Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Tarot: A sword divides past and present

The past and the present are tricky. Spend too much time in the past and waste the present. Spend too much time dealing with the present and ignoring the lessons and experiences of the past and life becomes one-dimensional. There has to be a balance, but how do we find that balance?

Today was an unbalanced day for me, but I finally managed to get it together and concentrate on today's tarot post. I am not surprised that Mercury is in retrograde because communications have been on the fritz. It was so much easier in the past, but it's best not to dwell in the past and risk losing what is available in the present, although it's nice to have the option. Or is it?

Queen of Cups

The Queen of Cups is intensely sensitive to others' feelings and can seem like she's reading their minds. In a way, she is a mind reader because she pays attention to the details. Don't let her romantic looks and the far away look in her eyes fool you. She is focused on a dream and, although she seems slightly tragic and moody, thinking about ill fated princesses in fairy tales, she is deeply concerned for the welfare of others. That is what gives her insight. She has been down those roads and knows what it feels like to be poor, in pain, loved and lost. She has done and felt it all.

The Queen of Cups' heart is engaged with deep concern for loved ones and her own emotional well being. She knows that things aren't perfect, but sees the sensual beauty of the life around her. Her message is simple: Look to the needs of the heart. Don't be bewitched or swayed by emotion and don't let emotion overshadow the truth or reality until the truth is no longer visible.

It's one thing to be concerned about people and another to be so arrogant and controlling that people are no longer allowed to make mistakes and learn from them. That is how people learn, but making mistakes and fixing them. It's a heady feeling playing god/dess, but it's not so heady for those who are smothered by such overly attentive care. Remember the butterfly struggling out of its cocoon. Help it and it dies. Let it struggle and it will be strong enough to feed itself and live to procreate.

6 of Cups

In the garden of childhood, before Pandora came with her mysterious box full of hardship, woe and illness, children played in verdant fields and filled their cups with flowers and animals. It was an enchanted time. In the foreground of the Six of Cups is a cat. It is clearer and more real than the idyllic scene behind it. The cat is the present and the happy, laughing children are the past, a memory of happy times.

Memories are tricky. Memories can evoke happiness, warmth and security when life was young and innocent, inspiring us to share the nostalgic, romanticized remembrance of things past. Too much time spent reliving and remembering the past can cause profound sadness and disappointment with the current situation, fraught with the ills and evils that flew out of Pandora's chest of gifts for mankind. In memory, the past is always better than what is available now, but was it so wonderful? Were things so much better? Were there not problems to solve and people and situations that broke the heart?

The Six of Cups reminds us to pick and choose our memories careful and remember that time and distance, and current desires, have a tendency to color the past in soft, water washed colors. The way to deal with the past is to remember the good, accept the bad without question and balance it all with the needs of the present, use logic and reality to show the best path forward. If the past controls all actions, the path will never be clear and life will slip out of control. It's a matter of balance. Isn't it always?

Ace of Swords

A sharp sword cut through the Gordian knot and solved a riddle; it was the keen edge of intellect and the rational mind, the sign of the Ace of Swords. But with power comes danger. The Sword of Truth will cut through the toughest problems with ease. It is the tool of the complex mind and the mind is the key to controlling reality.

The Ace of Swords is the symbol of communication and the weapon of communication are words, words that can hurt as well as heal. The sword bring the gift of thought, a gift that grants the ability to see the world clearly, communicate effectively and create a happy and healthy environment, a stable reality. Sharp words spoken with unguarded thought can destroy it all. A clever wit is a blessing, but it can be a curse if it is used to hurt or destroy. With the Ace of Swords, the Sword of Truth confers the desire for honesty, and that is its guard and guide in order to know where and how to strike. It's in your hands.

* * *

A man sits at a bar drinking a glass of soda. He doesn't drink alcohol because he likes to remain in control. His world is about to spin out of control.

A group of men come up to him and address him but name. He doesn't know them and it turns out they don't know him. They've made a mistake. Someone with the same name is scheduled to appear and give a talk, but no one knows what he looks like. It's a subject with which he is familiar, and speaking to the group will make it possible to drag himself away from the edge of the abyss of despair and depression. He agrees to talk to the group and has such a good time an idea occurs to him.

His name is common and a quick Google search provides tens of thousands of men with the same name, many of whom are the same age, so why not try on their lives for a while, see what it's like had another path been chosen, and possibly find a life that makes him happier than his own. Research will provide enough background and he can relive his youth when anything in the world was possible before he chose the wrong path and ended up miserable and trapped in a marriage with a wife who doesn't respect him and controls his actions. He had a chance at love, but waited too long to take it. If he can't have love, he might as well have a little adventure . . . as long as no one gets hurt.

