Her husband enlisted: eager to fight,
eager to serve. She was a good wife,
accepted this. She could argue, but why
fight? The last night the sun set pale
in their wine by the garden. The last
kiss was fragile—lips thin and chapped
with goodbyes. In his absence, she bathed
behind a wickerwork screen, enjoyed
the iridescent rainbows of shampoo bubbles,
the way soft light manicured her nails,
the curl of toes beneath hot water,
the volume of hair as humidity twirled
fingers around her loose locks.
— Read on www.writersresist.com/2018/06/14/bathsheba-wants-to-write-metoo/
Rachel Federman has a poem based exercise called Imagine Your Sky-house.
For more about Rachel Federman and her advice for writers go to http://rachelfederman.com
Writing My Sky-house
I live in a Redwood tree. Five foot thick branches extend out from the trunk I call the hearth. Like the spokes of an octagon shaped wheel, each branch leads to a different room. Looking east you’ll find the sleeping room, the first room of the day. To the right of the sleeping room you encounter the open air shower room where water cascades down in a soothing massage of rainfall. Follow your nose southward into the cooking room where you smell the aroma of fresh fruits, berries, nuts and vegetables being prepared. Just across the way sits the dining room, glancing down you notice a brilliant sheen glistening off the surface of a hardwood table carved from a log.
Head west where the drawing-room awaits. Complete with musical instruments, a fully stocked bar, card table, billiards suite, portable table tennis, hand sculpted built-in chess table, sunken sitting area for tea, and a lounge. Off the drawing-room is the play room equipped with a working stage. A vast library of play scripts bookend the stage. Yoga mats are rolled against the far wall. Near at hand is a rack with jump ropes, carved wood weights, display shelves of jigsaw puzzles, a standing desk with sketch paper, pencils, ink, fountain pens, paint, brushes, and an array of canvas materials. Two adjacent doors stand behind you. One is labeled darkroom and the other ceramic studio. The north branch leads to the entry room, access to all available transportation. Between the entry room and the sleeping room is a parlor, where there is a writing desk and a sofa surrounded by bookshelves.
There are massive skylights in the ceilings with rolling shades. Fine wood furnishings highlight polished hardwood floors. The walls have rich wood panelling of course. Portal shaped windows are positioned in such a fashion to create enough natural lighting throughout the day.
Outside you can see birdhouses above and below. The patio has swings, hammocks and a small yard. There is a launchpad and a zip line for ferrying to lower elevations.
As you walk through the house it seems heavenly. A natural aura emanates from the walls as you examine the layout. The northeast wing is quite restful, and you close heavy eyelids, unable to resist sampling a pleasant dreamscape. A peaceful air dominates the southeastern portion of the house. You hear harmonious chords being struck as a fresh breeze blows through the west windows, perfumed by forest blossoms. You can’t seem to shake the almost prophetic sense of deja-vu when you find yourself in the entryway, not remembering how you arrived there.
Standing at the outer edges and looking down, the view is majestic. Lake Tranquil is separated from a lazy river by an earthen dam. Below the river is a steep plummit called the Everlasting Falls. Once the pool of falling water settles, the path heads into a steam of rolling rapids that disappear into a lush forest I call The Hidden Wood. Completely secluded, only the squirrels and birds ever find their way to my front door.
Try creating by writing your sky-house. Or pick another imaginary place.
Poem by Mary Oliver
Beside the Waterfall
Source: The August 1993 edition of Poetry, a JSTOR publication with the Poetry Foundation poetryfoundation.org
5 Ways to add tension to my story
Here I want to examine specific ideas which would fit seamlessly into my story. I should do a close reading and determine which additions would be consistent with the themes I have built. How well can these be woven into the overall plot of the story? Do they help build towards a climax or move the story along constructively in other ways? Another use for this practice is to find the right amount of tension. Are you satisfied with the level of tension in your story? By adding and removing you can make adjustments here and there until it tastes just right.
Take one of your stories and try this technique too. Did it help? Do you have a similar technique that works for you?
My protagonist ‘John’ is attracted to a woman. By adding another character to compete with him for her attention I could introduce tension. How does John feel about the idea of losing her? How does John react to what the other person does and says? How does his behavior change because of the presence of competition? Alternatively, does the woman have a job or a family member whom John has to compete with? Would that create guilty feelings in John for wondering if he is being selfish?
