Write what you know is a sensible dictum; write what you want to find out is way more fun. The wild Pacific Coast of Vancouver Island first stirred my imagination when I was an undergrad in Bellingham, near the Canadian border. I finally got there a few weeks ago, more than four decades later, researching details for my novel-in-progress Cold Mirage. This sequel to 2019’s Nowever is set in Tofino, at the end of the road up a narrow peninsula between Clayoquot Sound and the Pacific Ocean. To go farther takes a boat or a seaplane. Beaches, rainforests, whales and bears, surfers and storm watchers––my old dream come true. 

And the tango? That was in Victoria at the beginning of our trip where, on our first return to Cafe Casablanca since 2017, we met two Australian tango dancers, Ron Fenton and Esther Zellweger––neotangoaustralia.com.au––teaching an Alternative Tango class, and joined the cafe’s usual gracious Friday night milonga dancers.

UPCOMING EVENT! On Sunday, October 20th, 2019, I’ll be reading a sneak preview of my novel-in-progress Cold Mirage at Paulina Springs Books in Sisters, Oregon. As part of the Sisters Festival of Books, I’ll be appearing along with eight other YA authors, signing copies of Nowever, and offering chances to win free copies of both books. Readings are scheduled between 11:00am and 1:00pm, with lots of other events going on over the weekend. Come join in!


Fiction writers, story weavers, dream for everyone. A person not allowed to dream gradually goes mad; a world without dreams would be unlivable. We need dreams of beauty and love and kindness, humor, excitement, and mystery––even nightmares––to thrive. As a writer, I dream into the concurrence of the beautiful and the terrible, how it’s possible to hold the perception of both at once. I’m drawn to the world’s gorgeousness, especially to light, and the way nothing stands still, ever, even when we want it to.

Our summer in Oregon has been like a childhood memory of summer, exquisite blue sky days flowing seamlessly into one another, until suddenly, past the September equinox, sunset comes earlier and the sun slants from the south. I sit at my desk, distracted by my view of trees and sky, but excited by my projects in progress, one of which is to follow advice I’m given, to share with you what other readers have said about my books (where you’ll find the natural world a recurring “character” in myriad forms. So, here goes:

About Nowever

“This has to be a “crossover” book, as it had me riveted! The ingenious plotting, the amazing descriptive quality of your writing, the wonderful characters Stevie encounters––how do you do it? Thanks for a good read!”  Isobel (age 93) Rye, NY

About From Here to Argentina: A Tango Love Story

“What a delightful novel. Kristina Bak may be the Jane Austen of the inter-mountain west, displaying and quietly skewering the manners and mores of the early 21st century. Her characters are believable, as are their foibles and occasional triumphs, and the choice of setting––tango class in a mountain town in transition––makes a nice crucible. I’m waiting for the next novel.”   Denise

“Romance. Intrigue. Mystery. Mortality. And more––all in the arms of a dance partner. The characters are strong, fragile, cruel, generous … believable! What a wonderful read. I knew nothing of tango, yet Kristina Bak makes me feel its rhythm and attraction. I won’t be surprised if we’re watching this love story on the screen in the future. Yet, you know what they say about the book––read it first!”  Jana Z

More reviews next time, or, you can read the books! 

Wishing all my readers, and readers-to-be-mine, wonderful summer dreams.

Here, in late July, each day’s air is so clean, the sky so blue, I want to drink it––no big wildfires this season in our Oregon Cascades. (We knock wood when we say it, as though the superstition will save us when lightning storms come flashing through.) Even now, in high summer, we can find lightly-touristed hiking trails among our sleeping volcanos, the peaks still crowned with snow, clear meltwater streams tumbling and sparkling in the woods. Last week my husband and I met flurries of orange California Tortoiseshell butterflies at 6,000 feet. 

The quality of sunlight has just tipped toward gold on the spectrum, the inexorable seasonal round. The crow family we’ve watched from our patio since spring fly farther each day from their nesting place in the giant neighborhood cottonwood tree. I miss their eloquent conversation when they’re gone. My garden is the garden of a writer: unkempt, overrun with flowers, all I see beautiful, some hidden, some planned, some surprising me.

