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.
I just can't believe that people in this sad economy could be giving things away for free! That just sounds crazy, doesn't it? Crazy-- or fifteen kinds of awesome, says I.

My Crush Blog, Elizabeth Stark, is offering a FREE tele-class Feb 26th or March 11. I have been dreaming for awhile about being able to actually enroll in one of her classes, and now I have a chance to actually pick her brain and suck up all the writing-insight goodness that I can for FREE!

Life doesn't get any better. Well, maybe for you it would, if you are a writer and you take advantage of a free class with Elizabeth Stark. Go sign up for the March 11th class, since this post is late and we've already missed the first one. (Drat!)
Seriously. The muse has left the building. I'd like to think she's on a beach somewhere in Hawai'i, sipping a Mai Tai. Whatever she's doing, it better be good -- darn it! -- and she better be ready to get busy when she returns!

Meanwhile, you have no idea how funny I found this:

Your Hidden Talent is Your Rebellion

You have the natural talent of rocking the boat, thwarting the system.

And while this may not seem big, it can be.

It's people like you who serve as the catalysts to major cultural changes.

You're just a bit behind the scenes, so no one really notices.

It's that time again! Let's have a round-up of articles in the blogosphere out there, shall we? I'm hung up on character development right now, so no surprise it seems a lot of my links tend towards addressing that:

We have author Deanna Carlyle's suggestion to "slam" your character. Her suggestion is brilliant, and I plan on slamming my MC, Josephine, straight away.

Nifty little distraction of the day, one that takes the theory of 'six degrees of separation' to a new level: Literature Map (thanks for the link, Linda, from Another Good Thing).

And for more character development, I tend to skim the fascinating articles and studies constantly being released in regard to human psychology and evolution. Here's a good one, especially for those who are writing for YA, or like me have flash backs to your MC's teenage years: this study finds that genetic risk for substance abuse can be neutralized by good parenting. These little tidbits of information can be uitlized in unsuspecting ways to flesh out a character.

And here is an great article that provides a comprehensive breakdown of what goes into writing a short story. I found this article b y Dennis G. Jerz to be just as helpful for a full-blown novel, and since I am very visual, I really liked all the 'multiple choice' examples for the how-tos.

My Crush blog had a great post about switching your adverbs to verbs, and linked to the aforementioned Deanna Carlyle's blog, wherein she has a fabulous list of 1000 verbs! I found many more great articles about writing at Deanna's site. Check it out!

At Writer Unboxed, there is a great overview for plot structure by Juliet Marillier, here.

And to wrap it up let's put a little Soul in our Ego: I stumbled upon a lovely blog where photographer and author, Wayne Wirs (FADING TOWARDS ENLIGHTENMENT), chronicles his nomadic journey not only by land, but heart and soul. For anyone interested in reincarnation, the search for enlightenment or imply beautiful imagery, this is a blog worth checking out.


Have you ever read a book that you found yourself halfway through, and suddenly had to fight a strong urge to go find a cliff and violently toss it off? Yeah, me too.

And have you ever read a book that was so good, so moving, that you knew it would forever be a cherished member of your personal library? Complete with memories of how you relished the haunting tale for days after you finished it? Yup, me too.

I recently came across two books that exemplify such noted reactions. I'm constantly working to sharpen my writing skills, so I took the opportunity to try and compare just a few of the ways that these two books did -- or did not -- work for me.

I was very eager to read THE REINCARNATIONIST. The title alone suggested that the story would most likely be of interest to me. (In brief: it's about a man who keeps flashing on a life he lived in Rome, and the powerful love affair he had at that time. In modern day, he is caught up in the cliche 'web of lies' about some powerful stones that are relics found at a dig... from, you guessed it: the same time period he is having recall about.)

