Literary Essay: The Unexpected Path

MaryMagdalene PixabayMy fifth novel, Enter 5-D begins with “For Eurydice Dukakis, it wasn’t supposed to happen the way that it did.” So, I thought about this line and the way that it speaks for the current era.

Often I have told people that my life was not supposed to turn out the way that it has. I wasn’t supposed to end up back at my parents’ house in a town I despise. I wasn’t supposed to still be renting apartments and houses after the age of 45. I was supposed to own my home, have published my novels, and feel empowered.

I wasn’t supposed to be sick, be tired, or feel disappointed with the road that I walk.

And others who live in vans or cars could say the same thing. People going through a divorce after once saying the words, “Until death do us part,” also wonder where life went wrong. And yet, a hero’s journey always begins with an unexpected challenge which is actually a calling to expand one’s worldview.

Still, my current life circumstances hardly feel expansive. As I type these words in a room the size of a walk-in closet, I don’t see my outer life going anywhere. As I raise funds to relocate and the money drip into my life rather than pour into it, I just feel frustrated. I relate to my character Eurydice whose life just took an unexpected turn for the worst.

Imagine if your entire life shaped and formed you to become an opera diva and then a draconian government bans all musical expression outside of the political State. Imagine if you also lose your home and are banished to the underground. And this is only within the imagination since I’m talking about a novel.

However, in real life many people are living the implausible because they feel that they did not sign up for their current circumstances. And yet, what is life without an adventure that tosses in the wrench? If we find ourselves always walking on Easy Street, then we cannot grow as people and Easy Street is actually pretty boring.

And yet, many of aspire to the safe middle road, which might not even be the right path for us. In fact, someone else, perhaps the media, prescribed the middle road. And we just went along with the program until…until something happens.

And that’s how all great novels begin with an insight or an incident. Authors know that they must use some kind of gravitational force to get their characters moving in a different direction. And while we’re not looking for a rollercoaster experience, we do need to write peaks and valleys.

So, whether the character starts out the story living in a car or watching his wife pack her suitcase as she prepares to leave him, what seems like a restrictive beginning later leads to expansion, but only after all the deep inner work has been accomplished. And so it is with real life too.

As with all my novels, my characters do much soul work. And I’m reminded of the lines from the movie French Kiss where Kate tells her former fiancée that when she walked around the streets of Paris penniless, she did some deep thinking. And she came to the realization that there is never a relationship that is safe enough, etc… Life only brings us constant change and it’s a matter of getting with the program of transformation. A story without transformation or metamorphoses is not a story. Rehashing one’s circumstances is also not a story. It is cheap drama. Boring. Draining.

And it’s the same with our “real” lives. Without change we die and even death is transformation from the physical into the ethereal. Think of the rocks that become sand due to the friction of the sea.  Think of the worm becoming a butterfly. None of this is easy and all of it is painful but we find value in sand and with butterflies.

Even though we sit in our rooms lamenting the shape and form of our current lives, know this. If we do the soul work and if we read the hero’s journey often, we’ll know that life forces are shaping us so that we find our true paths and then, and only then, we expand into the vastness of the Universe.

There are no happy endings. We experience happy moments. And life always churns out more circumstances that shape us. And as life shapes us we feel poised for the next chapter in our lives. It’s best to approach life circumstances with an open mind and an open heart.

While my character’s story begins on a tragic note it ends with transformation. She ends up living a life she would have never imagined. And Eurydice would never have met intriguing people or learned of her courage had she not traveled down the unintended path. And she only had two choices–to go with the program or to fight it every step of the way and not transform.

I am an author, astrologer, and creative coach. Learn more about my spiritual work at Metaphysics 4 Everyday Living or Whole Astrology. Sign up for a session at Whole Astrology.

Advertisements

Bedfellows–Guilt & Procrastination

DSCN6933Some people might never write a novel despite saying that they dream of becoming a novelist. And others buy the books, take the workshops, attend the conference and they still don’t write the novel. Then an author like me who has written novels, gets stuck in the procrastination mode when beginning a new novel.

