An excerpt from The Contrary Canadian by Clayton Bye

The Contrary Canadian Ebook_pic000D

We spent years driving past the rock on the way to our camp north of Dryden. Never gave it anything more than a casual glance. Our middle child, Jackson, was the one who found her.

“Stop,” he yelled. “Stop the car!”

I backed up through a cloud of road-dust. Jackson told us to take a good look at the boulder that stood at the side of the road. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing. Slowly, like an image moving across a film screen in a science fiction or fantasy movie, the face of an old woman emerged from the dust.

Unable to accept that we’d been blind to this wonder  for so long, I got out of the car and walked over to the boulder. It was covered with lichens; The rock had been there for a long time.

Once seen, you can never forget the stone we came to call Baba. She’d been hidden from us for a long time, had existed in a world apart. But once our eyes were finally open, we became so enamoured with her that we developed the habit of stopping to visit.

Our perspective, how we see the world around us, how we determine the relative importance of things, is a complicated issue. What we see, hear, touch, taste and smell is modified and manipulated by a set of mental filters of unbelievable power and complexity. These filters can blind us to something in plain sight just as easily as they can lead us to see things that aren’t there.

As a student of the mind, I’ve had occasion to witness the power of such “perspective filters.” Try picking an impending event, focus your attention on it, roll the idea of the thing around in your mind. If you study this future with the filter of anticipation, you’ll find yourself looking forward to what’s coming. Screen your mental images of the future with the filter of dread, and you’ll begin to turn away.

Our mental filters find their origin in our opinions, beliefs and convictions. They can cause us to see ghosts, or they can render invisible a needed jacket that’s in plain view. They can narrow our vision to the extent that we see the negative in a relationship while also ignoring the good. Dual edged swords, these filters have the power to ruin our lives or make us heroic.

We can spend a lifetime trying to understand the power of perspective. But it isn’t necessary. I believe the easiest way to gain control of our lives (at least in the short-term) is to forget about understanding these filters and use them like any other tools in our toolbox. A hammer is a hammer, right? You don’t need to understand the science behind the tool to be able to use it to drive a nail.

So, when you want to do something and can’t seem to find the motivation, instead of trying to understand the big picture, why not try looking at the situation from different angles? Ask yourself “How could I do this and also have fun?” Poke and prod the situation until you find something you can focus on that’s exciting, that’s important to you. Keep at it until you come up with a plan of action that feels good or right. Then go to work.

You don’t need to understand perspective to change it. All you need to know is that it’s possible to alter your perspective by changing your focus.  

For example, you can take emotion out of play by ignoring what you’re feeling and putting your focus on the job at hand. I’ve done this many times. The simple choice of doing something, of throwing yourself into a task, then allowing the so-called motivation to follow when and if it wills,  can  result in the muting of the emotion which was dragging you down. Your actions may even generate a positive emotion to replace the unwanted one.

I’m not counselling you to ignore your problems. You’ll want to go back and deal with the underlying cause of the negative emotion, but it’s much easier to do this from a comparative emotional distance and after you’ve removed yourself from the situation. Do things on purpose. Become proactive, rather than reactive.

Let me be as clear about this as possible… Specific intentions are powerful commands your mind will act on. If you’re willing to put your focus on what’s desired and follow up with action, then some amazing things will begin to happen.

 

Clayton Bye is a writer, editor and publisher. The author of 11 books and a varied collection of short stories, poems, articles and reviews, he has also published 4 books under the imprint Chase Enterprises Publishing. These books, published for others, include 3 award winning anthologies and a stunning memoir about what it’s like to live with and die from anorexia. Visit his e-store at http://shop.claytonbye.com.
Mr. Bye also offers a wide range of writing related services, including small business management for writers.
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Finding Inspiration in the Every Day by Dellani Oakes

Dellani Oakes glasses in hand

My kids are weird. I say that with the most love possible. They are funny, unique endearing and strange. Just now, I was sitting in my office and I heard beat box noises and laughter, so I wandered out to see what was going on.

My eldest son was sitting on the arm of the couch, improvising lyrics to a song, while one of the neighbor boys played guitar and did a beat box. The closest example I can give is Alice’s Restaurant. One played and the other came up with lyrics, with a smattering of harmonica thrown in for spice.

All I can say is, I wish we’d recorded it. I haven’t laughed that hard in awhile. My son is one of the best at improvising lyrics. When his brothers were younger, he would play guitar and tell tales to put them to sleep. They loved it. Of course, he couldn’t always remember it later, but they always begged for particular songs every night.

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My children have been a constant source of material. I don’t often write about them, because I don’t want to embarrass them, but I frequently use things they’ve said or done, in my books.

A prime example, also from my eldest son. His friend had been visiting and was heading home. They exchanged insults, as they often did. (Male bonding, I’ll never understand it.) The exchange stuck with me and I ended up using it in one of my sci-fi novels, Shakazhan. The last exchange between the men is the quote. The names have been changed to protect the innocent (Me) from being sued:

 

Ben chuckled, winking at Matilda. “Yes, Ma’am. Duty would work.” He risked a wicked glance at Wil. “The fact that you’re beautiful and desirable, and the sexiest woman I’ve ever met would have nothing whatever to do with it.”

Wil was furious until he recognized the subtleties of the remark. He chuckled. “Ben, you know what you can kiss.”

“Yeah, Wil, and you know what you can blow.”

 

I don’t always copy exactly what they say, but more the way they say things. Their mode of expression is unique and it fascinates me. Laced with sarcasm and double meanings, they communicate on an entirely different level from other people their age. I have to wonder how much of this my husband and I are responsible for, and how much is simply from them. Their friends have picked up on it, too, so our influence spreads.

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Anyone who has read my books, knows that I use a lot of humor in them. I don’t purposely try to be funny, because that’s hard. Instead, I involve myself in the conversation and let the characters find their own humor. I’m not the one being funny, they are. They also have running jokes throughout a story, something that others don’t know about, but always makes them laugh.

In Conduct Unbecoming, the men are always twitting Joel about his bright blue Civic named Bluebell. Though I didn’t borrow any exact conversations, the way that the men comment and tease Joel is so like my sons and their friends, I have to give credit to them for it:

 

“Boys, enough,” Vivica said. “Joel, your car is cute—just like you.”

They moved toward the back door together.

Joel crossed his arms, frowning. “Why do women always tell me I’m cute? Men don’t want to be cute.”

“Then don’t drive a car that looks like it should be covered in Hello Kitty stickers,” Teague remarked, dodging out of his cousin’s way as Joel took a swing at him.

“My car is not gay!” Joel yelled as he flung open the door.

“Okay. . . .” Jasper held up his hands. “It’s not gay. It’s bi-curious.”

“You can ride in the Pinto O’Death,” Joel said.

“I’ll ride with Joel,” Aileen said. “Shotgun,” she called as she walked out the door.

Nadeya followed her. Teague and Vivica walked toward the truck, bypassing the Pinto. Disgusted, Jasper followed them.

“Okay, I know it’s lame,” he grumbled, “But it was all I could get my hands on.”

“That car’s almost as embarrassing as Joel’s,” Teague said as his truck motor roared to life.

Joel started his car and purple neon lights flickered underneath.

“Jesus,” Jasper remarked. “There is no expression sorry enough to describe that.”

 

In my historical novel, Indian Summer, there are continuous comments about Manuel’s well appointed pants, because of a remark some old lady made at a party:

 

“Your young man there.” She pointed with her cane somewhere below Manuel’s waist. “He’s well appointed, indeed he is.”

She smiled toothlessly, cackling happily and hobbled off to sit beside Manuel’s aunt on the settee. I looked over at Manuel, finding him scarlet faced. I couldn’t imagine what had made him blush. I leaned toward him a little whispering to him.

“What did she mean well appointed?”

He reddened even more deeply and moved nervously from foot to foot. Dropping his head and his voice to a whisper, he turned slightly away from my parents to answer me. “Well, it’s not really polite for me to repeat its exact meaning. But it means….” He looked around to make sure we were not overheard. “It means that I fill out these pants well—in the front.”

He looked at his feet and turned as red as the roses in my hair. I’m sure I did too.

“Oh,” was all I could manage. “Oh, indeed.” I giggled nervously and couldn’t help adding. “Well, she’s right.”

 

I should add that the character of Gabriella, who tells Indian Summer, is patterned after my daughter. Though she is only fifteen, Gabriella has core of strength and determination is patterned after my only girl. She was, and is, a formidable opponent and I wouldn’t want to get on her wrong side. Nor would I want to get on the wrong side of Gabriella.

My point throughout this piece is that inspiration can come from anywhere. It might be a conversation overheard in the grocery store, or between friends and family members. It can hit like a lightning bolt from the clear, blue sky, knocking an author on her backside. Or, it might drift in through an open window like a spring breeze.

Let life influence your writing. It’s there and a part of you. Don’t separate yourself from it, embrace it and allow it to flavor your words. Make it part of your imaginary world. Doing so will make your characters more real. I don’t mean that you should simply write what you know. That’s some of the most foolish advice ever given. Instead, write what entertains you. Use what you know to bring it alive.

 

joe and joseph 1996

 

Dellani Oakes is an author who currently lives with her husband, Joe, her three sons & the eldest son’s fiancée. It’s a crowded house! In order to retain some semblance of sanity, she writes. The above is something she wrote for the Fun in Writing class she leads through the local Council on Aging several years ago, but still holds true today. Her friends and family are a constant source of inspiration.

Look for Dellani:

On Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/mv8j2km

Smashwords: Second Wind http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/dellanioakes

Smashwords: Tirgearr http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/Dellani

 

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Reflections on a certain crime by R.J. Ellory

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Some while ago I was asked by the Wall Street Journal to write a piece concerning ‘unknown’ or forgotten literary classics.  Having recently spent a considerable amount of time in France, I decided to share my thoughts about several French writers, now widely available in English, who seemed yet to be unheard of by my English contemporaries, associates and friends.

