Sep 9, 2016 - Blog, Spooky Stuff    No Comments

Too Much Dr. Jekyll

When things go wrong, I resort to art.

I know this about myself, so there’s no need to report me to the Strict People – it’s nothing new. Like many other ‘Artistics’ we are taught by parents and teachers to be like the mainstream, take a deep breath and conform, but that just doesn’t work for me. Artists can only take so much before they need to be creative.

“Or what?” you ask.

1931 movie poster of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

That’s a complicated question, possibly without an answer.  But let’s analyze it; the left side of the human brain can do the math, but for all its accuracy a staircase is a series of equidistant, linearly connected, perpendicular lines on a two dimensional plane. Right-brainer’s live in the world of sweeping spiral staircases festooned with rococo carvings dug deeply into old oak banisters. Me? I am a right-brainer and have been known to burst out into song and sketches, or simply choke on the verbatim list of details in front of an audience awaiting facts. I really do try to maintain an even strain, to be as expected, but I leak art. What would happen if I simply embraced it? You know, the age old go-with-the-flow?

Oh no, no, no; that would just be silly.

But seriously, artists are accused of being the frivolous among us – the goofballs and cuckoo-heads. Yet every medium we absorb is art: our first books, toys, clothing, eating utensils and food are all made of artistic fancifulness, like those bright orange, smiling crunchy fish that would disintegrate if put into water. In middle school we discover computer games, smartphones, blockbuster movies and F a s h i o n! We become more aware in high-school and beyond – billboards, car designs, home decor, architecture, more movies and TV, TV, TV. Everywhere you look there is art, or at least the result of it. So why do I feel ashamed for my artistic pursuits?

The little devil on my shoulder wants to know how come I think things are going badly. After all I’ve been learning code, good, wholesome left-brainer computer code. Stinker; he knows damn well I’m stumped with a programming problem. Ah! A linear-minded pursuit. No wonder! I was too close to the unhappiness to see it. I’ve been following the straight line too long.

“Now what?” you ask.

Now, draw, glue, cut, paint. Design, carve, melt, solder. Take a break, pet the cat and watch Dr. House videos – watch as he get ah-ha’s. It might be contagious. If that lil devil whispers “If you go back to the left-brain project, I’ll help you solve your puzzle”, then maybe we’ve been Dr. Jekyll too long and it’s Hyde’s turn. Artists: do art!

OK… I’ve got an art journal and coloured pencils in my lap, Dr. House is on pause, the cat’s within reach – I’m goin’ in. Don’t wait up.

That’s what.

 

 

Originally posted 2012-09-09 01:13:34. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Aug 12, 2016 - Blog, Wine    No Comments

For the Love of Romance… and Wine

Too many people seem to think that Romance novels are all about sex. If that were the case, only Erotica would be considered romantic.

Writing sex, however is not my forte; in fact, I don’t think of myself as a Romance writer. Rather I’m apt to weave romance throughout the story. Romance, the way I see it is about being aware of sensuality, both in one’s self and in the world around them.

For example, a romantic interlude between a couple from my favourite story might have you leaning across the picnic table for the salt and the person you have heartache for but won’t give you the time of day also reaches; your hands touch… your eyes meet. Then BANG! Birds rush from trees in fright, guests stand in shock, a drink falls over. The moment is lost – but not forgotten.

That table however, will undoubtedly be laden with a Mediterranean feast of vegetables – olives and the all important wine. This to me, is the essence of romance… relaxing with the ones I love. Colour me old-fashioned if you must, but my definition of romance is more about sensuality, than about sex.

In a story, as in life, If and or when togetherness becomes sexual, the beginning of the end must be near. The relationship is doomed to some kind of change. Either the passion peter’s out or the marriage becomes comfortable; either way the electricity of anticipation and mutual magnetic desire to seduce each other becomes diminished. The couple will have to work harder to keep the love alive: house, kids, love of work…

To my mind, this tenuous affection is a God-given magic; the magic of someone’s attention can make you feel beautiful and wanted. When you feel that kind of good, you are in the state of grace they talk about in Regencies, but notice it’s all too often in a ‘don’t touch’ sort of way. The attention you crave is wrapped up in hope – hope that you will see the heartthrob again, hope for that deep, timeless eye contact again; hope you will feel beautiful and wanted again. You anticipate. You hope. You romance.

That’s why the wine is so important. Remember the wine? It was on the table with the pesto noodles.

It’s not there to quench your thirst. It’s more like a lesson in lovemaking. It makes you pay attention to it. It fills your senses with romance, delivering a bouquet of gifts from the garden, a bright red ruby to put in your hand and dives in for a teenager’s kiss when you take it into your mouth. If a secret love is nearby, it’s an ice breaker. If the lover is known to you, eye contact becomes a promise. Anticipation. Those intense moments of passion leading up to the act is where the romance lives.

little bit left

And for those who find no partner, there’s always that glass of the sublime elixir to be your tour guide of the world, pointing out the beauty and meaning of life, and you fall in love with the knowledge and your experience. Somehow Mother Nature has created a love potion – a liquid lesson in appreciation.