As someone who is usually willing to read all the way to the end in order to give a book a fair chance, it speaks volumes that I made it 2/3 of the way through this book and then refused to finish it. I really tried hard to like it and gave it my all. It certainly had a plot that was non-stop in motion, and one could argue it carried the book. But the lack of character development was so irritating it became a distraction; the cardboard characters literally bored me out of the story so much that I could not struggle through another page. I spent all my time considering how to fix what was bothering me. I mean I was literally yelling at the pages, Why are you doing this to me?! That kind of thing.

I simply could care less what happened to the characters. This is probably the Golden Rule of Writing, if ever there was one: the reader has to care, at the very least be curious about even one of the characters within the story (I'm being very generous, here). Otherwise, we fall asleep. We slam it shut, or we fantasize about destructive measures: if it was not a library book, I would have tied it to the bumper of my 4X4 and taken it for a long hard ride up the Wildcat, just to teach it a lesson and maybe beat some character into it (the Wildcat is a country road into the mountains here by my home. I live about 5 minutes away from thousands of miles of acres of wilderness known as the Lost Coast).

This book was the perfect example of all form and no substance, I am sorry to say.

But then, thankfully right after this sad disappointment, I picked up another book that a friend had assured me I would love: THE HERETIC'S DAUGHTER. (The story: this is a fictional recount told from the view of a young girl, about her family and how they endure the accusations and fall-out from the witch hunts in 17th century Salem, MA. The author is a descendant of one of the main characters, which gives it a certain amount of street-cred.)

At first blush I was plodding along and I admit I started to lose interest. It was slow. I was fresh off my let-down from That Other Book, so things did not look good at first. The difference? The plot was good, not as "exciting" as TOB, but it was good enough that I stuck it out. And I was compelled to continue...

Why? It was the characters, people. They slowly drew me in, deeper and deeper, and I began to truly want to know what was going to happen next? Not because of the plot leading me there like a carrot, but because I had developed feelings for the people in the story.

I'm no expert, and I'm not even near being published, so you can take my opinion with that proverbial grain of salt, but with these two books I feel like I finally really got an aspect of what elevates a good novel to great novel that I've read about in so many "how to" books. (Yes, I read those books, too. Some of those suck as well. Some don't: D. Maass' THE BREAKOUT NOVEL is the best I've read so far.)

Let's compare passages from each book, to show you what I mean:

From THE REINCARNATIONIST (M.J. Rose 2007) with commentary included:
[Wherein the main character is lamenting yet another event of past life recall]

Insanity was frightening.
Of course it is. Therefore this sentence is basically an over-used cliche [yawn]. We have various moments in the book when the lead character, Josh, laments over feeling 'crazy' because of his flashes of past lives, but we never get a good sense of how he is affected by the feeling of insanity from past life information 'invading' him, only laundry-lists of physical sensations about it. This is a lost opportunity to develop concern for the main character. It is important to give sensation and descriptives, certainly. But now, as a writer, I see how important it is not to rely on them. We are shown the past life that haunts him via flashback, but sadly even in that lifetime our character is still merely a cut-out version of what he could be. Let's continue:

Josh didn't want to analyze and dissect what was happening to him anymore. He just wanted it to cease. He wanted to return to a time before the accident,
Annnnnd... yet another lost moment to connect with the reader: even just a few more words to give us a sense of how he felt from 'the accident', like "a time before that day of the accident, when he was ripped away from all sense of reality, and would never eat hot dogs again." Not seriously, here, but you know: something. Throw us a bone! This is not a unique occurrence, this bland reporting of events, but happens again and again, and with each character. (I decided to leave out my take on the character with a two year old, who seems to care for her child as much as cardboard would, and is obviously just a Plot Tool. Yuck. As a parent, I was insulted.)

with recollections that started when he was four years old and got his first camera and he and his father went out into Central Park in the snow so that he could take his first roll of pictures. (p210)

This last bit here perfectly exemplifies and drives home -- again! -- this whole book's routine lack of character development. We know Josh has recollections of better times, and they are valuable enough to him, meaningful enough that he wants to return to them, instead of being in his current state of feeling some 'insanity.'