No doubt, my mood affects my creative vision today, but it happens. Best not to dwell on it. I still have next week and three new cards to tempt the muse. Where will the muse take you with these cards?

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Publicity, Greek yogurt and books

I'm no good at publicizing my work, outside of the usual channels, so I decided to check out a publicist who had been highly recommended. She has put several authors at the top of the Amazon Best Sellers list and even managed to slot one writer at #2. She's impressed with my credentials and resume and wants to work with me, but she's pricey, about $20 an hour, and I have to decide if this is something I can afford. Of course, I am just about to pay off my washer and dryer and that will free up about that much cash per month to be able to afford it, but still... It's a big bite and she doesn't do personal appearances, which is a down side, but overall, if her references check out, I may have no other choice because I need to build some groundswell recognition for the upcoming novels. Tough call, but it's all part of the wonderful world of being published and pushing your own books.

I also have to decide whether or not I want to enter Past Imperfect in the RITA awards. That's another big bite, especially when you add in five -- count them five -- copies of the novel, paid for by me, and the entry fee, which I have been told is not cheap when you include the membership to the Romance Writers of America (RWA). I'm not predominantly a romance writer and I'm not sure I want to be labeled as one when I write across all the genres, including horror and literary. Then again, the RWA covers a lot of territory and includes a whole lot of people who buy books and would buy my book. That's a consideration. Now I know what kills most writers in their first year -- promotions and anguish over contests and costs. I can do this. I'll be poorer, but not much since I am pretty poor already and there's not far to fall.

I'm still struggling with the usual things: work, writing having enough money to buy food -- and frozen yogurt. I actually found one I like that is gritty and horrible tasting: Cyclops Frozen Yogurt. They only have five flavors: banana, coffee, mango, strawberry, and raspberry (my store doesn't carry the raspberry), but it is the best thing I've had in my mouth for a very long time. It's made with Greek yogurt, the best yogurt in the world, and has swirls of pureed fruit (I've only had the strawberry and mango), and it tastes amazing.

Of course, the frozen yogurt isn't a treat, it's a way to repopulate my intestines with beneficial bacteria and flora. I care nothing for taste and yummy goodness. Not me.

I have spent a limited amount of time -- there are only so many hours in the day -- on Twitter and was coerced into buying a copy of Postscripts Magazine Issue 12 with 's zombie story in it. I think Kai and and Mary Ann with their zombie stories have put my reading feet on a strange and wonderful path. Besides, it showed up on Twitter and I was curious about it. Normally, I don't care much for zombies, but when good writers create wonderful characters and pack so much into such a small word count, I can't resist. I'll read anything in hopes of finding something really good, even things I don't think I'll like. Blame my Gram. She told me I couldn't say I didn't like something unless I tried it first.

I have read some great zombie stories, most notably Brian Keene's The Rising. That was the best zombie story I've read in ages. No wonder I gave it a great review. I can be led in strange directions, but only because I want to see what's around the next bend or over the next rise. I'm adventurous that way.

In the meantime, I've had a long nap and I'm up for a few hours, so it's back to writing for me and maybe even a few op reports to get a leg up on the day ahead. I do have a guest coming tomorrow (on Facebook): Cindy Davis, author of the short and powerful You Have The Power: Self-edit Your Way Into Print, an excellent resource that needs to be on every writer's bookshelf. I'm even doing the exercises in the back and I don't do exercises unless there's something in it besides sweat, blood and tears. Arrivederci and good night.

That is all. Disperse.

Life as a political whore

In yet another unprecedented move, the president is taking over the chair at the U.N. Is there nothing this media whore won't do to be popular and attract attention? How about standing in a sealed room with 100 bee hives? How about sitting in the Oval Office and doing your job instead of jetting all over the country and the world with your entourage? You know, work. Do your job. This president has taken more vacations in the past seven months than most presidents took during their terms in office. When will the country wake up and start asking some hard questions instead of being all twitterpated and goggle-eyed because The President is going to be on Leno or Letterman or Oprah or coming to a town hall near you? Less talk. More action. Do the job you are being overpaid to do instead of playing superstar.

No, I'm not cranky, or I wasn't when I woke up this morning, but I'm tired of seeing this scene chewing ham and his teleprompter crew everywhere I look. His smirking mug is even on the magazines that come into my house. Thank goodness he's not on Writer's Digest or The Writer. When he is, I'll cancel my subscription to those, too.

Well, three days of critiques, work and writing have not cured me of my desire to dive back into writing, but I must earn a living so that I have the electricity and resources to do my job to continue writing, although I have done pretty well in the past with few resources and I'd rather support myself than have the county, city or state support me. It's just a quirk, but one I hope I never get over.