2. Work Stress
John has an important position at work. I might have something bad happen on the job. Perhaps an accident occurs where John has to split his attention from his current assignment to help out. Someone could file a complaint or lawsuit which would add pressure on John from both that direction and from his superiors as well. How does he handle pressure from his boss? What are the consequences to John and others if the lawsuit has merit? How can John solve the situation or prevent it from getting worse?
3. Family Trouble
John’s sister is his closest living relative. If she is dealing with a medical condition and needs John’s help that could increase demands on him. She might refuse the help or be a difficult patient. She might have a secret that she is keeping from him causing him concern. How does he feel about his sisters actions? Does she have personality traits that get under his skin? Does he fear losing his sister because he is a widow who already suffers from the death of a loved one?
John has been alone since his wife died. He could have an unresolved issue related to her loss. The anniversary of her death, or their marriage might be a source of stress for him. His son might blame John for her death and act out in dangerous ways as a result, forcing John to resolve the conflict. How does he relate to a son who resists his attempts to heal their relationship? What happens when he thinks about his wife and the times they had, does he remember happy times or conflict? Is he struggling with regret?
5. Personal Flaws
John is not perfect. He makes a mistake or forgets an important event. Now he has to deal with the aftermath. Perhaps he had to choose between two conflicting demands on his time. Why did he make the choice he did? How did having to make that choice affect him? How did the people affected respond to John’s choice? What new challenges does he have to overcome as a result?
5 Things You See
For my practice of mindfulness I completed the exercise of describing five things I observed when I went outside today.
The shimmering surface of a pool of water. The clear blue hue. Stained surfaces beneath the water, bleached, rough, and uneven.
Gray Oak leaves blowing in the wind. Bouncing off the ground. Waving along a wooden fence.
An empty hammock rocking slowly back and forth. Dozens of pine needles trapped in the white cloth webbing , dotted with dried leaves.
A black oil lamp hanging from a pole. Rust spots below an empty wick slot, on one side of the base a capless reservoir. Soiled surfaces along the frame and a dusty glass enclosure.
Six silver flutes strung with black string hanging from a stone stamped with “Welcome” in a bed of flowers. Alongside, two faded tear drop clappers twisted into a line of miniature Christmas lights.
Do you practice writing meditations? Does it help you with mindfulness? Does it benefit your writing?
Book Review: Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult
I read this book because I read Small Great Things & I appreciated Jodi Picoult wanting to write about racial issues in the U.S. Leaving Time is another novel where the author explores big societal issues. It tackles the issues of grief, man’s inhumanity towards man, and man’s mistreatment of wild, undomesticated animals.
What you should know.
As usual the author’s research is noteworthy. There is talent in educating yourself accurately and thoroughly and then being able to incorporate that knowledge into a story so that it is entertaining instead of lecturing. If that is important to you in your choice of reading you won’t be disappointed here. The book takes place in North America and South Africa. It has characters who narrate first person point of view in the present and also one character who narrates in the past.
What I liked.
This book has much to offer. There is a child protagonist. There is a psychic! There is good old fashioned detective work. There is a missing person. And there are unsolved mysteries with suspects at every turn.
Picoult’s focus on wild and captured elephants is very nicely handled. It’s great reading. Real, grounded storytelling at its best. I saw everything vividly, pictured the animals, their emotions, and the challenging work done by caregivers and researchers alike.
By moving seamlessly between four character POVs the pace remains fresh, only bogging down slightly on occasion when Alice, researching elephant grieving, shares insights about her experiences.
The author makes several strong statements about human behavior that should be studied. You might disagree with some of them. However, without scientific evidence to support one position or the other, who’s to say whether those hinted at by Picoult’s prose or your’s are correct? It will certainly offer up topics for discussion regardless. If only elephants conducted anthropological studies we might learn something useful!
What I didn’t like.
The two main characters are intellectual in the fact they are highly educated. The main protagonist is unabashedly selfish. It could be that this is typical human behavior, and I am perhaps ignorant. But it also could be that I am unwilling to accept such a trait in this story. It does however speak to a larger trend in the novel.
One of the distinct aspects of the story is that the actions of all the humans are described without any moral assessment of them whatsoever. Other than making an effort to help elephants, none of the humans do any good, in my opinion. Everything they do besides help elephants is either harmful to themselves or other people.
So it begs the question. What should the characters learn from the experience? What should the reader conclude from this? The only single explanation given by the author is that humans are less evolved than elephants. Are we to infer then that humans are evolutionarily bereft of the ability to identify and then perform moral acts (except one, trying to right the wrong done to elephants by other humans)?
