Catherine Cruzan

A New Realm of Fantasy


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A Writer’s Journey – Catherine Cruzan – Part 3

My author friend, Sophia Ann Montoya, continues our discussion about writing–what goes into it, what a writer should be focused on as they hone their craft, and some basic elements to improving as a writer in general.

Me_cut2b-HANDSShe likes to blend these types of interviews with a mosaic of her subject’s interests and adventures, because it broadens the palette and makes it more interesting.  For this segment, she chose one of my dance photos, when I was a member in a troupe called Rasa Shakti.  We blended American bellydance, classical Indian, Flamenco and tribal style dance with modern and world fusion music.  It was definitely a fun time in my life.  I still count my Rasa Shakti ladies amongst the best of my friends.

Visit Sophia’s website for Part 3 of our discussion about A Writer’s Journey: http://www.ponderanddream.com/a-writers-journey-catherine-cruzan-part-3/.

 


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Things to do in LA: SHADES & SHADOWS at CIA

clownJuly 19, 2014, I did my first live reading from my novel ELFKIND at the most amazing event: Shades & Shadows.

If you’ve never attended a live reading in LA, you definitely need to check one out.  The California Institute of Abnormal Arts is a wild choice for this kind of thing—like Beetlejuice’s imagination come to life in a quaint North Hollywood house-turned-venue packed with rare circus artifacts and sideshow oddities.  I’d done some dance shows at this location in past years, so I was excited to return to their stage.

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marqueeSeeing my name on the marquee reduced me to the emotional stability of a two-year-old child, because I honestly thought I’d go my entire life without experiencing anything like it.  I had to photograph it for posterity, given the likelihood of it ever happening again.

hostsOur hosts, Xach Fromson and Lauren Candia, are fantastic writers in their own right.  And I’ve just adopted Lauren as my new style guru, with her retro chic hair and makeup, and flirty fifties dresses.  She’s the pride of pinup girls around the globe.

ericBram Stoker award winning author Eric J. Guignard was first up at the microphone, reading an excerpt from “Midnight and Jefe Bowman”.  Rather than me tell you about it, I suggest you experience it for yourself on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVJi5NXIXOs.  He was terrific with his narration and the many voices of his characters.

It intimidated me to follow such a talented artist, and this was my first time reading.  I also made the fatal mistake of practicing one excerpt during the week, only to change my selection immediately before taking the stage, thinking it would be more exciting.  This only added to the butterflies tearing up my stomach.  And needless to say, I completed a seven minute reading in under six.  My apologies to the audience!

scottAfter my six minutes, it was nice to relax again, and enjoy Scott Tarbet read from his story “Tombstone”.  It was another inspiring performance with Scott’s great voice and fun characterizations—definitely something for me to strive for.

XachOur host, Xach Fromson, read from one of his new shorts next.  I enjoyed the story a lot.  He’s a great writer.  And considering it was only his second time reading, he did so well I was convinced that I could come back for a do-over that I could be proud of.

jeffJeff Eyres can easily double as a standup comedian.  The man is completely entertaining, and utterly funny.  The pages you see him holding here are blank, as his first instinct was to complete the audience’s expectations for a “reading”.  But since his printer prevented the actuality, he gave us a rote recitation of his short story “Bugs”.   I promise you the entire audience walked away feeling like kings and queens of the cockroaches.

mereI warmed to Mere Smith the moment I saw her, because she is the spitting image of a dear friend of mine.  I almost grabbed her into a hug before remembering my friend had moved away.  And if that wasn’t enough, the woman wrote for one of my favorite shows, Angel.   At CIA, she read “Dead Girl” from her book COWFACE and other hilarious stories about death.  I laughed the whole time and freaking loved it.

Suffice it to say, me and my girls were mesmerized by the talent surrounding us Saturday night.

My author friend, Sophia Ann Montoya, later commented she’d never seen me nervous before, despite the many times she’d seen me take the stage as a performer, speaker and show producer.  I pondered this further, and came to the conclusion that I should have approached the reading as a performer rather than as myself at a mic, exposing something as personal as my own words.

trioPerhaps only another writer can understand how daunting it is to strip away everything else so as to bare one’s soul beneath a spotlight.  We publish our books in hopes of everyone reading our stories, after all, so what is the fuss over reading a few pages, right?  But I think there is something more to reading your own pages than there is to bringing any other kind of performance to the stage.

Theatrical productions require the performers to don a persona, complete with costuming, hair, makeup, and more often than not, someone else’s words.  Tribal style dancers sport ten pounds of hair and makeup, and lavish costuming that would make anyone feel like a completely different person.  We use props and layers of silk fabrics in every color you could imagine.  Story-telling dance takes it a step further as the performers bring fanciful tales to life.  And announcers are still a part of the act, with their own personas to share.

