In Honor of the Day of the Dead (November 2, 2019)

day-of-the-dead-1868836_1920This beautiful image comes from Pixabay.com

 

From 1999 to 2005, I was a proud member of the Seattle Latino literary troupe, Los Nortenos. We gave performances (songs, poetry, and stories) for the Day of the Dead in the Seattle area.

For each performance, we wrote pieces that were juried by other members in the troupe. Here is one of the poems I recited during performances.

Spider Man & The Shamans

By Patricia L. Herlevi

Sometimes when I fall asleep, I fall deep into the heart of Africa.  Wooden men with painted faces conjure spirits forth into the starless night. They pound out rhythms with their bare feet and their shrill cries echo into the chambers of the forest.

Ancestors enter the circle as ghosts. They enter into our souls as we breathe them in and they blow wisdom into our hearts thus allowing us to teach the next generation. They educate us about our ignorance and illuminate our individual paths.

The shamans recite the legend of Spider-Man. The shamans warn us not to be tricked into Spider Man’s wicked web of illusions.  For once we enter into this illusion we are tempted to destroy the planet and other lives. Spider-Man, the trickster mirrors our deepest fears, our most vengeful anger as well as, our greed and our lust. We find him hard to resist since he presents himself in a glorious light promising us treasure.

But once we fall for the trap, we sell our souls for the smallest trinkets.  We sell our children to slave labor, our forests to the highest bidder and we slaughter the animals while leaving no place for the beneficent spirits to enter or the sprites to reside.

This is why the shamans dance tonight as if our lives depend on it. They’ll dance for twelve hours, pounding their aching feet on to the hard soil and chanting songs until their throats become coarse and raw. They tango with death and drop into the underworld where they plead with the spirits to save us from illusions. And in the end, they set us free from Spider Man’s dark ways.

Spider-Man can be tricked and he can be blinded through the strength of our ancestors.  Tonight Spider-Man will be sedated as he watches the shamans spin and gyrates around a fire.  Tonight Spider-Man will be hypnotized into a deep sleep that will last for centuries. Tonight the shamans will set their people free from their inner and outer oppressors.

The dance ends when dawn arrives and the dew appears on thirsty leaves and animal spirits return in full force reclaiming the earth, water, and sky.   The dance ends after I awake and face my daily life.  And yet, the raw pounding feet and shrill cries linger in my conscious brain reminding me that I must face my daily duties same as the shamans who wash the paint off of their bodies and tend to their harvest. I must stay awake and not fall into Spider Man’s illusions by honoring my ancestors and nature’s spirits. And by following the heart of a shaman, I sidestep the traps of greed, rage, and cravings.  I too hypnotize Spider-Man and dance with spirits at night in the manner that the Africans have taught me.

This story was originally performed with the Latino/Latina literary group, Los Norteños at North Seattle Community College, 2000.  While I was reciting this story on stage, my necklace (a beaded one from Peru), broke and beads fell on the stage.  Therefore, I feel that this is a powerful piece that should not be taken lightly.

 

Flash Fiction–Sun Salutations

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Persephone on Pix a Bay

 

 

I’ve not been able to get a handle on this flash fiction. However, I feel that it still has a hopeful message in it so I’m posting it here.

Sun Salutations

Katerina lounged in bed as sunlight peeked through the lace curtains. The warm silk sheets clung to her skin as she rolled over to glance at her pink alarm clock.  Six a.m., she procrastinated crawling out of bed and getting ready for work.  She worried about a deadline for a press release because her boss had an aversion to procrastinators.

She yawned then yanked the blankets back. And then she slowly sat up. Stuffing her swollen feet into her fake sheepskin slippers, she glanced around the room. Meanwhile, dreams lingered in her thoughts.  The Portuguese lover arrived again. And his kisses lingered on her lips and on her body.  Caressing her face, Katerina felt her skin pulsating beneath her fingers.  Lately, everything she touched took on a life of its own that left Katerina contemplating the Universe.

