The Muse has returned, and I am slowly beginning to write once more. With new insight and a fresh perspective, I can see how almost all my previous words so far need serious re-working. But as a sign of my commitment, here's a wee excerpt. I already think the end scene will be quite different from this, but I'm feeling reckless today so I'll share this anyway. (Any brackets you see are notes for change of some kind and I leave these in so that you can see the process. The plan is that someday -- ahem -- you will be able to compare this with the finished scene).

In this scene, our heroine Josephine visits a psychic -- an old Tinker woman who has some important information for her. Janus, the resident soul of Josephine, is watching what unfolds and share with us:

copyright K.Cole, 2009

none of this work may be reproduced in any way without the author's permission

Momentarily, a door creaked open down the hall. And like an ancient cantrip, the floorboards summoned the young girl's return. Again with nothing to say, and again she motioned inward with a nod of her head, this time towards the long hallway. Josephine obeyed, and felt a rush of cold air seemingly rise up and greet her as she walked the length of the boards. The carpet was thick and soft, riddled with blues and pinks, the images of flowers long worn out like a watercolor left in the sun. The large wood door at the end of the hallway was hard and warm against her touch -- almost a shock, compared to the cool atmosphere -- as she pushed it open.

"Welcome, lass!" croaked a woman's voice.

The Tinker woman emerged from the shadows with a smile and nod. She sat in an enormous wing back chair placed in the center of the sparse room, as if holding court. There were two crocheted doilies, starched and yellowed on either side of her now, perched atop the chair like flamboyant gargoyles [awk]. A single light bulb dangled like a spider from the ceiling, a knob and tube relic attempting to light the dingy space. It swung behind the old woman with the eery precision of a metronome. Rather haunting, really. And then what with the tattered rug and torn wallpaper, spotted with archaic water damage, the entire scene was almost macabre. I'm sure it served to discomfort many a client.

Josephine had thoughts of the creepy nature of it all, though the nagging hope of coming information and the urge to pay attention won out. It occurred to Josephine that this woman wasn't very old at all; in fact she could have been her mother's age --yet her mannerism felt rusty and arthritic nonetheless. She appeared almost like a ghost --a ghost now lighting a Pall Mall with a large, shiny Zippo. She flicked the top closed with the unconscious action of a veteran.

"Have yerself ah sit, there." She spoke with a thick Irish brogue and motioned to a fold-out chair directly in front of her. "I am Miss O'Flaherty." She measured her words slowly, clearly for effect and they were trailed by a loud and throaty hack. There was a small end table beside the woman's chair; it rattled in concert as she coughed and wheezed like some inanimate familiar. An ashtray that overflowed with [butts] made it obvious this was to be one of many cigarettes.

"All right, then. How are ye gettin' on, lass?" Ms. O'Flaherty questioned, a smile and a lift of her brows towards the dingy ceiling.

"I'm doing well, thank you."

"All right, then. Let's begin with the check."

"Of course." Josephine handed over the creased check. It disappeared somewhere in the folds of the ghosty crone's cardigan, apparently tucked under her bra strap. This motion brought on another powerful hacking fit that ended with a toothy grin directed towards my Josephine, the cigarette dangling from the corner of her mouth. How I do love a woman with character, and this one had it in spades! This meeting may prove to be highly entertaining. I measured the woman's gloriole -- it's range was far and wide in hues of sunny blues and forest greens, yet a hint of a muddy brown tinge here and there. Now, what could she be hiding, I wondered?

"I don't mean to scare ye, lass - but I see straight off that ye will have a horrible condition. If you donna change yer ways, I see a wheelchair in yer future." Another drag, the archaic light bulb behind her creaking out its mesmerizing rhythm -- back and forth, back and forth.

"I...I'm not ill."

"Ach, well. Ye may be harboring a wretched sickness." She wrinkled her nose in distaste and waved her had as if to shoo an offensive odor away. She made a big show of cocking her head off to one side, as if attempting to discern important information. "One of the spine, I see. The spirits tell me that ye can avoid this all by having the surgery, when the time comes. That's what they want you to know..." Her finger waggled in the air and her eyebrows arched high as she glowered over her glasses at my girl. "Have the surgery."

This was a wonderful amusement to me, but Josephine was irritated. She fought the urge to get up and leave. Another drag of her smoke, and the practiced hag leaned forward, ready to spin more tales. Classic charlatan, she was.

"And I see that ye are eatin' too much of that food with the sticks. Chop Suey, eh?"

"Uh - I eat Chinese food for lunch. Sometimes." Josephine coughed.

"It tisn't good for ye. Ye must stop -- the spirits tell me so." Well, spot on about the Chinese take-out, let's give her a point for that. Another melodious and wet hack erupted deep from within the granny sweater. Another drag from her cigarette. Tendrils of the grey smoke floated above like a halo around the crone. And still that light bulb ticked away: back and forth. Back and forth.

