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 And the story idea and the characters enticed me to write at all because I had already written 5 unpublished novels so I either needed a vacation or to call it quits.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.

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Lately, Queen Mamadou (YA Fiction in-progress)

African Queen Pix a Bay

Synopsis:

Fourteen-year-old Maggie Shatterly just wants to fit in–whether at school, in her artistic circle of friends, or at the dance studio. Her life is awkward enough without an ancient African queen showing up to teach everyone a lesson about living one’s life with freedom, abandonment, and joy. Queen Mamadou, hailing from a 15th Century West African kingdom, taught her unwitting students to gyrate their hips and to drum up a new life.

This young adult comedy began as an idea for a short story. However, the narrative keeps developing so I think I’m writing my 6th novel–and my first official young adult (possibly middle grade) novel. My fifth novel, Enter 5-D has crossover appeal. I never thought I would take this path since I was firmly entrench in writing sexy romantic comedies, but the world’s children call to me now.

Introduction to Lately, Queen Mamadou

She despised visiting the dance shop, located in a derelict part of town near the port and the Mission.  Maggie’s mother, an artist-at-heart, enjoyed exploring the seedier side of towns.  She told Maggie that artists thrive on diversity but did this mean that Maggie Shatterly should have to waded through litter, broken beer bottles, and stepped around people with shattered lives? She had hoped not.

On this particular day, rain poured from the midwinter skies, tumbled down the sides of build and then formed streams on the sidewalks and the streets. The only reason Maggie ventured outside at all with her mother was to buy the pieces for her costume. They had waited until the last minute as usual since the recital was that night. Maggie would have felt a case of nerves except that she placed her focused on her giraffe costume.

Her dance instructor Darcy created choreography based on Noah’s Ark. But Maggie wondered if Noah had giraffes on the Ark. She didn’t remember any giraffes mentioned in Noah’s Ark back when she took Bible classes. Of course, she didn’t remember much of anything from those days when she lived in Arcadia, back when her parents were still married.

Now, she shuffled between California and Washington, often flying alone on Alaska Air. Her friends at school envied her since often she spent the winter in sunny California while her friends in Bellingham shivered in the damp and breezy dance studio. One time, her father Ted, took her to Hawaii for Christmas. Maggie felt at odds among palm trees swaying in a breeze and a local Native playing “Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer” on a ukulele. And this was before ukuleles began trending outside of Hawaii. She recalled one Native Hawaiian woman, quite large, and decked in a flowered mumu playing “All I want for Christmas is my Red Mumu,” fashioned after the famous song about the two front teeth.

End of excerpt

Copyright Patricia Herlevi, 2017-18

 

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.

Short Fiction–Told in a Young Voice

flower-child-336658_1920

 

Emily Rose, That’s How it Goes…

By Patricia L. Herlevi

Emily Rose, that’s how it goes…the seasons come and the flowers grow…
Emily Rose and I lived on the same street. While she wore the prim blue, red, and white plaid uniform of the Saint Theresa’s Catholic School for Girls, I wore ragged bellbottoms with fuzzy peace signs plastered over the holes.  And I wore peasant blouses.

Emily’s mother, Clare, named after the Italian saint of Assisi, grew prize roses in their small garden.  In contrast, my mother, Rainbow, a carryover hippie from the Summer of Love, grew sprouts and tomatoes among weeds. It’s hard to say why someone like Emily noticed me, a scraggly tomboy, but perhaps she took me on as a project for salvation.

I recall one particular hot spring day that occurred towards the end of the school year, late May. The teachers at the public school where I attended allowed the students to wear shorts and T-shirts. Emily wasn’t so fortunate, and she sweltered in her long sleeve white button shirt and her wool skirt, not to mention those thick cotton tights.

Like a good martyr, she didn’t complain as sweat dripped down her forehead while we walked to our separate schools. That was the day I asked her about Jesus. My mother had told me about another Mary, Magdalene, and how the Catholics wouldn’t accept her as the bride of Christ. I wanted to put the theory to the test.

