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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

My Neighborhood Walk

A few weeks ago, I posted about unusual coincidences related to seeing things clearly. On my daily two-mile walk through our neighborhood, I found eye drops, bottled tears and reading glasses on three different occasions. One of the funnier comments received on my blog, suggested the neighborhood might not be as tidy as I may have thought. Since I don’t see anything out of the ordinary, I figured I’d post some pictures of our walk and let my followers see firsthand.  (We also have a homeowner’s association that comes down on anyone wanting to be sloppy.)

Walking inspires me in so many ways. 
This may not look steep but it's a huffing and
 puffing grade on the way home.
When it's chilly I jog down hill.
I see things I’ve never seen, almost every time. I meet neighbors, breathe fresh air and notice patterns in nature. I frequently see lizards, rabbits and squirrels. From our home, we can walk to a  grocery store, hair salon, dentist and dangerously delicious places such as: donut shops, pizza parlors, taco or burger joints  and gourmet restaurants serving local wine and craft beers. (Walking is a wonderful way to drink without driving. But I have heard that texting and walking can be hazardous, so be careful.)

Walking has many benefits, most importantly, exercise. 
 Did I mention flowering trees, blossoming hedges, daffodils, tulips, lilies and roses? Climbing vines, clematis and bougainvillea? This is the best time of year for observing the colors of nature and if you're  a photographer, grab that camera and zoom in, before the heat of summer takes some of the pizzazz away. (If you are allergic to pollen there are many over the counter allergy medications that can help you cope.) 
If you're a writer, stop imagining the rose petals and how they curve around each other when you can see them with your eyes.  The clouds, the weather, the chill in the air. Later, your prose and poetry will benefit from the experience. 

The point is to put down the tablet, computer game and maybe your Smart phone and forget about technology for part of an hour. It will recharge your cells, your thoughts will sharpen and the ideas might flow. Try it and observe. Justify the walk. What did you see that you haven't seen before? What made the walk unique? 

Take your dog. 
Did I mention our pups Pinky and Fiona enjoy walking too? In fact, they LOVE it.  

Oh, and we live about five miles from a large body of water called Lake Elsinore, thus explaining the cute visitor in the photo below.

                                         It's a glorious time of year for walking.
                                               I hope you can get outside soon. 

Right on our street!
Have I inspired you to take a walk?

Monday, June 4, 2018

The Oldest Book in the World

“The gold in one’s heart is far more precious than the gold in one’s purse.” --Confucius

While doing research on fortune cookies, good luck and fate for my upcoming novel, I came across some interesting tidbits about the I Ching. First, I learned it’s the most influential book in China. Most families have a copy of the revered book of wisdom because they feel it brings them good health and prosperity.

The I Ching, also called “The Book of Changes”can be traced back as far as 7,000 B.C. when a sage by the name of Fuxi (please don’t try pronouncing his name if you’re in an office full of people.) had many lessons to share about fishing, hunting and marriage. He began to use mystic symbols that represented positive and negative situations with long and short bars called yang and yin. He devised something called a Pa Kua which later evolved into a group of 64, six-line figures called Hexagrams.
The most fascinating part of all of this is two-fold: Not only is the I Ching the oldest book in the world, but the binary system using those ancient hexagrams is the basis of modern electronic computing.  

Oracle bones predate recorded history
After carving a story, they would put it into the fire.
The cracks were the messages from the past.
(Wikipedia-Creative Commons)

While I wish I understood the numerical breakdown and the practical applications that even attracted famous minds, such as the Swiss psychologist C. G. Jung and Swedish physicist Niels Bohr, I am in awe of the collective opinions of experts who admit the predictions seem divine and above human understanding.

In my humble opinion, the mathematical sequences and patterns are repetitive, in the same way, that history repeats itself. Do you think we can find our own luck by studying our past?

“The answer you seek is within you, but it may be hard to find.” --Confucius

Friday, May 25, 2018


 Affirmations by Eve Gaal

Dance like the butterfly you are. You have been released. Free of the binding chrysalis, you are no longer captive. Even the sluggish old caterpillar memories are flitting away.

Maybe you’re a bumblebee with a field of flowers spread in front of you like carpet from the hills to the sea. All you have to do is select a petal for landing. The bee has to make these decisions alone. It can’t blame anyone if there isn’t enough pollen or the hive is too far away. They study the colors, scents and watch for intruders. They take important things into consideration before making a choice. The opportunities are endless. Where will you go?

Pour Wite-out over the bad parts of your life story. From today forward, you can start a fresh new chapter brimming with hope. In fact, imagine filling a printer with blank sheets of white paper.  Add some color to your story and watch the pages swirl with energy, displaying a happier you.