Amongst the list of those I chose was Jean-Patrick Manchette, author of La Position de Tireur Couché (literally translates as ‘the position of the gunman lying down’, published in English as ‘The Prone Gunman’).  This book has now been adapted for film and is on general release as ‘The Gunman’ with Sean Penn and Javier Bardem.

Manchette said a very interesting thing about his genre, to the effect that the crime novel was the best way to hold up a mirror to the society within which we live.  That was the central theme of the piece I wrote for the Wall Street Journal, and seems to hold true as far as my own writing is concerned.  Dealing with the wider canvas of ethics, morals, justice, crime and punishment, the motivations and rationales of those who violate the laws of the land and all related subjects leads us – not only as writers, but also as interested individuals – into the subject of psychology, the mind, the very woof and warp of life itself.

And then the other night my wife and I watched a film called ‘The Imitation Game’ with Benedict Cumberbatch, itself a depiction of the life and work of Alan Turing, the man responsible for creating a machine that cracked the Enigma code.  The somewhat romanticized portrayal of life at Bletchley Park, the ‘emotional personalisation’ of the story that was facilitated by placing a brother of one of the research team on a ship that had to be ‘sacrificed’ so as to prevent any possibility of the Germans discovering that the code had been broken, did nothing to obscure the factual tragedy inherent in the tale.  Turing was a homosexual.  At the time, homosexuality was against the law.  Anyone engaging in homosexual activity could be charged with ‘gross indecency’.  Fifty years after the war the truth of Bletchley Park, Turing and the cracking of Enigma became public knowledge, at least those parts of it that the government permitted us to know, and Queen Elizabeth II granted Turing a royal pardon.  It was the then-Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, who stood up in parliament and announced that Turing had been ‘forgiven’.  Charles Dance, commenting in the film extras, said that the greatest irony of Turing’s pardon was that it was Turing who should have been forgiving us for the way in which he was treated, not the other way around.

After the film was over, my wife and discussed the moral and ethical ramifications of that specific situation.  Turing was a genius.  Turing built a machine with wires and valves and cogs that gave us the foundation for all things computer-related that we take for granted today.  It has been estimated that Turing’s machine and the cracking of Enigma shortened the war by two years and saved a further fourteen million lives.  Why couldn’t Churchill have stepped in when Turing was charged with ‘gross indecency’?  Why, after all that Turing had done, couldn’t someone ‘high up’ have bailed him out, saved the day, rescued him for the truly dreadful fate that awaited him?  But no.  No-one stepped in.  Turing was charged, tried, convicted, and not one person came forward to tell the world what this great man had done, how his ingenuity, resolve, courage and magnificent intellect had turned the tide of the war.  They couldn’t.  Such a thought was inconceivable.  Everything that Turing had ever accomplished was bound over and held confidential under the Official Secrets Act.  Had you looked up Turing’s war record, you would have found no record at all.  In effect, certainly for the duration of the war itself, Turing was a man who did not exist.

The judge at Turing’s trial gave Turing a choice: two years in jail or be subjected to horrific chemical castration to ‘curb his proclivities’.  Turing, wishing not to be divorced from his ever-ongoing work and research, chose the latter.  He reported in for a year, taking mandatory injections of Stilboestrol (synthetic oestrogen).  The treatment rendered Turing impotent.  On June 8, 1954, Turing was found dead.  His body had lain undiscovered for twenty-four hours.  Whether he committed suicide by eating a cyanide-soaked apple, or whether his death was caused by inadvertent inhalation of cyanide fumes from a machine he’d set up in his tiny room is still a matter of conjecture.  He was cremated, and his ashes were scattered at Woking Crematorium.  His life and work went unknown for decades, but now – notwithstanding the fact that we will never have a chance to ask for his forgiveness – at least what he achieved has been acknowledged and appropriately commended.

However, having spoken to many who have seen the film, there still lies the question: Why did no-one step in to save Turing?  Answer: Because he broke the law.  It was that simple.  The simple fact is that many tens of thousands of individuals gave everything of themselves in the Second World War.  Turing was a genius, no doubt about it, but he did what he was able to do to assist in the war effort.  Others, perhaps blessed with less intellect, nevertheless gave no less of themselves.  Ordinary men and women learned to fly aircraft and parachute into occupied territory; they underwent rigorous training and volunteered for missions deep in the heart of Nazi Germany; they ferried supplies across a U-Boat-riddled Atlantic to bring ammunition and supplies to Allied forces abroad; they boarded landing craft for the invasion in June of 1944, certain that they would never again see home.  And millions of them didn’t see home again, as we know all too well.  Just because someone did something truly extraordinary and heroic did it them give them license to break the law, to perpetrate a crime, to be unreservedly forgiven?  No, it did not.  Did Montgomery’s success in defeating Rommel then give him permission to rob banks and kill innocent civilians?  No, it did not.  The law was the law.  Turing broke the law, and he had to face the penalty.

The real truth is that the law was insane.  A law that punishes a man or woman for their sexual preferences or predilections, save where those preferences and predilections actually render physical, mental or emotional harm to another, is the true criminal here.  It was a ‘sign of the times’, much the same as children born out of wedlock caused not only the mothers, but also the infants to be shunned and despised. My wife, as a girl of eight or nine, told a schoolfriend’s mother that her own mother lived with a man to whom she was not married.  That schoolfriend’s mother barred her own daughter from ever speaking to my wife again.  That was in the early 1970s.

We have grown up in many ways.  As a society, we appear to be more tolerant, liberal, perhaps even forgiving, but as individuals it is a different story.  We all harbour our own personal discriminations, our preconceptions, our unfounded and judgmental attitudes, and they influence the way we speak to people, deal with people, handle people.  I was once asked what I believed to be the fundamental difference between a child and an adult.  It was an interesting question.  My answer, regardless of whether it was right or wrong, was simply that a child appeared to trust other people until they were a given a reason not to trust, whereas an adult appeared to instinctively mistrust until they were given a reason to trust.

The newspapers and television news would have us believe that society is dangerous, crazy, unpredictable, potentially hazardous in every imaginable way.  That is a lie.  The newspapers engender, foster and encourage our cynicism and mistrust.  It seems to be their primary purpose.  How many times have you yourself been involved in or witness to an act of murder, rape, kidnapping, even physical or mental abuse?  If at all, then you are in the tiny minority.  Such things happen of course, but they are far less frequent and prolific than the media would have us believe.

The true criminals here are racism, religious intolerance, misogyny, greed, corruption, vested interest, and all the other ills that plague this society.  Beneath all of these is ignorance, perhaps the greatest crime of all, and a society that permits a decline in educational standards, a society that regards ‘celebrity for celebrity’s sake’ as something of value, a society that promotes the ‘let’s all get something for nothing’ viewpoint that appears pandemic, certainly in the West, is a society not only in dire need of change, but also very possibly on the way out.

We are all human.  We are all ridiculous in our own special way.  That old saw, never successfully attributed to a specific author, regarding holding onto anger being much the same as taking poison and hoping the other person will die, has a relevant place here.  Let others be who they are and they may very well let you be who you are.  If everyone was themselves, truly, and we accepted that others were also different and had just as much right to exist as we did, then wouldn’t the world seem different?

I guess it would.

Try it.  You never know, you might just like the world a whole lot better, and find that world likes you just as much in return.

 

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On numerous occasions people have tried to identify Roger’s work with a particular genre – crime, thriller, historical fiction – but this categorisation has been a relatively fruitless endeavour. Roger’s ethos is merely to work towards producing a good story, something that encapsulates elements of humanity and life without necessarily slotting into a predetermined pigeonhole. He attempts to produce an average of forty thousand words a month, and aims to get a first draft completed within three to four months. His wife thinks he is a workaholic, his son considers him slightly left-of-centre, but they put up with him regardless. His son has long since been aware of the fact that ‘dad’ buys stuff, and thus his idiosyncrasies should be tolerated.

http://www.amazon.com/R.J.-Ellory/e/B002IVGFJO

 

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Fush and Chups! How to speak like a Kiwi!

fush and chups

Aloha and Kia ora everyone,

In light of my new book just released on St Paddy’s Day ~Hawaiian Lei ~ the first book in The Hawaiians series, I thought it might be fun to talk about a subject fellow Muse It Up author, Ken Hicks suggested. He asked whether “flat tack” was a Kiwi or Hawaiian phrase. Then Monya Clayton, another Muse author contributed the “flat out like a lizard drinking” Australian saying. Thanks Ken (a Yank) and Monya (an Aussie.) J

We Kiwis and the Aussies avoid using proper words AT ALL TIMES. LOL.

No, we New Zealanders are not named after the small, round, brown, fuzzy fruit. J We’re named after our national bird, THE Kiwi. A small(ish,) round, brown, fuzzy bird. It’s about the size of a chook(chicken,) flightless, and riddled with fleas! As national symbols go, it’s not up there with the mighty American eagle, but we’re terribly proud of it anyway.

It represents New Zealand’s uniqueness well. Stuck at the bottom of the world, largely cut off for years, we’ve developed our own language and culture. We’re similar to the Aussies, but not quite the same… Like New Zealand, their culture is largely influenced by immigrants from the UK but also Europeans that came out in large numbers in the fifties and sixties.

New Zealand though has a native New Zealand Maori background, giving us a Polynesian mix in our culture. It’s only recently that Australia has started to give more acknowledgement to the native people of Australia—the Aborigine and it hasn’t influenced the culture as strongly.

So, our national symbol—THE Kiwi bird is as unique as we are.

