Do You Know About End-of-Life Experiences?

veilbetweenworldsSeeing loved ones, angels, or other guides to the afterlife is a common occurrence for those who are dying. However, many living (and healthy) people find the concept ludicrous, frightening, or just plain fanciful. Yet, ask any hospice worker or doctor and you will find that they have hundreds of stories showing just how often this occurs.

Is it simply a daydream, nightmare, or hallucination induced by the dying mind or the drugs? Not according to most doctors and nurses.

As a psychopomp who escorts the dead to the afterlife, I’ve often been the stand-in for some loved one that the dead and dying expect to see–a loved one who has already moved on to another life or who is otherwise ‘unavailable’ to make an appearance. psychopomp-3d-dls-8pxls-2

You can read more about end-of-life experiences and people’s reactions to them, here:

Near Death, Seeing Dead People May Be Neither Rare Nor Eerie

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Like him, but not so much the book

JustKeepMoving_bkcvr

Keep Moving by Dick Van Dyke (and Todd Gold)

Summary:  Beloved Hollywood icon Dick Van Dyke will celebrate his 90th birthday in December 2015. He’s an established legend, having starred in Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and The Dick Van Dyke Show. And yet he’s still keeping himself busy, entertaining America on television, movies, the stage, and social media. Everyone wonders, “How does he do it?” For the first time, Van Dyke will share his secrets and tips on old age: Just keep moving.

In a fun and folksy way of addressing readers, Keep Moving will serve as an instruction book on how to embrace old age with a positive attitude. The chapters are filled with exclusive personal anecdotes that explore various themes on aging: how to adapt to the physical and social changes, deal with loss of friends and loved ones, stay current, fall in love again, and “keep moving” every day like there’s no tomorrow.

Recommendation: Mixed feelings (in Amazon stars, maybe 2 stars)

Review:  It’s true that the narrative is fun and folksy, and I could hear Mr. Van Dyke’s voice throughout. I also enjoyed the snippets of biography that were included, such as how he and his current wife met and dated, and the relationship between him and his brother, Jerry.

However, the instructional part was less than useful to those who aren’t as well off as the celebrity author. This also made it difficult for me to relate to him and his ‘advice.’ For instance, his instruction to get up every day and have a sing-along with your spouse while enjoying birds and sunshine on the patio are a lovely idea. But it’s not something that most people can relate to, because most people (even elderly people) get up before the sun so that they can spend their mornings fighting traffic to get to a job that they may or may not enjoy.

I don’t begrudge Mr. Van Dyke his more than adequate retirement funds, he worked hard for them. However, most of us don’t (and didn’t) get paid millions; also, many of us got hit pretty hard when the stock and housing market collapsed. That means that many of us are struggling while just hoping we don’t get laid off because we’ve reached a certain age.

So, while I appreciated his happy attitude, I found the information rather Pollyannaish. I really wished that his ‘advice’ applied more to those of us living in a ‘normal world’ rather than his more rarefied and exclusive group of the rich and the elderly.

Not Quite Up to the Hype

MeetClaraMeet Clara Andrews by Lacey London

Summary: Meet Clara Andrews… Your new best friend!

With a love of cocktails and wine, a fantastic job in the fashion industry and the world’s greatest best friends, Clara Andrews thought she had it all.

That is until a chance meeting introduces her to Oliver, a devastatingly handsome American designer. Trying to keep the focus on her work, Clara finds her heart stolen by lavish restaurants and luxury hotels.

As things get flirty, Clara reminds herself that inter-office relationships are against the rules, so when a sudden recollection of a work’s night out leads her to a gorgeous barman, she decides to see where it goes.

Clara soon finds out that dating two men isn’t as easy as it seems…

Will she be able to play the field without getting played herself?

Join Clara, as she finds herself landing in and out of trouble, re-affirming friendships, discovering truths and uncovering secrets.

Recommendation: Yes and No (maybe 2.5 stars by Amazon standards)

Review: While the first to-thirds of the book was a typical romantic farce, the last third (the ending) felt tacked on and flat. It was if the author wasn’t sure how to fix the corner she had written herself into, so she simply wrote a happy ending and forced it into the book. It didn’t fit the circumstances nor did it fit the personality of the male protagonist she had created, but that didn’t seem to matter. At least now the book had the requisite ‘happy ending’ that romance stories are supposed to have.

The other reason I can’t give it a higher ranking is the repetitive and glaring grammatical error that occurred throughout the book. The error was so jarring that it quite literally pushed me out of the story. If it had happened once, I might have thought it was just a mistake by the editor; but, the same error occurred repeatedly, which led me to think that the book hadn’t been edited at all. (Note: I have subsequently discovered that what most ‘normal’ people perceive as a glaring grammatical error, is considered all right in some less affluent neighborhoods of London. And while I might then consider that the author was trying to add some quirkiness and flavor to her main character, my perception of the main character as a university graduate made it difficult to accept that the character would use such awkward and poorly constructed speech idioms.)

As romances go, it’s a cute bit of fluff as long as you’re willing to overlook the lack of a successful ending and some huge grammar gaffs. However, I much prefer a Cathie Linz, Amanda Quick, or Janet Evanovich book when wanting a bit of romance, comedy, and charm.