Great! So what happened that day back in the park?! Take us there! Draw us in with even a few well-chosen sentences to convey the sense of.... what? What did he feel that day? Did his father have some profound insight into life and photography that set Josh off on a path for the rest of his life? What?? I can't say because we don't know, because the author didn't let us in on it! This is one of those moments that I wanted to throw the book across the room.

At first glance, maybe you're thinking this isn't all that bad, right? (I'm afraid maybe even I write this way, in fact, which may be why this all struck me so hard.) But the point is that the whole book is like this -- a whole lot of 'telling' to get through the plot, and no true 'showing', or depth of characters. Hence: a lot of form, no substance! There isn't anything wrong with the former as long as you have the latter. It's a balance, a blending of all the necessary ingredients left to simmer up that perfect batch (or book).

In order to care about the character, we need to understand him or her: what makes them tick? Give us an illustration of a moment in their life -- even one, well done, can suffice -- that helped to create who they are, and therefore how they most likely will react to unfolding events. (This by the way, is also an opportunity to set the stage for some good tension: if I make you think the character will respond a specific way due to his history or inner world, and then he doesn't -- that can also draw you in or keep you reading. Now I've added complexity to the mix as well, which makes a more satisfying, less cardboard-chewy, character.)

Now, let's look at a passage from THE HERETIC'S DAUGHTER (Kathleen Kent, 2008):
[The main character, Sarah, has been sent ot live with her Aunt's family]
As the day's shadows deepened into evening, I sat in my dark corner like an invading spirit and followed their movements about the house. From under my lashes I watched my two cousins, Margaret and her brother, Henry, studying us in turn.
In this brief passage, we already learn that she feels like an unwanted outsider in her environment, that she is willing to be devious to assess and learn how to handle her situation and the people she now is living with. She is obviously very self-aware and observant. I know more about this character, the young girl Sarah, from these two sentences than I ever learned of our dear friend Josh in over half of the TOB. When a book gives us this much with seemingly little effort (in other words: pithy!) -- it is like the perfect blend of spices, filling a reader's head with wonderful aromas and a promise of a hearty feast. But wait, there's more!

...Once, when [Henry] thought we were alone, he crept up behind me and pulled hard at the tender hairs on the back of my neck. My eyes watered but I said nothing and waited. The next morning he found the piss barrel upended over his shoes. (pp32-33)
Here, the narrator, Sarah, is sharing with us about a time in her life, not teasing us (thank you!). We are shown clearly who she is dealing with, and what kind of person she is in response. We are not simply told "there was this time, when I was bummed with my cousin." We are shown a simple event that conveys a wealth of information, tension, and foreshadowing. He's a devious jerk she needs to watch out for, and yet she is not afraid. In fact, she is stoic and determined, and will not easily be intimidated. Powerful information, especially given the events that will eventually come down the road in this tale about the men, women and children who were hung for witchcraft in Salem.

I could cite countless other paragraphs, but I think my work here is done. In my humble opinion, form is necessary but it is worthless without substance. Substance infuses a decent book, but can elevate a good, tight story to great. Plot devices and tools are wonderful, but empty events without characters that come alive.

I'll end by saying that THE HERETIC'S DAUGHTER does not disappoint, and is a haunting tale I will not readily forget. It does not just tell the story of an era that is a blemish on reason and justice in our history, but reminds us of how tenacious the very human weakness for blame and judgment is. How hurtful and far-reaching gossip can be, and the consequences we all pay for those who will not speak up, or even more frightening: those who refuse to listen.

And yes, this book is now a cherished addition to my personal library.


This is a recycled post from my business blog, that I recently closed down. I won't do this too often, but I felt compelled to share it here.

A prayer for you:
From Dead Can Dance: Noble Prayer. (Thanks to SandraEgidio)

Thoughts that this kindled for me:
There is a lot of craziness out there today. It is so easy to forget what is important, to neglect the precious moments with those we love, to walk past the bounty and gifts that nature offers up everyday, there for the taking. No matter what race, creed, class or beliefs - we each are here for a reason. We are here to learn and evolve from each other, with each other. No one is truly ever alone, and in this truth we can pray for a better world for us all.