After a sip or two of a rich Burgundy, any moon is gorgeous, the flowering tree is a marvel and the birds are speaking a language you can almost understand; your senses have been unveiled. You are in the throws of Romance.

not romanticIf you doubt me, just try stargazing with a Coke Cola or an energy drink and see how magical that is. Those drinks force you to pay attention, but to a different tune… because the romance is missing.

There’s that word again.

Hey, I have an idea; let’s go pour a glass of pinot and I’ll show you what I mean.

Originally posted 2012-04-27 11:20:27. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Aug 11, 2016 - Blog, Inspiration    No Comments

Does Inspiration Come from the Soul?

A writer friend asked me “What was your personal inciting incident?” Like knowing where I got my first kiss, I knew exactly what made me do it – what made me want to write.

During my senior year in high school, I had an accident that caused me to be bed-ridden for months in traction; And, yes… from time to time I did look (and feel) like a mummy.

To ensure that I would graduate, my teachers prepared work for me to do at home. All of the assignments were pretty easy and straight forward… except English.

I was to write in a journal every day, read novels and write papers. Journal? Check. Read? Check. Write? “What Should I write about?” I asked my instructor. He sent me a series of articles he had picked up from various sources. He told me to choose one, and comment on the subject matter or write about how it made me feel.

I did all of them.

One in particular really awakened my imagination and opened my eyes to the world of the weird. It was a piece titled “Fire Walking in Ceylon”.

Wow! Everything about the story was new to me. Where is Ceylon? What’s fire walking? Why do people do it? Who had the idea to do it in the first place? What kind of magic or witchcraft is this – why don’t the ‘walker’ get hurt? This was totally new to me and exploded my complacent reality to smithereens!

My questions mounted, and I began to do research on these new subjects. For example Ceylon turned out to be Sri Lanka, a large island nation about 20 miles south of India. I was intrigued that a country would find it important to change its name while keeping its heritage intact. The strange nature of their monkey-told stories of evil magicians kidnapping princesses and free floating spirits in the air expanded my knowledge of far away exotic lands and culture lands;weirder still – they exist now. Thai dancers and royalty wore pointed hats of jewels and pointed shoulder pads, pointed fingernails and pointed this that and the other thing – kind of spooky, yet alluring. I had to know more. But first, the fire walking.

I was fascinated that people from all walks of life would endanger their feet with these red hot coals. For me, a paper cut is bad enough, but burning your feet?! It was all the more vivid for me at the time because I couldn’t walk, even with unburned feet. There was much more here than a dare. Finding out why, took me into the world of paranormal and spirituality, and I’m still intrigued by the genre of ‘Strange, but True’.

Lady in a hurry to get home with her shopping takes a short-cut on hot coals, behind meditating Monk.

I found out that some people believe if you can achieve a thing that you, at first, think is impossible, it can break the chains of fear that bind you. Meditation of various forms is suggested to get your mind into a state that it will believe anything you tell it, rather than believing what it sees and nothing more. This is what separates the human mind from the animal kingdom; a cat or dog would no more walk through a fire pit willingly than a human would deliberately cut off their own hand. I also found out that Westerner’s learn how to fire walk while on vacation – they say it’s easy! *shock*

The conscious mind must also take part; one must decide to do this, then the subconscious mind is contacted through meditation or suggestive thought, if you will. Then the body melds with the higher brain functions and allows the individual to avoid harm during the experience. I still wonder, after all these years, if I could do it. Investigating the supernatural can be a life’s work and still one would only scratch the surface. Being in too much pain to meditate,  I decided to read up on Asian cultures.

I learned that history is always influenced by geography. I saw how a mountain range or large desert affects not only a tribe, or a nations travel but their attitudes, superstitions and religions. Take the Chinese and their dragon lore. It explained the mist rising from a crevasse that you wouldn’t want your children to play near, so you tell them this story that grabs their imagination and voila you have a traditional myth lasting hundreds of generations. Then someone includes gemstones growing between the dragon scales and now you have my attention! So I studied geology of the region, which in turn took me to gemmology. The gems of southeast Asia are plentiful and extensive. Apparently, one can take a shovel and, with eyes closed, drop it blade first into the ground and you have a gem mine! Topaz and moonstone; ruby and sapphires. I eventually became a gemmologist through the Gemmological Institute of America (GIA) when it was located in Santa Monica, and did further studies with the Fellowship of Gemmological Association (FGA) Great Britain. That’s inspiration!

The real purpose of this story was to answer my friend. It has become an illustration of how one can be bitten by the writing bug anywhere, anyhow and at any time. So beware!

