Meet Margaret, Queen of Scotland

Here’s a drawing taken from a family tree, of Queen Margaret of Scotland. While she’s well-known in the UK, she’s lesser (or barely) known in the United States and elsewhere. Book One of my trilogy about her is nearly done. Born around 1046, she died in Edinburgh Castle in 1093, after a rather extraordinary life. More to come …

The Medieval Mind

XCF272271 White Hart, from ‘ The Wilton Diptych’ c.1395-99 (egg tempera on oak) (verso) by Master of the Wilton Diptych, (fl.c.1395-99); National Gallery, London, UK; (add.info.: White Hart was the personal badge of Richard II;); French, out of copyright

Calling all minds Medieval

I’ve spent the last 10 months researching an 11th-century historical work of fiction: a trilogy about Queen Margaret of Scotland. “Living” in the medieval world has grabbed me and I want to make contact with others who also love that time period. Here’s my request to you: I need to select an image for the cover of the first book, post-haste. I find the image above very appealing. Do you? There’s a white hart featured in book one, which is a reason I like it, even though it was painted way after Margaret died.

If you have other ideas for a cover, please comment. And include an image! At the moment, I’m not so interested in an image of a female, but it you think you have the perfect one, send it along.

Thank you! Let’s do this together!

Reality and poetry

Poetry was invented by someone who realized what the Impressionist painters knew: the literal sometimes doesn’t convey reality as well as a creatively presented impression of it. Poetry speaks directly to the heart, sometimes with beauty, sometimes with humor and sometimes with pain. But it always races through the brain right into the heart.

With Armistice Day still fresh in our memories, I offer this poem, written by award-winning poet, Christopher Addé, Manager of the General Collections at the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA. Chris, who was raised near London, says, “As a boy I lived near a churchyard that had a number of WWI graves and I played on bomb sites leftover from WWII. Even so young you could not help but take it in.”

What resonated with me about this poem is the bond between the two soldiers. Ultimately, what we crave  is another human’s touch, to know we’re not alone.

English Country Churchyard

This English country churchyard
In whose quiet I now lie
Is far removed from where I fought
And lost my arm and eye
Twisted by the bullets as they spat
From every gun
I fell into a shell-hole
Where there lay a wounded Hun.

Two men, exhausted, hurt, and weak
With death to contemplate
Looked hard at one another
Yet without a trace of hate
Poor Hun had been a day or three
Laid in the stinking mire – 
A bullet lodged within his chest
From taking British fire.

He could not speak, no more could I,
Marooned in No-Mans land
We were each other’s equal
And he reached out for my hand
It was, as if, he’d clung to life
So not to pass alone
Then clasping tight he smiled and died
To leave me on my own.

I, with luck, was rescued
Living on for ten more years
Though my sleep at night was fitful
As I faced my wartime fears
At length my wounds proved fatal
And at thirty life was done
But as I slipped, I saw outstretched
The hand from that old Hun.

My battles now are different – 
Fighting briars that have grown
And the creeping lichen legions
That advance upon my stone
I did not have my children
Nor the chance to seek out fame
But this English country churchyard
Lets me keep alive my name.


– Christopher J S Addé

August, 2006

    

                                   

                                    

                                      

Magic in the Morning

The Dog and I love to walk in the early recesses before morning, when the sky is sea-chasm dark; when it’s neither morning nor day nor evening nor night, it just is – a fleeting moment in time to palate-cleanse the mind.

It would be sacrilege to turn on the porch light, although it would make the stairs easier to see, but it would rudely intrude on the remnants of darkness. By the time we return to the front door, the sun, which now rests behind the hill, will be casting a harbinger of pale blue sky upon our neighborhood, warning it of today’s onslaught of heat. No, we won’t shatter the remains of night’s magic. Instead the Dog and I walk cautiously down the steps and over to the sidewalk. I pat the bark of an old tree, thanking it for standing guard all night, for trees never sleep.

We’re out early to sniff the remnants of a quiet world; out before the gnats can begin circling my face, entranced by its fragrance, I like to believe. They’re tiny helicopters, silently and relentlessly whirring. All the swatting and shaking of my head fail to deter them. The only way to beat them is to walk before they file their flight plans.

Two coyotes pad silently by, lean and scruffy, and I have to remind the Dog that no, she doesn’t want to tangle with them.

A bird, serving as the street’s self-appointed alarm clock, begins to chirp, “It’s morning!” except that it’s not yet, not quite, so most of the other wildlife hits the snooze button for a few more minutes of rest. Sometimes the Dog hears a squirrel cracking its tiny knuckles and stretching its back, complaining “That’s the hardest tree branch I’ve ever slept on.” In less than half an hour, that squirrel will be scolding dogs from a high tree branch and scampering across utility wires, but for now, she’s too groggy to hold the Dog’s interest.