It has external nostrils on its long bill to sniff out food. Belonging to the ratite family, it’s the smallest member which includes ostriches and emus. Its eggs are HUGE and the male does most of the incubating and egg sitting. Despite a stroppy (volatile, pissed off) relationship between them, Mum and Dad Kiwi bird are monogamous and live in pairs, mating mostly for life. But the woman bird wears the pants—she’s bigger and dominates the male. No wonder New Zealand was the first country in the world to give women the vote!

Our culture and character is unique and I bring these differences to my books when I write my Kiwi and American characters. I recently started a part-time job where I’m on the phones helping customers. Because I’m learning, I often have to put them on hold to ask my supervisor what the hell I’m doing. LOL. And unbeknown to the poor customer, I can hear their comments in the background, while I’m fossicking around (trying to work out where the bloody info is I need.) (Fossick – find.)

They like my accent, but can’t always work out where it’s from. I’ve heard I’m sexy, cute, Irish, Australian… “She says wee.” “She said, ‘Just a tick.” When a customer manages to hit New Zealand, I think I should give them a special prize. LOL. It’s also made me acutely aware of how strong my accent still is and how many Kiwisms, idioms, phrases and words I use without being aware of it.

Monya reminded me we all use “flat out” but they also use “flat out like a lizard drinking,” and “flat strap.” :-)

Flat out like a lizard drinking:

Extremely busy, at top speed. Working hard. This is a word play on two different meanings of the standard English “flat out.” The literal sense is to lie fully stretched out (like a lizard,) and the figurative sense means as fast as possible. The phrase also alludes to the rapid tongue-movement of a drinking lizard. It is sometimes shortened, as in “we’re flat out like a lizard trying to meet the deadline.”

This was from http://andc.anu.edu.au/australian-words/meanings-origins

Yes, how that is shortened, I’m not sure. It’s one of those weird idiosyncrasies of Australasian English. We like shortening words and if we can’t do that—we lengthen them instead. J We have convos, bizzos, arvos and cuppas.

“So, I said, look mate, if you want to have a decent convo about this bizzo, too right. We can have a cuppa this arvo, then have some tea down the pub. Ring bugalugs and see if he’ll be around. Last time I saw him, he looked like he’d been pulled through a gorse bush backwards. He might’ve have been a wee bit crook. We can put the jug on and rustle up some biccies too if you’re lucky…”

Right. So I hope you were all keeping up with that conversation. The number of times I use expressions and everyone looks blankly at me is quite funny.

What was just said:

“I said, look mate (friend or just a general male person,) if you want to have a decent (good) convo (conversation) about this bizzo (business, matter to be discussed,) too right. (I agree.) We can have a cuppa (cup of tea) this arvo, (afternoon,) then have some tea (dinner, not the stuff you drink and we only drink black tea generally with milk and sugar) down the pub, (at the hotel or bar). Ring bugalugs (general name for someone, could be a friend or just a general person) and see if he’ll be around. Last time I saw him, he looked like he’d been pulled through a gorse bush backwards. (He looked unkempt, or scruffy.) He might have been a wee bit crook. (unwell, ill.) We can put the jug on (electric kettle to boil water. The moment you walk in the door in anyone’s house in NZ, they say, “I’ll just put the jug on.” You’ll be expected to have a cup of tea or coffee.) and rustle up some biccies (short for biscuits, which are cookies) too if you’re lucky…”

Here’s a Kiwi slang page. https://englishlanguagehelp.info/kiwi-slang/kiwi-slang-f/. Change the letter at the end for the rest of the alphabet.

As well as talking nineteen to the dozen—we talk very fast! We then have short vowel sounds or arbitrarily miss some out altogether. Our accent marks are in different locations sometimes. LOL.

Batteries for the Americans are Batt-ter-ries. We say Batt-ries.

Pro-duce in the States is prod-uce in New Zealand.

To-may-to, To-ma-to… let’s work the whole thing out. J

On top of this incomprehensible list of sayings, we have a distinct accent. Yes, we do sound like the Aussies (and that’s Oz-zees… not Oss-sees) but our accents are subtlety different. J The Australians have a more nasally sound while ours is flat and monotone.

They say feesh and cheeps. We say fush and chups.

Yes, we do get a bit “thingee” being mistaken for Aussies even though we are similar. But no we don’t hate them—only when they beat us in rugby. And especially if the All Blacks—our international rugby team—are playing. It’s our national religion in New Zealand and is taken very, Very, VERY seriously. However, if the Wallabies (the Aussie international rugby team) are playing against the English or Springbok, (the South Africans) we support them. It’s terribly complicated. J

The New All Blacks do a Maori haka before every game, as do most Kiwi sports teams now. :-) It’s a challenge to the other team. Ka mate, ka mate, roughly means “to the death” and variations of dying. It means they will fight to the death.

We don’t really don’t mean it in general. In rugby? Well… J There’s a lot of good-natured ribbing back and forth between the two nations. Not all our words are the same though. One that’s different is “dag.”

If you say someone’s “a bit of a dag,” in NZ, it means they’re funny, a bit of a character.

In Australia, it means they’re not that nice or a bit of a drongo. (Idiot)Dags are the fecal matter that sticks to sheep’s wooly bums. (backsides, butts) Not that complimentary if you think about it. Lol. You’ll also hear “rattle your dags,” in Australia, meaning to get a move on.

Whereas our dag comes from a comedian in NZ called Fred Dagg who took the mickey out of farmers and farming things. He was a scream.

Right… so I hope you’re all keeping up! There’ll be a quiz at the end of this blog. J We “take the mickey” (tease or rib) out of all sorts of things. We’re quite irreverent and anything is fair game.

On my first trip to Australia, I insulted lots of the Aussies. When someone asked me, so what do you think of so and so. I’d say, “Yeah, they’re a bit of a dag.”

The Aussies would look a bit startled. “Really? You really think so.”

And I’d enthusiastically say, “Yes, yes, a real dag.”

Thus making things even worse… I couldn’t work out their puzzled looks. It wasn’t until I got to the end of my trip (of course) that I realized I’d insulted half of Australia when my uncle explained the two meanings.

Oops. Sorry!! :-)

So, back to our original thing Ken asked about. Flat out…

It’s suggested it came from the dawn of the motor car where you had your foot “flat out” to the floorboards and you’d be going “like the clappers.” (very fast.) Or a horse race where the rider lies flat against the horse, cutting down the aerodynamic effects. Possibly that’s where flat tack comes from. Flat to the tack?? (Horse tack or tackle possibly.) Not sure.

You can be flat out racing. “Going like the clappers.” (Fast).

Flat out broke. Not a cent to your name.

Flat out indignant—absolutely indignant.

It tends to heighten what is going on. Flat out brilliant—really brilliant.

We used to tell people “ladies a plate—men a crate.” The men would bring beer that used to come in big bottles in a crate. Many a poor woman turned up with an empty plate—not realizing it meant bring something yummy to eat on a plate to share, often baking.  

And we’re a wee bit fierce about our baking and sweeties.

Our national dessert – the Pavlova! Now the Aussies reckon it’s their dessert. They DID name it. It was named after Anna Pavlova the ballet dance. BUT fierce and intensive NON-BIASED research suggests the Kiwis made it first as a ‘Meringue cake.’ The Aussies will kill me for this. :-)

We also do the Hokey Pokey!! No, not the dance, but the confectionary. LOL.

Hokey Pokey is a New Zealand institution. As we say in the old country ~ World Famous in New Zealand! Honeycomb candy that it put in everything we can think of. Fabulous in ice cream!! I love it!

I have never figured out EXACTLY where this comes from but somewhere in the UK, brought out with the people that immigrated to New Zealand in the 1840’s. A long way from anywhere, they had to largely fend for themselves and “Kiwi Ingenuity” was born.

KIwi Ingenuity” is a unique part of our culture. It means we can fix just about anything “with a piece of number eight fencing wire.” We are young European wise and still have a large pioneering spirit on board. Being on the other side of the world, far from anywhere (even Australia – 3 and 1/2 hours away by modern aircraft) we had to “make do,” often making things ourselves out of what was available. This fierce independence lives on today in Kiwi Culture. We pride ourselves on it.

Our Kiwi culture includes lots of funny wee sayings.

If you’re doing anything for Africa, it means you’re doing a lot of it. “She was shopping for Africa.” “They were partying for Africa.” It’s applied to all sorts of things. :-)

They’re “a wee bit feral.” (Often refers to someone’s ‘darling’ offspring) meaning they’re out of control and a wee bit on the wild side.

If someone is “as mad as a meataxe.” They’re bonkers (slightly nuts, not dangerous, but just slightly unhinged or odd.)

And if something is “as silly as a two bob watch.” That refers to something that’s a wee bit ridiculous. A two bob watch was something pretty cheap and nasty and cost two bob, (in old currency before we went to metric, dollars and cents.) Given it was so cheap, it was unreliable and did silly things like not keep time correctly, slowing down or speeding up.

Some of our sayings have deep English, Scottish and Irish roots and you’ll hear them in the American South as well. “As slow as a wet week”(it’s taking ages and is dragging) or “like a month of Sundays.” (A very long time.)

My speech has the Scottish “wee” in it as all Southern New Zealanders do from the South Island. When the Scottish immigrated to New Zealand, they brought their delightful accent with them. They started out in Dunedin in the far south of the South Island and the wee has spread up the whole island for some reason. Even my dad who’s an Aucklander and Northerner originally, uses the wee now in his speech.

We get stroppy when we’re angry. And throw wobblies and berkies.(temper tantrums.)

We swear a lot more than Americans and are a largely secular country—using words like god, Christ, good lord has no real religious meaning. It’s just a set of words that gives emphasis.