If you have watched the movie, Under a Tuscan Sun, you’ll recall at the beginning of the movie when Frances tells a fellow professor that she has a guilt-inducing and chocolate-eating process called procrastination. But once she got over the procrastination part she becomes a writing machine.

So, I’m now working on my 6th novel. I actually began writing it the spring of 2017 and I’m only on page 35. Well, originally I thought I was writing a short YA story, not that I had a clue of where I would publish it. And the story idea and the characters enticed me to write at all because I had already written 5 unpublished novels so I either needed a vacation or to call it quits.

But then, I was like the pregnant woman who doesn’t want to have anymore children but at age 48 she finds that she’s pregnant. I didn’t actually feel like I was done writing novels, but I wanted a long break from writing long form. Writing 300 pages, developing characters, battling with a plot, etc…is often draining.

I promised myself that I would write three pages today. But other things came up. I walked the dog. I made lunch twice. I went to the thrift store, I washed what I bought at the thrift store, I spent too much time on Facebook, and I watched Bangles videos on YouTube, all of which had nothing to do with writing three pages.

I wrote only a few paragraphs. And I researched ancient African queens for one of my characters. Usually when I writer procrastinates the reason revolves around not having enough informtion. Or maybe the plot is half-baked and walking around the block or walking the dog loosens the brain. Walking helps us get into the flow or it adds another distraction to the list especially if you jump from tangents the way I do.

Or maybe, I just need to take a nap. Other distractions include asking my oracles cards the same question over again, folding my clothing several times, cleaning out my desk drawer, or cleaning the entire house when I was only going to wash one window. And since spring is on the way, isn’t it time to sort through clothing and give some away…I digress because I am procrastinating.

Instead of writing my novel I am blogging about a writer’s block. And then, I’m fighting off doubts the way a horse swats at flies with his tail. And one of those doubts that nags me asks, “Who are you to write a young adult novel?” (So, this doubt is the culprit. Naughty doubt).

I’ll answer that question in another blog post. Until then, I’m going to roll around in my guilt until I beome a writing machine.

Write It…Once Upon a Time & Other Beginnings

typewriter-584696_1920Unless we’re writing fairytales, we require original launches into our stories. Short story authors especially, wrote essays on succinct and enticing starts to short fiction. And this is doubly important with flash fiction. 

I once read a foreward to a short story collection where author Isabel Allende (one of the editors of the collection) mentioned that if you can’t nail your story within the first paragraph or two, the story won’t succeed. However, this sort of thinking often leads to writer’s block and other forms of procrastination.

For people such as me who free writes short fiction as oppose to plotting out my stories, I often balk at writing the introductions to short fiction. And yet, at other times, the stories come to me fully written complete with a seductive opening line.

Here are examples of introductions to both my short fiction and my novels. And my trick is to get everything on paper or on to a Word file. Then, I go back and rewrite the opening paragraphs. My writing grows stronger as I delve in more deeply with my characters and watch their movies in my thoughts.

 

“Marcos first encountered her face glimpsing through a crowd of shoppers. Next, he saw her slight frame draped in a black skirt that clung to her thighs and swirled around her knees, her white blouse hugged her torso and a pendant swung around her breasts like a pendulum.  Her body appeared and disappeared down the aisles of the natural grocer as she rushed about tossing tomatoes, mushrooms, mangos, and bags of flours into her cart, then ticking items off of a list—a true picture of elegance and efficiency.”—Apple of Seduction (short fiction)

“He never gave her the china cabinet or piano.  He gave her jewelry, clothing, china, and trinkets from countries he traveled to, but he failed to grant his wife the two things she wanted most in her life.”–The China Cabinet (short fiction)