Public speaking strips a lot of that away, yet still, you step out of yourself a bit into the story of whatever topic you’re presenting, and again it feels like play-acting.  For us teacher-types, sharing what little knowledge we possess, the stage becomes a mere broadening of the classroom.

In the end, I discovered something as a result of this new experience: I have a profound and unmitigated respect for anyone willing to step in front of a mic with their own words.  Each and every one of my fellow readers impressed the hell out of me Saturday night.  I’ll definitely be back for more.  You can count on that.  I may or may not bring it to the mic again myself (hold the applause, jokesters), but I am certainly down for more of them.


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POMPEII at the California Science Center

I visited the Pompeii Exhibit at the California Science Center this afternoon.

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It was comprised of an amazing collection of the city’s paintings, mosaics, statuary, jewelry, furniture, fountains, bath items, kitchen utensils, fishing implements, engineering tools, medical instruments, bowls and glassware… What turned out to be my favorite part of the exhibit—the gladiator armor and weaponry… And ultimately a glimpse of the poor souls caught in Mt. Vesuvius’ violent expulsion.  There was even an adults-only room with household items decorated in phallic imagery intended to enhance a family’s virility, strength and power both at home and within the community.

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The history lesson opens with a look at a the layout of the houses, which not only served the family’s needs, but also hosted guests and business associates, as well as political attachés.  The dwellings were arranged around an atrium or garden, ornamented with elegant Frescos and marble statuary, designed to display the family’s wealth.  The residents often brought the furniture outside and dined beneath the stars in good weather.  At least that was the life of the elite.  The majority of Pompeii residents were poor, and lived in modest apartments.

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In the next two rooms, the lesson continues with a glimpse of residents’ sea-dwelling life—implements of fishing, farming and commerce, and associated furniture and kitchen-wares.  Amphora, or jugs, for olive oil and Garum stand as tall as a ten-year-old child.  Garum, a fermented fish sauce used for flavoring bland food, was one of Pompeii’s largest exports, and they were known throughout the Roman empire for it.  One of their wealthiest citizens, Asulus Umbricius, amassed his fortune from producing and selling garum.

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The next big room is a plethora of artifacts representing Pompeii life, ranging from a temperature controlled bathtub and bathing implements, to blown glass, gold jewelry, a glimpse of theatrical life, engineering and medicine, and a gladiator’s tools of the trade.  It is truly amazing how advanced their technology was in the first century, as evidenced by the tiny, tiny links in the gold chains, the intricately formed glassware, the elaborately adorned bronze armor and helms, their hydraulic valves, and even a sophisticated specula.

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After a well-rendered cinematic recreation of the 48 hour period during which the volcano erupted, the movie screen rises to allow admittance to the final room of the exhibit.  Lying in what amounts to Plexiglas coffins, a few of the victims of the ordeal express their pain.  These are not the actual plaster casts excavated from the Pompeii dig site, but rather resin copies.  Photos of their actual discoveries line the walls behind them.

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It certainly paints a clear picture of the fragility of life, no matter how sophisticated its origins.

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BayCon 2014 in Santa Clara, CA

ORIGINALLY POSTED: May 23-26, 2014

How do you spell Triskaidekaphobia?… Memorial Day Weekend at BayCon in Santa Clara, CA

At least, that’s what I found myself asking over the holiday weekend.  I’m not sure I ever gave myself a satisfactory answer…

I’d been looking forward to BayCon for months, given that my GLAWS author friends go on and on about the event with glowing excitement, especially regarding the BayCon goers who tend to be avid readers and SF/F/H aficionados.

In other words — the BayCon peeps are my kind of peeps.

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I dare say, the convention did not fail to live up to their praise, despite the unfortunate drop in attendance due to a rash of newly competing conventions in the Bay area over the holiday weekend.

I spent most of the weekend manning the signing table, meeting lots of fun and interesting people, and sold a respectable number of books, book bags and T-shirts.  My favorite visit was from Wiggles, the trained assitance pup — a sweet little black lab who reminded me of my childhood pet, Lady.

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Saturday night was awesome.  After the Dealer Room closed, I found myself immersed in Star Trek culture, complete with drinks at the Klingon bar, a Klingon slave auction, and even Captain Kirk on the sales block.  All the money collected went to charity, including the $5 I threw down for a drink called “Revenge” served to the tune of a room full of Klingons shouting, “Revenge is a drink best served cold!”

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I even got to enjoy some Taiko drumming!

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I will definitely be back next year if they’ll have me.  =)

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Gaslight Gathering 2014

ORIGINALLY POSTED: May 2-4, 2014

Gaslight Gathering at San Diego’s Town & Country

Victoriana Musings…

I began my Steampunk weekend with a selfie in the hotel.  Which means I must have been excited, because I don’t usually flip the phone on myself.  I prefer to be on the other side of the lense, in search of interesting things to shoot.