Life is a field of unlimited creation that we choose to manifest. We can choose to have compassion, to embrace an open mind and give room for the dynamic ways of being that this world offers us. Compassion is an action, it grows and flourishes the more that we practice it. Compassion is like honey; a gift from the heart of hard work and effort, unhurried and dense with sweetness when we savor it. It lingers in the heart once tasted.

The ways that we are connected, I firmly believe, are far more important and worthy of my intention (attention! ;>) than the ways that we are different. This is my prayer for you - for those of you struggling on your way, for those of you who feel left out in the cold, for those of us who may feel overwhelmed, misunderstood. For anyone out there that desperately needs a kind word, a sweet smile. Or simply a lucky break.

Breathe. Smile (even if it hurts.) Wake up at sunrise and whisper "Thank You."

May all beings find their honey... may we all find our feet on a path towards our personal best, towards being cherished.

"Walk in beauty, run in freedom."
- Cora Anderson
This is making the rounds, about a funny kid who just came out of the dentist.
But I have a different take on it: this reminds me of how some souls must feel when they 'wake up' to being here. Y'now: WHA? What am I doing HERE?! "Is it gonna be like this forever?!" Yeah, hang in there, kid!

As you can see, I couldn't leave well enough alone and I changed the 'face' of this blog. I'm still not sure that I like it, but it was such a hassle moving it to this format, that I won't be going back anytime soon!

The real downer is that I lost a lot of information, which I thought I had saved. The worst of this was losing my 'character spotlight' blurb on Janus. Look for more character spotlights to come up, however.

Back to our usual blather...
One thing I've learned as I amble down the Writer's Road, is that we love to imagine who would best portray our characters on the silver screen. The only hitch -- if we go so far as to make our choices publicly known -- is this can also serve to interfere with the reader's imagination. This is not always a good thing. I can readily see how it might take away from a reader's experience; while the author creates a world and characters to explore, we want the reader to join us and imbue that world with life via their own imagination. This is why excellent books are called 'inspirational' or 'compelling', 'unforgettable' -- because the reader is drawn in, not simply shown what to see, or think. We become a part of the experience together, author and reader are co-creators. Instead of seeing it all in a full frontal, there is the tantalizing mystery that leaves us to imagine.

So I've wondered about doing any post on the actors and actresses I have considered to best emulate my characters -- obviously, I'm hoping that someday crazed fans will pour over this site to uncover all the angles and clues, the inspiration and anecdotes about my story, THE SOUL'S BELOVED. Do I want to taint the images in their minds as to how these characters appear for them? I want to leave some of that magical Mystery, right?

For now I won't be doing it, even though I know exactly who I would want to play Janus, for instance, and Klothos.

But what did occur to me as kinda cool is a PLAYLIST for one's novel. Music and lyric are powerful ways to convey a sense of a time, a person, a situation -- just as well as an image, in many cases. I have a whole bunch of songs that I listen to in order to 'get me in the mood' for working on my tale.

So, without further adieu, here are just a few vid's that fit the era and characters of THE SOUL'S BELOVED. It's a bit 80's, but that is the main era it is set in.

The Novel's Song: STORMS by Stevie Nicks/Fleetwood Mac

This video has some awful moments (what does Stevie Nicks doing ballet have to do with this song, people?!), but it was the best demo of this song I could find. Close your eyes and just listen to the words, maybe?

Janus' song: SHAPE OF MY HEART by Sting

A haunting melody, the person described is Janus to the core.

Josephine's song: AMERICAN GIRL by Tom Petty

Micheal's song: WASTED TIME by The Eagles

The words say it all. For you writers out there, what video's or songs best convey your characeters, or even the breadth of your novel?

And, I tag Beth and Julie, Jen, Sandra and Jenny for this. There are some others I'd love to tag, but now I have to get back to writing...