“Miranda saw Pierre’s face reflected on a window of a coffee shop.  She battled against her doubts and stood frozen by the shop’s door, realizing that she could’ve pretended to browse the various exotic bags of coffee beans that strewn the shelves of the old world style shop. She could have drunk in all the smells of pastries baking in the back or reveled in the French swing jazz that wafted through the shop, but instead she dashed to the bus station to catch her connection.”–Love Quadrangle (novel)

“She fascinated me–the way Maggie flipped her hair back with a whisk of her hand while she played her instrument. All in one motion she swiped the hair away from her face and strummed her guitar without missing a beat.  In my foolish girl heart, I imitated Maggie–carefree and indifferent to consequences.”–Maggie Magdalene (short fiction)

I think this suffices as examples. I still go back to my old stories and rewrite or polish the introductions. As we evolve as writers, we owe it to ourselves to revitilize our archival stories by applying new tools and techniques. And often times, this proves more fruitful then starting from scratch.

Often times, our original stories already have solid bones. As we improve as writers, we don’t need to reinvent the stories but we do need to reinvest in them. Some stories haunt us for years until we flesh them out, polish the beginnings and strengthen the conclusions.

I have written screenplays, novels, and short fiction since my thirties. I concentrated on mainly poetry and song lyrics in my twenties. And I’ve learned that we must show up with courage in our hearts to embrace the creative spirit or muse. Some stories require finessing over the years until we get it right or get into the zone.

We surrender what doesn’t work and then we wait it out until inspiration fires us up. That could be one day, two weeks, or three years before that happens. In the meantime, we go back to the drawing board with a different story or work on another creative project. Then when the time is right and inspiration strikes, we write that seamless story that leaves our readers breathless.

All Rights Reserved, copyright Patricia Herlevi

Except image which is from Pix a Bay.

 

 

 

 

Essay: Revisiting the Winter Olympics

skaters
Pix a Bay image

In 1980, I watched the Winter Olympic Games for the first time. I had watched the Summer Olympic Games throughout my early childhood, but the Lake Placid Winter Games introduced me to bobsled racing, the luge, speed skating, and ski jumping. Mostly, I felt drawn to figure skating–the costumes, the glitter, the artistry, and the power of the skaters.

 

Although I never watch television, I again feel drawn to the Winter Olympic Games. I am wondering why the games are occurring in South Korea given the international tension with North Korea, but so far so good. And this year while I’m catching glimpses of the various competitions revolving around skates, skis, sleds, and snowboards, I experience conflict with my American origin (during a dark time in this country’s history), and I have never believed in the concept of competition since I am an INFJ personality type.

In 1988, my friends of that time and I sat around the television screen watching the Winter Games. Again, the ski jumping, luge; various skiing and skating events captured my attention. But the most memorable moment for me was the Jamaican bobsled team that captured the attention of the world. We wondered how Caribbean people were inspired to partake in a winter sport, let alone at a high level of championship. And even though, this team did not win any medals, they won the hearts of millions of people who rooted for underdogs.

Just like other viewers, I am in awe of the spectacular power and strength of a well-trained body. I am amazed at the artistry, determination, and grace that goes into an athletic performance. I too, watch athletes hang, suspended in flight, or soar off edges, and then land perfectly like a cat with 9 lives. I enjoy watching the glitter and glamour of figure skaters dancing on ice to rumbas, mambo, and other Latin rhythms. I appreciate the dedication and sacrifices the athletes made in manifesting their Olympian dreams.

And yet, I see the irony as I sit in a chair watching these athletes with perfectly taut bodies and I just want to walk around the block a few times. I feel overly inspired to get my flabby muscles into shape. I might envy their youth a bit. And I know that chastising my 53-year-old body is just a form of self-abuse. However, I still made the joke that watching the games makes me want to sign up with a personal trainer  (not that I have the money to do that), to get myself into better shape.