We use bloody and bugger a lot—in all sorts of circumstances. They’re mild inoffensive swear words, that have multi-purpose meanings. It’s like saying damn or darn in the States.

“That bugger of a mongrel ate the bloody leg of lamb for tea.”

(“That darn dog ate the damn leg of lamb for dinner.”)

Things can be buggered (they don’t work.)

“Well bugger me!” (An expression of surprise.)

“Bugger, Bob.” (I’m annoyed with Bob.)

“I buggered up the paperwork.” (I made a mess of the paperwork.)

“Bugger!” (Darn, that’s a shame.)

“I’ll bugger off home then.” (I’ll go home.)

In my new book Hawaiian Lei which is out tomorrow, I have a glossary of words used at the end of the book. I also have words lists on my website at www.troikaromance.com.

I’m as pleased as punch to have my new book coming out. It’s a sensuous, heartfelt male/male gay romance set in the beautiful Hawaiian Islands.

I’m born and bred in New Zealand but my American home state is Hawai’i. Combining these two special cultures into one story has really called to my heart and soul. I’ve lived in the States for 20 odd years now and have become a hybrid of both New Zealand and America. I received my citizenship in the courthouse over in Hilo on the Big Island of Hawai’i. It ‘s the perfect blend of the Polynesian Pacific Island culture which sings to my soul, combined with the convenience of the American lifestyle I’ve become used to. I am happiest at home in Kona, on the Big Island of Hawai’i. J

All my stories are ultimately about soul deep relationships, the intense love and connection we all crave with another human being. The core need to be accepted just as we are.

I hope you enjoy our Kiwiana and enjoy the new book Hawaiian Lei. I loved writing using my Kiwi and Hawaiian voices. It’s lovely to showcase my own countrymen and the gorgeous aloha state of Hawai’i. :-)

Mahalo and aloha Meg. :-).

 

Meg Amor

Meg Amor, a multi-published contemporary author, has always believed in love and romance. She writes deep, sensual, romance stories about heartfelt connections and deep soul relationships. Meg feels that passionate sex, as well as her characters inner workings—their vulnerabilities, emotions, and thoughts—are what make a love story exciting and real. She loves to write sensual, erotic romance, with committed poly, and gay male/male relationships.

Meg hand-wrote and “published” her first book when she was eleven about her parent’s separation. Constantly told as a child she had a vivid and (over) active imagination, the dawn of the computer era meant she could now take dictation at speed from the interesting characters galloping around her head.

She grew up in New Zealand, and temporarily lives in California with her American fur children: Leo Ray Jr., and Mr. Beaumont, the Ginger Ninjas. Her heart and soul are split between her American home state of Hawai’i in Kona on the Big Island, and the sultry, steamy Southern city of New Orleans. Nearly all her books are set in Hawai’i or New Orleans, along with snatches of New Zealand for good luck.

Meg’s a gypsy at heart and loves to travel all over the world. She has a love of open cockpit biplanes and the gentle waft into the air from a grass strip. Given a choice, she’d eat out most nights. Fine dining, French, Fusion, Afghani, and Burmese food are some of her all-time favorites. But her favorite junk food is New Zealand fish and chips cooked in pure fat. Never one to do things by halves, she believes in the motto “Amor Vincet Omnia”—Love Conquers All.

Aloha!

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Paint it Purple—International Women’s Day & Beyond by Joyce Elferdink

paintitpurple_iwd5

International Women’s Day has just passed.  This year’s theme was “Make it Happen” and used the color purple to signify justice and dignity, values associated with women’s equality. Giving women a special day is intended to generate support for equality between the sexes and to honor women’s accomplishments.

But can we undo in one day what is acceptable on the other 364—objectifying women? How many women want to feel that a man watching her from across the room sees a collection of body parts rather than a fully formed human? Yet we women know that occurs regularly. And the fault is not exclusive to males.

Consider the annual swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated Magazine. That issue sells ten times the number of copies of any other. The swimsuit issue was introduced 50 years ago. As John Oliver asked on Last Week Tonight, “How is this still a thing?” And I add: How is this illustrative of sports? Hannah Davis, the young women on this year’s controversial cover gave this response: “It’s a girl in a bikini, and I think it’s empowering. I’ve been hearing it’s degrading.”

Consider also older men’s profiles on matchmaker websites. Almost every man in his 60s and beyond (and many looking every bit their age) is seeking a woman from twenty to at most five years younger. The only way for me to make sense of that is to realize they are not looking for a fully formed human, one with whom they can share beliefs and interests and life experiences, but for a female with a collection of body parts that fit the media mold.

Now let’s consider how objectifying women’s bodies affect our struggle for equality. When a woman’s worth is primarily equated with her physical appearance and sexual functioning, gaining equality in the workplace is nearly impossible. As stated Margaret Foegen Karsten’s Gender, Race, and Ethnicity in the Workplace (2006), “The perception of woman as sex objects is inconsistent with the perception of them as professionals.” Many of us thwart our potential because we don’t believe in ourselves. Noticing the discrepancy between our body shapes and the media mold—think movie star and Barbie dolls—we don’t demonstrate how well our minds and bodies can perform when we’re less compliant and more authentic.

We can make equality happen, but not without significantly changing the 50+ year portrayal of women as objects. That has to begin with both women and men loving ourselves enough to stop competing and instead delight in the natural beauty and genius within us all.

Joyce Elferdink

Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/author/jelferdink
Blog: http://harmlessjoyce.wordpress.com

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Vacation? By Cynthia B Ainsworthe

for mar 11

Vacation. If you look up that word in the dictionary, it states “a period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually used for rest, recreation, or travel; recess or holiday.”

This is not so simple for a writer. Writers think and create through words, sentences, paragraphs, and so forth. Some create flash fiction, poems, novellas, and novels. Their minds are in a constant state of imagining all sorts of scenarios that might captivate others who read their work. The elusive vacation for an author is a fleeting moment until the stirrings of a plot take hold.

Sightseeing is not the same for a writer. Millions of vacationers will look at the same famous monument as the Statue of Liberty. That mighty icon may stir a plot to bloom into the life of a worker who labored long and hard hours laying the stone foundation, maybe losing a friend he worked beside. That friend could hail from the same neighborhood or country— immigrants struggling to make a life in a new world so foreign to them that they now call home. When an author looks at a London skyline, another story is conceived. What were the challenges to the individual citizen as construction took hold? Did an ambitious man see an opportunity to start a business? Did a woman step out of her comfort zone of hearth and home to start a bakeshop?

Will these fragments of thoughts develop into a story or book? That’s up to the writer. But it is far from a vacation from what an author does.

Everyone takes photographs when on vacation of locales, monuments, and famous statues. An author might snap a picture that inspires a story thread, a street sign, a café, or people on the sidewalk. Imagination never sleeps for the creative mind. There is always a spark waiting for discovery.

Many, if not all, enjoy the local cuisine of their vacation destination. Rare is there a thought given to the preparation of the food or its origins. Not so for the writer. Tasting a sublime cheese with a delicious wine will take the writer’s mind to a green grassy landscape where cows, sheep, or goats graze. Or the lingering taste of wine caressing the palate could evoke a vision of grape vines flourishing in meticulous rows under a loving sun. These visions could be a backdrop for an intriguing tale of love, rivalry, mystery, or passion.

Locals at a vacation destination further feed an author’s imagination. A couple share a park bench. Are they old? Young? Seem happy? Indifferent? Or having a disagreement? Again, more fodder for the writer. Seeds of a plot are planted.

All aspects of a vacation are quite different for those who create. We are a different breed, and yet the same in basic needs. So, when you see someone studying a painting, people or a building, you just might be observing the subtle workings of an author. We wear no signs or placards but merely go about out musings in an unobtrusive manner.

© 2015 Cynthia B. Ainsworthe

http://www.thewriteroomblog.com/?p=2217  and

http://www.amazon.com/Cynthia-B.-Ainsworthe/e/B00KYRE1Q8  also

http://www.cynthiabainsworthe.com/

Bio

Raised in suburbs of NYC, Cynthia longed to become a writer. Life’s circumstances put her dream on hold for most of her life. In 2006 she ventured to write her first novel. Front Row Center, is being adapted to screen. A script is in development by her and known Hollywood screenwriter, producer, director, Scott C Brown. Cynthia shares, with other authors, the Reader’s Favorite International Award for two short stories, When Midnight Comes, and Characters, which she contributed to the horror anthology The Speed of Dark, compiled by Clayton C Bye, published by Chase Enterprises Publishing. She garnered the Excellence in Writing Award from It Matters Radio for her short story It Ain’t Fittin’.

 

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The Search for Meaning

 

We all search for meaning in our lives. One way or another, we must find a story to tell ourselves. I asked the members of The Write Room Blog to share their understanding of that search. Their responses inform and challenge; they are well worth reading. (Kenneth Weene)

 

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LOVE GIVES LIFE PURPOSE by Salvatore Buttaci

We were blessed.

We didn’t have many luxuries. My father worked two jobs, but my mother was always there teaching us how to be God-loving and respectful to everyone. They taught us by example to pray, laugh, love, and accept life as a passageway to a better world. They trusted God completely and never questioned His Will.

Did we notice the lack of things in our lives? No way! Did temper tantrums follow the opening of presents on Christmas morning when, instead of toys, we were gifted with pajamas, a pair of rosary beads –– something inexpensive but heart-given? I don’t think so.

In 1949 when I was eight, I hinted to my father how much I wanted a Red Ryder BB rifle. If my memory serves me correctly, it was Saturday and we were in Woolworth’s Five and Dime Store in Brooklyn where Papa was buying some odds and ends. When we walked past the counter piled high with those rifles, I went back there and stared as if by magic I could claim one for my own.