Clocks, timers and alarms are great for getting us somewhere else. Focus on where you are now.

Friday, May 18, 2018

A Tasty Serving of Amazing Authors!

 Three Dog Night for background music

When it comes to reading, I enjoy a little variety. After all, isn't it the spice of life?

Though I've never been to Spain, I understand they eat dinner with small, tantalizing appetizer-type plates called tapas. A little plate of olives, another of cheese and a plate of cold-cuts or fish, alongside a basket of bread, a plate of marinated peppers, capers and sun-dried tomatoes, with a serving of chilled Sangria. In other words, a little something for everyone. Yummy. 

That's what I love about The Diamond Valley Writer's Guild. No, I'm not talking about their cooking, although that might be good too. I'm talking about the amazing variety of creative books they write. Books available not just to members, but to the general public through Amazon! Yes, you too can share in the feast of their labor by clicking under the book covers below. Taste this, my friends--these are my first selections--from this talented group. Hope my little reviews will have you salivating and asking these authors to hurry up and write some more! Buen Gusto!

Judith Fabris
Kameleona is a well-written and sensitive book about island life on Molokai. You will feel and smell the flowers and taste the fresh Ono. The author will pull you into a forest reserve for a hunting trip or back to an idyllic beach on the other side of the island. On Sunday’s you’ll go to church, because that’s what the residents of Kaunakakai do. They bury the old and baptize the new. Most of all they love each other and they also love living in paradise.
Hawaiian culture, quilting, wood carving, fishing and family lore are infused into what amounts to an exciting story. Beginning with Jack Metzger, throwing a man off a cliff; not just any man, but the new Pastor of the Good News Church. There are shady characters like Joe Obregon, Frank Soriano and tough as nails Charlene Harper whose lives intersect with excellent characters such as Malia, Leilani and Keanu. There’s also George Kapule the Chief of Police. George is no slouch when it comes to solving crimes and keeping the peace. He listens to the war stories carried in on tropical breezes and follows every lead. He’s also friends with Paul Kanga, the Pastor at the Good News Church.
But wait a minute, the Pastor? Is it a mystery or a story of redemption? Read Kameleona to find all the answers. It’s truly an enjoyable and sensational story in a magnificent setting.

 Lynne M. Spreen
There’s a bit of dialogue that sums up this novel: “When does a person ever get old enough to have everything figured out? “
“Never, I hope.” Karen wiped her eyes. Because then where’s the magic?”
Lynne Spreen’s book will take you on a magical journey from South Florida, into Georgia up to North Dakota and even to Spain. Her main character Karen Grace is searching for balance. In other words, Karen wants to be successful at her new business but she wants love too. Plus she has new rules. Can it happen? Hard to say-- Frieda might say that “Life is to be lived.” Good advice, especially for someone young like the other character Jessie, who happens to be tangled into domestic abuse with her boyfriend Lenny.
Spreen is one of the coolest writers I’ve seen for a long time. She has characters that use I Pods, develop Apps and take Segway tours. Instead of pouring a Chardonnay or glass of white wine, she merely writes, “a crisp cold white.” Though romantic and filled with juicy love scenes, the writing is hip and memorable. It’s today’s feelings not some old-fashioned panting, slowly working around a bunch of petticoats and a bustier. His eyes weren’t just blue but “blue like some alpine lake.”
Will Karen Grace find the balance she’s looking for, or is she “probably a cranky old woman with Chihuahuas”? Read Key Largo Blues and find out that Frieda was right all along.

Karen Robertson
If you enjoy books that grab your heart and take you on a journey, you’ll enjoy The Turnaround by Karen Robertson. Armchair travel, as in reading a good book, is one of my favorite ways to go, and this excellent story doesn’t disappoint. The colorful characters like Leroy and Pete made me smile while others, such as Jerry and Madeline made me mad. The well written descriptions of sights, sounds and even the odors, made me feel that I too was there, suffering along with the main character Grace, who seems to have fallen into a destructive whirlpool during a bus trip to Vegas. The exciting plot builds tension, testing Grace up to the very last page. Meanwhile Phil--Grace’s husband--has to make some choices—some big enough to change his life forever. Will he pay the ransom or has it already been paid? Climb aboard the The Turnaround bus and find out!