“Say, Emily, I heard that Christ was married. Blood rushed to Emily’s face and she grimaced. “Christ wasn’t married! That’s impossible! Who told you that?”

“My mother told me.”

“Really, what does your mother know? She’s not a Christian and neither are you.”

I stared down at the hearts I painted on my white canvas tennis shoes. “My mother is into Jesus. She took me to see Jesus Christ Superstar and…”

Emily scoffed. “My mother wouldn’t be caught dead…” She crossed herself, “I mean that my mother would never take me to see such blasphemy.”

I saw the conversation heading into dangerous territory, so I changed the subject.

“Your mother’s roses are looking quite splendid.”

I copped an English accent for fun, but my humor which I learned from watching “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” every weekend with my parents, was lost on poor Emily. She’d probably find a quiet corner at her school so she could perform some kind of penance for listening to blasphemy about Jesus. I entertained myself with thoughts of the various types of punishment she would endure after I dropped her off at her proper school.

Don’t get me wrong, I adored Emily and secretly desired to be more like her. I needed discipline in my carefree life. I needed structure which my parents wouldn’t provide since they believed in the freedom of every child to choose for her or himself. I was twelve-going-on-thirteen and just learning about the magical world of womanhood. As my “moon time” approached, my mother took me to sweat lodges run by pseudo Native Americans, well, really just hippies with long braids who said they studied with this or that elder.

While my mother didn’t believe that I needed structure, she did believe that I needed ritual in my life and some way to mark my rite of passage into womanhood. I wasn’t exactly delicate, but I felt squeamish and embarrassed sitting through sex education with my parents, especially when they couldn’t keep their hands off of each other.

I wondered what Emily would have thought of those lectures. How did the Catholic girls learn about making love when they didn’t allow Jesus such a privilege?  Instead, they stuck him up on some throne in heaven where he just sat there passing judgment on us. And Mary, the Mother of Jesus never shed her virginity. How was that possible?

Personally, I found the Jesus in the musicals and movies super cool. I adored him in the way that other kids my age adored rock stars. Not that I hung posters of the crucified Jesus on my bedroom walls.

Still, Emily might have done that. I saw him as a flower child, you know, the power to the people, peace, love, and doves. I liked singing along with the songs from the musicals, “Jesus Christ, Super Star, who in the world do you think you are?” Who in the world did I think I was?

As the months wore on, Emily and I bonded in friendship. She put up with Rainbow and her scraggly garden; tofu burgers, and granola with yogurt that passed as snacks at my house. She put up with my parents fondling each other in front of us prim children. She put up with my Beatles and Elton John records and even learned to sing the words to “Yellow Brick Road”.

In fact, Emily possessed an amazingly lovely voice. That girl could sing both harmony and melody. How I envied her with her golden long hair, her rosy skin, and knowledge of her faith. If she had envied me, I never knew of it.

Her mother taught me Franciscan prayers and about Francis of Assisi and his transformation from wealthy playboy to a holy saint. I found that hard to imagine in the 1970s, even when young men dropped out of society in order to pursue a simpler lifestyle. I thought they were just lazy and avoiding adulthood.

“My dear, Francis was in his early twenties, when he found his Lord Jesus and he gave up his savage lifestyle to pursue an illuminated path.”

“What does illuminated path mean?”

Clare shook her head gently and her blonde curls jingled in the sunlight. “Illumination means light so his path was lit and he could find his way to our Lord Jesus Christ.” She crossed herself and then glanced lovingly in my eyes. “I’ll pray for your soul.”

One day a year later, Emily and I sang along to some Joni Mitchell records and I decided to get out my guitar. I had been taking lessons and wrote my first song. I decided to sing it for Emily. I sang in an alto voice which Rainbow compared to Carol King. I thought Emily would just laugh at me, but instead, she began singing harmony in soprano.