She slipped a Malian groove CD into the player. Moments later, Katerina swayed her hips to the African rhythms as she pulled on a skirt and a blouse she picked off the floor. Housecleaning wasn’t one of her specialties.

After assembling her business look, she made coffee. Then she ambled out of her house and to the bus stop.  Fortunately, the bus ran late that day. But the winter chill worked its way into her bones causing Katerina to long for her warm bed.

Arriving at the public relations firm on time Katerina made her way to her cluttered desk. She dug through her files in search of her notes.  She panicked when she didn’t find her press release. So she glanced at her co-worker Gus who sat at his tidy desk typing on his computer.  She watched him take nervous sips of coffee and then return to typing.

Katerina cleared her congested throat, “Gus, have you seen my notes for the Green Lifestyle Company release?”

Gus kept typing. Moments later, he responded to Katerina with his eyes glued to his screen. “I’m working on the press release.”

“Why are you working on it?”

Gus typed the final sentence.  Printing out the release, he handed it to Katerina.

“Here it is. Why don’t you proofread it?”

“You didn’t answer my question?”

“I was going to leave that for Harold. He’s out of the office at the moment. But he requested a meeting with you after he returns.”

“I thought my deadline wasn’t until five p.m. today.”

Gus shook his head, “You had to five p.m. yesterday. Harold had gone to a meeting with the client this morning without the press release.”

Katerina proofed the release and handed it back to Gus.  “Thanks for covering for me.”

“I didn’t cover for you.” A smug look crossed Gus’ face.

Later that day, Katerina met with Harold in his office. She was distracted by the walls painted in garish orange with the company logo in bold red letters. Somehow she managed to feel exhausted even around those perky colors.

She grabbed a seat as she stared across the expanse of her boss’ desk. “You wanted to see me?”

Harold looked away from his notes and he scowled at his employee.  “Why wasn’t that press release on my desk?”

“I thought I had until closing today. I realize that’s not a good excuse, but I …”

“You were out of the office last week. I thought you had returned to your old habit of taking lunch with our clients.”

“No, I had doctor appointments for this sinus infection that won’t go away.”

“I’m sorry to let you go.”

Katerina gaped, “What?”

“I know you’ve been with our firm for several years and up until recently, you did good work.  But now, I get the impression that you don’t love your job. You arrive at work late and you leave early.  You wait until the last minute to meet a deadline. And you lack the enthusiasm that we require from our employees.”

Katerina knew that her boss exaggerated her behavior. She wasn’t late for work and she only left early one time. But she didn’t feel like fighting and oddly, she didn’t shed a tear over the loss of her job.

Stunned, Katerina sat on a bench waiting for her bus to arrive. She felt as though her life force gave her the boot. She needed a game plan if she didn’t want to end up as a bag lady.

Sitting behind her laptop at her clean kitchen table, Katerina wiped perspiration off her forehead. She had sent out five resumes in the past hour. And she received a phone call for an interview.  That cosmic kick rallied her senses. She was constantly on the move as she typed cover letters, sent off resumes, and attended women-in-business meetings across town.  She shook more hands in one month than she had in several. As the day wore on, she felt more enthusiastic about her future.

After working with a life coach, she discovered that she preferred to work at an upscale spa giving massages. She was fully-licensed and needed to get back to her real life’s work. The only reason she had taken the public relations position was that communications ran in her family.

With spring around the corner, Katerina came out of hibernation. When the sun rose earlier each day she rose with it. Every day she practiced yoga poses. After she started eating salads instead of pizza, she noticed lightness in her step. She welcomed each day, serving humanity through her hands instead of through her previous corporate laptop.

Transforming Seattle into a Fantasy Setting

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My first two novels took place in cities I have never visited or resided. And I read articles about becoming familiar with the places where stories are set, even if that meant looking up places in guidebooks.

