At the Mirror: Incredible Eyes

Basilike Pappa of Silent Hour writes wondrous poetry and prose. She also shares some exquisitely written artwork by others. This flash story of hers struck my fancy. Suspense, romance, mystery, fantasy, and humor all wrapped into one. Enjoy.

Incredible Eyes

by Vassiliki Pappa

It was a night like many others. It involved me and an old book of fairytales I wanted to be alone with. The book wanted to be with me too; its leather-clad spine fit perfectly in my hand. I curled with it on the sofa and soon forgot everything else in the world.

After a couple of hours, I looked up and out of the balcony. I only wanted to give my eyes some rest and to get a glimpse of the night outside. The moon looked back at me and I smiled. It was actually a streetlamp, but I liked to think of it as a full moon.

And then I saw him: a midnight-black rooster, with blood-red comb and wattles, and eyes fixed on me. He was standing still in the middle of my balcony, with something of the dandy in his stance. He obviously has a way with hens, I thought. Indeed, the more I looked at him, the more I knew that, had I been a hen, I would love to have him jump on me and peck on my neck. Our chicks would be midnight-black, with blood-red comb and wattles. But I would like them to have my eyes…

(Continue reading: Incredible Eyes)

The Miracle of Reading

pixabay

I had another post prepared for today… but then a miracle happened…

I showed up at Tornado Boy’s house for two days of “Grammy Time.” Kindergarten doesn’t kick off until Tuesday and preschool ended early, leaving mom and dad in a lurch. When I walked in the door, I received my usual whirlwind of hugs, but the first question out of the tornado’s mouth was, “Do you want me to read a book to you?”

Not Legos, no request to build a spaceship or visit the park, no plea to use his old grammy as a jungle-gym. Nope.

“Do you want me to read a book to you?”

“Why, sure,” I replied, fully expecting a play by play narration through a picture book or a four-pager of his own creation.

I sat on the couch, and he climbed up beside me, tucked in tight, and opened Dr. Seuss’s Hop on Pop. Then page by page, he read me the entire book.

As I listened, I saw the world open up to him, a new superpower revealed, a lifetime of learning and adventure, of Treasure Island and Harry Potter, of Vonnegut and Cussler, Tolkien and Homer. He read to me slowly, sounding out the words, and he didn’t want my help when he got stuck. He was reading, and he too knew that something momentous was happening. He too recognized the magic in the letters and their sounds.

Just ask Jennie Fitzkee (A Teacher’s Reflections) about the power of reading aloud. We’ve read to Tornado Boy since the day he was born, and the local library has become a place of endless exploration. It’s paid off as another child discovers a world of imagination within his grasp, the miracle of words.

Grammy was so happy she could have cried. Then we played Legos, built a spaceship, went to the park, and wrestled. And he read Hop on Pop to me two more times.

Some favorite quotes about reading:

A book is a gift you can open again and again. —Garrison Keillor

To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark. —Victor Hugo

Books are a uniquely portable magic. —Stephen King

I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves. —Anna Quindlen

Wear the old coat and buy the new book. —Austin Phelps

I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library. —Jorge Luis Borges

Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read. —Groucho Marx

 

A Blogging Break & The right way to write?

The Peach Clan Reunion is fast approaching, and a break from blogging is in order. My parents are coming for 2+ weeks. They’re in their upper 80’s, and their health has declined over the past couple years. My brother and I have planned a 4-generation gathering.

Needless to say, it’s going to be a busy time – beach, Iris Festival, bonfires, crab-bakes, and lots of loud talking since my mom is vision-impaired and my dad is hearing-impaired. I’ll be focusing on them and making sure that we all have a wonderful time making memories.

Since I won’t be around for almost 3 weeks (Wowza), I leave you with a beautiful post by blogger Sue Vincent. I hope you hop over to read.

I’ve closed comments here since I’m off to the airport to pick the folks up. I’ll see you soon. ❤

The right way to write?

by Sue Vincent

There was a bit of a conversation going on yesterday over at Serendipity about finding your voice as a writer. It is something with which many writers are preoccupied and with reason. Your voice is your signature. The tone, the flow, even the choice or repetition of words will, if you are lucky, make your work appeal to a reader.