The good news about my sale of a story yesterday made me feel so good I decided to write something new. I've been kicking it around in my head for a while and decided it was time to set it free. Oops, that reminds me. I have a critique to send out, so I'll keep this short.

The message to stay in school and work/study hard is a good one, but the message should be read. Read everything you can get your hands on and keep reading. Don't stop. Don't ever stop. If you read, you will have in your hands a ticket to anywhere and everywhere, even to the stars. Don't just read fiction, read nonfiction. Read newspapers. Read books on science, math, art, history and everything in between. Read things you don't think you'll like and read things you do. Read when you're bored. Read when it's raining and you can't go outside. Read before bed and when you're sitting on a bus, riding in the car with someone else driving or waiting in line. Reading is the best education you will ever get.

That is all. Disperse.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Prophetic words and news

Now back in 1927, an American socialist, Norman Thomas, six times candidate for president on the Socialist Party ticket, said the American people would never vote for socialism. But he said under the name of liberalism the American people will adopt every fragment of the socialist program. One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine. It's very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project. Most people are a little reluctant to oppose anything that suggests medical care for people who possibly can't afford it.

~ Ronald Reagan on health care in 1961

In other news, I just got word that A Taste of Bittersweet was picked up for the Dreamspell Revenge anthology. A sale is always good news. If I keep plugging away at Memory and have it finished by October, I should have another sale. Then it is on to the next book which will either be a body switching story about Marilyn Monroe or a tale of a house infected with pain and sadness, and a little bit of evil. Am I becoming a horror writer? I've always thought of myself as more of a fantasist.

I have been playing around with a story about a woman who goes looking for her reincarnated husband and it could go one of two ways. She could kill him and the woman he died to be with or it could help her move on. Maybe I'll write two stories. Or I could let her think about killing them and then realize that she has as much right as he to be with the love of her life. Who knows? Anything can happen.

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Grammar: Semi scoping the colon

Are you confused by when to use the colon and when you should use the semi-colon? It seems evident, but everyone needs a little help now and then, so let's get down to business.

If two independent clauses are connected, either by emphasizing or restating the first clause or when they are of equal emphasis, use a semicolon when connecting two independent clauses together. Sounds like Greek to me, but it's much clearer in practice.

Bram Stoker's novels are still popular today; Dracula and The Jewel of Seven Stars have outsold all the rest and have been the basis of several movies.

If using a conjunctive adverb (however, therefore, moreover, furthermore, thus, meanwhile, nonetheless, otherwise) or a transition (in fact, for example, that is, for instance, in addition, in other words, on the other hand, even so) to connect two independent clauses, a semicolon is used.

Romance novels are a thriving business and sell more copies than any other genre; however, romance as a genre remains a niche market.

When the individual items of a series includes commas, use a semicolon.

In movies, Dracula has been traveled to cities around the world, including New Orleans, Louisiana; London, England; Bucharest, Romania; Richmond, Virginia; New York City, New York, etc.

When the second of two independent clauses is emphasized, use a colon.

Roanoke is where Virginia Dare was born and went missing: historians and writers continue to look for traces of her.

Independent clauses followed by lists, a quotation, appositive, or other idea directly related to the clause should be followed by a colon.

Labor Day means a three-day weekend for most people, but for me it means one more day to get chores done: laundry, dishes, cleaning, reviews, critiques, letters and cleaning the toilet. Are we having fun yet?

Instead of hanging out a shingle, she should put up a neon sign: friend, cheap rates.

Lionel Trilling might have been writing about the current health care debate, which is touted as a charitable and Utopian ideal: "We are at heart so profoundly anarchistic that the only form of state we can imagine living in is Utopian; and so cynical that the only Utopia we can believe in is authoritarian."

At the end of greetings in business letters, a colon is required.

Dear Random House Editor: (although it's best to find out the name of the Random House editor first if you want to avoid the slush pile)

Everyone knows about separating the hour and minute with a colon.

5:00 P.M.

Separate the chapter and verse in Bible quotations with a colon.

Song of Solomon 5:8

Well, that was refreshing and short, compared to the comma coma of weeks before, but I hope you learned something; I certainly did. I knew most of these, but there's always a surprise somewhere or a rule I have forgotten because I don't use it much. Until next week, I wish you good grammar and easily fixed grammar goofs.

The cyber touch

Well, I've jumped on the bandwagon, albeit a bit cautiously, and joined up with Twitter, so if you're interested and would like to find out what I think or am thinking, hop on the bandwagon with me. I'm still not sure how it will be working without a net -- a cell phone for the rest of the world -- since I do not have and have no intentions of getting one. After all, I work at home and don't travel all that much, so why add another expense I'll have to lose the rest of my weekends working to support? I'll stay out of that particular end of the tech pool, at least for now.