Over at Paperback Writer , she has a great post about some unique ways for us writing types to use Wordle. With this program, you can see which words you may be using too many times, for instance. You can use this as a non-linear tool for inspiration (chapter title? Book title?).

Here is mine from a scene I am working on right now (in which I learned that I am not using any one word too much, as there doesn't seem to be one large stand-out in the mix):

Wordle: Untitled

If you really want to analyze a scene, you can see how the words play off of one another, or if there is a theme. In this scene, I realize there are is a lot around the body: bite, musk, tremor, aches, breath. Good, that is what I want here so this works well.

What's in your pocket? Your characters pocket, that is. Debi posted about this on The Pen Whore (the name of this blog alone is almost enough to elevate it to Crush Blog status) , and I couldn't help but wonder what is in my characters' pockets, anyway?

Let's start with Josephine, since I'm having issues fleshing her out...

Hmmph... not much, apparently. She's a working girl, after all, so she carries a purse with her everywhere. Maybe a tin of Carmex lip balm, and her keys on occasion. Always a lighter and if she can't carry her purse, a pack of Marlboro Lights. (People are always surprised to learn she smokes. She has an air of that outdoorsy, healthy girl about her, even when she's all dressed up in heels and hairspray for work. But she started young and... well, just kept it up. Bad habits die hard.)

Ah, and there's a little stone from her last trip to Hidden Beach out in Half Moon Bay - this one, for today anyway, is smooth on one side and is shot through with white quartz on the other. Josephine brings home various sticks and stones like stray pets. She trades them out like other girls choose their earrings for the day - her Worry Stones. She nervously fingers them off and on throughout the day, deep in her right front pocket when she thinks no one is paying attention.

When she has no pockets, she hides the chosen stone in her bra -- right in front, tucked into her cleavage. She wouldn't want you to know this, and she has never told anyone before.

Janus - well, Janus doesn't need pockets. He's a soul, after all - pure energy. But if he had them, he would most likely have two things: first, a ball of string. Not just any old string, but string that binds lives together, string that pulls you in and tangles you up. String that has that odd quality of not easily being torn in half, and yet frays and suddenly severs itself from unnecessary weight all at once...

Second -- a rather large seed pod, polished smooth after centuries of wear and tear. A valued reminder of life on Earth.

Michael -- he always has a comb in his right back pocket, and a pack of Marlboro Red's in the left (with a lighter tucked inside). His wallet is with the comb. No one has ever seen it, but he always carries a poem originally written on a yellow office legal pad, folded and unfolded so many times over the years that the creases have pinholes of light that shine through.

The poem is written in the flourished hand of a young girl under the throws of her first love. A bit of change in one front pocket, with some gum. And a small, silver key that was broken off from a chain he wore around his neck for years. Given to him by the same girl who wrote that poem: Josephine.

There are a few more people, but right now those are the three main characters. Most important in my mind, are the why's and what for's of these somewhat trivial items. Even the simple comb, for instance, reveals character. What do these items conjure up in your mind?

The smallest item that we choose to carry with us tells volumes about who we are.

Update: I recently discovered that when you click on these links, they don't take you necessarily to the exact image I chose. It seems to be a random generator of some kind. No mind, you can still get lost in them.

Yet another artist I stumbled upon today, turning over stones along the Writer's Way...

I'm just kind of speechless right now, but there is so much of her work that makes me swoon.
This is only a tiny, wee sampling:








and finally, because I can't copy the hundreds she has: Here.

weighty and effortless, originally uploaded by d.composed.

I use images that I set-up in my software writing program (Liquid Story Binder) to get a rise out of me, to set the mood or create an image in my mind of the scene I'm about to write.

I was on and last night I stumbled upon d.composed, who has some absolutely AMAZING photography. [swoon]

It is impossible for me to pick just one - they each have potent, ethereal atmospheres about them, yet are very grounded in a natural, urban sensibility. The world in his images have constant juxtapositions of the body assuming it's place in the reflections of the natural world. They are in harmony, yet undeniable separate.