“Could Santa bring me one for Christmas, Pa?”

His face took on that sad look of his when fate had his hands tied and what he wanted to do was what he could only dream of doing.

“Santa’s poor this year,” he said, then hustled me away.

Papa worked nights at a local Italian bakery. While we were in school, he slept, so we hardly saw him. Christmas morning finally came and there against the wall behind the little decorated tree was a tall box. My Red Ryder! I thought. Santa brought one after all. But when I tore open the wrappings, pulled free the contents, disappointment clouded my face. It was a hand-made rifle, whittled into shape, painted like the real thing. Mama told me later how Papa had patiently worked day after day whittling that piece of wood into a rifle, sacrificing much needed sleep to please me.

Oh, yes, God has blessed me more than words can express.

My parents’ final gift may seem meager to others, but to me it was a most welcomed grace: the last words, “I love you,” whispered to me from their hospital deathbeds, first, my father, and then years later, my mother.

I know I will be thinking of those gifts for as long as I live and will repeat the words to my Sharon and to all those who made and continue to make my life a wondrous thing.

When God the Father created the world and us in it, when He sent His Son who willingly died that excruciated death to atone for our sins, when He sends the Holy Spirit to sanctify us with grace, He shows His Love for us. My purpose in life? To emulate that love in whatever small measure I can by loving God and myself, then expanding that love to others, many of whom are burdened with loveless lives and the inability to believe in the reality of God. I feel strongly that I must show them the joy that comes from walking with God and accepting His gifts of Boundless Love.

Every road needs a reason to walk, every life a purposeful destination. Like my God-loving parents, I pray one day to dance in the circle of His Light forever.

#

Salvatore Buttaci’s work has appeared widely in publications that include New York Times, U. S. A. Today, The Writer, Writer’s Digest, Cats Magazine, The National Enquirer, Christian Science Monitor, A Word with You Press, and Cavalcade of Stars. 

His collection of flash fiction 200 Shorts is available at http://www.amazon.com/200-Shorts-Salvatore-Buttaci-ebook/dp/B004YWKI8O/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1399042844&sr=1-2&keywords=200+shorts

His book A Family of Sicilians is available at http://lulu.com/ButtaciPublishing2008

Sal lives in West Virginia with Sharon, the love of his life.

 

 

Discovering Your Purpose by J. F. Elferdink

“There is no greater gift you can give or receive than to honor your calling. It’s why you were born and how you become most truly alive.”— Oprah Winfrey

Some people seem to know their calling very young—those who have been given a special talent.  An example from my reading is Asher Lev in the book “I Am Asher Lev” by Chaim Potok.  Asher Lev was compelled to draw and paint from the time he was a child, even though the price he paid was excessive: his art depicted things forbidden by his Jewish community and he was ostracized. Yet he drew.

It hasn’t been that simple to recognize my own calling.  My grades pointed toward some form of communications and my writing assignments for school and work were typically praised. While a single mom and college student I also kept a journal. That form of writing, with no restrictions, stopped abruptly when I remarried. My new husband insisted I destroy the words that implicated a life before him.  When I wouldn’t, he did. It seemed a part of me was lost in those ashes.  But a strange thing happened during that experience—I had a sensation of a voice in my head telling me to let it go because I would write something much better.

A few years later I found a fresh reason to write. It would lead to authoring my first novel, written to resolve the death of a man I loved and to be a channel for a new passion: social justice. The book took five years to complete. My expectation for a bestseller turned out to be unfounded. Even so, I started on a sequel because there was more I wanted to say.  But it’s a struggle. Most days any number of tasks are elevated to greater importance than uncoiling a story from my mind to my computer’s monitor.  That faceless critic won’t let me go. He keeps up the tirade: What will people think if you write that? Do you want to open yourself to more rejection?

That internal voice leads to questioning my purpose and suspecting my “mystical moment.”  That leads to chaining my creative drive and ignoring the next chapter in my sequel. I’ve been trying that for more than a year while forcing myself to dismiss the nagging sensation that there’s something left undone.

Answers often come to me out of others’ writing. This week I finished another book by Potok, “The Gift of Asher Lev.” In this one, Asher has found success through his talent, but Paris critics suggest his paintings are no longer fresh, instead mired in technique. The criticism stops him; his canvases remain white. He does continue drawing although it’s not the embodiment of his talent.  Then one day while staring at those drawings, he begins to decipher “a matrix underlying his new work.” New possibilities! He cleans his brushes and takes out the jars of paints.

Application for my life (and maybe yours): Do I let my internal critic win or do I accept my destiny and become “most truly alive?”

 #

Joyce Elferdink has finally come close to achieving her goal implanted long ago after reading Gift from the Sea: to live a balanced life, where each day includes time for herself, for relationships, for nature, and for meaningful work. She has never forgotten what Ann Morrow Lindbergh wrote about individuals “often trying, like me, to evolve another rhythm with more creative pauses in it, more adjustment to their individual needs, and new and more alive relationships to themselves as well as others.”

Links:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/harmlessjoyce

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Pieces-You-Ms-J-Elferdink/dp/0615664490/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1423689108&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=Pieces+of+You+and+JF+Elferdink

 

 

THE DANGER OF BEING POSITIVE by R.J. Ellory

The internet is full to the gunwales with ‘be positive’ aphorisms, usually posted by individuals who choose to employ pseudonyms such as ‘Amethyst Starfire’ and ‘Harmony Rainbow’.  I am British, and therefore innately cynical at the best of times, but when faced with such banal and useless messages as ‘Follow your heart to wherever it may take you’ and ‘The only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday’ I am often driven to the limits of my own fragile sanity.  Be a better person than you were yesterday?  Right.  Good enough.  So I am a serial killer.  Yesterday I got two kills.  Today I’ll go for three, and then I’ll get take-out and a nice bottle of Chianti.  Follow my heart to wherever it takes me.  I have a friend.  Her ‘heart’ tells her to pursue psychotic obsessive-compulsive control freak men who wind up doing nothing but barely repairable damage to her ‘heart’ and the rest of her life.

There is a real danger in fatalism.  There is a real danger in believing in destiny.  There is a very real danger in ‘positive thinking’, if only from the viewpoint that thinking is not doing, and doing is the only thing that really results in something being done.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that you shouldn’t be positive.  I am a very firm believer in the need to be positive, to acknowledge one’s own capability and competence, but only being positive is not going to make the grade.  One needs to actually do as well.  I am also a very firm believer in the reality of negative people, the very real effect of negative comments and statements designed to undermine and make less of one’s efforts.  Negative people are merely hoping to see you fail because it will help rationalize and justify their own failures.

Very recently my wife and I looked at all the people we worked with, spent time with and those we considered friends.  Very quickly it became quite clear that there were a few who took and took and took and gave nothing in return.  We loaned them money, we helped them solve their life problems, we bailed them out of trouble, we had them over for dinner, threw parties on their birthdays, and yet in return there was never a single invite, never a gift, never a ‘Hey, I can help you with that’.  So we decided to just let them go.  We didn’t say or do anything to them.  We certainly didn’t level any criticism or reprimand.  We didn’t try to fix things or correct anything.  We just stopped communicating.  Did they reach for us?  Did they make any effort to find out why we had stopped communicating to them?  Not at all.  Months have gone by now, and not a word.  So I understand negative people and the effect they can have.  I also understand that people can be sponges for your attention and help, and yet nothing ever comes back in return.

However, I digress.  This article is supposed to be about purpose and direction.  These words have come about as a result of a request for advice and direction to the website visitors regarding how to better identify and highlight what is important in their own lives.  During the past few months I have spent more time reviewing my life and my own purposes and priorities than perhaps at any other.  I am approaching fifty, and even though I may not live to a hundred it kind of feels like a half-way point.  Life – for me – is about action.  It is about being who you are, doing what you want and having what you desire.  It is also, just as importantly, about doing what you can to assist others in the realization of their own goals and purposes.  As has been said many times before in many different ways, a man who wishes to be happy and yet does not spend the vast majority of his time trying to make others happy is a fool.  But there has to be a balance.  If someone does not know who they really are (i.e. they do not really understand their own priorities and goals, nor their own strengths and weaknesses) then they cannot undertake the right actions to achieve what they want.  Life is a job, very simply.  If you do not understand what the purpose of your job is, and you have no real clue as to how to best use the tools you have been given, then there is not much hope of accomplishing the end result of that job.

One cannot sit on the sofa in front of the television and ‘think positive’ to a better life.  I don’t believe that can be done, and yet that seems a realistic and acceptable life-plan to the vast majority of people I speak to.

So, where am I going with this?  I am going to give you some aphorisms that have worked for me, and that continue to work for me on a daily basis.  Some of them I might have invented, some of them were written by others whose names I do not even know, and some of them have been credited to their respective author.  They all say the same thing in different ways, and they all push in the direction of identifying your own goals and pursuing them.  How, you might ask, do I identify my goals?  I think that’s the easiest part in all of this.  Where do your passions lie?  What motivates you?  What gets you enthusiastic?  Those are the areas where you need to look, despite others who might say how unrealistic, difficult or competitive those areas of interest might be.

So, here we go:

Some people dreamed of success…while others woke up and worked hard at it.

What you chose to focus your mind on is critical.

Persistence is the key, the backbone, the spirit of accomplishment and achievement.

A person who aims at nothing is sure to hit it.

Persistence is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.

A man can only do what he can do. But if he does that each day he can sleep at night and do it again the next day.

Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.  The world said “Give up.”  Hope whispered, “Try it again…just one more time.”

With ordinary talents and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable.

The saints we revere and respect in all fields are the sinners who kept on going.