From this English assignment on, I wrote about what I saw and thought, what I heard and read about and of course, I wrote about things I did, places I went and people I met. Now I write what the characters tell me to write; characters that I (almost) believe have found me and realize I can be a conduit for them by way of the written word, to tell their stories next to my own… like taking dictation from the spirit world.

So, if you are interested in being a writer and you find yourself asking “What shall I write about?”, then I’d say look for that thing that infuses you with a million questions, and read a lot looking for your answers. Don’t worry – your characters will find you. The rest is easy.

Originally posted 2013-05-16 14:37:58. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Aug 10, 2016 - Blog, Inspiration    No Comments

In the Heat of the Moment

Outdoor concertWe went to an outdoor concert the other night – you know, the kind where everyone brings their own cheese and wine… it’s a lovely evening and the Beatle impersonators are gearing up for the refrain of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”, as we are trying to get the cork out of our bottle.

Nothin’ doin’; this cork is holding cork fell aparthands with this bottle and it’s never gonna leave home. Looking at each other in sorrow, we realize we must push the remainder of this mangled thing into the bottle. There’s no way we are NOT drinking at this event. That’s just the kind of wine lovers we are – ‘bad’ wine is better than no wine!

A couple of hours later, a good time having been had by all, we head for my parent’s place, just up the hill.

“Hey, kids. Pull up a drink and set a spell”, invites Dad. “What’ll it be?”

“Actually, we have some wine, but it’s corked.” (This was the easiest way to explain to a scotch drinker that we had mutilated the cork, forced it into the drink and would need to navigate around the floating bits, rather than meaning a truly ‘corked’ wine.)

Dad, always with a response, smiles: “The only kind of wine I like is the uncorked kind. Want me to open it?”

This is the father I wish I had grown up with; he’s the same person, but very much mellowed with age… not unlike a bottle of burgundy.

Bless you, Dad.

Originally posted 2013-08-15 03:15:05. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Aug 10, 2016 - Blog, Spooky Stuff    No Comments

Hot Mid-Summer Nights

It’s hot. I can’t sleep.

The open window is my only source of cool air and there is no breeze. Staring into the darkness unable to rest, I resign. Better to read than stare at the ceiling for hours.

I flick on the lamp and resume my current supernatural suspense.cross-eyed Almost immediately I am visited by a butterfly. Cool! It (He? She?) lands on my nose and seems to be staring at me with its orb-y, stickin’-out eyes. Not a moth; a butterfly – the small monarchy looking one. I stare cross-eyed back at it, wondering why it’s awake this late at night. G-d alone knows what the butterfly is thinking. It must have something to do with rotating antennae. This is so weird I fight the compulsion to brush it away and we stare at each other. It’s still better than looking at the ceiling.

I have always felt that personal experiences with animals proved that a direct connection to the realm of magic and alien life was possible, like a kind of message from the universe, or a mystic calling. It’s happening to me again with this butterfly. When I was nine I thought about such things all the time. Always hoping for another sign of the magic, I took silver linings seriously, wanting to know if there were any golden linings.

Lately, it has been raccoon’s. A mama coon with four babies visits us every night, early enough to be entertainment with dinner. I have learned that giving them some leftovers from the fridge keeps them from turning over the garbage cans. I know the dangers and keep my distance but I get to watch. What intrigues me is the eye contact; they look right into a particular part of your soul, transmitting an extra-sensory warning: “If you do anything to scare me, I will never trust you again.” It’s a contract, and I obey. Besides, what if they can hear my thoughts? “Aw, she thinks I’m cute.”

But Babs the butterfly is sending me sweet nothings and we’re becoming friends. I felt a deep relaxing sigh well up from the depths, and right on cue Babs gently takes her leave and saunters, as only butterflies can, out the open window. Is it my imagination or is it cooler?

Yep, it’s cool enough to put down the unfinished fiction and turn out the light.

Was that magic? Coincidence? Alien contact? D, none of the above? I drift into the unknown buoyed on a breeze from hundreds of black and orange fans.

Originally posted 2013-07-29 03:06:43. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Aug 9, 2016 - Blog, Books I Read    No Comments

Bruno, Chief of Police

Bruno, Chief of Police

by Martin Walker

What a delight this book was… is! The well-loved police chief of St. Denis, France is such a real character I felt I was reading fact instead of fiction. His policing techniques are bendable when it comes to the best outcome for his town and district, his friends and lovers. His talent for cooking is well known, and I have even tried some of his dishes, though don’t expect any recipes. (I had to read between the lines:) Through his eyes one can see the vistas and valleys from his house, or the trouble brewing in the market. Martin Walker has done a fabulous job, and as a writer, I envy him. Well done.