After that day, she and I wrote songs with double meaning. I sang about secular subjects like boys and she sang about her love for Christ and the Virgin Mary. We both turned fourteen during the summer of 1976, when Claremont, the small town where we resided decided to throw a hippie festival-bicentennial celebration, sort of a Canterbury fair slash barbecue slash show your patriotic red, white and blue.

We auditioned as a duet to perform on a youth stage. For whatever reason, perhaps to protect herself from sinning, Emily wore her school uniform. I wore a purple flowing skirt that my mother bought me for my rite of passage along with a gypsy white blouse and Navajo turquoise jewelry. I had grown my dark brown hair long and that day I wore it in braids.

I still envied Emily’s gold tresses and she even looked cool in her short uniform skirt and white short- sleeved blouse. She had grown looser since she had met me. As we were climbing up onto the stage, a young man, new to the neighborhood, sporting longish hair and a smile that could knock one dead, grabbed a seat in the front row.

The lone wolf watched us get set up on the stage. I felt so overwhelmed by his presence that I could barely tune my guitar. Emily acted super cool.  Although I learned later she was fighting off a sexual attraction to our new foxy neighbor. She really could pull off that cold as steel attitude when deep down, she endured the flames of desire or damnation, a matter of perspective.

After we finished performing our set of six flowing songs, the new neighbor swaggered up to the stage to introduce himself.

“Hey, I’m Jimmy as in Hendrix and Page.”

Emily blushed, “Who are they?”

Jimmy laughed. “Rock stars, man.”

“We’re only into folk music.”

“Speak for yourself, my dear.”

We ended up attending a small barbecue with Jimmy. He scarfed down five drumsticks and oily potato salad. Emily gingerly ate some fruit salad and picked at a hamburger someone brought to her. Ever since she entered her Franciscan phase, she detested meat. I too, stayed clear of any animal products having been brought up by two vegetarians who lectured me at every meal about the cruelty of raising animals for slaughter.

Jimmy grinned at us condescendingly.  “What? Don’t tell me, you two are vegetarians?”

“I’m afraid so.”

He scoffed, “That’s cool. I mean, a lot of rock singers have gone veggie these days. They say it’s healthier and good for the earth. But for me, I like meat and lots of it.”

It turned out that Jimmy came from farm stock and his grandfather didn’t grow potatoes as he liked to put it. Jimmy wore his hair long and listened to a lot of the same music as me, but deep down he was a good old country boy bent on one thing, getting laid before his sixteenth birthday. And we were two prized innocence just rearing to be sacrificed to a sex god or so I thought.

We hung out with Jimmy when he’d allow it. Although Emily and I were still best friends, a competitive spirit developed between us. We tried our best to hide our feelings for Jimmy and we pretended we only wanted friendship with him while fire stirred in the fruit of our wombs.

Another August rolled around and I invited Jimmy to my fifteenth birthday celebration. Emily and I sang a few of our newest songs plus our favorite at that time, “Age of Aquarius.” Rainbow and my papa, Mountain Mark acted pleased with the songs, but Jimmy seemed to be stewing over something. His eyes darted around our living room and other times, he seemed to be drinking in some deep reality or maybe he sought a lair in which to snag us.

Later that evening, after my parents had left for a night out on the town with their hippie friends, Jimmy and I hit the sacrificial wine.  He brought a bottle that he swiped from his parents to celebrate another of my rituals into womanhood, in which Rainbow had grown quite fond.

At first, Emily acted prudishly and refused to take a sip of the wine. She seemed sullen while Jimmy and I took huge gulps of the wine always thanking the Lord. This also did not go down well with Emily who despite appearances, (she was wearing her hair down and sporting a short mini skirt), took to religion like a sockeye salmon to the mighty Pacific Ocean. We took the Lord’s name in vain, mi culpa, excuse me, I have sinned.