Do not spend a moment worrying about whether someone thinks you are the worst human being of all or the brightest star in the universe.  Your integrity to yourself is more important than anyone else’s viewpoint. You know if you are working as hard as you can to create a great future for yourself and the people you care for.

It doesn’t matter if you try and try and try again, and fail.  It does matter if you try and fail, and fail to try again.

History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed. They refused to become discouraged by their defeats.

Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.

Courage is being afraid but going on anyhow.

Decide carefully, exactly what you want in life, then work like mad to make sure you get it!

Defeat never comes to anyone until they admit it.

Stay away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but great people…great people are the ones who make you feel that you too can be truly great.

No one can always be right.

Expect trouble as an inevitable part of life. When it comes, hold your head high, look it squarely in the eye and say, “You cannot defeat me.”

Forget all the reasons why something may not work. You only need to find one good reason why it will.

Nadia Comaneci, the Romanian teenage gymnast, winner of three Olympic Gold Medals by the age of fourteen, was asked how she made it look so effortless.

She hesitated for just a moment, and then she smiled, and said, “It’s the hard work that makes it easy.”

Pablo Picasso, more than eighty years old, was asked why he still worked fourteen and sixteen hours a day.  His reply, very simply: ‘When inspiration finds me, I want her to find me hard at work’.

Be proud to work.  Be proud to be exhausted with the things you have accomplished today.  Dream of what you want.  Work hard.  Persist.  Persevere.  Make it happen.  Do not end your life with the words ‘What if?’  Those are the words with which to begin your life.

Courage does not always roar the loudest or fight the hardest.  Courage is often nothing more than the quiet voice at the end of a long day that says, ‘Tomorrow…tomorrow I will try again’.

Commit yourself to success.  Somewhere.  Somehow.  In some field.  As Goethe, the great philosopher said, “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back.  Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth, ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.  All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.  A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.  Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it.   Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.  Begin it now.”

As Benjamin Disraeli said, ‘Success is entirely dependent upon constancy of purpose’, and I believe in this without doubt or hesitation.  Whatever purpose you have now, keep it alive, keep working at it, keep directing your energies and attention towards it, and it will be realized.

As a result of what I have learned I have been able to travel the world and meet some truly extraordinary people.  The most important ones have often been the most humble and the most interested in others.  The most successful ones have been those who cared most about their fellow man.  The happiest ones have been those who were literate, hard-working, persistent and courageous in their endeavours.

So, in closing…turn off the television, stop reading the newspapers (because their entire purpose is to make you think that the world in which we live is rough and dangerous and crazy and out-of-control, and it isn’t much like that at all), stop doubting your own ability to achieve what you know you can achieve, and realize that achieving it is only going to happen if you do the work.  Stop complaining, stop finding reasons why it can’t be done, stop worrying about what others might think, and do the work.  Just shut up and do the work.

#

Having surmounted many obstacles in his own life, R.J. Ellory has gone on to be both a successful writer of crime novels and a musician.

Check out R.J.’s books at http://www.amazon.com/R.J.-Ellory/e/B002IVGFJO

 

 

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The Doughnut and Not the Hole by John B. Rosenman

My father used to talk to me about what counted in life.  Sometimes he quoted a poem you may be familiar with:

“As you ramble through Life, Brother,

Whatever be your goal.

Keep your eye upon the doughnut,

And not upon the hole.”

Even when I was a kid, I understood the moral.   One should pursue real and meaningful goals in life and avoid empty attractions that can be a tragic waste of time.   One should pursue worthwhile values and avoid the gaudy, seductive, and worldly pleasures of Vanity Fair.

However, can we always tell what the doughnut is, and what the hole?  We might think it is easy, but Vanity Fair is just as real and dangerous now as it was when John Bunyan wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress.   Even more real and dangerous, in fact.   The media constantly bombard us with vain confections we come to crave.   Money, glamor, and sex, oh my.  Some of us pilgrims easily lose our way and find ourselves lost forever.

What exactly is the doughnut?   If I forget about the Kardashians and put down my scandal-racked tabloid, I would start my list by saying the doughnut consists of the following ingredients:

  1. Valuing your family and treasuring its members.
  2. Valuing your country and treasuring its traditions.
  3. Being kind and helpful to people whenever you can.

Number 3 sounds a lot like the Golden Rule to me.  Contributing to worthwhile charities comes in here.   I believe Truman Copote said there were only two moral rules.   Mind your own business and don’t hurt anybody.   I think a lot of the misery and confusion in our lives is caused by our failure to remember these two things.

I have to admit I’m not the best at following these principles.   For example, I have fought with my wife when I knew I was wrong.  But hey, I think I have a good idea of what goes into the doughnut.   Here’s another ingredient based on my personal experience:

  1. Forget about past grievances and don’t hold grudges because of the way people have treated you.   Let it go, let it go, let it go.   Set aside your injured pride.  For some of us, it’s harder to do than for others.   If you can’t forgive, see if you can forget a little by focusing on the present and all the possibilities it offers.

I can’t cover this subject as fully as I’d like here, so I’ll close by mentioning one more tasty, filling and fulfilling ingredient in the doughnut.   To some of you, it may be the most important one.

  1. Consider developing a relationship with God or a supreme being who is larger and more wonderful than everything else. Some folks may object to this. But please, don’t simply decide there is no ultimate  intelligence in the universe and never consider the matter again.  As for believers, I recommend that reexamining and questioning our beliefs now and then can be a very good thing.  Miguel de Unamuno said  “Faith which does not doubt is dead faith.”

Amen.

As for Socrates, he believed that “not life, but a good life, is to be chiefly valued.”   Money, possessions, popularity and praise don’t automatically equal the good life, and worldly success doesn’t mean one is a virtuous and deserving person.   It’s what one stands for and what one does with such wealth that matters.

Otherwise it’s the hole in that doughnut rather than the doughnut itself.

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John B. Rosenman, a retired English professor from Norfolk State University, has published over 300 stories and 20 books. His work includes science fiction and dark erotic fiction. “The Blue of Her Hair, the Gold of Her Eyes won the 2011 annual readers’ poll from “Preditors and Editors.” In 2013, Musa Publishing awarded his time travel story “Killers” their Top Pick. He is the former Chairman of the Board of the Horror Writers Association and the previous editor of Horror Magazine.

 

 

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Some Small Stranger by Micki Peluso

“Grandma,” a word sounding as old as Methuselah was about to become my title. My response to this new position escalated to the point of panic. Initially, I didn’t react well to the word, mother, either.

I remembered my own grandmother, with her soft white hair wound up in a bun; hair that when let down, easily reached her waist. I can still see her laboring over delicate paper-thin strudel dough in a warm kitchen filled with the aroma of chicken soup and fresh baked bread. I thought of my children’s grandmother, who had wiry salt and pepper hair, mostly salt, velvety skin, and eyes that seemed ageless. She was lovely, wore no make-up, and exuded a gentleness that gave the word, “Grandma,” a good name.

The title, “Grandma’” seemed to place me in a different age bracket–and I wasn’t ready. I could still squeeze into my designer jeans, if I lay flat on the bed to pull up the zipper. My hair, mostly my own, was still blonde, and I hadn’t yet given my bikini to the Salvation Army. I would probably have to soon– the neighbors were starting to complain. I did Jane Fonda religiously, which meant once a week, and wasn’t planning on taking Geritol for a few more years.

Soon after my daughter informed me of her pregnancy, placing the weighty mantle of “Grandma” around my neck, my life began to change. My shoulders drooped as I walked down the street, hinting that osteoporosis was right around the corner. Wrinkles, cropped up from nowhere, etching the itinerary of my life. Silver strands peeked out from among the gold, thinning gold at that. Fading eyesight precipitated the need for “Granny” glasses, and all my best parts appeared to have dropped six inches. My husband, suffering his own identity crisis, joked about trading me in for two twenty-year olds.

“Go ahead,” I told him. “I may as well be widowed as the way I am now.” My youth was gone, chased away by a menacing word that hovered like an albatross over my troubled psyche.

I sulked most of the nine months preceding the arrival of the one responsible for my fate. I was proud of my daughter, excited by the prospect of a new baby, her baby, joining the family, but I couldn’t adjust to my novel role. I laid claim to many titles in my lifetime, from Miss to Mrs. to Mommy, a brief encounter with Ms., plus a few titles that didn’t need capitalization. There was something about the word, Grandma, which stuck in my throat. My friends smirked and made the usual jokes, perilously endangering our friendship. They could afford to be cute. None of them were about to be grandparents. I would be the first.

It wasn’t fair. I had raised my children, gave my all in the name of motherhood, and faced the daily grind of bottles, diapers and finicky eaters. I lost sleep during middle of the night marathons with teething toddlers, and suffered through puberty and adolescence with only a hint of martyrdom. Now when the “best was yet to come,” some small stranger, still to be born, was transforming me into an old woman; a grandma.

My daughter’s delivery came, as most do, in the middle of the night. It was a long, hard labor, beset with life-threatening problems for both herself and the baby; problems which made my own insignificant. My pleas, that night, to a higher authority, did not concern my apprehension of grand motherhood. I begged for the safety of my child and her baby. Nothing else mattered.

After an agonizing wait in a room full of people mutely sharing similar concerns, the doctor burst through the delivery room doors. Ten agonizing hours had elapsed since we entered that room. It seemed a lifetime. The doctor spotted us and rushed over. My heart was in my throat as I rose to meet him.

“Your daughter’s fine” he said, smiling. “Congratulations, Grandma! It’s a boy!”

He had to say “Grandma”. My husband breathed a sigh of relief and began passing out cigars. I sat silent, relieved for my daughter, uncertain of the reality before me.