 

 

Moving from Ordinary Writing, to Extraordinary Writing

pexels-photo-921716.jpegEveryone always says, “Write what you know.” Unfortunately, that always left me thinking that perhaps I wasn’t cut out for writing. Because the only thing I’m an expert at is writing. It’s what I’ve done all my life (when I’m not reading). I’ve written how-to manuals, white papers, poems, test scripts, short stories, reports, analytical summaries, and, yes, books.

Then, the other day, I attended a presentation on creative writing and the presenter said, “Write what you’re passionate about. You can always learn what you don’t know.”

That statement not only made more sense to me, it freed me.

So, I made a list of the things I’m passionate about. I then made another list of the topics I’d love to learn more about. Mixing those two lists helps me build my stories. For instance, I’m passionate about alternate healing methods (I don’t claim to be an expert, but I’ve been dabbling all my life, so I do have extensive knowledge regarding herbs, crystals, and techniques like Reiki). If I combine that with my desire to learn more about sailing ships of the 1700’s and 1800’s, I can build a story around a healer at sea. It could be a fantasy, a romance with historical flashbacks, or an historical romance. No matter what genre I select, using this method would allow me to easily combine my passion and my desire to learn more, while creating something interesting and compelling for my readers.

According to the presenter, that’s exactly what happens when you write about your passions. That excitement and enthusiasm that you have for your story comes through in your writing. It ignites something in your readers helping them relate to and feel the emotion you embedded in the tale. And capturing the readers and drawing them into the story world is really what we all want as authors.

Now, this way of writing isn’t for everyone—it’s especially not for those who are more keen on producing quantity rather than quality. That’s because the learning part can sometimes take months. It all depends on just how much knowledge you need to make your story convincing. If the character’s shipboard travel only spans one or two chapters, then you don’t need much knowledge. If, however, it spans the entire book, then the more knowledge you obtain, the easier it is to sprinkle in those tiny details that make your story world believable.

And that’s why most writing teachers or mentors will say, “Write what you know.” Because it’s the little details that can make or break the story world for your readers. If, for instance, you know nothing of sailing ships, it will often come through in the details (or lack thereof). For instance, if you state that your character came on deck to help with the lines or sheets, and then you have him or her fussing with the sails, immediately shows your lack of knowledge. (The terms ‘lines’ and ‘sheets’ refer to the ropes used on a ship.)

Usually, what you’re passionate about is also something you know a lot about. If you’re passionate about horse racing, you usually know a lot about race courses, race horses, and the betting process. This allows you to include the necessary (and correct) terms and details throughout your story. It also lets you infuse your story with all the enthusiasm you have for the sport. This in turn ignites a passion in your reader for your characters and story.

Therefore, if you’re willing to take some extra time when writing your novel, combining your passion with what you want to learn about can help you create an extraordinary book for your readers.

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Are You Too Empathetic?

MM_FinalCover - CopyIf you feel at times that you’re too empathetic–torn apart and unable to cope with other people’s suffering–help is at hand. Doing a compassion meditation every day for two weeks may just help you reduce the distress you feel when witnessing someone’s suffering.

To find out more, please read the article.

To learn about other types of meditations that might help you, try Mastering Meditation.

Interesting and Informative

intolandofsnowsInto the Land of Snows by Ellis Nelson

Summary: A troubled, sixteen-year-old Blake travels to Base Camp on Mt. Everest to spend time with his physician father. When a deadly avalanche occurs, his dad is forced to rethink things, so sends Blake off the mountain.

Now accompanied by a Sherpa guide, and in possession of a mysterious camera, Blake undertakes a journey which will challenge everything he believes. The magic of his experience in the Himalayas, will forever change him.

Recommendation: Yes

Review:  The first thing that intrigued me about the book was the title, “Into the Land of Snows.” I found out later that the title is actually another name for Tibet, Nepal, and the surrounding Himalayan area. What a clever idea by the author to use it as the title of her book, then.

Throughout the novel, the Sherpa guide (Ang) consistently tries to engage and educate Blake (the teenage protagonist) in the ways of life. However, Blake, being a self-absorbed, typical U.S. teenager, is hardly interested. That is, until they end up in several harrowing situations that require him to pay attention so that he can learn and understand how to overcome the challenges.

During their trek through the mountains, Blake and Ang debate philosophy (primarily Buddhism), encounter differences in social mores, and work through several ethical and moral issues.

Having never been to the Himalayas or met a Sherpa, I found the descriptions and societal insights fascinating and educational. However, the conversations on philosophy seemed stilted and unnatural. Overlooking that unnaturalness, though, I did find the snippets of information gleaned from the book helpful and intriguing. Intriguing enough to get me to check out several books on Buddhism from the library.

Will this book appeal to young adults? I can’t really say. But as an adult, I found it quite interesting and very informative.

[To learn more about the author; or to purchase the book]

After-Death Experiences

ovaldoveDoes consciousness reside in the brain, or is it something else? Is the soul, ka, spirit, psyche, or essence that is you a force that interacts with the physical body and provides the consciousness for the being that is you?

One doctor and researcher, Dr. Sam Parnia, seems to think so.

It could be that, like electromagnetism, the human psyche and consciousness are a very subtle type of force that interacts with the brain, but are not necessarily produced by the brain.

He discusses his ideas, his work, and his research in his book Erasing Death: The Science That Is Rewriting the Boundaries Between Life and Death.

Read more about Dr. Parnia’s research regarding consciousness and the after-death experiences that he has gathered from some of his patients.