“Come on, Emily, lighten up. It’s just a little wine.”

She scowled at me. “And you’re drunk and don’t even know it. You’re disgraceful!”

Jimmy scoffed, “How old are you anyway? Do you always need to turn to Mother Superior for advice or are you allowed to have a good time?”

I looked around the room. “I’ve news for you, Em, there’s no mother superior in this room. But we have this delicious bottle of wine.” I stare fondly at Jimmy, “And he might not be a Lord, but don’t you think that he’s foxy?”

Emily bolted from the room, furious at us. I took the opportunity of being alone with Jimmy. I had never been kissed and my body felt like a vestal fire just exchanging glances with him. I let my hair out of their braids and pulled my gypsy blouse down baring my shoulders.

He leaned forward and kissed me with his full mouth and tongue. My body ascended into bliss. Next thing I knew Jimmy was on top caressing every part of me and his wine breath delighted me further.

Emily was aghast when she returned to the room seeing her friends undressing each other. She crossed herself a few times and gulped down wine. She pulled out a flamenco record and placed it on the turntable then she started dancing seductively to everyone’s surprise. She shot smoldering glances at Jimmy and resembled a toreador captivating a bull’s attention. She swung her hips and licked her lips in anticipation of being deflowered.

Jimmy rolled off of me and approached Emily who he swooped in his arms and carried her to a bedroom in the back of the house, my room. I felt that my anger would destroy me, but I survived. However, my friendship with Emily died that day and would never be revived.

I shouted after them, “How disgraceful, a virgin sacrifice! Surely you’ll be sullied!”

I slumped on the floor nursing the remainder of the wine while tears slipped down my face silently. Some birthday, I thought. I swore that I could hear the lovers upstairs panting, but it was probably just our old German shepherd, Ben sleeping on the couch. I heard Emily yelp out in pain, but her cries only mirrored my own suffering as my two friends betrayed me.

A few months later, a nosy neighbor mentioned to my mother that Emily was sent to a convent for the Poor Clares at her own request. She had contracted a venereal disease from Jimmy and took that as a sign from God that she needed to repent for her sins. So just like that, she disappeared from my life and I went from a duet to a solo act.

And I guess I should’ve been thankful that Jimmy had done the deed with Emily instead of me, but I felt mortified. I wondered if kids dropped out of society to avoid such pain, but I stayed the course.  I did what was expected of me like the dutiful Catholic girl I wasn’t. Emily Rose and I, Anne Jacobs, had officially exchanged places.

Jimmy dropped out of school and moved to San Francisco where he joined an acid rock band. I didn’t care. I felt too numb to care.  I concentrated on writing songs, I took dance classes, and I got to know Saint Francis of Assisi who forgave me for my transgressions. Eventually, I graduated from high school and attended a music conservatory.

After I graduated, I joined up with a new writing partner, Marty Reingold. Then he and I signed our first record deal under the moniker, Emily Rose. I hadn’t forgotten Emily and I didn’t want to. Our first single was called, “Emily Rose–That’s how it goes.” It climbed the charts and even the mailman hummed it.

These days, I wonder if Emily ever heard my song. Do the Poor Clares listen to folk music? Did Emily remember me when she traveled around the country advocating sex education and woman empowerment classes in the Catholic schools? Did she ever sing our old tunes in private when no one but God and The Virgin was watching her?

She might not remember me or care, but I’ve searched endlessly for information regarding her vocation on the Internet. I learned that she became the Head Abbess at a convent in Spokane, Washington, that she lectured about family planning around the world and that she finally accepted Mary Magdalene as the Bride of Christ. I’m certainly not aware if I had anything to do with her conversion.

A long time ago, we sat on my lawn watching the sunset and pondering the existence of God. Emily turned to me with the sun shining like gold lanterns in her metallic blue eyes.

“Why do you think Jesus married a prostitute?”