I also try not to chastise myself for not having the bravery of the athletes who hurl themselves in the air, who lift skaters over their heads not fearing that a blade could come down on their head at any unexpected moment or that one mistake or wrong footing could lead to death or ending up as a quadriplegic. I suppose their are different types of bravery.

In our regular day-to-day life, courage shows up in the form of a single parent raising children during a heartbreaking economy. Courage comes in the form of someone living on the edge of homelessness or in a homeless camp. Courage shows up in someone showing up at an AA meeting for the first time after hitting bottom. Courage shows up in a middle-age person changing their diet, stop drinking alcohol, and facing their demons one at a time.

So, perhaps, watching the Winter Olympic Games reminds us of our individual gifts and talents. While we will never become champion skaters or ski jumpers, by showing up in our own lives and loving ourselves where we are, we too are champions.

And as far as healing my wounds with my country of origin (as another empire crumbles), I expand my vision to include the concept of world citizenship. I don’t sit on the sidelines rooting for one team over another or one country over another. I choose to sit back and take it all in–my fellow world citizens expressing the depth and breadth of the human spirit through endurance and artistry. No wonder I’m drawn to the Winter Olympic Games. I just wish I was content with my ringside seat.

Write it–5 Practices to Develop Memorable Characters

Dolores
Mexican Actress Maria Del Rio

I feel fortunate that most of my fictional characters came to me. In other words, I didn’t develop them from scratch. I either borrowed from mythology, past lore, or the characters popped into my head one day like a friend popping over for tea.

However, having said that, I spent time learning the nuances and secrets of these characters before writing the novels or short fiction in which they appeared. Some characters actually traveled around with me sometimes for months, and other times, for years, before I sat down to pen their stories.

And since I find it a major literary sin to write flat characters, I work with tools and practices to nurture fleshed out characters. They don’t just take up ink and paper. I write characters that will enter the headspace of my readers (or future readers) and stay there for years like a well-worn classic. My goal is to create characters as memorable as Holly Golightly or Elizabeth Bennett.

  1. So, here are 5 practices to help you create unforgettable characters: Work with an astrologer (if you don’t know astrology) and draw up astrology charts for your characters. 

If you are an astrologer or are versed in astrology, you can do this yourself. I had an online friend for many years who was both an astrologer and an author. I was astounded when she told me she produced charts for all her characters. At the time, I was only giving my characters Sun, Moon, and Rising Signs. This is the quickest way to psychologically understand your characters, their shadows, strengths, and methods of sabotage. You can also draw up relationship charts for the characters.

2. Create vision boards (one for each character)

If astrology is too intense or complicated, the next best metaphysical tool to creating characters is to create vision boards. And this is as easy as ripping pictures out of magazines and pasting them on to a large sheet of paper. You can also add buzz words, stickers, and even write affirmations for the characters on the boards. I like this practice because you can give your characters physical attributes based on the people that appear in the magazine pictures.

3. Base the characters on people you knew in the past or met along the way

I based two of my women characters on women I met on a bus. One woman seemed like a younger version of the woman she sat beside. And when these two women disembarked from the bus, they walked in opposite directions. In fact, I didn’t only get characters from this encounter, I also came up with a storyline and a plot. These women characters appear in my screenplay, Love & Intangible States.

4. Keep a dream journal and create characters from dream people

I used to keep dream journals and I include channeling and telepathy in this category. My characters, Pierre and Miranda came from the telepathic communication I had with an architect for several years. I combined this with an encounter with an attractive man I saw working in a cafe who sat near a window working on his laptop.

5. Reinvent mythological or legendary people 

Actually, this is trending right now, especially with commercial and fantasy novels. When I researched the market for my urban fantasy/commercial fiction Enter 5-D, I discovered a plethora of modernized or reinterpreted gods and legendary people. You could also reinvent folktale and folklore characters.

Even though there are many versions of Orpheus and Eurydice, I didn’t feel that these characters were fleshed out, so I reinvented the characters. I gave them occupations and invented new realms for them to occupy. I had a blast doing this.

