A Writer's Journal

June 9, 2016

Live as if you were to die tomorrow; learn as if you were to live forever.

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.

When the challenges of life seem overwhelming, I turn to gratitude--and look for advice from those who are wiser than I. Writing is my respite. By expressing my experience through words, I find solace and sanctuary.

The hardest aspect life: impermanence. Things are constantly changing, and we must adjust or lose our balance.

The best thing to remember when life gets you down: Things will change, and we will regain our balance.

Flying Home

January 18, 2014

Continuing Ed at Oxford University

For a long time I've dreamed of attending Oxford University and studying Classics. Geeky, but true. In college I majored in Classic Theater and Ancient Religion, and I studied ancient Greek theater with an Oxford scholar. Plus I love the Inspector Morse mystery series on PBS, including all the spin-offs like Endeavour.

Oxford University, England

The trouble is I live in Colorado.

But the other morning, I woke up thinking: if I could do anything I'd study at Oxford University in England. For fun, I Googled Oxford, and was delighted to discover a list of online courses. I found one on Greek Mythology--perfect, because I'm doing research for Priestess, Book Two of my Agathon's Daughter trilogy, and I like to reference Greek mythology. Stephen Kershaw will be teaching the course, and he's written (and coauthored) a number of books on Classical topics. 

I'm sooooo excited!

Geeky, huh?

The point is, lots of colleges and universities are offering amazing courses online. Some of them are even free. So, if you're curious about some area of study, check it out. I'd love to connect with you in my Oxford chat room and talk about Persephone, Oedipus, Medea...all those crazy ancient Greeks. 

March 31, 2013

On the Road to Istanbul

I've worked in the airline industry since late 1999. On March 25, I finally qualified for lifetime flight benefits, so I retired from the airlines and--before I begin new endeavors--I'm going to do some traveling. First to New York, then on to Istanbul.

I wouldn't be surprised if this adventure stirs new stories. Not only will I visit Istanbul, the heart of the Byzantine Empire, but I'll be traveling to the legendary site of the ancient city of Troy, the land Homer wrote about in the Iliad and the Odyssey. 


I'll also be visiting the ancient Roman City of Ephesus...

Artist's rendition of Ephesus

 where it's said the Virgin Mary died in this stone house that still stands there:

Mary's House

I can already feel the history, and I can't wait to see the caves in Cappadocia where early Christians lived, and where their frescoes still exist. 

I hope to post photos and thoughts on my blog, but internet access may be limited. So here's a video of the tour I'm taking with Gate1 Travel.  

Shalom...happy Easter, Oester, Spring.

December 20, 2012

Writing a novel requires endless hours spent alone in front of my computer. When things go well, the time speeds by. When I'm stuck, I can spend hours procrastinating: getting another cup of coffee, checking Facebook, streaming yet another episode of Cake Boss. For me, writing is rewriting. I rarely speed through writing chapters and keep going. I write forwards and then go backwards; sometimes I jump ahead.

Publishing is a different story. I'm not a techno-geek, so I can't do it all myself. When the book is finished, writing becomes a collaborative effort. 

I usually work with an editor who can help me spot plot holes and who will offer advice to strengthen then story. After another rewrite or two, I ask fellow writers and readers to read the manuscript--usually I print it out, because I find reading on a printed page helps to spot typos. After I get feedback and make corrections, I may send it to a copy editor for proofing. It constantly amazes me that ten people can read a book, and typos still slip past.

Meanwhile, I send the manuscript to my cover artist, Jeroen ten Berge, so he can start getting ideas. Covers are extremely important, and Jeroen always does a great job. Making a cover work in thumbprint size is a challenge. Initially, Jeroen came up with a cover that you can see on this blog, but after receiving feedback from fellow writers like Blake Crouch (he told me the cover had to feature a dancer), Jeroen went back to the drawing board and came up with the current gem.

Finally, I send the book to my formatter, Terry Roy of TERyvisions. She's the person I torture most, because she has to deal with my nit-picky changes and corrections. Terry is close to a saint...in fact, she may truly be one! And she does a terrific job for eformatting and paper. 