If the message was that we are best served learning from the behavior of elephants, it was overshadowed by the fact the humans behaved so badly it left no room for debate.
Recommendation: Good Read
What you should know
This is a novel about real world spying, relatively modern post-cold war espionage between nation states. It is written by a retired intelligence professional. I’m not sure anyone not interested in the genre would want to read it. Just as I would guess anyone who is interested in the genre would most likely read it. It is both violent and pro American, not as if those two characteristics go hand in hand.
What I liked
The story takes its time developing. It isn’t in a hurry. Which allows for readers to get to know the people as well as the places they inhabit. The story is multilayered with several characters having to experience life and make choices about who they are, what they want to accomplish, and who they ultimately may become.
The author goes after President Putin. Apparently, nobody wants to go after him in real life, at least it happens in this novel.
There is real suspense. There are harrowing encounters. The romantic aspect isn’t overdone. Enough interest is built that you definitely want to know how it all turns out.
What I didn’t like
Jason Matthews gives one of the main characters, Dominika Egorova, a gift of sorts, the ability to sense letters as colors. The diagnosis is that she is a synesthete, someone who perceives sounds, or letters, or numbers as colors. Eventually she develops the ability to read emotions and even detect deception and ill will by interpreting the colors she sees around other people. Fascinating. Yet how would someone best take advantage of this? To become a ballerina, apparently. So our challenge then is whether to accept how someone with this ability would use it. Would that Matthews had made a stronger case for why Dominika only uses it to survive internal office politics in Russia.
This is book one of a trilogy. Book two is Palace of Treason and book three is The Kremlin’s Candidate. While we certainly like trilogies when we can’t get enough of a story, this one left me wondering whether I’d ever read books 2 and 3. That isn’t a good sign.
Recommendation: Maybe Read
Book Review: The Prophecy Con (Rogues of the Republic book 2), By Patrick Weekes
What you should know
Read The Palace Job (Rogues of the Republic book 1) first. It introduces all of the important players and is a better book all around.
The Prophecy Con picks up in the epilogue of The Palace Job an continues to tell stories about many of the characters introduced in book 1 and re-introduced to an extent in book 2. To appreciate the full backstory and understand who the characters are completely, you have to read book 1. But that’s a good thing.
In a realm where one part of the world is governed by an empire, and the other a republic, a war is building that could determine the future of both societies, and everyone in them.
What I liked
Author Patrick Weekes proved his ability to write enjoyable dialogue in book 1. The more of that I found in The Prophecy Con the more I liked it. The Palace Job introduced us to some very interesting, humorous, multidimensional characters, who are easy to appreciate. Weekes writes about them and takes great care in keeping them consistent to their values, as he reveals more about them, and as they deal with growing challenges in their relationships, and their struggles to survive against difficult odds.
What I didn’t like
There just wasn’t enough down time for me. The author seemed obsessed with frenetic action to the point where he gave no breaks between one violent conflict after another. But that wasn’t the worst of it. Even within each fight, he kept raising the stakes, doubling and tripling down within the combat to add doubt about the outcome and heighten the intensity. The problem with doing that, I found, was that not only did it seem like the characters needed more than two arms, two legs, and one head to cope with all the simultaneous assaults, I needed to be two readers to keep up with what was happening. That, I’m afraid, didn’t happen.
I want to be fair here, but book 1 didn’t fall into that trap. I’m reading, believing that the heroes will survive each onslaught, they got through the first book didn’t they? Yet with every line Weekes seems to try to get me to believe they have to do the impossible in order to be alive in the next chapter. If I was one of the characters, I’d offer to sacrifice myself, just to avoid all the suffering I’ll have to endure in the remaining chapters. Can a brother get a breather?
Another problem with the plot is that one, or more, its hard to tell at times, of the characters has the apparent ability to disguise themselves while knowing what everyone else is doing. Sort of like the fly on the wall, or having the ability to be completely undetectable. Some not only disappear, but they disappear into other beings. It’s a problem because these characters leave the reader guessing too much. Who are they? How many are they? They were so hidden I had trouble distinguishing them from each other. What is they’re agenda? Whose side are they on anyway? These secret characters wield so much control it seems like they’re outside the story. You never get to know what rules govern these mysterious beings, certainly not the same rules that apply to the more or less human characters. So they provide mostly frustration when I think they’re supposed to be adding suspense.
