upsets all our old notions about the relations between subconsciousness and self-consciousness.”

(from Biddy Tarot, a great site for beginners)

As you’ve read in my previous two posts, I am ratcheting up the Launch Trebuchet at the same time I’m madly scurrying to finish edits for The Grasping Root. I am delayed in getting out copies to my Early Reviewers, and alternately cavalier and crazy about the amount of time left before my Launch Party at Another Read Through on October 12th.

Does this sound at all like ‘ambition built on false premises’ to you, dear readers?

And yet. The silver lining to the Tower is that this shake-up of all my boundaries and certainties makes me more resilient. The proof lies in the list of hours logged in the chair, at the computer, rehashing those developmental edits.

Forty-four hours and counting.

john guthrie plough sunset song

My series Remnants involves people scratching a living from the soil, much like Chris Guthrie in Lewis Grassic Gibbons’ Sunset Song. I watched the first half of this beautiful movie last week before needing to return the DVD.

I read the books when I was first falling in love with Scotland, and had to go into a sort of trance to understand the meaning behind the dense Aberdonian lilt.

But the image of the plough, returning to the earth, carving it up–I think that fits pretty well with this week.

Thanks for hanging in there with me.
Images via Author, Biddy Tarot, and BBC