I finally walked over to the glass windows of the nursery, where “Grandpa,” beaming proudly, had preceded me. I looked down upon a tiny, screaming infant, who, with flailing arms and red, wrinkled face, was a miniature of my daughter. He stopped crying, and gazed up at me with unfocused eyes, appraising me as I did him, his mouth turning up in a crooked grin. I loved him at once. Suddenly the word “Grandma,” the most beautiful word in the world, seemed to fit like a pair of broken-in running shoes.

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Micki Peluso is a Journalist, and humorist, writing for several newspapers, plus publishing short fiction and non-fiction in various magazines and e-zines, winning many contests and awards. Her short works appear in a half dozen book collections, including the Reader’s Favorite International Award for two short stories, in “The Speed of Dark” published by Clayton Bye. Her first book, . . . And the Whippoorwill Sang, a funny, bittersweet story of love, loss and survival won the Nesta Silver Award for writing that “Builds Character.” “Don’t Pluck the Duck” soon to be released is a collection of her published slice of life, short fiction and non-fiction. http://www.amazon.com/Micki-Peluso/e/B002BLZ7JK

 

 

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Make a Conscious Choice by C. Clayton Bye

Many years ago, while on an evening stroll in Toronto, I came upon a young couple who were being harassed by three thugs. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the young man was in the kind of situation that tends to turn out badly. In fact, I figured one of two things was going to happen: he was going to receive a beating, or he was going to lose face with his girl.

Everything about the fellow’s demeanour indicated he’d reached a similar conclusion. Take your pick of emotions. There was fear, frustration, anger, even humiliation: each appeared and disappeared on this victim’s face like the shifting scenes in a suspense film.

One of the aggressors laughed, and I found myself thinking about what most people would do when encountering a situation such as this. The answer which appeared in my head was to mind my own business. No surprises there, right? However, I profess to be a Contrarian. According to my personal definition, this is a person who always considers doing the opposite of what most people do—as a way to identify opportunities to be extraordinary.

I walked up, inserted myself between the two lovers and quietly told the young man I was there to help. The response was wonderful to behold. He drew himself up to full height, his face relaxed and hope shone in his eyes. Then, obtaining a silent nod of agreement from me, and giving the girl’s hand a quick squeeze, he stepped forward to face the bullies.

Keeping my mouth shut, I let my new friend take control of the situation, allowed him the chance to look good in front of his lady. He handled himself well, and the thugs, visibly uncomfortable with the new odds, were soon gone.

A similar event was recently reported by local media. Unfortunately, the results were tragic. A young man attempted to help some people in trouble and was knifed to death. No one else was hurt, but a bright future was cancelled in an instant.

Individuals reading my column might ask, “Doesn’t the preceding story prove it pays to mind your own business?” My answer would be, “No!” I believe the young man who lost his life did the right thing. I’m sorry he died, but I’m also certain he acted as he did because he understood that the safe alternative, the choice of inaction, of tolerating a wrong or an evil, would have made him part of the problem.

The habit of taking responsibility for yourself, of consistently making the right choice, rather than the safe or easy choice, is the most difficult way of life I know. And we, as a society, need more of it! How many times has that tiny, seventy-something lady walked past your doorstep in frigid weather, bags full of groceries scraping the ground, without someone coming to her aid? What about the foul-mouthed teenagers at the mall? Why  is their behaviour tolerated? Closer to home, who monitors your own decision making? What checks and balances do you have in place for those times when your behavioural choices are less than perfect?

Doing nothing to change what’s wrong in and about your life is a choice. It’s a form of behaviour. And in spite of what you might have heard to the contrary, when you say and do hurtful things, you are a hurtful person. This modern notion that we aren’t defined by our actions is, in my opinion, complete nonsense. We’re nothing if we aren’t our behaviour.

You and I don’t have to be perfect. We just need to be consistent in what we choose to do. The best analogy I can offer comes from baseball. A player with a .300 batting average is a treasure, yet he gets on base just three in every ten trips to the plate. He understands that if you keep swinging the best way you know how, you’ll get through the outs and achieve some hits. We can do the same.

When you see a person bending under the weight of their load, make a conscious choice to help. The next time you’re tempted to say or do something in anger, bite your tongue. Better yet, find something nice to say and do. Make the responsible choice. Then make another. And another. And another.

Sure, you’ll take some strikes. But your batting average will improve over time. That’s what practice is all about. Actions create results; we are what we say and do.

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Clayton Bye is a writer, editor and publisher. The author of 9 books and a varied collection of short stories, poems, articles and hundreds of reviews, he has also published  3 award winning anthologies. Shope at his estore: http://www.amazon.com/Clayton-Bye/e/B002BWULO0

 

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How a Serial Killer’s Family Helped Saved the Nation By T. R. Heinan

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How a Serial Killer’s Family Helped Saved the Nation

By T. R. Heinan

This year marks the bicentennial of one of the most decisive battles in American military history, the Battle of New Orleans. The War of 1812 is sometimes called “the forgotten war” and it is not uncommon to hear that the Battle of New Orleans was fought after the war was actually over. In fact, while the Treaty of Ghent was signed on December 24, 1814 and the final British assault did not occur until January 8, 1815, the treaty specifically provided that fighting would continue until the treaty had been ratified and exchanged, something that did not occur until February.

The British hope was for the war to end with the British in possession of the City of New Orleans. This would allow them to control traffic on the Mississippi. The fledgling American nation had been humiliated by one military defeat after another throughout the war. Except for some ports in New England, the entire coastline was now successfully blockaded, and the Americans were defeated on the Great Lakes. The British plan to turn the States into a helpless island surrounded by His Majesty’s naval might only lacked control of the Mississippi River.

The White House had been burned, American ports of entry were targeted for destruction, and there was confidence in London that the commercial sector in the former colonies would soon demand an end to their experiment with independence. To accomplish this end, the Crown sent Sir Edmund Pakenham with an armada of fifty ships and a force of 11,000 soldiers, sailors, and marines to capture New Orleans.

President James Madison ordered General Andrew Jackson to the Crescent City.   Jackson did not arrived until December 1, 1814. He required an interpreter to help him communicate with the largely French speaking population as he hastily assembled a small opposition force consisting of French and Spanish Creoles, free men of color, slaves, German famers, frontiersmen, militia, regular soldiers and a significant company of pirates.

Witness to these events was thirty-nine year old Delphine Macarty Blanque, pregnant with her fourth child and married to her second husband, Jean Pierre Blanque. The Blanques lived near Conti on Royal Street, two doors down from where Brennan’s Restaurant now stands. Their townhouse was next to the Bank of Louisiana, of which Jean Blanque was a director. Their summers where spent at the Blanque Plantation located on the Mississippi near the Macarty Plantation owned by Delphine’s family. Jean did quite well as a merchant, banker and member of the Louisiana Legislature, but his best source of income was as a silent partner of the most notorious pirates of the Caribbean, Jean and Pierre Lafitte.

Since January 1, 1808 it had been illegal to import new slaves into the United States. The new law played right into the hands of Jean Blanque and the Lafitte brothers.   There was big money to be made in the smuggling of ‘black ivory.” By 1814, the United States government was after Jean Lafitte; his brother Pierre was already in jail, and Jean Blanque had been found guilty and fined for smuggling coffee. Louisiana Governor William Claiborne offered a $500 award for the capture of Jean Lafitte. The pirate responded by offering $1,500 for the capture of the governor.

The British, knowing that Lafitte had ships, canons and hundreds of trained men, approached the pirate, offering funds and the rank of captain if he would join them in their attack on the Americans. Lafitte asked for some time to think it over. After weighing his options, Lafitte dispatched letters to Jean Blanque, including one addressed to Governor Claiborne, revealing the British plans and offering to join the American forces. The letters were rushed to Delphine Macarty Blanque’s husband, arriving in less than 24 hours after a trip through the swamps that would normally take three days. Blanque, while insisting that he barely knew Lafitte, beseeched the Louisiana authorities to take advantage of the offer.

Claiborne assumed it was a trick, an attempt to free Jean’s brother Pierre from prison. He ordered an attack on the pirate’s headquarters. Jackson didn’t think he could accept the aid off an outlaw, but was furious that Claiborne had attacked the pirates, fearing that this would push them to accept the British offer. Blanque continued to plead with the legislature and New Orleans safety officials. In a matter of days Jackson realized how unprepared New Orleans still remained.   He had only two actual fighting ships on the river, both seriously undermanned. The pirates could help there. More importantly they had cannons, big powerful cannons, and men experienced at using them. After a meeting with Lafitte on Royal Street, Andrew Jackson decided to accept Lafitte’s offer.

During his reconnaissance, Jackson found the place he would make his stand. His headquarters, and the final battleground was to be the childhood home of Jean Blanque’s wife, Delphine Macarty Blanque. The Macarty Plantation, just a short distance downriver from New Orleans, still remained in the family and was still being operated by her cousin. Jackson dug in there and had Lafitte’s heavy ship guns brought onshore. When the British attack came it was fast and furious. Jackson’s headquarters at the Macarty plantation house was struck by cannon fire nearly 100 times in just ten minutes. Most of the British fire was aimed too high however, and the superiority of the American gunners, assisted by Lafitte’s pirates, surprised both sides.

The British suffered 2,459 casualties. American losses were remarkably few. Sir Edmund Pakenham was dead and his forces were forced to retreat.

The sudden and complete defeat of the invaders not only prevented British control of the Mississippi, it became a defining and unifying moment in American history, proving that the new nation had both the will and the ability to bring its people together in defense of their constitutional government and independence. The history, legends, and fame of Andrew Jackson and Jean Lafitte have become part of the American story.

The wife of Jean Blanque whose family plantation became Jackson’s battleground and whose husband brought Lafitte’s offer of assistance to the Americans is also remembered today, but not because of the events that took place while she was married to Blanque. She is remembered for what she did with her third husband, Dr. Louis Lalaurie.