I am both an author and metaphysical coach. If you are looking for inspiration and coaching, sign up for a session at Whole Astrology

 

Lit Essay: Re-Use, Recycle, & Simplify

DSCN3139I’m even reposting this recycled essay…

Discarded but Not Forgotten

Essay on Volunteer Simplicity

When I was still firmly ensconced in my middle-class formative years, I thought I would grow up, find a good job and purchase the North American dream.  I started off in the right direction by attending and graduating from a university, then after I moved to the big city and decided to pursue a career in music, “reality” hit home.  I found work to support my musical endeavors, but my paychecks could not afford the price of new furniture, let alone, the purchase of a home.

Throughout my twenties, I thought that toiling at my music would land me a recording contract, the musical equivalent of winning the lottery, but Lady Luck was not looking my way.  By the time I reached my thirties, tired of various occupations and watching my dreams fade to black, I learned an important lesson about downsizing.

Some people volunteer to downsize their lives.  They give up lucrative careers and become stay-at-home parents or they seek out the true meaning of existence.  Best-selling authors wrote books about this painless process, Volunteer Simplicity (Duane Elgin) and Your Money or Your Life (Joe Dominguez & Vicki Robin).  The difference between the volunteer simplicity crowd and me was that I never chose to downsize and by the time I read those authors’ books, I had already reached ground zero.

I never owned a home, real furniture or any possessions besides musical instruments, equipment, several futons, books and compact discs.  I was already living the “simple life” other envied and I learned that with a little trust intact, the Universe does provide.

I watched Italian filmmaker Franco Zeffirelli’s Brother Sun, Sister Moon (1972, Italian), that chronicled the early adulthood of Saint Francis of Assisi, better known as “the first societal dropout”.  In the film, based on true events, the son of an upper-class cloth merchant, Francesco (his Italian name), stripped himself bare and in his vulnerable state he walked naked into the unknown.  Francesco trusted that God would provide for him like he provided for all of nature and he also believed that we could not worship the Divine and materialism at the same time.

Add to that the ecological impact all our stuff has on the earth and downsizing along with recycling our possessions sounds like reasonable plans.  Incidentally, Saint Francis of Assisi is known today as the Patron Saint of Ecology.

Another film, a documentary by the French filmmaker Agnès Varda, The Gleaners and I, focused on the people of France that live off of discarded goods.   Agnès chronicled the rural people who glean (collect) tons of vegetables, fruit, and grains that was abandoned after harvest.  She also aimed her camera eye at urban dwellers that salvaged discarded furniture left on the sidewalks of Paris.

I have also found abandoned furniture left on sidewalks in good condition, clothing, and books in free boxes as well as, learning how to barter and trade my talents.  Somehow I survived a richer person who found wealth in the simple pleasures of life, listening to free concerts, watching free movies, spending time with friends or strolling through nature.

While acquiring money has its benefits, most people put a lot of time and effort to build their palaces and then more effort to fill their palaces with stuff they can no longer appreciate.  I have observed various people with big homes, vacation cottages, luxury cars and the works, but they are too busy to enjoy what they possess.  Some of them neglect their children, their spouses, and friends, in favor of building another wing onto their palace.

They simply do not see all of the unused rooms in their houses, the dust gathering on their belongings or time racing past them as they rush out into the world to earn more money so they can buy more things.  It is unfortunate that these are the people society envies.

Mansions, luxury cars, and designer brands play a greater importance than majestic mountains, vast oceans, and wild animals.  They take on a greater importance that the joy of companionship, listening to music for the sake of music without boasting expertise or getting in touch with nature without cell phones and other electronic devices to distract them.

People such as myself who choose not to live the “high life” fade into the background, yet many of us (and I am not talking economic poverty), have found spiritual and other sustenance in knowing that the Universe provides for us.  Of course, we still need to make the effort and practicing trust is more challenging than people think.  Now, that more people find themselves abandoned by a gasping economy, they seek out a new meaning for their lives.