This image for me invokes the weight of existence and how what we struggle to uphold or use as protection still finds a way to seep through and effect us.

And then: I love that the usually dense human form becomes a soil of light, the 'sky' above giving a counter-intuitive sense of the anchor from above.

In my story, THE SOUL'S BELOVED, my characters, each in their own way, struggle with what they are willing to do in order to experience life in it's fullness, to embrace the truth of Love. They struggle with their own sense of being, and what sets them afire.


I was blog surfing and came across The Pen Whore's post about Mary Sue characters (there's a test link in there, for those of us who can't control ourselves. Who creates all these tests, any way??).

One of my main characters, Josephine, is most definitely a Mary Sue - I don't need a test to tell me that, sadly (at least I'm not in denial - acceptance is the first step!). I was going to update my Character Spotlight with a passage about her recently, and realized I had nothing written that I felt truly conveyed her. Nothing that depicted who she is at her core, what she cares about, why she does the things she will do.

This is not good, for obvious reasons. At least I know what I need to focus on for awhile, right?

Worth watching: Wisdom

(Thanks, veedub)
Resolutions, I mean.

I hate resolutions.

It started when I spent the better part of my young adult life* attempting, every year, to quit smoking. I just could not make it happen, no matter how many times or how hard I tried. Good intentions are meaningless without will power, wise people say.

But I can tell you from experience that will power is impotent without the necessary courage to infuse one's power with action. (It may seem subtle, but there is a difference - I assure you. Think of the phrase 'some talk, others do'.)

What finally did it for me? I got pregnant. The moment I discovered that a life was taking form inside of me, it was no longer a petty struggle between my will power and my courage. There simply was no other option before me. My first step towards motherhood was to just not pick up another cigarette - a clear action - in the name of my child's future. That doesn't mean I don't think about smoking, or crave it even to this day. I most certainly do. But the reason for action finally outweighed the inertia. The fear. The what if's.

And I'm one of those people that once I make up my mind, nothing stops me. Nothing gets in my way; nothing can distract me from my set course. Nothing. A word often used to describe me is driven (and spaz, but we aren't talking about that today).

The problem is how to get to that place of Steeled Certainty. In the case of quitting smoking, it was divine destiny that interceded on my behalf. Therefore, when I consider what resolution(s?) I will have this coming year, the first thought that comes to mind is: what will bring me to a place of doing? What removes any obstacle in my heart or mind, and ignites the fire of clear action?

While I'm pondering such fine existential points, let's have a little round up of other resolution how to's and why's by people or authors in the blogosphere:

I was very inspired by Julie Weather's post about cultivating vision for the New Year.

Carol A. Spradling chooses to call them goals, not resolutions (I kinda like that, takes the pressure off, right?).

Sandra over at The Serendipitous Life scooped some of my goals! So I wish her a lot of luck in the coming year, we both need it. [lol]

Here's a lovely morsel from Sarah Hina, a brief glimpse into a couple's first morning of the year.
And bless you, Sarah, this post has nothing to do with resolutions.

Over at Simple Mom, she gives you an inspiring list to consider when making your goals (I'm going to have to do this one. I envision a new post coming on...). And by the way, if you are looking at getting more organized in 2009, this site offers some wonderful ways of getting it done. (Dominique, thanks for sharing Simple Mom with me. )

This is a great post by Tricia Molloy, for those of us who don't want to go the traditional resolution route. I got this link from the above post on Julie's blog (thanks!), but Tricia's commentary is so good I wanted it to have it's own shout out.

And I will end with my current Crush Blog, Elizabeth Stark's (almost) New Year's Eve post about one's mindset and how this effects our writing, attitude and life. Great post.

Happy New Year, everyone. I'm signing off to go write a little, work on taxes and dream up some GOALS for 2009.

~ K

* this is a euphemism for the more irresponsible years in my lifetime - I have a colorful past, someday you may get to read about it - and while, as I matured [cough] into my 30's I was no longer so out of control, I continued to struggle with smoking until I was 36.