I grabbed Emily’s arm gently. “But don’t you see that she wasn’t a prostitute?”

Emily picked a daisy that was growing on the grass and she smiled with enchantment.

“Father Paul and the sisters tell us that Magdalene was a loose woman and that she wept because of her sins. That’s why Jesus took pity on her, but he would’ve never married such a woman or any woman.”

“Why not? What’s so wrong with Jesus getting married?”

“He was serving God!”

“So you’re saying that married people can’t serve God?”

“They’d be too obsessed with one another to put God first.”

I laughed. “So then, your parents are too obsessed with themselves to serve God?”

I asked this question because both her parents were overly devoted to the church to the point where they didn’t even know the other existed any longer.”

“My parents aren’t a good example.”

“Really?”

“They’re the exception to the rule.”

“And my parents who adore each other would turn Jesus off?”

“No, because I think that Jesus would forgive them.”

“For what, spreading love in the world or having a family and enjoying Mother Earth?”

Emily didn’t respond to my question. She glanced at me with a knowing look and then counted down the last few seconds before the sun sunk below the horizon.

Years later through her own painful experiences, she learned that religion isn’t cut and dry. She tossed out dogma and grew into a real person who saw the world through an earthy gaze. She saw and felt the pain of young woman caught up in hormonal dramas. She felt the injustices done to the young woman in the name of religion and fought to bring peace to their lives. And so, tirelessly for thirty years, Emily forged ahead on this mission.

I also had a purpose to further women in the music industry. I bring love and joy to others’ lives through my songs. I say to Emily, “That’s how it went and that’s how it goes.” We gave more to life than it could ever return to us, but that’s okay, that has to be okay…I feel Emily nodding in silence as she ponders the marriage between the Divine Feminine and the Divine Masculine. If only the rest of the world would catch on…

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

 

Magic Realism in the American Wild West

wild-west-1319437_1920Ascension in the North Cascades

By Patricia Herlevi

I was traveling in the mountains with a man that I never thought I’d see again. And it started when I read about Lila Downs cabaret singing mother which sparked a past life memory. The mountain quest had to do with healing scarred souls if we didn’t get lost along the way. While I wasn’t good at reading maps, I understood the soul path.

“You told me to take this road,” Teshi scoffed.

“Alright, I read the map wrong. No need to get cross,” I countered. I studied the worn map. “Okay, let’s backtrack until we’ll find the right road.”

“Backtrack? I thought that’s what we were doing.”

As we drove in uncomfortable silence, I stared at the mountain crevices, swallowing hard to stop my ears from popping. I wondered if taking the ascension experience literally was the right way to go. As it turned out, we searched the mountains for an Old West town. And it felt like a quixotic journey, to say the least.

Our lives had been heading for trouble for years. Teschi’s music career crashed. I also found myself on the wrong end of the music business. Instead of performing my compositions, I wrote about the lives of fulfilled musicians. Add financial troubles and health issues to that list.

While this was going on, I remembered this old life in 1840s Oklahoma. A real beauty back then, I sang in saloons and pleasured men on the side. Living the life of a true libertine, I, Louisa often tossed my head back in hearty laughter. I wore sleek white gowns and long silk gloves like a bride of the southern plains. Similar to Jeanne D’Arc, I held my own with those men, even winning a hand or two at cards. Then he came swaggering into the saloon like a cowboy in some Hollywood western. I couldn’t have known that when I exchanged haughty glances with him, he would suck my life force then leave me dead on the ice-covered earth.

Hans arrived from Germany in search of prosperity promised to all those willing to exploit the New World. And I, the town’s welcoming wagon, permitted this man into my life. At first, I held my own, but we quarreled about the other men in my life. We quarreled about my music profession and how that wasn’t the type of work for a real lady and not the kind of woman he’d marry.

