“War and Peace” is a Better Choice

GirlWithNoName“The Girl with No Name” by Diney Costeloe

Summary:   Thirteen-year-old Lisa has escaped from Nazi Germany on the Kindertransport. She arrives in London unable to speak a word of English, her few belongings crammed into a small suitcase. Among them is one precious photograph of the family she has left behind.

Lonely and homesick, Lisa is adopted by a childless couple. But when the Blitz blows her new home apart, she wakes up in hospital with no memory of who she is or where she came from. The authorities give her a new name and dispatch her to a children’s home.

With the war raging around her, what will become of Lisa now?

Recommendation: No

Review:

I love history and I adore reading good, well-written stories about history; however, this book was neither good, nor well-written. While at the online bookstore, I read the prologue and was fooled into thinking the whole book would be as well done. It wasn’t. Not only were the characters one-dimensional and poorly developed, the author couldn’t even maintain a character’s point of view for longer than a minute. It changed at random moments; sometimes mid-paragraph, and, several times, even mid-sentence.

While the premise was promising, the writing failed to fulfill that promise. I tried to push myself to keep reading, but it was difficult when there was no connection to the characters, and, thereby, no connection to the story.

I finally gave up at page 50. That the author actually wrote another 430 pages astounds me. But what astounds me more, is that people actually persevered and read the entire thing. I say, save your time and effort for something much more pleasurable…”War and Peace” would be an easier read.

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Transitioning, again

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I’ve been tran’zing again lately, and not easy ones, either. These transitions have been quite stressful. So stressful in fact, that I’ve been waking up almost more tired than when I went to bed. Usually, I look forward to sleeping and dreaming. Primarily because my dreams normally help me solve some problem or answer some question from my day-to-day life.

I’m sure most of us can think of at least one dream that has helped us resolve some issue or some question. I’m speaking of the types of problems or questions that prey on the mind, that keep you tossing and turning until suddenly you wake up one morning just knowing exactly what you need and want to do. You may not remember the dream details that prompted your decision (and some people will claim that never dream at all), but sometime during the night you gained the insight you needed to make the best choice for you at this particular time and place in your life.

However, the “dreams” I’ve been having lately are tran’zing dreams. (Tran’zing is what I call the traveling I do between planes—the physical plane and the astral planes; primarily the transitional plane, the astral plane closest to the physical.) Tran’zing dreams aren’t really dreams, though they do occur at night while my body is sleeping. But these are actually memories – little snippets of memory from places I’ve been and things I’ve done or said while my body slept.

Tran’zing is actually a type of out-of-body experience. The energy that is you (sometimes called essence, sometimes called a soul), travels at night. But even though it leaves the physical form and goes off on its own ‘adventures’, it still remains connected to the physical body. Because of this connection, the physical mind receives input as to what the soul is doing, seeing, and saying. However, not everyone is willing to accept this input. Some will block it completely (the same way they block all dreams). Some filter it so that it becomes very dreamlike and unreal (the information their mind receives is so far outside their frame of reference, that they eliminate those parts that they can’t accept). And others (like me) remember enough to know what we’ve been up to each night.

For many people, though, playing on the transitional plane is too frightening and so they adjust the information to something acceptable. This is fine; it’s the way everyone adapts and grows. As each person grows, life after life, they will filter this information less and less, until, like me, they barely filter it all.

What does that mean? It means that most of what I do when tran’zing is often remembered by me once I awaken. It also means that any problems I encounter, any stresses that I put on myself when out of body, are felt by my body even though it is sleeping. So, while I’m home asleep, I’m also off gallivanting around, which means I sometimes wake up unrested.

When I’m tran’zing, I’m helping other people cross between planes. Some of these people are dying, so I escort them from the physical plane and their dead or dying bodies to the astral planes where they can decide what it is they want to do next. Sometimes, I escort a soul from the astral planes to the physical. It might be they have a new body waiting for them, or it can also be that they have wandered where they don’t belong. (It’s not unusual to encounter ‘accidental travelers’ — people who have through the use of drugs, fever, or other non-intentional means — have ended up in the transitional section of the astral plane.)