Not as much fun reading.
Questions raised in The Palace Job included what separated these two major powers, and how would the future be impacted by their differences? The Prophecy Con addresses these to some degree. However, the real question the book emphasized was who were the real puppet-masters? The significant leaders in the republic and the empire did not have enough intelligence or integrity to prevent them from being manipulated by anyone with more than an adolescent level of maturity.
Recommendation: Maybe Read
Join me in a book (club) discussion. Each day we will cover the main concepts and questions of one of the chapters. I will summarize the points in each and offer my insights. You are welcome to comment. If you choose not to comment, you still may consider these and other points of interest to you. Feel free to do so on your own or with someone you know. I hope you enjoy and benefit from this experience. Shall we?
Why this book?
The introductions states –
What someone believes about God affects everything else he or she believes.1
It includes these 5 most critical questions in life:
- Origin: Where did we come from?
- Identity: Who are we?
- Meaning: Why are we here?
- Morality: How should we live?
- Destiny: Where are we going?
Any book that rightly helps us figure these out is worth discussing.
What we believe about God is often referred to as a worldview
There are 3 primary worldviews about God,
Theism, Pantheism, and Atheism.
Theism = God made all
Pantheism = God is all
Atheism = no God at all2
The authors introduce us to the modern myth that religion is nothing more than faith (blind faith, some call it) and they include the parable of the 6 blind men and the elephant story as an illustration.
The point we are asked to consider is that all religious worldviews make truth claims. To the degree those claims cannot be completely 100% proven, faith is used by people to cover what doubts remain.
We should evaluate these claims with scientific and historical evidence.
One example the authors provide is
Truth claim: The universe had a beginning
Truth claim: The universe has always existed and did not have a beginning
Both claims cannot be true.
The book is a presentation of the evidence that allows us to decide which claim to accept as true. This passage capsulizes the authors’ premise:
“Yet despite these intellectual, emotional, and volitional obstacles, we submit that it’s not faith in Christianity that’s difficult but faith in atheism or any other religion. That is, once one looks at the evidence, we think it takes more faith to be a non-Christian than it does to be a Christian. This may seem like a counter-intuitive claim, but it’s simply rooted in the fact that every religious worldview requires faith – even the worldview that says there is no God.”3
The book systematically covers twelve points that show Christianity is true.4 I have summarized them below.
- Truth about reality is knowable
- The opposite of true is false
- It is true that the theistic God exists. There are 4 types of evidence for this truth. A. The beginning of the universe B. The design of the universe. C. The design of life. D. The Moral Law
- If God exists, then miracles are possible
- Miracles can be used to confirm a message from God (acts of God confirm a word from God)
- The New Testament is historically reliable, based on 4 key points of evidence. A. Early testimony. B. Eyewitness testimony. C. Uninvented and authentic testimony. D. Eyewitnesses who were not deceived
- The New Testament says Jesus claimed to be God
- The Jesus’ claim to be God was miraculously confirmed by
- Therefore, Jesus is God
- Whatever Jesus teaches is true
- Jesus taught that the Bible is the Word of God
- Therefore, it is true that the Bible is the Word of God – and anything opposed to it is false
One of the closing points made by the authors in the introduction is that acceptance of Christianity is not solely based on proof that it is true. Many atheists and non-Christians refuse to become Christians because they are unwilling to live by the what they understand to be what Christianity espouses. The authors assert that God wanted it that way. Where there is room for choice. Here’s what they say is why God made the world the way it is in order that we have free will to accept or reject him.
God has provided enough evidence in this life to convince anyone willing to believe, yet he has also left some ambiguity so as not to compel the unwilling. In this way, God gives us the opportunity either to love him or to reject him without violating our freedom.5
I agree with the authors that God expects us to be knowledgeable about why we believe what we believe. I have found the Old Testament encourages wisdom. This is the type of book that helps us get exposed to more wisdom. I have also found that the New Testament encourages teaching and discipling other Christians and persuading non-Christians. This book should help with each of these.
What would you say on the points made in the introduction so far? The authors have promised to cover each of these topics in detail. Ideally, any questions you might have now will be answered in the chapters that follow.
1Geisler & Turek page 20 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.
2Geisler & Turek page 23 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.
3Geisler & Turek pages 24-25 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.
4Geisler & Turek page 28 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.
5Geisler & Turek page 31 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.