Each year thousands of tourists go to visit her final home in New Orleans at 1140 Royal Street. A new generation has learned her name from Kathy Bates’ excellent, though historically inaccurate, portrayal of her on American Horror Story. She is remembered today for the torture and brutal murder of her slaves in the attic of New Orleans most “haunted house”. She is Madame Delphine Macarty Blanque Lalaurie.

 

T.R. Heinan is the author of L’immortalité: Madam Lalaurie and the Voodoo Queen, a reflection on justice and compassion set in the historical context of a popular 19th century New Orleans legend. http://www.amazon.com/LImmortalite-Madame-Lalaurie-Voodoo-Queen/dp/0615634710

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Stuff It by Stuart Carruthers

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The light streamed through the large window and cast dark shadows around the otherwise white room. Sara opened her eyes. She didn’t know where she was, it looked like a hotel room, the white linen was soft to the touch and the duvet that covered her was full and voluptuous. It was expensive. But there was something wrong. She couldn’t put her finger on it. There was something subtly out of place. She got out of bed and walked over to the window and looked down, where she could see cars and people scurrying around like mice.

Behind her she heard the door open. She wanted to turn around, but either through fear or bloody-mindedness, she kept looking out through the glass.

“Sara, I’m Doctor Smith.”

“A doctor,” she said to the window, “am I sick?

“Please sit down, Miss Jones.”

“Miss Jones? Why the change of address?”

“Miss Jones, I really must insist that you come and sit down.” The tone was firm and one of a person who was used to getting his own way. Sara complied.

“So Doctor, what’s wrong with me?”

“Nothing that a short stay here won’t cure. But before we get into that let’s talk about you.

“You’re Sara Jones and you live at this address?” He showed her his clipboard. She nodded in confirmation. “Excellent, excellent. You have a good income Miss Jones, one that many would envy, especially for a single person. Lots of disposable income.”

“I’ve worked hard and had a degree of luck,” she answered defensively.

“Of course, of course. Nobody resents you, please don’t take offense. I’m just checking a few facts.”

The questions went on for a while and the doctor eventually left, without telling her why she was there or how she got there. When she tried the door, she was pleasantly surprised to find it unlocked. Having dressed in her own clothes that were neatly folded in the white chest of drawers, she walked along the corridor until she found a lift. It arrived after she pressed the down button, but nothing happened.

A voice came from a speaker. “Miss Jones you can only go to the roof, where you will find the canteen and the garden. The other buttons won’t work for you at this time.”

She pressed “R”.

When the elevator stopped, the doors opened on a Japanese garden covered by glass panels to keep the elements out. Around her she heard the sound of flowing water and the splashing of orange and white koi leaping in excitement at being fed.

Sara sat on one the benches that bordered the area. She was alone and she disappeared into her thoughts, trying to make sense of the situation.

“Miss  Jones.”

Startled, Sara’s almost jumped, but she controlled the impulse. Her job relied on not showing emotions, and she was well rewarded for this ability.

“Doctor Smith. Do you have any more questions?”

“No, but I may have some answers. This is a recovery home; you’re here to help us determine how we can help you recover from an illness. You will be released when we deem you are well enough to return to society. Your salary is still being paid and you’ll actually be able to work from here for the duration of your stay. There are full office facilities on the floor below and your laptop has been put in your secure locker. Here’s the key. Just return it when you return to your room. There are a few rules whilst you’re here, but you’ll be advised of those if you come across them.”

“What am I recovering from exactly?”

“Your spending habits.”

“But, but I buy very little!”

“And that is the problem. You don’t have enough stuff. Your credit cards are hardly used; your store cards have only the essentials registered. We’ve inventoried your home and quite frankly it’s very disappointing. You have one TV, one computer—a laptop—and a cell phone that quite frankly should be in a museum. You don’t even have a car; your bike is 15 years old. Your bank accounts show that you’re not living beyond your means or even close to it. You do, to your credit, have a bit of an alcohol problem and you eat out quite a lot, and a personal trainer helps you keep trim. Sorry, we can’t have him here, but there is a gym and pool two floors down.

“The thing is you’re supposed to want more.  A person in your position should have two televisions, a good selection of never used kitchen gadgets hiding in cupboards, many electronic gadgets that have long ceased to be useful, and of course lots of clothes that you hardly ever wear. Are you aware that interest rates are kept deliberately low to encourage you not to save and to spend more on credit?”

“Are you saying that not being a shopaholic is a crime?”

“Not technically, but it is an anomaly and as such is reason enough to have you detained here.”

“So, what do I have to do to get out of here? Promise that I’ll buy more junk? Max out my credit cards on Amazon? What do you want?”

“Well that would help, but it would only be a short term fix and you’d soon slip back into your old habits. What you’re here for is a long-term resolution, not just for you but so we can learn how to help all those who suffer in the same way. Thanks to MRI scanners, we know how to target most people’s sweet spots and we can target advertising in such a way as to get 62 percent of the population to buy anything we sell them. But there are a few of you on whom these methods just don’t work. We need to know why. You’ll be allowed to leave once we’ve found the reason.”

 ***

The days and weeks dragged by as Sara worked, exercised, and was tested, prodded, and interviewed over and over. Eventually she was let go. One day she stepped into the lift to go to the office. She pushed the button, but instead of going up the elevator automatically went down to the basement. There she was met by a driver and shown to a black car with tinted windows. In the back was an open bottle of champagne with a note around the neck.

“Thank you for your patience Miss Jones.”

Sara poured herself a glass of wine, relaxed back into the embracing seats and watched the television. It was a new sitcom sitcom. Sara chuckled at some of the jokes. She didn’t notice any advertising. But she had this feeling, a strange urge to buy a new bicycle and, yes, she really did need to upgrade her cell phone.

***

Stuart Carruthers writes speculative fiction and childrens stories and can be found on Amazon. He lives in Taiwan with his wife and two young kids.

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2015 is a Power Year for Every Astrology Sign

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Astrology is often called the first primitive form of psychology. Today, millions of people use this ancient system of self-knowledge to better understand both the world and themselves. No, it isn’t fortunetelling or religion. Yes, it is accurate. Virtually every culture and civilization has used it as a guiding force for more than five thousand years.

Fine, you say, but you’re not a stubborn Taurus. Or you’re a rare, quiet Sagittarius. You feel that the typical description of your sign doesn’t fit you at all. That’s because your Sun sign is only the beginning. You’re unique, and your birth chart reveals the complexities and layers of your character that make you special.

Your Sun sign, and the horoscopes based on it alone, gives you a broad look at the possible road blocks and lucky breaks coming your way within a given period of time.

2015 is going to be a fiery year full of hope and opportunity. Let’s see what the stars have in store for your Sun.

ARIES: Usually, you’re about as patient as a toddler demanding dinner. Lately, however, the stars have been stirring up your insecurities.  You can kick those self-doubts to the curb. 2015 puts your warrior self back in action, and you’re going to experience a Superman-size leap forward in life.

TAURUS: Scraping moss from a rock is usually easier than getting you to make a change. This year’s all about learning to live in the moment. You’ve hesitated about a project, person, or dream too long. The stars want you to quit procrastinating and start a personal revolution.

GEMINI: Although you can multi-task yourself into nervous fits, your diligent, if frantic, work ethic gets rewarded this year.  Hold out your hand, because the stars are poised to pay off like a slot machine.

CANCER: You can work yourself into a frazzled mess, and then retreat to a dark room for days. You can forget that scenario in 2015. Say good-bye to the guilt that drives you to be everything to everyone, and hello to a boundary-setting boost from the universe.

LEO: You know you’re a star. You’ve just been waiting for the right time to spring into action. It’s time. The planets send you some lucky breaks this year. The only thing you have to do is keep your eyes open and your claws sharpened.

VIRGO:  Stop biting your fingernails, and start preparing for a year that just gets better as the months roll by. Focus on your money-making skills because you’re going to get more than one chance to use them.

LIBRA: You can see so many sides of a situation that you get stuck in neutral. No more. The stars align to fuel the fires of straight talk. The culprits you take aim at this year are sure to squeal louder than a pig facing the frying pan, but don’t let that stop you. Once the smoke clears, you’ll feel better than you have in ages.

SCORPIO: Take a big sigh of relief and shrug that weight off your shoulders. 2015 is going to feel like a vacation. To prove it, the stars are sending you plenty of opportunities to travel. Keep a bag packed.

SAGITTARIUS: You love surprises. Surprise! You’re about to get a cosmic kick that fires up your need to reinvent yourself. Forget about being the neighborhood guru. This year, the stars help you focus on your needs first.

CAPRICORN: Your devotion to duty can get downright grim. The pressure you’ve felt to perform lightens as your schedule downsizes to double-time versus the super-human commitment you’ve been making. You’ll still make progress, but without having to work 24/7.

AQUARIUS:  2015 shifts both your imagination and your inner rebel into high gear, and this combination could have fantastic results. However, in order to make sense of the jumble of brainstorms buzzing through your head you need quiet time. That’s why you feel like telling everyone near you to take a hike. Do it.

PISCES: Timid and delusional as you sometimes are, in 2015, you’re under the influence of a planetary lineup that could put you on the path to more success and recognition than you ever imagined. The Universe has your back. Act like the shark you can be and take a big, wet bite right out of the middle of life.

***

Hazel Dixon-Cooper is the author of the internationally best-selling Rotten Day astrology book series. Her latest book, Harness Astrology’s Bad Boy, discusses Pluto, the planet of transformation.

She speaks at conferences throughout the United States and leads writer and astrology workshops. Hazel has been practicing and teaching astrology for more than twenty-five years.

astrohazel@gmail.com                       www.hazeldixoncooper.com

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