For a writer, the best thing in the world is to know you have been read and that what you have written has been enjoyed or has struck a chord with a reader. Most of the time, we just don’t know… a book goes out into the world and we hear very little unless we are fortunate enough to get a review. Sales don’t matter in that respect… they only show that a book has been bought…you still don’t know whether they were even read. The odd review or a comment always feel like a gift. And sometimes, they make you glow.

When someone mentioned that his Mum likes my work, it felt as good as winning a major literary prize.  I have also been paid what must be one of the ultimate compliments as a writer… I have been quoted. Am I bragging? Not exactly… though the memory always makes me glow and I struggle to find words to express the odd mix of pride, gratitude and honour such moments make you feel. You never know, when you put pen to paper, how your words will fare out there in the world or whether they will reach the readers… perhaps that one particular and unknown reader… for whom they were written. So moments like these are priceless…

Continue Reading: The right way to write?

The HeArt and Craft of Writing

pixabay image

My blogger friend Sean Carlin wrote a post a few days ago about Artistic Originality. He’s a writer with a background in film, and he often laments the industry’s sequels and reboots that sacrifice the original film’s creative power for a guaranteed (but unsatisfying to the viewer) box-office bump.

His post got me thinking about the same phenomenon in books and what makes a story original.  We may disagree on the number of plots available to us, ranging from 4 (man vs. man, man vs. society, man vs. nature, man vs. himself) to Polti’s 36 (here’s the list). But we can all agree that the number we have to work with is limited.

Since we’re essentially rehashing the same plots millions of time (sit with that thought for a minute) how is it that we aren’t bored to tears with writing and reading? Aren’t we all, in a way, regurgitating our favorites?

Sean Carlin

Carlin concludes his post with a reflection on his current writing endeavor Escape from Rikers Island, and to me, he defines what makes a piece of art original:

“For better or worse, it is a reflection of my personality, my interests, my sensibilities, my experiences. When I read it back, I …hear myself. It sounds like me.”

In lauding George Lucas’s original Star Wars trilogy, Carlin writes:

“… he diversified his influences, internalized them, developed an authentic voice all his own, and—this part is key—summoned the courage, without any assurances of a receptive audience, to make it heard.  If all artists took inspiration from that and aspired to the same, our popular culture would yield a limitless bounty of originality.”

I find these conclusions both wonderful and daunting because they place originality in a realm where we, as artists, have full control—our individual collections of experiences, imaginings, and most important of all, our hearts.

My reflection on Carlin’s post led to the core of what makes a piece of art compelling and memorable to me, which is the artist’s internal investment, the deeper the better. In writing, it’s an author’s emotional soul that feeds a story and evokes a reaction. That personal vulnerability requires courage, but it’s worth it because readers perceive the authenticity of the human experience unfolding in the books they love.

The blogosphere is full of spectacular advice on the “craft” of writing, but not so much on the “art.” Because heArt is like a fingerprint—personal and one of a kind. It isn’t something taught, but a rich quality mined from a soulful place within us. You are sublimely unique, and therein lies your source of originality.

Carlin wrote in his comment to me:

“…tools, techniques, and even theory are cool, but they’re only there to help us create an authentic emotional experience, and we can’t do that unless we write honest stories, drawn from our own experiences, imparted with a piece of our souls … I think that goes to illustrate just how sensitive storytelling is—what a delicate balance between heart and craft we have to strike in order to get it right.”

I love that.

Happy Writing. ❤

A BOOK LOVER’S TAG

images from pixabay

I’ve returned after a 10-day, 30k-word break. So much catching up to do, but rested and ready.

Now… who doesn’t Love Books?

Annika Perry tagged all her followers with the Book Lover’s Tag, and well… I couldn’t resist. I tag you all too, but if you aren’t inclined to take me up on it, please leave your favorite best-ever book in the comments and a quick reason why you love, love, love it. I’ll put them all in a long list in a future post.

On to the questions:

1.Do you have a specific place for reading?

Nope. I’ll read anywhere, and I’m never without a book. Long plane rides or layovers, waiting for an oil change, stuck in bumper to bumper traffic, sitting in a canoe and fishing, all are great places to read. Most of my reading, though, happens in bed before zonking out. I prop my eyes open with toothpicks to get to the end of the chapter and pay the price in the morning.

