Feb 1, 2019 - 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 with shopping bag walking on coals, behind 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

Feb 1, 2019 - Blog    No Comments

Curious Peeping Toms

“I was in Toronto, Canada last night.”

“I’m flying over the Arabian desert.”

“I was just in a seedy motel on 7th.”

“Coool.”

 

This recent conversation between writer’s and readers got me to thinking: until today I thought the two were opposites. I’ve changed my opinion. 

They are the same – we both want to see beyond the veil. We are curious. We want some adventure in our lives that doesn’t wreck our credit or cut our skin, it doesn’t hold us hostage (for more than about 350 pages), and we can save ourselves simply by stepping away from the text.

The dirty truth is we kinda want to look through the key hole.

You probably think writers know what they are going to write. That may be so, sometimes, but on the whole we are sitting at our keyboards, listening to voices in our heads. We are being entertained just as much as the reader who is watching it unfold. We aren’t so different – we want what everybody else wants: a couch potato adventure.

 

Originally posted 2013-11-06 21:59:33. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Jan 31, 2019 - Blog    No Comments

Happy Holiday Editing

December.

To a kid, it means winter break, hot chocolate and presents. To a college student it’s winter break and a trip back home to see if your high school love is still yours. For parents, there’s no winter break – it’s double duty shopping, cleaning, and preparing for guests, food and gifts.

Writer’s, however, are editing their “NaNo”. All over the world National Novel Writing Month takes over and sucks up November by challenging writer’s to spew out 50,000 words or more.

No editing allowed.

That’s for December to consume.

So yes, I’m struggling with character inconsistencies, fleshing out settings, untwisting plot lines so I can re-twist them elsewhere, and sentence structure. But it’s the word-smithing that is the most fun – synonym smorgasbord!

Coming up with alternate words for death or hope really wakes me up. The story comes alive once I know exactly what feeling I’m sculpting.

What’s my least favourite thing about editing? Synonyms for also, so, and yet, for example. I hate it that we can’t use and reuse these overused words so we can all get on with the telling of the tale.

So *my favourite overused word* I went to Thesaurus.com, feeling a bit guilty for not clearing this hurdle all by my lonesome. Eureka! Eighty-four possible substitutes.

“I have to share” fever came over me. Inspiration to blog caused a frenzy of writer-ly activity: pushing the cat off my lap to gain better vantage of the keyboard, opening Excel to alphabetize, creating a columned document that I can copy with the Microsoft snipping tool…and heeere it is:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happier editing!

 

Originally posted 2013-12-11 13:24:57. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Jan 31, 2019 - Blog, Just for Writer's    1 Comment

The Perfect Nightmare

It is said that an author should write from what they know.

Well, I don’t know very many serial killers, violent murderer’s, or Grim Reaper’s, so it’s kind of hard for me to write these characters from personal experience.

If you are not a writer or involved with write-a-thon’s, you may not grasp the weird magic that can take place on the keyboard under pressure. See, I’m doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which is only for 30 days, so editing would be a bad idea – waste of time. You just gotta get down the words. Edit in December. Plot changes? Sure, so long as you keep going. Don’t look back; full steam ahead. Fix it later.

I’ve been doing that, and keeping up, for the most part… more here, less there. My problem is I am still unsure of my antagonist – “the bad guy”.

Enter my horrible nightmare.

I’ve NEVER had a dream like this! Creepiness squared. Very Supernatural.

Funny thing? I didn’t feel freaked out about any of it. More like flat-lined. Like I was fully wrapped in cotton wool – couldn’t feel a thing. I’ll keep the specifics to myself, for now. But as I’m going over the details, I see that this is the sort of monster that Hollywood creates.

If Hollywood could use it, I can use it.

Voila, my antagonist.

Originally posted 2013-11-07 21:35:12. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Jan 30, 2019 - Blog, Wine    No Comments

5000 Year Old Wine May Cure What Ails You

I was reading about the tunnels under the Giza Plateau, a relatively new archaeological find in Egypt, when I was intrigued by another link. It took me to information about an early Egyptian ruler, the Scorpion king. Yep, he really existed, though not as the movie portrays him.

multiple jugs of wine_ScorpionKingTombIn April of 2009, Archaeologist Patrick McGovern and colleagues have found a cache of wine jars in Scorpion’s tomb that contains herbs and tree resins. They believe the additives were for medicinal purposes.

McGovern is sharing his new information with Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center. Using residue of ancient winebiomolecular analysis, they are attempting to recreate the recipes of the wine find. The purpose? Maybe the ancient Egyptians were on to something – like a cure for cancer. While the concept of utilizing archaeology to help cure disease is thrilling, I can’t help but wonder why the Egyptians felt a dead person needed medicine.

Evidence is looking like these remedies are as much as 3350 B.C. Interestingly these appear to be imported wine concoctions as the Egyptians did not, at that time, produce their own wine. If you were an Egyptian ruler and imported medicated alcohol, wouldn’t you try to preserve peace with that exporting nation? Sometimes I think we could use a little bit of that wine, and the political friendship it fostered.