As the purple leaks from the sky, I high-five a low hanging tree branch, then stop to cup a rose in my hands, stoking its vanity by telling it how beautiful it is while stealing a whiff of its perfume to carry with me.

The Dog stops frequently to sniff, inhaling a universe I’m not equipped to know. She deposits last night’s dinner on someone’s lawn, but they’ll never see it because I’ve scooped it up before it digs too deeply into the blades of grass. The Dog baptizes worthy spots all along the way with drops of urine that she must deem holy, given the careful selection process she goes through before squatting.

By the time we turn the corner back onto our street, having completed our mile, the tabby cat is out sauntering, the parrots are rustling their feathers and warming up their voices for the raucous opera they’ll sing today, and the first annoying gnat materializes.

A bowl of granola awaits me. The sun is about to present herself, to claim the day. Thank you, Lord, for the trembling holiness of these moments before dawn.

Pure Poetry

The author of this poem is Natalie Russell, Assistant Curator of Literary Collections at the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA. I was captivated when I heard her read it and asked to share with you. Thank you for your permission, Natalie. It’s a beautiful work.

 

                                                                 Why I Write

 

I write
because the paper listens.

I write
because no matter what oceans of grief, and rage, and anxiety, and sorrow overflow my soul,
the paper is a sponge.
It receives my burden,
tucks it away,
and opens its arms for more.

I write
because I worry
that human ears are too busy,
hearts too full,
souls too consumed,
to have time for my small crises.
But the paper listens.

I write
because the paper listens
and is no worse for the wear.

I write because sometimes the paper speaks,
when the reader is ready and willing to hear.

I write
because the paper always listens.

Why do you read?

 

 

Natalie Russell
Assistant Curator of Literary Collections
Huntington Library

But the toilet is clean!

Let’s see … before settling in to write this blog about distraction, I brushed the dog, checked Facebook, folded some clothes, got a bottle of tea from the fridge, watched the LAPD/CHP performing a low-speed chase of a motor home, (yes, a large, white motor home). Oh, and I cleaned the upstairs toilet.

Unfortunately, my goal today was to write this blog. So why did I complete numerous unrelated, and non-urgent tasks first? Were they really more important than expressing my thoughts – WRITING – which was my original intent, and which best describes my purpose in life?

Worst of all, I’ve known since this morning that resistance was today’s blog topic, and I still fell prey to it.

Resistance is a term used by author Steven Pressfield in his meaningful book, “The War of Art.” Every creative soul should read it. Resistance is deeper than what we normally call procrastination, although they are related. But resistance stems from our inner doubts, our “demons,” our fears and our lack of belief in our talent. It’s easier to avoid writing than to find out that what we’ve written is sub par, so we get distracted. It’s simpler to clean a toilet than to stare at a blank page. It’s simpler to do almost anything than write something that no one finds interesting enough to read and doesn’t hesitate to tell us so.

But what happens when we succumb to resistance? We feel frustrated. Our soul feels constipated. Our heart hurts. We are unfulfilled, because we’ve shut down the very act that gladdens our day, be it writing, painting, building, singing, or whatever kind of creativity has been given to us. To be who we truly are, and to impart what we can best contribute to the world, we must allow our artful expression sufficient priority. The toilet can wait.

 

Why do people write? Why don’t they?