"And the young man. He's no good for ye as well. He's a pretender, that one."

Ho! Well, now we were on to something -- do tell, old Woman! And I beg your pardon for my previous doubt of your obvious talents. Josephine's toes quite literally curled in her black leather flats, and I felt her spine straighten in response. Images of history with this Michael ricocheted in her mind, she was entirely thrown off balance. It was Josephine who suddenly wanted a cigarette now, all to herself.

"Ye have had many a life with that one, so the spirits say." The ash on Ms. O'Flaherty's cigarette wiggled as she spoke, ready to crumble over her pilled sweater at any moment.

Josephine remained silent; she was careful not to give anything away, skeptic that she inherently was. Even though she felt jarred awake, as if slapped in the face while in a deep sleep. She struggled with images like a murder of crows, assembling on a branch in her mind one by one. The dream for instance -- of their wedding in the chapel of stones. The golden light they were basked in. The first night he had called her, how she had dropped the razor on the floor and the sound of his voice.

She was brought present again with the smack of rain against the Tinker's window, another huge stomp of thunder and the sill rattled loudly.

"Yes. Ye have known him before this body you have now. This life." The crone's eyes narrowed. "You know it. He knows it. Husband and wife, ye were." Again she wagged a finger at my girl, and took another long drag. Ms. O'Flaherty did not wait for an affirmation. Her head dramatically cocked ot the side once more, as she strained to hear the echoes of olde. She briefly assessed Josephine squirming before her -- a worm on a hook -- and continued:

"The year I am told is sometime in the 1600's?" She closed her eyes and those eyebrows went high and wide again, as she searched the aether for the date. "Ach, 16..1642? I see a valley, lush and lovely, with flowers and a river. And there ye are, tending t'yer goats. A small castle looms behind you." She drew the out word 'looms' with a long 'oo', no longer paying attention to Josephine's reaction. She was channeling a tale now, and her face began to shift and morph as astral time took over. I could feel the recollection slowly gather in the room, searching. Roots from a long buried life reaching up through the dank soil of time, aching for light.

A deep shudder passed through Josephine. I know how these ghosts of lifetimes past can unnerve humans; after all, it is quite soothing that you don't recall your previous manifest history. The forgetting is a necessary opiate with each birth. Being that it is ultimately my history this woman was about to divulge, however, unlike Josephine I was neither excited or nervous at this point. That life in France this spinner of tales spoke of, after all, I recalled quite well, particularly since this "Micheal" had made it painfully portentous]in recent months. I was concerned --irritated-- only for how Josephine might react to this knowledge and how it would effect my own needs. Was this all part of the plan?

Josephine rubbed her hands on her jeans and fidgeted with the key on her neck. "Goats?" She whispered.

"Goats," came the gravely response. The Tinker stubbed out her cigarette and leaned forward to croak out in a whisper, "Your man didna care for goats, I might add. Thought they were beneath his station."

Notes: photo courtesy of Mikko Miettinen,
Here is an online quiz to test your spelling skill.

I scored 78% -- time to brush up! At least the ones I got wrong were the ones that
I wavered on.

Post your score in the comments!

There are some fascinating studies being conducted in the scientific community in regard to our "brains on God." I've been reading blurbs about this for some time now, but the momentum is gaining. As I've suspected for awhile, there are some major shifts in regard to understanding consciousness on the horizon, and finally science has decided to come along for the ride -- however begrudgingly, in some cases.

Why is this important to me, as a writer? Because I firmly believe that we are spiritual beings having a human experience, and the closer we come to this understanding, all the better. And that is the core motive behind everything that I write.

Here is an article on NPR (with some nifty graphics), about these recent findings. I'm taking one expanded sub-article from the many included, to highlight a point (emphasis mine; this speaks of a Dr Baime, also a practicing Tibetan Buddhist, being studied for brain activity while meditating):

When Baime meditated in Newberg's brain scanner, his brain mirrored those feelings. As expected, his frontal lobes lit up on the screen: Meditation is sheer concentration, after all. But what fascinated Newberg was that Baime's parietal lobes went dark.

"This is an area that normally takes our sensory information, tries to create for us a sense of ourselves and orient that self in the world," he explains. "When people lose their sense of self, feel a sense of oneness, a blurring of the boundary between self and other, we have found decreases in activity in that area."

Newberg found that result not only with Baime, but also with other monks he scanned. It was the same when he imaged the brains of Franciscan nuns praying and Sikhs chanting. They all felt the same oneness with the universe. When it comes to the brain, Newberg says, spiritual experience is spiritual experience.