Suzanne Y. Saunders

As a lifetime student of human behavior, I’m always interested in stories that discuss relationships. Why do people choose to be friends or partners? This Young Adult novel explores the relationships between artistic best friends Amanda and Kristin and how they interact with the male characters Brandon, Matt and Charlie. The Butterfly I See is like a thesis on teenage development. The author covers social networking, body language, psychology, role-playing, facing harsh realities and letting go. Woven into an entertaining story, the author describes abstract art, symmetry, jealousy and intuitive thinking all while making excellent points about the creative process. And in a genius move, Suzanne Saunders makes the reader want answers, resolutions and closure, only making us realize, we might need to grow up.

George L. Gurney
Last night, I sat down to read a few poems from a book called The Water Jar and while it wasn’t at all what I expected, I have to admit, I couldn’t put it down. The first story reminded me of one of the Letters written by Paul, in the New Testament. The scholarly, well-researched writing mimics the tone and voice of characters that once lived in ancient Jerusalem and Bethany. Eleazar is a young man who carries water in a large jug. He grows up to be a monk, but first there are important lessons to learn from Yeshua the Nazarene.
All the stories seem to have a faith-based connection weaving through the words, as well as a good deal of research. In Brave New World, the author delves into technology, touching on important issues related to the future of war.
My favorite story, called Knights before Christmas, brings together two pilots, during WWI; one British, and the other German. While shot and hanging in a precarious situation, they both communicate and reflect on the meaning of Christmas. I especially loved the quote from his grandmother that Leftenant Brian Goode recalled, about snow covering evil at Christmas, to keep Christ from being offended. I don’t want to ruin the plot by giving more away, but it’s an enjoyable read.
Interspersed with these incredible tales are a few poems. My favorite one is titled, Elsinore Oak, and as my eyes moved down the page, I could almost imagine those vaqueros, driving the cattle through the stifling hot valley. A place that today...could use a hefty Water Jar.
Arch Font
Many years before Columbus sailed towards the New World, the Incan’s built the city of Machu Picchu. After one hundred years, the inhabitants disappeared, leaving mysterious ruins behind. While all of this is intriguing to the main character, Jerry, it also makes for a breathtaking setting for this novel, which consists of a fascinating journey. Imagine traveling vicariously to temples hidden deep within humid jungles to see sacred shrines used for ancient rituals. But wait, this is a romantic comedy sprinkled with travel warnings, tips and even advice about how to handle high elevations, hangovers and motion sickness. It’s a travel book with several threads, connected by real love.
For many reasons, but especially because she loves him, Jerry’s wife gives him a ticket for a cruise to Peru. Meanwhile, his wife’s friend, Rhonda marries Karl the avocado farmer and they unknowingly buy tickets for the same cruise. (Though an enjoyable stand alone novel, it should be noted, that this talented author has another book, a sort of prequel to this one titled: Wrath of Rhonda, which paves a tropical forest path to this read. )
Follow the frustrating pratfalls and one-liners associated with Jerry’s friend Max. Marvel at the author’s clever characterizations of George, Brenda and Inga. George is Karl’s attorney. Brenda is a private investigator from Temecula. (Oh dear, maybe I’ve said too much.) The character development is so thorough that you’ll think you know these people; or at least you’ve seen them in the vegetable section of the supermarket, hemming and hawing above green bananas. The tour guides Buck and Fletch are unique to each other and even the pet parrot, Basil has a distinct personality. The language is colorful and the locations are teetering on a cliff exciting. Read Road to Machu Picchu and if the leaf-cutter ants, scorpions and snakes don’t get you, you might die laughing.

Guess you can tell I enjoyed reading, rather devouring these, and I hope you will too. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Breaking News From Pinky and Fiona

WILDOMAR--We woke up early today, from a magnitude 4.5 earthquake, and are dog-tired. Daddy woke up five minutes before the shaking began. Go figure, maybe he has ESP. We were up like lightening and glad to go outside.  Like most of our species, we enjoy routine, not some bizarre bed movements before five o’clock in the morning. It was dark and cool outside. In fact, mommy rock and rolled back inside to get her coat during an aftershock.

Later, someone said that even National geographic photographers who have camped out for days, tracking certain types of wildlife, have rarely witnessed such serene moments as the two of us cuties napping by an open window. Mom didn’t even use a tranquilizer gun or any sedatives.

Sadly, we’re missing out on fabulous barking opportunities. The little girl with the toy car, the man with the fluffy white dog and that blonde lady with the Pitbull. Sheesh, if only. Yawn. And that mailman with the noisy truck can come inside and dance a fandango for all we care. Bring on Fed-Ex and UPS, we promise to be nice. Today.

Yup, today’s a great day for resting. No chewing our toys or licking toes. No sniffing in the trash or running around like a race horse at a Nordstrom Half-Yearly sale. Can you imagine our tireless parents took us for a two-mile walk? After that, they left us in charge of home-land security but we had to catch up on our ZZZs.  Yes, that sounds shameless, but they do have a backup alarm system, and it’s not like we’re ever going to be fired. 