“Impress your personality on him: wear the same perfume every day.” That’s what a teen magazine recommended. I was in junior high school and totally obsessing about a boy. I’d try anything. So I wore the same perfume every day for a month. It didn’t work. Apparently, the boy had to know you existed before the allure of a repetitive fragrance could kick in, and I couldn’t get physically close enough for him to smell it. White Shoulders was heavy on the gardenia anyway. He probably saved himself from choking on a cloying perfume.
Things worsened in high school. When it came time for the Junior Prom, I asked a gay Jehovah’s Witness friend from ballet class to take me. We had fun, actually. He was a good dancer and I certainly didn’t worry about an assault on my virginity.
I wonder what other adolescent agonies I might recall if I’d kept a diary. I tried it for a few months, but I got bored recording things such as who I saw and what I ate for dinner. Hmmm. Perhaps I was just ahead of my time … I should have taken Polaroid photos and shared the banal events with people I didn’t know.
So, although I’ve written most of life, it’s been more along the lines of interviews, speeches, newspaper articles and radio editorials. I don’t journal, although I hear it provides fabulous insight into your life. It just doesn’t call to me. But then, I don’t like yoga, and 95% of the population believes it cures everything. Ha. Nothing cures being a chocoholic, but I might tuck a yoga mat under my arm if I could nibble on a box of See’s candy during the Downward-Facing Dog pose.
Now, after many years of “youth-ening” like Merlin, all I want to do is write. I’m ready. I’ve lived enough life to have something to say and not enough life left to say it all.
What drives people to write? I mean regularly write, and even more so, write something they’re willing to “put out there” for others to read? And why won’t people who have important thoughts to share dare to commit them to paper? Aye, matey, there’s the rub: “putting it out there” is like walking the plank naked. The writer who jumps is prone to drowning in a sea o’ criticism, and the ones who try to hang on without jumping get splinters in their butt. I don’t think I can expound any further than on that metaphor, but it’s a major reason why people don’t write.
And that’s a shame, because writing forces us to open up windows in our minds that have been sealed shut for years. When that happens, we let out the stale thoughts, use the ones that, like honey, don’t spoil, and allow fresh ones to enter. Let’s stop here. Take a moment and think about writing something, anything, today. Think of something that been gnawing at you or inspiring you and write a few lines about it, for the sheer enjoyment of seeing it in print.
We’ll come back to this subject … in the meantime, enjoy looking at a chair in our hotel room on a trip to Bartlesville, Oklahoma. I wrote in that chair. Heck, you could make up a whole story about a hotel room chair, if you wanted to.
“Rosebud” was just a sled, after all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sharing time and space with authors

I figured that meeting the other authors today on the panel at our city’s library would be interesting. It was that and much more. It was a joy. Each author was uniquely intense in his/her reasons for writing. Each encouraged not only the audience, but each other, to write! I am renewed and more excited than ever to dive into writing my next story, which is set in the 11th century.
Of course, today I was speaking about “Shattered Peacock.” It made me sad to realize how very relevant the Shah’s ousting from Iran remains, especially in light of last night’s bombings in Syria. Sadly, one of the reasons Shah Pahlavi assumed continuing support from the U.S. and Great Britain was because his rule made Iran the only Western-friendly country in the region and provided a safe buffer between us and Russia/USSR. We could use it now.
That reality acknowledged, I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about children’s books, mysteries, books about grammar, losing weight, and even a book written for those in hospice care. We have so much to share with each other via the written word. Let’s keep writing in complete sentences. Let’s go light on those emojis! Let’s consider what we write about and how it can uplift rather than hurt. Let’s educate each other and make each other laugh … or cry. What’s important is that as we touch each other’s hearts.

 

 

Author’s Panel at Sierra Madre Library

Why do people choose to write? More importantly, why do people choose NOT to write? It’s something I’ve been pondering and is one aspect I’ll present when I speak this Saturday, April 14, 2018, at the Sierra Madre Library in California’s beautiful San Gabriel Valley. The library is holding an Open House that day with various events. We authors will speak at 11:00 a.m. I’m very curious to hear everyone’s thoughts about writing.

Here are just two of the other authors who will be speaking. Click on their links to see their photos and literary works.

Linda La Roche

Linda has been a grant recipient of the California Commission of the Arts, Multicultural Grant and created, hosted and produced Latino Filmmakers for Charter Cable.

She produced the film, The Trouble with Tonia, starring the late Lupe Ontiveros. The film received recognition from the Whitney Museum in New York, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. It garnered “best film” award in the San Sebastian Film Festival in San Sebastian, Spain. And, she was awarded the Silver Star award as Producer from the Houston International Film Festival. It is also listed in, “Aztlán Film Institute’s Top 100 List,” by Chon A. Noriega.

Marcielle Brandler

Marcielle is a multi-facted writer, as you’ll see on her blog. I’ve chosen to share with you one of Marcielle’s award-winning poems.


Eden
I startled my mother in the blazing
hallway, her breasts an exotic gift
my lips had never suckled. It was
an accident we met. Never before
had I beheld anyone naked. My sisters
told me of the times they had watched
her. I imagine my mother lifting
herself from the forgiving floral suds
of her bath. This secret time I had
never visualized until now. She glides
on her hose, attaching them with
little posy snaps, and perfumes
herself in her personal
scent. Slithering into her
strapless cocktail dress, her
shoulders glowing, she fluffs up
her hair like a delicate fern,
then entwines the glittering
necklace and presses on the blossom
lipstick which my father will kiss
from her mouth before they
lie down in the room where only they
may sleep. What are these angry wings
barring me from her garden? I remember
the last time she bathed me. I was
five and embarrassed. I turned away,
and she left me in my
unscented water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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