Other times, I transition myself or others to the astral planes where we work on emotional lessons that we can’t do while in the physical world. It might be that someone chose to resolve an issue through violence, but they now realize how foolish that was. So, with my help they cross to the astral levels and we recreate the situation and they try to find other resolutions. This can take one night, or many, but each time I bring them across, I create the situation, I supply the participants, and we play out the scene until they feel they understand the full consequences and ramifications of every choice and every possible resolution.

All of these come through to me while my body is resting, and these super-emotionally charged activities drain me, so when I awaken in the mornings I feel as if I’ve had no sleep. But despite the stress, despite the tiredness that comes from all these midnight wanderings, I relish the opportunities to help all of these people. I relish the opportunity to transition ‘home’ and visit with my astral family.

In fact, as crazy as it sounds, I look forward to the day when I can transition and stay there. Then I can help people all the time, and not just during my sleep periods.

 

 

My Top 10 Tips for Writers

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Write for yourself, not for the masses

Don’t write in a genre just because it’s popular; write in a genre because it genuinely appeals to you. Remember, it takes approximately nine to twelve months to write, edit, and publish a good novel. That means, by the time you finish writing about vampires, school-age wizards may be the rage.

Write in a genre because you enjoy that style. Someone who loves (or at least enjoys) writing and the genre they’re writing in, breathes more life into their characters, adds more dimension to their settings, and presents a more well-crafted story than that person who is merely trying to cash in on something that is momentarily popular.

(Obviously, this is a tip for people who are serious about writing, and doesn’t apply to those who are merely writing because they think it’s the easy road to riches. Which leads to our next tip.)

Be prepared to work

Being a full-time author (whether it be books, stories, blogs, or other material) is arduous work. For those of you who think that writing a best-selling book or an award-winning blog is a quick, easy way to make money, think again. Stephen King and JK Rowling spent years struggling to make ends meet before someone finally thought their work might have potential. And when you look at the number of authors who actually make a decent living from their books versus the number of authors still struggling, the odds are not in your favor. Writing, like acting or any other art-based endeavor, requires dedication, commitment, and hard work.

Write honestly

The truth of your writing is noticeable to your readers. Although your characters are fictional, they must feel real to the readers. Men cry. Women can be strong. People aren’t superheroes (and even if they are, they can still be vulnerable).

Even when you create a fantasy world, the ‘rules’ of the world have to make sense to the reader. Otherwise, they won’t believe in your world, your characters, or your story. The honesty of your story—the world, the characters, and the plot—must come from you. If you aren’t honest, the readers won’t buy it.

Take writing and literature classes

Don’t presume that your one or two classes of English and English Lit in high school are enough to make you a writer. Relearn basic sentence, paragraph, and chapter structure. Find out how to craft a short story (which is much more difficult than building a novel). Refresh yourself on basic grammar (especially verb tenses), punctuation, and spelling.

When crafting a house, you need a good foundation, and the same is true of building a story.

Edit and proof; then do it again

Don’t presume that because you used an online grammar checker (such as Grammarly or Word’s spellcheck tool) that your story is good to go. While those tools may catch 80 – 90% of your blatant errors, they don’t catch all. (They won’t tell you that the phrase “She licked the lock on the front door…” is absurd. After all, licked or clicked are both perfectly acceptable words.) Worst of all, those online tools won’t tell you whether your story or novel needs restructuring. They can’t tell you if your voice is wrong for the type of story you’ve written; they can’t help you figure out how to fix the pacing; and they can’t help you figure out that you jumped from one character’s head to another without indicating the switch. The only way to learn about those types of missteps, is to hire a story editor. After the story editor has gone through your work; then you need to have it edited/proofed for grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

Play with your words

At least once a week, take a break from whatever you’re working on to play with your words. Find a phrase, sentence, or scene that you like, and use it to prompt you into writing something. It doesn’t have to be pretty, it doesn’t even have to be publishable. The point is to practice creating images with words. Just visualize a scene, and then create that scene with your words. Try painting the scene in a flowery, overly descriptive way; then try painting that same scene using short, choppy descriptors. Use a different voice for each style, or try a different pacing. Play with it; have fun with it.