As time passed, I lost my will to live. I fought off his abuses, reluctantly mothered two children and lived my life trapped between four walls. He kept my loved ones at bay. I sang to myself to heal the bruises and broken bones. I sang with the caged canaries to stay sane. I quilted and I knitted alone like a proper lady of the plains, but deep down, I suffered.

Then one day, the big blow came. Hans made the decision to take the family to California so that he could prospect for gold. He didn’t dare go alone leaving me to the temptation to return to my former lifestyle. So we hooked up with a wagon train and endured an arduous journey. I eventually died from pneumonia during a snowstorm in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Not long after that, Hans realized that he loved me and mistakes he made. He abandoned the children and locked himself away in a mountain cabin. For years he lived in the wild like some old-timey hermit. Then when he couldn’t bear his grief any longer, he shot himself in the head.

I watched this as I hovered above him. My former sandy-haired husband seemed so frail that I forgave him. However, we had already set a dark energy in motion that would haunt us in another lifetime, if we should actually meet.

Meanwhile, in this lifetime, Teshi and I wound our way through mountain roads in search of a town that I recalled from my childhood. I thought we would find it, relive the events from the past and release them. But no matter how hard we tried, the little town eluded us. The gas meter reminded us of the precious fuel and time we wasted on the crazy journey. Would our friendship even survive the strain of the holiday?

I spotted a lookout point ahead. “Hey, let’s stop there. Let’s eat lunch and take our eyes off of the road.”

He safely pulled the rental jeep to the side of the road. Taking in the alpine scenery, we hiked up a narrow trail until we reached the lookout point. I felt dizzy when I looked out at the vista, but I refrained from complaining since it was my idea to stop there. I grabbed the baguette, cheese, and olives from my backpack while Teshi laid out a picnic blanket on the mossy earth.

The pale sun danced in his olive green eyes and he brushed his chocolate-colored hair from his face. I tried not to fall in love with him again, knowing the suffering that it caused me. I silently reminded myself of the real reason for our quest.

I pulled out my raincoat and laid it down on the ground. I sat down and toss an olive in my mouth. “I have to pee. Do you think there’s a toilet around here?”

“I doubt it. Sorry, Laura, you’re going to have to squat over the earth like our ancestors did.”

“I’m a spoiled city girl. What do you think they did when they were on those wagon trains? The men could easily take care of the problem, but women were overdressed.”

Teshi chewed on a large piece of bread he stuffed in his mouth. “You’re the one with the past life memories so you tell me.”

“Those memories never went into the finer details, just the bigger picture.”

“Are you sure that you have the right man because I don’t recall this life at all?”

“After I met you, I felt this horrible chill in my body that wouldn’t go away.” I showed him my goosebumps.

“So what does that tell me? We might just be on a wild goose chase and waste expensive gas in the process.”

I stretched my legs. “It happened. Recently when I was reading about quilting, I found this story about the pioneer women leaving the Midwest against their best wishes. Their husbands decided to take the family out west and the wives were forced to leave their loved ones.”

“So what does that have to do with me?”

“When I read that information I saw your face in my mind’s eye.”

“So then you called me and took me away from my work.”

“What work? Your career had just about ended. Your bands were striking deals behind your back.”

He chewed on the remaining bread and stared off into the distance. “Maybe we did live that life, but what does it have to do with us now?”

“You can’t see the patterns repeating themselves? Here you are again prospecting in the United States, but of course, your search for a new type of gold. What about your tantrums of jealousy when other men glance at me?”

He folded the picnic blanket while I grabbed my backpack. We ambled back to the car as he reflected on my question.

“I don’t know what to say, but I have questions not just about our relationship, but relations between different cultures, people, and nations. Why do we play so many games?”

We climbed into the jeep and drove off to our destination. Like two bloodhounds, we believed that we would sniff out the “cowboy” town. Perhaps the smell of barbecued animal flesh would have sent us on the right course. What a chilling thought for us vegetarians.

“What games were you referring to?”