As always, I write each morning. Cold Mirage, the sequel to my 2019 YA Novel Nowever, is evolving much like my garden. I mix the beautiful with the terrifying or mysterious, often surprised by what I find. To quote a writer I met at this spring’s Chanticleer Authors Conference, “I want everyone to read my book[s].” (I did read his, Sacred River: A Himalayan Journey, and loved it.) Writing fiction is an act of love and trust. I write, you read; you write, I read. We put ourselves out there in the best words and images we know. Each time a new royalty payment shows up in my account, I’m thrilled––of course, money is a vote of confidence, but the thrill for me is knowing you’re out there reading my words, each one chosen with love by me for you.

My friend, Krayna Castelbaum, and I both write. I produce novels with hundreds of pages,

Krayna with some of her books   krayna@clearlenscoaching.com

Krayna, poems, sometimes only a few words, all the more precious for the books she makes to share them. With her own creative alchemy, Krayna transforms tea bags––yes, tea bags––into magical embodied poems, words inseparable from the substance of their pages. Holding one of her tiny books in your hand offers intimacy with the poem; each word takes on life and lures you into the symbols and colors and textures surrounding it. I fell in love with these books, never able to just read one and move on, but always called to linger. Krayna’s consistent generosity of spirit humbles me, and it comes through beautifully in these works of art which never dictate their meaning, but welcome discovery.

Virtual reality, algorithms, blockchain, metadata, going wide, artificial intelligence and machine learning––doesn’t sound like the lineup for an authors’ conference, does it? Maybe not ten years ago, or even five, but if you stand still, WHOOSH, you’ll see the world changing so fast

Bellingham lilacs

the faces blur. I recently spent a spring weekend at the Chanticleer Authors’ Conference in beautiful Bellingham, Washington. The presenters did their best to bring us right-brain types up to speed in skills and concepts common in the digital world, while admitting that the details (and we know where the devil lives) were morphing into new shapes even as they spoke.

Bellingham bayside boardwalk

I loved coming home to meet readers face-to-face, in person at North Soles (my favorite shoe store in the world) on Bend’s First Friday May Art Walk. Stimulating and useful as all that digital information is, in the end, what matters is the connection between writer/creator and reader/viewer/listener/experiencer of storyThat’s what makes doing my work worthwhile.

Thanks to all of you who let me tell you stories!

 

At North Soles with Margaux http://www.northsoles.com

NOWEVER, my new YA novel is out! You can find it on Amazon and B&N sites, among others, and if your heart, like mine, is with independent bookstores, on Powells.com.

If you’ve been to Portland’s iconic Powell’s City of Books you’ve felt the total immersion in its color-coded rooms. My favorite is the blue room, and the red room is where I find Spanish language novels I enjoy over breakfast every morning. (I read Spanish more slowly than English, and get butter stains on the pages from eating as I read, so it’s best I don’t try borrowing them from the library.)

One of my literary dreams is someday having my novels translated into Spanish, another is seeing them, in any language, on the shelves of Powell’s, and independent bookstores everywhere.

Meanwhile, I’ll be reading from NOWEVER and doing Q&A about the story, my writing process and anything else at Roundabout Books in Bend’s NW Crossing at 2:30 on Saturday, March 16th. I’d love to see you there, and do bring a friend for delicious coffee, tea and treats.

Happy Valentine’s Day from Nanuq and me!  

My ancestors moved relentlessly west across North America, my father’s parents from Eastern Europe at the beginning of the 20th century, my mother’s predecessors from Scotland in the early 1700s. The only “roots” I experienced were several family generations in the Pacific Northwest. That changed this month when my husband and I, along with our daughter and son-in-law, visited Scotland. My daughter and I are descended from the Maclean clan. Clan history in Scotland’s Highlands 

and Islands is full of struggle. Beneath its mysterious, spectacular beauty the earth is soaked in blood shed in battle, as well as in childbirth, for centuries. Perhaps DNA calling out to DNA, whatever the explanation, throughout our visit I vibrated with powerful sensations and emotions of belonging I hadn’t expected. My dreams are filled now with silver spring-fed streams coursing down the Highland braes.

Of course, tango played a part in our trip. In a basement room beneath a pub in Glasgow we were warmly welcomed by a community of impressive dancers, at least one of whom had tangoed in Portland, too.

In Edinburgh we danced beneath crystal chandeliers and a high domed ceiling with a university-associated group. The organizer took a copy of my tango novel for the community’s library.

Home now in Bend, I’m finishing work on my new novel Nowever. I’m excited to share it with you soon. Meanwhile, From Here to Argentina: A Tango Love Story is available at Roundabout Books in Northwest Crossing and Dudley’s downtown, as well a through Powell’s online and all the usual digital sources.