(Note: this makes me think of all kinds of other topics, such as why some people seem to find such experiences of 'loss of self' as frightening, while others do not. Another time...)

Some people argue that these findings from the science angle are merely reductionist actions, attempting to disprove spiritual events and knowings into neuro-babble. The brain does it all, a wondrous machine that fires up these 'moments' in response to our actions and we merely interpret them as spiritual events. And while I agree that some Dr's may have such biases, often when I read the breakdown of the findings what I see, rather, is physical proof of the spiritual, like a Lover's imprint left on the body from the Other Worlds. As my old professor at JFKU would say, turn it around and look at it from the bottom-up, instead of from the top-down like everyone else. Sometimes you will be amazed and even learn something about yourself and the world.

Spiritual experiences and visitations from Holy presence can be profoundly moving and even life-changing. Why would we not want to know what happens in our brain and bodies when this occurs? Just because we don't see physical evidence present in ways we want to, does that mean that we negate these events part and parcel due to our own inability to prove them? And doesn't our obvious lack of education in this arena beg a bit more humility in regard to our own needs to be 'schooled' when it comes to understanding consciousness? Let's turn this on its head, and see what we can discover:

Think of all the vast amount of information and training that involves raising an infant into a child and eventual adult -- and at the inception it is all seemingly gibberish to them. A one year old may stumble upon a two-way radio, and simply not know what to do with it. That doesn't mean that the radio doesn't work, nor does it mean that it isn't real -- just that the poor child has no idea yet how to even work it, let alone the right questions to ask in order to learn. So you begin by showing her how to turn it on, listen to the sounds, engage with them in the operation. Over time (or rather quickly, if you have a little Engineer like my two year old) they start to get it. And then one day the light bulb goes off and they are using it with ease and understanding. Maybe they even decide to learn how to take it apart, and to put it back together -- they want to comprehend the structure of why it works, and not just how to use it.

I think that All That Is, consciousness, is that two-way radio, and we are learning how to comprehend the amazing power that it has. Some of us will think its just a useless toy and toss it around, never seeing it for what it is or the gifts it has (yeah, you know who you are), some of us will learn to use the radio and be at peace with it, in awe and appreciation -- others will want to understand even more, and look into all the ways that the pieces fit together, a numinous machinery that imparts the physical ability to share information between Here and There. To bring everything into a sacred marriage revealing that All Is One.

So when I read, for instance, in the article quoted above-- that the parietal lobes of Dr Baime's brain go quiet when he meditates? I don't see this as negative, or devaluing the experience or validity of meditation: I see this as the body responding to the spiritual event that is occurring, and highlighting for us what is happening, manifest in physical form.

From my perspective, those neurological events are not proof we are mere slaves to mechanical brains, but that our brains are responding and mapping a pathway to the amazing connection with One, All That Is. God. Goddess...

edited 9:53 AM, June 11 2009
edited later on that same day, because I realized I misquoted the title! aargh!
Yeah, that kind of pulled me in, too.

Alice Hoffman has a new book out, THE STORY SISTERS. Here's a recent review by Chelsea Cain from the NY Times.

I love Ms Hoffman in general -- she has a way of invoking Gods and breezes that reveal inner worlds like no one else. But she also can become quite formulaic, which can be at turns annoying or downright infuriating. (And no, I have not finished TURTLE MOON, in fact I only got to the 5th page. More on that later. Maybe.)

But based on this review and others that I've seen, this book sounds quite good. Let's go check out the first chapter, here.

What do you think? Let me know.
Well, I just had to come out of my self-imposed retreat to share this book review vid with all my book buddies out there:

I plan on reading this book because of this trailer alone! The book is THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH, by Carrie Ryan.
This is great, for those writers that have too much goin' on (like me). Thanks yet again, to Deanna Carlyle.

I'm in, people. Or rather, I'm back. Back in the saddle. I think the up-and-coming cliche "You're either in or your out" is very true in regard to writing (at least, for me it is). I'm rather all or nothing about it.

And after a bit of wandering around in a dry desert of Outness, I have found my oasis. It came in a weird breakthrough of sorts the other day (okay, while I was exercising if you really wanna know). I'm not even sure if my idea will work -- a character, after all, sometimes simply won't write the way you want -- but I'm thinking that a Big Issue, a gaping whole!, in the story may be solved. After having rested overnight, letting the idea nestle itself into my psyche, I'm feeling ready to make my way back to lush and green pastures (read: words flowing from my brilliant mind through my quick hands and into my LSB's WIP).

Now, I just want to hop back in that saddle and let the horse go wild. When we hit our stride, wind in my hair and hooves rumblin' across those lush plains, I can hold on -- I'm sure of that. Desert be damned, I've found a fountain and I'm feeling slightly intoxicated with the elixir of Words Promised. In like Flynn, I am.