“What about the passive-aggressive behavior of those Native Americans we met recently? Why do you think they were so polite to us in person, but caused us harm behind our backs? I still live in Europe so why would they blame me for genocide at the hands of someone else’ ancestors?”

I gazed out the window at the snow-capped mountains. I unroll the window and gulped in the mountain air.

“They don’t have access to the real power holders so… My ancestors came here in the middle 1800s as miners. They too were mistreated, but only took that out of themselves and their families instead of complete strangers. I don’t understand any of it. But I think that all the peoples of the earth are due for an enormous healing. And that we’re responsible not for what our ancestors did in the past, but what we do now.”

“Precisely. So, if I play games with others, then I’m accountable for the people I hurt. So why is it different for oppressed groups? Are passive-aggressive behavior and subtle ways of revenge considered self-defense? And why hurt the nice guy when it’s the ones in power that cause the most damage? What good comes out of that?”

“I know. It seems to me that those in power want none of us to get along. How can we ever reach a place of peace when we still are in the throes of a divide and conquer mentality?”

“I have no answers.”

“I don’t either.”

I spotted signs of civilization ahead. “I think that’s our town!”

“Are you sure? What are we suppose to do when we get there?”

“I don’t know.”

“Great, I come here from Europe and you don’t know.”

I laughed. “Lighten up, we’ll figure something out.”

I recognized Winthrop because the main part of town had not changed since my childhood visit.

“Yep, partner, this is our cowboy town. It’s Howdie Doodie Time!”

Teshi parked the jeep near a western saloon and he looked around. “Wow, this is just like a movie set. Do people actually live regular lives here?”

“Yes, they do. Strange place, isn’t it?”

We climbed out of the jeep and walked the streets. We saw a slim man dressed in black wearing a large cowboy hat. He reminded me of Hank Williams, but he possessed an unreal aura.

I whispered to Teshi, “I think we need to talk with him.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know, but I think he has something important to tell us.”

“Are you reliving scenes from The Celestine Prophecy?”

“Call it women’s intuition.”

“Okay, I’ll indulge your women’s intuition, but what do we say to the cowboy?”

“Maybe you can ask him if there are any good vegetarian restaurants around.”

He looked around at the western storefronts and laughed. “Do you think we’re going to find that here?”

We strolled up to the cowboy. “Excuse us, but how has the weather been around here lately?”

The cowboy touched the brim of his hat and he stared at us. “About time you two showed up.”

“Were you expecting us?”

The cowboy winked and then he pointed to a wooden bench not far from us. “Why don’t we have a little conversation over there?”

Teshi glanced at me nervously. We followed the cowboy over to the bench and we all had a seat.

Teshi asked, “How do you know about us?”

“I don’t. I’ve met many couples seeking solace from those wagon train years, or pains they endured living in the Old West. They come to this small town to heal themselves and some succeed.”

“Are you a mind reader?”

“No, but I pick up information in the wind. I know that in order to move onto the next realm of being, each of us must atone for what our souls did in the past. It would be no different for you. And you ask how do I know that you have come on a healing quest?”

He pointed to a big quartz crystal that hung on a leather strap around my neck. “Your new age good luck charm gave you away.”

I laughed. “Are we so transparent?

“What does it matter so much at this point? You’re two city slickers who seek to heal and you’re not sure where to go for it. You think that if you recreate the scenes from the most painful parts of your soul journeys, you might find lasting peace. Am I correct?”

I fidgeted with the strap on my over-sized backpack. “I thought that if we crossed a mountain pass and visited an Old West town, we’d conjure up those energies and heal them. But I never came up with an actual plan after we made it to our destination.”

The cowboy chewed on a toothpick. “And so you went through an entire tank of gas, got lost, and now that you have reached your destination, you feel stumped. You might feel foolish.”

Teshi guffawed. “I don’t feel foolish because it was her idea.”

I nudged Teshi on the shoulder. “I don’t recall you coming up with any better ideas.”