That’s all I have. How about you Fiona? Fiona? Wake up!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Follow Up About Seeing Things Clearly

This is a follow-up story to a post I wrote in January about the Sterile Eye drops or bottle of tears I saw on a walk with my pooch. Click here if you want to see the original post: Amazing Grace Post From January

Last week, while out and about with the same dog, on a different street, I bent down with the plastic bag to pick up Pinky’s business. Next to her doody, was a small bottle buried in the soil. I pulled up the cap and saw it was an old, empty bottle of Clear Eyes by Visine for redness, irritation and burning eyes. Strange, that this neighborhood has all these eye issues, I thought. Or perhaps, it’s still part of a message from beyond. The first bottle made me think I need to see clearer and the second makes me think I need to focus. 
Part Three:
But then today, I found this:

Broken eye glasses. Both sides were in the gutter about two feet apart.

What do you think?
1. See clearer 2. Focus. 3. Read the fine print.
 Am I being told to wash my eyes out and take another look at something? I’d say three times and the message should be clear. Or is it?
That's us on our daily walk.You can see Pinky's paw.
Both sides of the glasses can be seen in this picture.
Strange huh?

Monday, April 23, 2018

Creating Memorable Characters

Inventing Characters

First, we hear characters:

Some of my early childhood memories involved piglets, and toes. Remember, ‘This little piggy went to market and this little piggy stayed home? This little piggy had roast beef and this little piggy had none? Finally, this little piggy cried wee, wee, wee all the way home.”

Then there were the three pigs who lived in a straw house, that was blown down by the huffing and puffing wolf. I loved that story but can’t remember if they even had names. I always thought it was a Grimm fairy tale, but after searching for the author’s name, there appears to be a dispute. Seems understandable, since it is a story that has survived the oral tradition of the ages. Who wrote it down first?
Shy at first, this one approached me a minute later.

Second, we see characters in movies and on television:

There was Porky Pig. He hung out with Bugs Bunny in the cartoons. So cute.  

How about the clever pig, Babe? He corralled the sheep better than the dogs.

Third, we read about characters:

Trying to tell me something at the local dairy.
Wilbur is a ‘Terrific Pig” according to Charlotte, in E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web.

Are you a fan of the more recent Peppa the Pig?

How about Piglet?

Remember the intelligent Squealer from George Orwell’s Animal Farm who becomes the supervisor on the farm? After all, “All Animals Are Equal / But Some Are More Equal Than Others."
I'm not sure if this mama is pregnant or out of shape. 

Last, we create our own characters:

As writers, we can make characters do, or say, anything we want them to do or say. It is a power unlike any other. First, we make up their personality. We usually start with the hero, which is the main character, also called a protagonist. Then, we create supporting characters and minor characters. We also create an antagonist, or the bad guy. Usually, the antagonist makes the protagonist look good.

When creating characters, we might ask ourselves some of these questions:

Are they cuter than newborn pigs?

How do they look? Are they ugly on the inside and the outside?

 Are they mysterious and if so, what made them that way?

 Is there some sort of psychological problem that’s going to bubble to the surface? Are they annoying? Do they have unusual peccadilloes or bizarre fetishes?

 Are they sweet, gentle and impressionable?

Should we get rid of them half way through the book? How should we get rid of them?

Will they be slaughtered? Will they leave a legacy?

Do they have character flaws?
What are the obstacles they must face? Will they triumph when faced with adversity?

How do we name them? Someone once suggested phone books, but no one uses those anymore. I prefer making names up as I go along, and the baby naming sites on the internet.
(Here's a tip I've never used, but want to someday: At the end of foreign made films, the credits go on and on with fascinating names. Combining the first name from one, with the last name of another, could make a great character name.)


It’s a lot of fun, and best if you can pretend to be each character as you write. Wear a cowboy hat while writing a Western, or  something sexy while working on your romance novel. Maybe oink a little when writing anthropomorphic farm scenes. You think I’m kidding, but reading your dialogue out loud makes it sound realistic. And if you’ve ever acted in local theater, or in high school plays, your method acting can come in handy. Whether it’s a children’s book or science fiction, your characters need to have emotions to keep  readers interested.

Let’s Meet!

This upcoming Saturday morning, 9:30-11:30, this little piggy, meaning me, will be part of a panel discussion at the Hemet Library, which of course is located in Hemet, California. Here's a link. We’ll be discussing tips on crafting compelling characters.  I hope to see you there.

Have any tips for creating great characters?