2. Bookmark or random piece of paper?

Um… neither. I’m a dog-earer. I love my books to pieces, literally. They’re like a favorite stuffed animal from childhood that’s dragged everywhere by an arm, dropped in lakes, and taken on camping trips. Now, if I’m borrowing a book, it’s a random piece of paper. I’m not organized enough to use bookmarks, though I think they’re pretty.

3. Do you eat or drink whilst reading?

Yes. There are hot sauce, grease, and coffee stains in my books. I know! Terrible! Disgraceful! I open the pages and crumbs fall out.

4. Music or TV whilst reading.

Usually neither, though I can tune both out if I need to. With a really good book, the house could be on fire and I wouldn’t notice.

5. One book at a time or several?

I’m definitely monogamous. One love at a time or I might get confused, and that always ends poorly. Plus, it’s way too much drama. 🙂

6. Do you prefer to read at home or elsewhere?

Sort of the same as number 1, but I’ll answer “home” since I’m a hermit.

7. Read out loud or silently?

I often read poetry aloud because I like the taste and sound of the words. Recently, I read parts of a book in my Yankee version of an Irish accent. The “voice” of the narrator/character was so wonderful, I couldn’t resist. I’ll review that book soon. That said, 99% of my reading is silent.

8. Do you read ahead or skip pages?

I read every single word. Skip pages? Goodness no. I might miss something important.

9. Break the spine or keep it like new.

If the spine breaks, it breaks. I wouldn’t do it on purpose. My book love isn’t intentionally abusive!

10. Do you write in books?

Of course! The better the book, the more I write in it. I underline and highlight phrases, sentences, and passages that I think are masterful. You know how they say that reading makes one a better writer? It’s true. Some books are like master-classes and I’m enthralled, wanting to capture the genius. It’s the one of the things I don’t like about ebooks, I can’t mark them all up.

11. What books are you reading now? 

I’m reading The Red Queen’s War series by Mark Lawrence, an amazing fantasy author who also penned The Broken Empire Series. His books definitely are pen and highlighter worthy. I like reading amazing authors while I’m writing. They inspire me.

 

 

12. What is your childhood favorite book?

As a little girl, it would have to be E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. It was the first book to make me cry, and that emotional release felt so good, I immediately read it again so I could cry again.  I think it contributed to my decision 35 years later to become a grief counselor.

My favorite book(s) as a young teenager was Tolkien’s The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, which kicked off a fanatical love of reading. I think it contributed to my decision 35 years later to become a fantasy writer. Aren’t books amazing?

13. What is your all-time favorite book?

Anam Cara by John O’Donohue. His writing speaks to my heart and soul. I’d be a stalker if he was still alive.

That’s it! You’re all tagged and remember to leave your answer to Question 13 in the comments with your reason why.

 

Why Books are Living Things

Pixabay image - Arthur Rackham

Pixabay image – Arthur Rackham

In contemplating what to write about today, I’ve decided to go a little off the deep end for the bewilderment of my readers. We writers can be a touch eccentric, and in order to perpetuate the characterization, I thought I’d chat about stuff I don’t know. That’s the fun of fantasy after all.

Those who’ve browsed my website know I love the idea of myths. To me, they’re the stories that define who we are and form the narratives of our lives. In my experience, perceptions alter our reality. We use perceptual narratives to filter our experiences, to guide our decisions, and create meaning in our lives. In essence, who we are, beyond our physical presence, is created based on our values and choices, how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us. In a way, we are the embodiment of stories; our lifetimes expressed in epic myth.

So, where am I going with this? Hang on, I’m getting there. One more piece of information and you’ll see.

While studying for a degree in a pastoral counselor, I took this great class called “The Spirituality of Relationship.” In essence, it described a relationship as a new entity, a created presence with a life of its own that requires nurturing and an investment of time to thrive. The discussion provided a new way of looking at loss posed by divorce. For, although children may retain healthy connections with both parents individually, they grieve the loss of this third presence, the un-tangible creation, the relationship.