The cowboy gazed at us through his smoky gray eyes. “Once again, the woman is correct. You can heal yourselves and I’m going to show you how.”

Moments later, we found ourselves following a complete stranger along a path that took us behind the town. We hiked up a slight incline and towards a small stone structure with smoke sifting out of the chimney.

I wondered if we made a mistake. We didn’t even know this man. Why did we trust him? And we failed to tell any of our relatives about this sudden trip to the mountains. I wondered about the cowboy’s intentions. He smiled reassuringly at us.

A golden retriever barreled out of the house and was followed by the most beautiful blonde woman I had seen in my life. Her green flowing gown lifted slightly in the breeze as she glided towards us. She took Teshi’s hand.

“Greetings my dear ones.”

I stared into her clear blue eyes. “Who are you?”

“You know me. I’m Clara. Don’t you remember me? I was on the journey with the two of you. I held your hand when you died in the snowpack. You weren’t alone. I was there by your side. Of course, your fever was causing you to feel delirious.”

I took a deep breath as tears rolled down my face. “That’s right. There was a woman by my side. I remember your woolen hand touching my forehead. You whispered some words to me just as I was ascending from my body.”

“I sent you the memories from that life. I’m not sorry I did that because healing that life is the only way to remove black clouds from your lives now.”

“Why can’t Teshi remember?”

“He does in small ways. His subconscious is aware of that life and the roles you played. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be here with you today. When you got lost in the mountains this sent a chill through his body.”

Teshi faked bravado. “Oh, no, I’m fine with the mountain roads. I was concerned that we’d run out of gas.”

Clara smirked. “He’s always been a man concerned with small details. But my dear, you must now look at the bigger picture. Your friend here has already done that, but your stubborn attitude has log jammed the healing process for both of you!”

Teshi smiled sheepishly. “I try, but I don’t remember it.”

The green lady and the cowboy lead us to a shady spot under an enormous cedar tree. She beckoned to Teshi. “Come, lie down on the grass.”

Reluctant, but Teshi obeyed her. I wish that I could work up such magic with him.

Clara placed her hands on Teshi’s forehead and heart. Within minutes he fell into a trance.

“Who are you?”

“Hans.”

“Where do you come from?”

“Germany.”

“Why did you come to the west?”

“I was wandering through Europe and not doing so well. I heard rumors about the New World and all the success I could find there. I came across some money to board a ship and I headed to the west.”

“Have you found what you seek?”

“Not until I saw Louisa singing in a saloon. I never saw such a beautiful and wild thing in my life, but I also wanted to tame her. I wanted her all to myself. I needed to possess this woman.”

“And you possessed her alright. What did you hope to get from that?”

“I hoped to be charmed by her beauty and that we’d start over somewhere else and she’d finally be happy.”

“Happy? How did you expect Louisa to feel happy when you stole her family, friends, her music career, and any hopes she had for her future?”

I know.”

“And now what do you say for yourself?”

“Isn’t it enough that I took my own life? What else do you expect from me?”

“Why don’t you ask her that now? Try apologizing. And helping her to get her music career back will release both of you. You know, whether you notice it or not, she needs you in this way. And she still has talent.”

Teshi nodded in silence. Tears rolled down his face and down the stubble on his neck. I felt compassion overtaking my heart and released from bondage.

Later that day, Teshi and I checked into a quaint bed & breakfast. As we strode through the dining room, we noticed a cabaret singer performing “old west” songs. I chuckled to myself. The Universe pulled all the stops that evening. The next morning, we awoke bright and early. We sat in the jeep watching the sunrise over the mountains. I felt a sense of power rising in me, an at-one with the universe. I winked at Teshi.

“See, it wasn’t a Quixotic Journey.”

Teshi ignored me, started the engine, looked over his shoulder at the mountains, and let out a huge sigh.

Copyright Patricia Herlevi (2003)