As a post script: I have to admit, I was leery, at first. The title didn’t do it, nor the cover. It was several reviews from readers that did it. So, Goodreads, take a bow.

Originally posted 2012-09-20 01:21:40. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Jul 15, 2016 - Blog, Style    No Comments

Pinterest Warning

Warning Pinterest users!

Those of you who have discovered Pinterest already know of it’s addictive nature. What you may not know yet, however, is its ability to make you stop what you’re doing, and go redecorate a room in your home.

I am a fairly new member, and this weekend was driven to go through the garage in search for bed frames and fabrics. Images of what I had seen on Pinterest boards earlier in the week had infected my mind and I was unable to resist the temptationn on eof

Switching out the bed in my room, I put together the antique headboard that had been in the garage for years. Oh no! A  deep scratch! Wait; I know what to do… what was it? Quick – check out household tips of my Pinterest followers’ board’s for the solution.

Yes! A walnut meat. Strange but true, rubbing the walnut over the gouge concealed the damage enough to celebrate.walnut cover scratches wood

My room, uh I mean the guest room, is shaping up nicely.

You have been warned.

Originally posted 2012-04-28 03:38:58. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Jul 15, 2016 - Blog, Inspiration, Style    8 Comments

The Kiss

My sister was recently married in London, England and decided to have a reception in the States. We were ecstatic, and got right to work on preparations.

I was in charge of the cake.

Being that it was to be a small venue of close southern Californian friends and immediate family, I didn’t think the multi-layer cake was in order.

Since the art business is where my sister ‘calls home’, it seemed fitting that the cake should reflect that, and the romantic Gustav Klimt came to mind. His 1908 painting, “The Kiss” portrays a newly wed couple in a loving embrace of gentle affection. No other image would do.

Fondant City
I surrounded myself with coloured fondant icing – every inch of the rainbow, expanding it by making my own colours, working the dough-like frosting as if it were clay. It might have been more fun without the plastic cloves, but it was important to me that the cake be suitable for the pickiest eater. Accents of edible gold leaf pulled the image together. (The ‘glow’ around the couple is a gold leaf covered rib of fondant, as are a few areas of the garment designs in the photo detail, above.)

When the thing was presented to the newly-weds and guests, no one was willing to cut into the artwork – not even the bride and groom! Cake maker Alex Kent (aka Niki Chanel) had to do it amidst hisses and boos and gasps of disbelief… but they all had a piece.

Originally posted 2012-07-14 00:51:01. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Jul 14, 2016 - Blog, Inspiration    No Comments

Is Inspiration Food for the Soul?

Van Gogh Sunflowers, Creative Commons

You’ve seen the photographs of Van Gogh’s paintings, right? The swirling sky, the lonely room, the sunflowers…

I’ve often wondered about that room; what would inspire a painter to use his single room habitat as his still life? To emphasize how still his life was, at the time? Or was it peaceful for a change? Did he love it, or want to share it?

But that’s it – finding one’s inspiration where it lies.

My sister gave me a plastic shopping bag with scenes of life in London on it. It’s my favourite way to shop. Yesterday my dad saw it and practically stole it from me. “You can have it back when I’m dead.”

WHA… !?

That’s the other end of it – the appreciation.

If you ask an artist why he or she painted ‘that’, they don’t say, “because I thought you’d like it.” They tell you it affected them on a deep level they can’t explain. It’s this deep level that keeps me questioning: Is that ‘place’ where our spirit is, or are we lacking a sense like smell or ESP? Is it a means of communication that only our unconscious mind can read?

The more I think about it, the less I’m sure I really want to know. When I appreciate something, I say it’s divine, heavenly… but these words bring back the thoughts of the spirit – that ‘thing’ that never dies, the part of us that may leave us at night, vulnerable and close to death. The part of ourselves that maybe ‘lives’ forever, whatever that means. Kinda scary.

Looking at and appreciating art is, however, not creepy so I think I’ll stop the soul searching for the day, brush my teeth, and go dream.

Originally posted 2013-04-14 03:24:14. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Jul 14, 2016 - Blog, Books I Read    No Comments

The Osiris Ritual

A Thick, Twisting , Multi-layered Suspense

by George Mann

For those readers with delicate stomachs, be warned. Several murder scenes are particularly gruesome. Aside from that, fans of detective adventure with a touch of supernatural, will be thrilled.

George Mann’s view of the past is a mixture of both historically correct technology, like the first automobiles, and cybernetic things that go bump in the night, rightfully scaring the crap out of us. His characters have similarities to other beloved stories from Sherlock Holmes to the Etherman of Hell Boy. Like most Steampunk tales, this one takes place in London at the end of the 1800s, and yet it is as fresh and original as any new science that must be gotten to on the shoulders of sciences that went before. I couldn’t put it down.

Best of all, the ending is ripe for a sequel!

Originally posted 2012-12-31 21:23:19. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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