Rosy presented additional challenges, because I decided to name each chapter for a song and link the chapter heading to an MP3 download of that song. First, I contacted Amazon to make sure that was okay. They gave me the green light, but after doing some research, and learning how litigious the music industry can be, I became nervous about being sued. I contacted several lawyers via the internet.

Kirschner Law advised me that lyrics are copyrighted, but song titles are not--they advised me to check each title for trademarks. Todd Mouser of Mouser Law was exceptionally helpful, giving me further advice regarding trademarks--not all of them are easy to determine. Todd advised me not to mention the artists in conjunction with the song titles, because that might be construed as an endorsement. Todd also advised me to delete all lyrics from the text, which I did. If you need advice regarding intellectual property, I highly recommend Todd Mouser. Find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In.

After determining that I would probably not be sued, Terry linked the Chapter Headings, and I downloaded Rosy: A Novel.

Then author, Mel Comley, who'd downloaded the book, was kind enough to let me know about a number of typos she'd discovered! 

So guess what? 

I had to bug Terry Roy again.

Early this morning, I downloaded the new file to Amazon. Hopefully, it will be published in time for the 3 day FREE promotion beginning December 21 (tomorrow) at midnight!

Writing may be a lonely process, but publishing is not!

Many thanks to everyone who's helped me!

Please pick up a copy of Rosy: A Novel. FREE on Amazon, December 21-23.

June 15, 2012

I've taken a few months off from writing. Sometimes I feel guilty. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed. I blame my hiatus on going back to full time work. Granted, dedicating 40+ hours to a job does cut into writing time. Then there's working out, attempting to have a social life, and traveling back to New York to see my family. 

Yesterday, after filling in for someone for the morning on my day off, after going to the gym, after doing some freelance work, after taking care of some promotion, I drove down to New Mexico to meet an old friend for dinner. 

The drive takes about an hour, and I had time to think about the novel I've been working on--the novel I've begun and put on hold.

 And something amazing happened: I had a revelation about the story. I realized I had to take it in a different direction. 

My protagonist needs to outgrow the current love-interest, and this will cause conflict. Inner and outer conflict is a writer's best friend. Liz Engstrom taught me that, and I've found it to be true. I don't know if this idea would have surfaced if I hadn't taken some time away from the book. I would have continued on without having time for it to surface, and I would have been so far into the book that I'd hesitate to make such a major change. 

This makes me think about a letter I received from a reader. He complained that he didn't like the ending of Hetaera. It's the first book of the Agathon's Daughter trilogy so I leave the reader with some questions that I hope will draw her into the next book. This reader said he felt no need to read the second (as yet unwritten) book because he knew how the story would unfold. I politely thanked him for reading my book, and said I was sorry that he didn't care for the ending. I neglected to ask him how he imagined the story would unfold. I wanted to ask, because I have only a vague idea of where the story's going. Since receiving his letter, I've often though it might have been helpful to have his guidance. But, since he didn't like the way he imagined the story, I thought it best if I didn't have his ideas rolling around my mind. 

In any case, making discoveries about a story, watching characters unfold before my eyes, gives me great pleasure as a writer. Some of my best writing occurs when I step out of my own way and allow the story to reveal itself. I think that's why some of my best ideas emerge when I'm driving--especially those long isolated roads that run through Colorado and New Mexico; they unfold like a clean sheet of paper, and I just have to follow them.

May 26, 2012

Trip to Salem, Mass   

I've written very little over the past few weeks. Partly because I've been traveling--went to New York to visit my parents, and my sister and I took a road trip up to Salem, MA. 

Of course, we were fascinated by the history. Salem is notorious for the witch trials. About twenty people died within a period of four months, and the repercussions continue to this day. Four short months have overshadowed all the other history. At one time Salem was a port more powerful than Boston, until the merchants got greedy and built ships too big and heavy--so they bottomed-out, forcing trade into Boston. 