Reject rejection

Whether you’re an independent or traditional author, you’re going to receive negative reviews from readers and critics or rejections from agents and publishers. Remember, though, that it’s just their opinion. Does it hurt? Of course. But, they are just one person out of billions. So, let it go. Unless a review or rejection letter tells you specifically something that you can do to improve your writing (your characters are poorly developed, the pacing is off, or the manuscript needs proofing), then just try to shrug it off. Not everyone is going to like you or your creation. After all, you don’t like every book you read, every piece of art you see, or every meal that is served you.

Each artiste (and yes, I consider authors artistes) has their own style and not everyone will like it. Don’t let the negativity get to you. Just focus on the people who do like your work.

Read

Read everything, including styles and genres you don’t really like. Push yourself to read outside your comfort zone. If you do, it can help you grow as a writer. As you read, listen to the cadence and the rhythm of the words. Figure out what appeals to you and what doesn’t, and then figure out why.

Opening yourself to other styles, different authors, and different genres may just spark something in you and help you broaden your skills and techniques.

Network

While this concept dredges up feelings of horror in most authors, who tend to be an introverted lot, it is a necessary evil.

Use your online tools to help you network. Create a presence online so that you are visible to both those in the writing/publishing world and those who love to read.

Join Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads. Find groups who share your interests. (There are groups out there for almost anything.) Start a website and blog. Write posts (articles) and share them with other bloggers…and not just about your books. Write about topics that interest you, whether that be ghosts or antique car restoration. Your interest will garner readers, and if those readers like what you have to say, they may just check out your books, too.

For those authors willing to get up close and personal, there are conventions (book conventions, comic cons, romance conventions, fantasy conventions, and more). Conventions are a great way to meet fans and others in the writing and publishing industry. You can usually find information online for the type of convention(s) you might find interesting and pertinent.

Other places that authors should check out (depending on the types of books you author) are historic re-enactments in your area, gaming groups, mystery groups (who actually plan and solve mysteries together), as well as writing groups, and library reading sessions. Also, many senior centers love to have people volunteer to give talks and presentations. Plus, there are historical societies, women’s groups, or you can be a guest lecturer at your community college.

There are many ways you can network to gain readers, mentors, or support.

Be kind and helpful

Being kind and helpful already comes naturally to most people; therefore, this could be one of the best and easiest ways to market yourself. When you help someone else, not only do you get to feel good about yourself, but you never know what might come of it.

Offering to help someone in your critique group may result in them helping you obtain a speaking engagement (perhaps at the school their child attends, at their neighborhood library, or at the senior center their mother visits). More importantly, though, that person will tell other people about your kindness, and word of mouth sells a lot of books.

So, being kind and helpful is not only a great reward in its own right, but, it can ultimately lead to a lot of book sales.

Escorting the Dead

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AN INTERVIEW WITH TA SULLIVANpsychopomp-3d-dls-8pxls-2

One of my favorite movies is The Ghost and Mrs. Muir starring Rex Harrison (1947). In it, the ghost of a sea captain comes back for Lucy when she’s ready to pass. I always loved that he came back for her when it was time. Many of us will have heard stories about people getting close to death who see their loved ones, or sometimes angels. Beautiful, satisfying stories. But what if they’re not stories? What if that’s precisely what happens for many of us?

I recently finished “Escorting the Dead: My Life as a Psychopomp” by TA Sullivan. It’s a fascinating read about her experience as a death escort for the recently departed. As a child she was sensitive, but it wasn’t until she had her own near-death experience (NDE) that her life took a turn and she started to train as a guide for the dead.

Please welcome author and photographer, TA Sullivan. Thank you for agreeing to talk about what is a difficult subject for many.

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2 Thumbs Up for “11.22.63”

11.22.63“11.22.63” by Stephen King

Summary: Life can turn on a dime—or stumble into the extraordinary, as it does for Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine. While grading essays by his GED students, Jake reads a gruesome, enthralling piece penned by janitor Harry Dunning: fifty years ago, Harry somehow survived his father’s sledgehammer slaughter of his entire family. Jake is blown away…but an even more bizarre secret comes to light when Jake’s friend Al, owner of the local diner, enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination. How? By stepping through a portal in the diner’s storeroom, and into the era of Ike and Elvis, of big American cars, sock hops, and cigarette smoke… Finding himself in warmhearted Jodie, Texas, Jake begins a new life. But all turns in the road lead to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald.