Original article: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/04/090413-scorpion-king-wine.html

Originally posted 2012-11-18 04:42:32. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Jan 30, 2019 - Blog, Wine    No Comments

Wine in the Desert

I’m in Vegas this weekend with friends, and we’ve been out on the town (in the heat) and eaten our fill of restaurant fare, so tonight we stayed in the condo.

Trebbiano Pinot Grigio I made a faux Chicken Marsala – which was pretty tasty. Either that, or we were really hungry!

Normally, this dish is served with a bottle of wine. We drank three… three different kinds. (Is that ok?) All were inexpensive – an unbelievable $1.99 from the Las Vegas Trader Joe’s (though not marked TJ’s), and all were good! Products of Umbria, Italy. We started with a 2010 Vola Trebbiano Pinot Grigio before the table was set, had a 2010 Vola Sangiovese with dinner, and drank Cupcake Chardonnay for dessert, also from TJ’s which I brought from Los Angeles, and goes for $9.99. My mom liked it and got me a bottle, bless her heart. The label says citrus-y with a hint of vanilla. While I could tell there was something sweet-ish in the flavour, to me it came across as a sweet bark flavour, like cinnamon but not cinnamon. While I was deciding, up came that Chardonnay oak that I love. Nice.

For background music and entertainment, I put on a travel video of Southern France and all were happy. Don’t worry, it’s alright to mix cultures. I’m American with a European upbringing and I say it’s okay.

But I’m thinking you might be wondering, “What exactly is faux Chicken Marsala?” Before we get into that, I want to tell you a cooking secret: whatever you cook, the food always tastes better if the chef has a glass of wine first.

Having no idea what I’m going to make, I check the fridge for supplies. We had boneless, skinless chicken and some grapes – three colours, in fact. I found a box of raisins, and thankfully there were onions.

I sauté at least three loosely chopped onions in olive oil and butter in a pot while browning the chicken in a skillet, also with a bit of olive oil and butter. To the onions, I added grapes, raisins, bit of pepper and any other seasoning salt I could find (I found Lawry’s) but not much or it will toughen the meat and taste commercial. When the chicken begins to stick to the pan, add enough white wine to sizzle the chicken loose and make a bit of sauce – about two glasses of white wine. Reduce by half, for taste and thickening. Add the chicken and juices to the onion mixture and lower the heat to medium. Add a bit more wine to the skillet and gently dissolve the brownings into the wine and add it to the main mixture. I thought it needed a bit of sweet and was lucky to find some syrup. About 3 or 4 tablespoons did the trick. So far, so good, but it lacked colour. Aw, hell, add some red wine until it looks right – a glass of that Sangiovese, please.

It was getting hot in the kitchen so I let it simmer while we hung out on the balcony overlooking the inviting swimming pool and talked about why it’s closed for the summer.

Time to eat. We lit the candles and served the chicken with potatoes and veggies. Oh yeah, and the wine.

Luxury.

A few hours of Fringe reruns in anticipation of the new season and my friends are off to bed. Not me, though. I’m staying up to enjoy the storm, watching the jagged bolts arc the sky reflected in the pool and listening to the deep sounds of boulders falling from heaven roll about the open desert. The bit a rain that was squeezed from the clouds evaporated in minutes.

The end of a perfect Vegas day.

Originally posted 2012-01-27 23:39:15. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Jan 29, 2019 - 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

Jan 29, 2019 - Blog    No Comments

NaNoWriMo Rocks

Whew! November is finally over.

The last few years November has proven to be my most hectic month. However, that may be synonymous with “most productive”.

One becomes a “NaNoWriMo” winner by writing 50,000+ words in thirty days – the thirty days of November. That’s the same month, as you well know, when family and friends come to eat turkey with you, so you have to clean house, shop, cook, clean, and socialize whether you want to or not. Writing, takes a back burner, until the guests lights go out. Then it’s burn the midnight oil , baby, burn.

Last year I won with a book I titled “The Key Club” about a group of friends that lose things, pool their copied keys to help each other out when they locked themselves out of their lives. The neighbourhood finds out about it and wants to join, creating The Key Club.

This year I wrote “Toxic Solutions”; ‘Survivors are not always the lucky ones’, a dark tale about murder – lots of it.

In 2013, I organized a writer’s club picnic complete with silly extras. Someone even brought sexy cupcakes. But this year was a small, wonderful Thanksgiving dinner with friends and family from Europe. This was the first year I ever heard [slightly] dirty jokes told at table. Heh heh.

 

 

This seems to be a recurring theme, as last  Thanksgiving I hosted friends and family from far away places, as well.

                         

To top it all off, I got a new computer virus which should be the only thing that happens all month,  because you don’t have time for anything except purging. I hate it when that happens.

But in the end (of November) I realized I actually accomplished several goals. I may even consider not shooting for a New Year resolution, because I got so much done this year. What do you think; should I burn the candle at both ends this coming year?

Onward to the Christmas season:

The first thing my neighbours do is put up the lights; then there are the cards to address, the shopping, the food, and appeasing the ghosts of Christmas past.

It’s the ghosts that make it all worthwhile.

Originally posted 2013-12-04 18:12:39. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Jan 28, 2019 - 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

Jan 27, 2019 - 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

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