My sister and I stayed in a wonderful B&B, The Morning Glory . Our hosts, Bob and Marcel, are charming and so is their home. 

I'm sure Salem will inspire more stories. I wrote a short story about the area called Raven's Blood which appears in my (short) short story collection, Ghost Plane and Other Disturbing Tales. The story was influenced by time I spent in Gloucester on Eastern Point, long ago. I used to tramp around the woods for hours, imagining I was a nymph, among other things. The area is magical, and the ocean is always present. So green and humid, compared to Colorado where I now live.

Fog rolls off the water, and wraps the streets in mist. At one point, the harbor boasted sixty wharfs, filled with storehouses, like the one above. Across the street from this wharf is the old Custom House where everything was weighed and taxed. Before breaking free of the British Empire, trade was limited to West Indies. Dried cod was traded for sugar, and when the sugar reached Salem it was transformed into rum. There wasn't a lot of slave trade, because there weren't large plantations like you'd find down south. A rich household might have had a few slaves, and indentured servants were popular. Many slaves used as apprentices, trained in trades which allowed them to make a living once they were freed: rope-making, sailors, barrel makers, etc. 

It was a great trip, but now I need to get back to ancient Greece!

April 21, 2012

What happened to pen & paper?

Once upon a time I set a pen to paper to write. Oh, I still do that for my private journal, but these days--as I begin a new novel--I've had to spend hours making sure I have the right equipment, sorting through files, formatting.

Disaster hit when my laptop got crushed in the overhead compartment of an airplane. Yes, it had been secured within a padded bag. Yes, I have backup.

After visiting my local Office Depot and picking the tech's brain, I spent several hours online perusing reviews and sorting through features, searching out the best deal for a new laptop. Two weeks later, it arrived from China. 

Finally, I told myself, I can get back to writing. All I had to do was transfer my files.

But even with backup, transferring all my data to a new computer (with a new version of Word which is less understandable than Greek) is a time-consuming exercise. Then, of course, I need to download Anti-Virus, DropBox, Open Office, Adobe, Firefox, etc., etc. Not to mention getting sidetracked with changing the background twenty times, choosing the screensaver, customizing sounds--and let's not forget sifting through (I'm not exaggerating) 5,000 emails and adding contacts (those I haven't lost) to my address book.

Then last night, when I thought I had everything set up, a lengthy automatic update led to loss of my carefully selected Background (it went black), spurring me to call support. 

Needless to say, I haven't been writing. You may think that I've been making excuses, that--if I'd really wanted to--I would have set pen to paper. 

The truth is: I've become so used to writing on a computer that it's part of my writing process.  Also, I make so many changes as I write fiction, that trying to set something down on paper quickly becomes illegible. 

I now own: 
1) A new high-powered laptop which, in an effort to keep it whole, will never leave my condo.
2) A netbook (named Little Dell) that a writer friend gave me when my old laptop got destroyed. My friend could no longer see the typeface, but I can if I squint. Little Dell and I plan to travel.
3) An iPad. For about 5 minutes I thought this might serve my writing needs, but I quickly discovered that I'd bought it for sheer entertainment. Also good for Kindlegraph and reading PDF files. iPad will be traveling with me and little Dell. The good thing: they both fit in my purse (yeah, it's roomy) so no more overheads.

I admit it--I'm addicted to machines. And now I have no excuse to procrastinate.

Not even this blog will serve as an excuse.

Why I stopped writing to journey inward:

April 2, 2012

I began writing book two of my trilogy, Agathon’s Daughter, at the beginning of the year. The book, Priestess, is set in ancient Greece, and it requires a lot of research. I threw myself into a fascinating study of the ancient rites associated with the notorious (and highly secretive) Eleusinian Mysteries.
The deeper I delved into the mysteries and the more I aligned myself with the journey of Hestia, my protagonist, the more I yearned to follow my own inward journey. The holiday season had been rough—I live alone, far from my family, and my love-life continued to offer disappointment. For over a year I had driven myself to write, publish, and promote my books. Last summer I suffered a severe accident at work. While spending months in bed recovering from three surgeries, I drove myself to complete Hetaera--suspense in ancient Athens, book one of Agathon’s Daughter. Even while I lay drugged in a nursing home, I continued to write and promoted. Come mid-April I would go back to work fulltime. I had planned to take advantage of working part-time to write, planned to finish Priestess by June, but after writing the opening I found myself overwhelmed by emotions and the desire to make changes in my personal life. Consequently, I set aside the book and gave myself two months to journey inward, to regain my personal power, and to align myself with my own inner-priestess.