Recommendation: Yes (in fact, if I could, I would give this book a dozen stars)

Review:

Not since “Bag of Bones” have I enjoyed a Stephen King novel as much as I have this one. In fact, I would say that this one may just tie with “Bag of Bones” as my top favorite book.

Touted as an alternate history/time travel novel (which is a genre I love), for me this book was more about the characters that peopled it. Stephen King’s understanding of human nature is obvious in the way his characters slip into your mind and your life. When I had to break from reading the book, I still thought about the characters; wondering what they might be doing at that moment, as if they were living human beings instead of just fictional characters.

If you’re looking for constant thrills and adventure that keep you on edge until the end of the book, this is not the book for you. While it has thrilling and edgier moments, it also has a lot of pathos, romance, and relationship building. This is a book about people caught up in situations that they want to capture, change, examine, or build. It isn’t a book about car chases, shoot outs, or winning the race; although, there are enough chases, spying, secrets, and edge-of-your-seat moments to keep you enthralled.

Overall, though, this is a book about people. To me, the core of the book was about the characters and the travails that forged their humanity. It is the Stephen King writing that I fell in love with way back at the beginning of his career. This is the magic that that I’ve always admired him for—the magic of writing real-life characters that are at times more real than the people we interact with on a daily basis.

If I could, I would give Mr. King a huge hug to thank him for giving us another of his marvelously peopled, and lovingly executed books. The ending may be bittersweet, but the book contains enough life lessons and thought-provoking insights to keep someone like me rereading it for years to come.

Psychopomp vs. Grim Reaper

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What’s the difference between a grim reaper and a psychopomp (other than the fact that psychopomp sounds much cooler; while grim reaper has become a Halloween and horror story cliche and an overused media trope)?

Both are spiritual entities that assist the soul to cross over to the afterlife; so, what really makes them different?

grim reapers:

  • actually take lives
  • are considered the personification of death or demons
  • escort souls to the afterlife, but are primarily associated with the underworld
  • are identified with Halloween and horror stories, so present themselves as frightening figures or demons
  • bring fear, regret, and despair to those they interact with

So, in brief, grim reapers are the personification of death and demons. They represents all the fears of the unknown that people still harbor about death, dying, and the afterlife.

psychopomps:

  • wait until the person has died
  • act as guides and escorts between planes
  • are identified with angels and demigods
  • can present themselves as friends or relatives of the dying person
  • bring comfort, solace, and hope to the dying

Briefly, psychopomps are angel-like beings. They represent all the hope, love, and spiritual comfort that people expect and hope for when they die.

A grim reaper is a much more grisly being than a psychopomp. In fact, the fourth horseman of the Apocalypse (Death) is depicted as a grim reaper. You can’t get much more grisly than that. Whereas Psychopomps, when depicted in human form, are usually shown as angels—gentle, kind, and with an ethereal glow about them. This is just one of the fundamental differences between a psychopomp and a grim reaper.

Reapers are, as their countenance depicts, there to reap your soul. However, they are not there to ease the soul’s hurt or turmoil during the transition. If anything, they may deliberately make the crossing as traumatic as possible. This is because it is their job to fulfill every fear that the transitioning soul has regarding death and dying.

However, when psychopomps come, they counter the soul’s fear and try to ease the trauma. Psychopomps attempt to show the soul that death is just a new beginning and not a fearsome or pain-filled event.

Neither option is wrong or right. In fact, both options are needed so that every soul can have a wide range of experiences. Some people embrace death and the act of dying because they’ve had nothing but positive experiences. So, perhaps they need a less-positive experience to understand and develop compassion for those who are more fearful of dying. Just as those who are ‘deathly’ afraid of dying may need several positive experiences before they begin to understand that the experience of dying isn’t always something to fear. It is simply another part of life. A moving beyond this reality by the spiritual part of you.

The real key to dying (besides not doing it), is to understand that the choice of guide (grim reaper or psychopomp) is up to you. You get to decide what type of death experience you will have. So, if you want something traumatic and eventful because you feel the need to learn some spiritual lesson, then (by all means) let the grim reaper be your escort. However, if what you want is something more tranquil and a little less gruesome, then call on that psychopomp. Either one will come when you ‘call.’ And either one will give you whatever type of experience you desire. Therefore, only you can decide whether your experience of death requires a grim reaper or a psychopomp.

So, which will it be?