I know of at least one dot.com downsize victim (this essay was written in 2003), that turned her life around by pursuing a vocation as a Reiki practitioner and I have known others who found a spiritual practice after losing lucrative careers.

I lost many jobs in my life and I lost my music career after suffering from a long-term illness.  I did not think I would survive and yet the natural world beckoned to me, giving me hope.  Similar to Francesco of Assisi, I relied on God to provide for me and I gained a talent for resourcefulness.

We all have many talents that other people need in this New Era and it is time to return to the concept of barter and trade.  Perhaps then we develop a new confidence in ourselves and we will find security in our connection to the spiritual realm as opposed to the material one.

When people discard belongings, they are in fact, giving those possessions new life.  When we outgrow something we can pass it on to the next person.  And in the end, those things once deemed important in our lives are discarded but not forgotten.  Since I believe that living beings are more important than things, by sharing what we do have with others, we acknowledge the bond that connects us.  The most important lesson I learned in this life thus far has not been how to earn lots of money, but how to contribute my talents to the world without living the North American dream.  And besides, I don’t really care for white picket fences.

Originally written the summer of 2003, copyrights Patricia Herlevi

This is the only authorized version of this essay.

Diary of a Reluctant Vegan (Essay)

255px-Jack_Russell_catching_ball

 

Labels don’t interest me usually because they feeling limiting and often dangerous, like crossing over a threshold into unfamiliar territory. And when we slap on labels we are most likely seeking confirmation or validation from a group. This leads me to think that we wear labels because we have issues with self-approval.

So, I am reluctant to wear the vegan badge even though I am on board with the vegan practice, for the most part. But I also know that becoming vegan is not as easy as removing animal food products from one’s diet. And it goes beyond watching animal abuse documentaries, which are torture for me. Guilt is a horrible motivator that never leads to self-empowerment. And this is not to say that we wallow in ignorance either. However, I feel that if we inspire people to eat a vegan diet out of health reasons, and many people switch to a vegan diet, then the industries that abuse animals will need to change their tune (and draconian practices) or go bankrupt.

I feel that the idea of the perfect vegan (who doesn’t eat any animal products, not even honey and does not wear any animal products) is impossible for most people. Vegan and organic food, especially if it is also gluten-free are expensive. I spend over $300 a month on these types of food and supplements a month. So, this leaves me with only enough money to purchase my shoes and clothing at thrift stores and that means I wear leather, wool, and other used or recycled animal products. Since I wear leather shoes, I repair or replace my soles instead of purchasing new shoes. And I’ve worn shoes up to a decade or more.

However, when an idealistic vegan sees me wearing leather shoes, they have no idea that I’ve replaced the soles twice on those shoes and got those shoes at a thrift store. They have no idea how much I spend on food either. While, it is a good practice to discern and educate ourselves about where our food and other goods come from and how it was raised, treated, or produced, we’re never going to show up perfectly in our quests. We have many things to weigh. For instance, vegans say that it is better for the environment to go vegan, but not if you are wearing clothing and shoes made from petrochemicals which also cause damage to the environment.

Now, as far as health benefits, I have seen many vegans glow with radiant health after changing their diets. I have met people who have reversed diabetes, prevented heart disease and other illnesses. I have also met people who have suffered from digestion issues on the vegan diet (I’m among this group). If I eat goat yogurt once in a while, it reverses some of the digestion issues and then I eat a mostly vegan diet.

So, having said all that, the vegan diet has potential to improve health and well-being, create more sustainable lifestyles that benefit the planet, stop animal abuse and cruelty (although it takes some socio-political action too), provide food in greater abundance, create culinary opportunities for businesses, heal cognitive dissonance, etc…

Get educated. Find out where your food comes from. Stop living in denial. And then find the best path for you based on your core values and beliefs. Walk your talk to the best of your ability. And make improvements in increments.