One quite divine femme wrote about how easy it is to misunderstand a simple flirtation online and turn it into a budding romance -- or first step on the stalker trail. It's something I have lots of first-hand experience in.

My profiles are pretty businesslike, fact-based information with a bit of word play that have been misconstrued as flirtations and come-ons. They have garnered me quite a few propositions and numerous proposals of marriage. I could say I don't get it, but I do because I used to be the voice on the line that spun fantasies and helped men find the orgasm within. That's writer code for phone sex operator. It was many years ago, but a sexy voice, a creative and imaginative mind, coupled with a way with words and it's a recipe for instant romance. Funny isn't it that I really don't care much for hard core romance?

I shouldn't say I don't care for romance because I love romantic gestures and romantic men. I even appreciate romantic women; I'm one after all, bearskin rug in front of a fireplace in a snowed-in cabin is the essence of romance when you add a glass of wine or champagne, fresh strawberries or a decadent cheesecake to share with the lust man of your dreams (or at least my dreams). But to read some of the romance novels that have gone from bordering on soft porn right into hard core porn is a little much and my un-favorite romance is the saccharine sweet kind that drip syrup and relies on a formulaic approach. I'm not against any other kind of romance; the world needs a lot more romance and men need to learn about romantic gestures.

Dracula by Bram Stoker was definitely romantic, but it wasn't the blatant in-your-face romance and sex that hits the top of the Romantic Times Best Sellers list over and over. There's nothing more thrilling, or frankly more sexual and erotic, than being bitten on the neck. Think about it in more anatomic terms. In the 19th century, writing about sex was confined to a very profitable and lively niche called pornography, and 19th century pornography is every bit as racy and provocative as anything written today, even more so, if you want my opinion. Yes, I have read it. Everyone should. Pornography has been around since men first learned that charcoal would make marks on cave walls. Emperor Tiberius was a great connoisseur and consumer of pornography and locked himself away in his villa and gorged himself into a Dorian Gray picture stupor until he died. Dracula isn't pornographic, but it is erotic.

The act of a vampire sinking his teeth into a woman's vulnerable and unprotected neck to drink her blood is very erotic, but you knew that. It is in a way a substitute for sex. The act of intercourse requires the man to sink a part of his anatomy into a woman's most intimate essence, the deep, warm recesses of her femaleness.

Dracula, unlike his more virile and sexually potent modern offspring, wasn't capable of a phallic erection, but his fangs were erect and hard and probed deeply, over and over, and his victim, preferably a virgin, was penetrated, defiled and aroused to orgasm. When Dracula attacked men, his assault was vicious and homicidal. Although he ultimately killed his female victims, he was gentle, taking them into his arms, romancing them into baring their vulnerable necks and embracing him passionately. It was a surrender that eventually led to death, but sex in the 19th century often led to death in one form or another (childbirth, syphilis, rape, Jack the Ripper, etc.). It was beauty and the beast with a new twist; the beast wasn't changed into a handsome prince by Beauty's tears or her kiss. Dracula remained a beast while beauty died. Is it any wonder the book still sells and directors and actors still clamor to bring him to the screen?

What does that have to do with people falling in love with faces and words online? Romance.

It is so easy to fall in love over the phone or online because you get the essence of the person without all the baggage, and because romance is sadly lacking in the world. There are so many demands and claims on attention that an escape, any escape, is necessary to keep people from running wild in the streets raping and pillaging along the way.

The vikings probably wouldn't have been so vicious and blood-thirsty if the Internet existed then. Vikings weren't after romance, not in the general sense, but they were after something to spice up their lives, usually booty, wine, riches and women. There were seldom enough women to go around, not with women dying in childbirth, of syphilis, rape and Jack the Ripper. Even though it seems to us in our modern cyber-connected world to be vicious and antisocial, it was still at the heart about finding a woman to clean the house, bear the children, do the laundry, cook and be vulnerable to their less blood thirsty pursuits.

As a society, people are so locked into work, chores, family and money that they crave something more human, more intimate. The net provides that, and not just in the blatant sex ads and porn sites, or even in personals and dating connections, but in seeing someone through their words that stirs something inside. In the end, we all want the same things, to be seen, heard and touched. We want a connection that has nothing to do with plugs and liquid crystal displays. There are people on the other side of the cyber-chasm and they're looking, too. The farther we move away from each other physically into the world of computers, cell phones and television, the closer we yearn to be physically connected.

Sex and love are born in the brain, but it's the body that is starved for a simple human touch. The human touch is necessary to life and we forget that until words on a computer screen touch something deep inside and make us reach out to make the fantasy into real romance, to touch the flesh behind the words, to feel the heart beating in time with ours, to sink into those deep recesses impaled when we are at our most vulnerable.