I’ve meditated on and off for years—essentially I view life as a meditation, although I often forget to practice! As a gift to myself, I enrolled in a meditation class at the local Dharma Center. I spent a lot of time practicing loving-kindness (Metta ) for myself and others. I also enrolled in an online course, Calling in the One. A dear friend of mine had taken the course a couple of years earlier, and I have been impressed with her transformation. I took the course, not so much to find my one true love and soulmate, but to uncover and transform old patterns, to connect with my authentic feelings, and to recover my power—especially in relationship. The insights I gained during this time have been deep and transformative. The insights have filled many pages of my personal journal. I’m convinced that the experience will add richness and truth to my writing of Priestess.

Today I felt the need to share some of my reflections, and I decided to start this online journal. Here I hope to offer anyone who’s interested insight into the inner-workings of my process as a writer and a human being. For me, the two can’t be separated. I offer my reflections as a mirror, and I welcome your insights and comments.

Reflections on relationship and love:

They say there are many forms of love, but I wonder if that’s true. We use the word love frequently, and loosely. The Greeks spoke of different kinds of love: eros, romantic, sexual love, and agape, a higher love—love that aligns itself with the divine. This divine connection, the sense that we are part of something larger than ourselves, the sense that life and reality is multi-faceted, is what I call true love. Love is the antidote to fear. We feel connection. We feel peace.

Romantic love promises completion, but truthfully we can’t love another fully if we don’t fully love ourselves. If we don’t accept ourselves, and all our faults, how can we accept another? To find true love we must journey inward.

You’ve heard that before, and so had I. I will use two tarot cards to illustrate my points, because the pictures are powerful. The Lovers, depicts the union of male and female--a connection we must make inwardly, before it can be reflected outwardly in relationship. This union puts us in touch with our higher-self (depicted as archangel, Raphael).

I thought I loved myself. And yet, I continued to abandon myself. Trying to please others, I frequently denied my own feelings. Instead of accepting what I felt I attempted to transform my feelings, suppress my feelings, transcend my feelings. Convince myself that I was feeling what I thought I should be feeling. Guess what? It didn’t work.

Relationships provide wonderful mirrors for what’s going on inside of us. Attempting to change my feelings, tie myself into a pretzel, resulted in convoluted, difficult relationships! Hmmmm...I wonder why? How could my needs be met, if I denied my needs? If I denied my authentic feelings? This dilemma of disconnected is depicted in the tarot by the Devil Card--notice the card's similarities to the Lovers. (Numerically, the Lovers card is associated with the number 6, the Devil with 15...1+5=6.) Male and female (mind and heart) are disconnected leading to discord and suffering.

Step one in my healing process was getting in touch with what I felt. Simply allowing myself to feel what I truly feel.

And then I began to see my patterns. I won’t go into specifics, but I will say that before you can shift a pattern, it’s important to see it. Also, it’s important to take full responsibility for the patterns you create. It’s important to stop blaming others, and see how you’re allowing, enabling, the patterns to exist. Only then can we step into our power and make changes in our life.

If we desire love, we must be love. We must connect to love in our thoughts and actions.

I could go on and on about this, and chances are I will in future journal entries. But, for today, I will stop here. Finding love within myself doesn’t negate my desire for a deep relationship with another. As I said, relationships provide wonderful mirrors. Two conscious people committing themselves to loving each other, making the choice to delve deep and grow, can be much more powerful than going it alone. I hope to experience that kind of relationship in this lifetime—and I’m sure I will be writing about this in my novels!

More later....