Now my point comes together…

I believe, on an energetic level, that books are more than paper and ink or digital symbols. On some level, our creations are new entities with the ability to enter into relationship with others on a personal and emotional level, just as we do. Books and the people who inhabit them can open eyes, stir the heart, elicit a deep sense of longing or grief, outrage or fear. I’ve fallen madly in love with protagonists, profoundly altered the path of my life, made new choices, expanded my understanding of the world, all through my relationships with books. Some have stayed with me since the day I read them, hovering like spirits over my head.

What if, when we create worlds and characters, we create something that exists? How do we know that the myths we fashion in our heads don’t coalesce into something real and measurable? Simply because we lack the brain capacity and technology to perceive and quantify, doesn’t mean something can’t be. History chuckles at the folly of those shortsighted assumptions.

I’m intrigued by paradigms, the perceptual boundaries we cobble together to rationalize our experience. I love the idea of not knowing. I bask in the notion that we scarcely use a fraction of our brains and possess only the tiniest inkling of how the universe works. Our perceptions are so small, so limited, that to me anything is possible.

Other than a photo and a bio (based entirely on my myth of myself) you have no idea whether I’m a real person, right? In a way, I’m a manifestation of our combined imaginations. It’s possible that my characters are just as present in the fiber of creation as I am. I think so. I know them better than I know most people; I’ve interacted with them, lived with them, learned from them, laughed and wept with them. They will likely outlive me too. Cool, huh?

Well, I’m a fantasy writer after all. I can imagine you nodding your head sagely at this bit of information or muttering under your breath, “This woman is three tines short of a fork.”

All I can say is, “Welcome to my world.”

*** This post originally appeared on Chris Graham’s blog: The Story Reading Ape. ❤ ***

I am what I read.

image from pixaby.com

image from pixaby.com

By the close of summer, I’m often tired of my fair-weather pace. I tend to catch colds this time of year…my body nudging me toward rest when I disregard its subtler cues. One more hurdle, one more commitment, one more task, one more…cough cough.

I’m ready to surrender to the slowness of fall. My characters are stretching and yawning – a sure sign of my approaching hibernation. Autumn suits me. It’s a time of tethering those parts of me that I’ve flung wide while venturing from my cozy burrow to bathe in some overdue sunshine.

Sometimes I feel like a sponge, sucking feelings out of the air as if they’re spilled water. Is this a writer thing? A plague of empathy? An inability to separate oneself from the pathos of life? Do all humans do this?

I am what I read. I am what I write – a torch of outrage at injustice, a soggy heart at tales of loss, grinning like a lovestruck moon. I’m tickled into laughter, sailing with beauty, and slogging through the morass of political hell. Every choice, every action, every motivation is sparked by emotion. I’m not a rational being. My feelings wear me out.

Books tend to infuse and reflect my state of mind. Do your books do that for you? To you?

If I read an inspiring story, my words are sweeter, hopeful, and I believe that love will prevail over fear. Blogging is honey for my soul as I am blown away by the generosity of spirit that scrolls across my screen. All over the globe there are people who restore/restory my faith in humanity, sharing poignant tales of love and loss, of sacrifice and courage. Your words bring laughter and tears, draw the world’s vast human landscape within reach of my chair. You remind me of the myriad ways we are brothers and sisters, and I reap the needed faith to pour love and hope onto the pages I write.

If I’m troubled by the brutality of mankind, as I often am, that too bleeds into my work. My mother complains that my books are violent, and all I can say in response is “look around you.” I can’t pretend that what rends my heart and fires my blood doesn’t exist. I can’t erase it from the slate of my memory. I can’t unfeel it.

Lately, I sense my mood darkening, so it’s time for a boost of inspiration and infusion of peace. It happens that I recently received a 3 day, 3 quote challenge. To prepare, I’ve picked up one of my favorite books for a reread – something I rarely do, but who am I to argue with synchronicity.

Anam Cara, by Irish poet and theologian John O’Donohue, rests at the top of my heart’s list.  I’ll be revisiting the dog-eared pages, my old highlights and underlines promising gems of faith and ancient magic. I’ll choose a few – okay, more like 9 – favorite quotes to share with you.

Happy writing and peace.

image from flickr.com

image from flickr.com