Then slowly, I set my short fiction in the Pacific Northwest and then my fourth and fifth novels take place mainly in Washington State. And recently, I took a class on world-building for mainly speculative fiction even though authors build worlds for all genres.

This morning I woke up with the idea of presenting my version of Seattle in 2020 where I had set my fifth novel, Enter 5-D featuring Greek gods and other metaphysical characters. Using Seattle as a setting was perfect since I had lived there for 21 years from 1986 through 2007. This gave me inspiration to transform iconic locations into the landscape of my slightly dystopian fantasy based on the Greek story of Orpheus and his bride, Eurydice. And then I added the comical element.

Here are three of my transformational makeovers for Seattle:

The Public Market (aka Pike’s Place Market)

I used this location as an actual farmers market but also this is where I locate my grotto with the oracle stellar jay who is both the animal version of the Oracle of Delphi and the storyteller narrator (Greek chorus).

The story launches with Eurydice visiting the grotto and learning about her fate.

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The Gate to the River of the Dead (and to the Underworld where the musicians hang out), is located in Pioneer Square. And this is the location where Orpheus nearly connects with Eurydice to take her to the 5th Dimension but then his body is drawn back into the higher realm leaving Eurydice gaping. This is the conclusion of a dramatic set of scenes.

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And at any point in the novel, you will find angels and ascended masters driving their electric cars or zooming by on their silver-indigo bicycles on the downtown streets. It’s similar to the movie Wings of Desire by Wim Wenders where the angels were also hovering above or traveling through a major city (Berlin, Germany).

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And I will leave you with photos of Fremont even though Eurydice stayed with her friend Persephone in nearby Wallingford. And some dramatic scenes take place in the University District (I don’t have any photos).

 

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So How is this for world building from an existing city?

 

Photos and text by Patricia Herlevi, All Rights Reserved

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

Write It–Geeks for Greeks

Orpheus

When I was around ten or eleven years old, an elementary school teacher bravely introduced our class to the pantheon of Greek gods. I’m pretty sure this was done through the telling of Greek myths. However, with my obsession for superheros or humanoids with special powers to shape-shift and transform, discovering the Greek gods and goddesses felt heaven-sent.

Then when I was a bit older, I saw my mother digging through an old steamer trunk that held her mementos from her childhood and young adult years. A collection of Catholic saint cards fell out of the trunk and captured my attention. Again, I learned that these humans also had “special” abilities in that they created miracles. So, as I grew into an adult, my subconscious mind started mashing saints, superheroes, and Greek gods into a creative stew.

So, when the ideas for “Super-Natural Heroes” and “Enter 5-D” drifted into my conscious mind, this all felt familiar to me. Without getting too astrological on you (the reader), I was born with my Moon in Pisces–the dreamy sign that is most likely to gravitate towards speculative fiction of the more fairy-unicorn-superhero variety. While I have never worn a superhero costume or even T-shirt as a child or an adult, I enjoy humans stepping out of any limitations or as they say in the spiritual communities, stepping outside of the Matrix.

Sure, people could say that super humans don’t exist until they meet a shaman who can shape-shift into a creature. Shakespeare’s Hamlet also spoke of the extraordinary experience we can experience on Earth.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio

So, what’s the point of my blog post? Sorry, I’m having another one of my this is your brain on Neptune moments. Greek gods bring magic to my writing. They bring hope that there are other worlds still worth exploring. They also show us the wreckage caused by power-hungry ones which provides cautionary tales for our political elite who some times act like the Titans residing on Mount Olympus.

I revisted the Greek pantheon and its victims because they mirror the world we currently reside. And I chose to take a humorous approach simply because I’m so tired of this dead seriousness which has taken the planet hostage. Don’t you know that humor raises the vibration? And that scientists have proven that we are all made up of vibrations. So, if this makes me a geek for Greeks, so be it. I’m having a good time learning from human errors too. And I’m also a geek for Shakespeare.

Watch my latest narrated chapter from Enter 5-D.