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The best part of the weekend was running into my friends here and there, some of whom even stopped to pose for pictures in their fun and fantastical garb.

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One of my friends, Richard Foss, broke down the ins-and-outs of Victorian food and libation.  He’s an amazingly informed foodie and food critic, as well as a talanted author in his own right.  I could listen to him lecture for hours.

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Speaking of authors, there were fewer writer panels at the convention this year, sadly.  So I sat in on some costuming discussions before getting to watch some terrific writers discuss the Steampunk genre.   Followed by my favorite part of the weekend — a writers’ workshop with Todd McCaffrey and Dru Pagliassotti.  And of course, getting my books signed by them and Cherie Priest.

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Our Steampunk Panelists from left to right: Ralph E. Vaughan, Cherie Priest, Todd McCaffrey, Dru Pagliassotti.

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Of course, Dealer Room antics abounded all weekend.  And I did end up spending some money… But can you blame a girl when all the booths looked so inviting with their gadgets and whats-its, doo-dads and feathered thing-a-ma-jigs?  And I’d be remiss in my duties as a shopper if I neglected to mention all the pretty attire!!!

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WonderCon 2014

ORIGINALLY POSTED: April 18-20, 2014

ComiCon International’s WonderCon in Anaheim

IMG_4146Another wonder-filled weekend in Anaheim…

WonderCon 2014 seemed so much larger than it did in previous years.  It’s just a matter of time before it’ll be as difficult to score an Anaheim ticket as it is to score one for San Diego.  It’s no longer the well-kept secret of San Diego refugees.  That, or there are just so many more of us shut out of the San Diego con, despite our hours lurking in the virtual waiting room on ticket-purchasing day.

A huge, heartfelt thank you to my dear friend Rebecca for my San Diego ticket this year.  It’s been 6 years since I’ve been able to get in.  I can hardly wait.  She was the first one to go with me so many years ago.  It’s apropos she’s the one to help me get BACK IN.

Meanwhile, WonderCon was a completely different experience for me this year, because I spent half of it behind a book signing table.  The whole weekend was a payoff for all of those grueling hours I spent working on ELFKIND.  I felt as if I’d finally grasped some of the stars I’ve been reaching for.

Thank you to my friends, and everyone else who stopped by to say “hello”!

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I did manage to squeeze in a few wonder-filled WonderCon moments when I wasn’t manning the table…

Most memorable was the Salem panel, complete with Shane West (nice!) and the show runners, Adam Simon and Brannon Braga, answering questions and giving us a sneak peek at the new WGN series.  I’ve since been watching it air on Sunday evenings, and I’m truly impressed with the writing.  I’m pleased they are incorporating so much research into the dramatization.  The actors are amazing, bringing it all to life, with fabulous costuming and dark, gritty cinematography.  I’m crossing my fingers they get a second season!

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Any other Faceoff fans out there?  I’ve been watching this SyFy show from its inception.  Cat and Nico were on the most recent season.  They were at the con, showing off their skills, and I even got a fun greeting from Nico, who almost made it to the finale show.  Both he and Cat are impressive artists.  I enjoyed watching them on the show, and now I can say I watched them live in action as well!

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I squeezed in the Nerdist Panel and a visit to the Nerdist booth, since I’m always all about Chris Hardwick and company.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get his autograph due to my own book signing commitments, but I got one from Jessica Chobot. Yay!   =)

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Star Wars definitely represented this year, including a visit from my friends, The Darkside Riders!

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And of course the Dealer Room abounded with excitement as it always does.  Some of the shots I collected are down below, including one of the artist who created the little Minion I took home with me.    =)

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Labyrinth of Jareth 2013

ORIGINALLY POSTED: July 5, 2013

Cat & Jan at Labyrinth of Jareth in Los Angeles, CA

A Masquerade for the Holiday Weekend

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Yes, I can balance a sword on my head.

It was a fun time with my friend, Jannah, as my date for the evening at the 16th annual Labyrinth of Jareth masquerade ball in Los Angeles.  (Thank you, Barry, for letting me borrow your wife for a fun girl’s night out.)

You can’t really see how pretty the wings are in the pictures, or the fact that my bustle was all lit up with LEDs.  But trust me, they were!

Also, a huge thank you to Cynthia and Mark, and the rest of the dancers and musicians of Seraphim Mora Dance Troupe for the guest tickets.  We really enjoyed the show!  Let me know if you ever want me back on stage with you.  It would be my pleasure.  I love doing shows with you guys!  =)

And one more thank you to Donovan, Ed Lee and friends for the fabulous drum circle.  It was great getting to jump in on your set at the end of the evening to have some fun.  We enjoyed dancing to your beats.  It must have been good, because some really nice party-goers gave me and Jan each a beautiful white rose as a thank you for sharing our tribal style moves.

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