Books

Daily Prompt: Futures Past/Staying in Focus

Daily Prompt: As a kid what did youwant to be when you grew up?How close or how far are you from that vision?

Oh, the dreams we had in childhood! The other day, my granddaughter (age 8) was talking about what she wants to be when she grows up. She had a list of possibilities including a doctor, an entomologist, a geologist and an archaeologist – all within the realm of possibility, given her abilities and talents.  My grandson (age 5) had much shorter list: either a superhero or a dad. Also in the realm of possibility, as most fathers are superheroes, at least in the eyes of their young children.  The capes begin to get a bit tattered as adolescence takes hold, but the super powers recharge and superdad is back, once they realize that the superhero was right all along.

I, too, had a list of possibilities when I was young. The earliest I can remember considering was being a nun, part of my catholic school indoctrination. I couldn’t get past those habits they wore, though. They were heavy, dark brown, woolen gowns with headpieces that enshrouded their heads completely – all you could see were their faces and hands – everything else was a mystery. We used to wonder what color their hair was, hidden under that headgear. In second grade we had a novice nun, one who had yet to make her final vows. Her name was Sister Annette and she had a head of flaming red hair. Halfway through the school year she was whisked away to make those vows and cover that beautiful hair forever.  How sad! Another minus for the nun choice – you couldn’t have a boyfriend or get married, so by fourth grade this career choice faded away for most of us.

I briefly considered nursing, as I read my way through the Cherry Ames, student nurse books, but all those needles I’d have to stick people with was a turn-off.  I considered archaeology myself, but scorpions and spiders and hot, dusty places were not my favorite things. So I enjoyed the career vicariously through the Amelia Peabody book series about a woman archaeologist in the late 1800s, written by Elizabeth Peters. Just before I started high school, my Aunt Jeannie had a baby boy with Down’s syndrome. She became involved with the March of Dimes campaign to prevent birth defects, and I joined her efforts. This led me to my eventual choice of career in special education.

Also about this time I started writing poetry, and keeping a travel journal of my summer adventures with my family. In high school, I had great fun writing a parody of Moby Dick with my friend, Kathi. This was a class project and our revenge against a vicious literature teacher, who wielded a red pencil on our compositions like a sword, slashing it to bits and pieces. But despite this, I continued to write, took as many lit courses as I could in college, for they were easy As to boost my GPA.

I graduated from college, got married, and one day my husband  and I, both science fiction fans, started discussing some of his ideas in politics and somehow we decided that we could fit this into a science fiction novel.  It was designed to be a trilogy and I did finish the first book, but I got derailed along the way by a couple of kids and a full time job. I submitted it to several publishers without any luck. During this time, however, I began writing articles for magazines, and had some luck in the small press with that. My first published piece was on my experience as an extra in filming the movie, The Handmaid’s Tale, based on the book by Margaret Atwood. The article is on this blog page (see title on heading above). In the meantime, I continued writing and finished a children’s book. I enrolled in creative writing classes and online courses and finally finished and self-published (thank you,  Amazon) another children’s book, Escape from Mount Sanctuary. I began this blog on May 2, 2012, and this is my 253rd  post  on this blog. As they say, the rest is yet to be written…

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Staying in Focus: Escape from Mount Sanctuary

ANNOUNCING the release of my novel for children:

 

 

Book Cover small

 

Although written with children in mind, the story is one you will never forget, a story of friendship, acceptance and tolerance for those different from us, of family and courage and sacrifice. It is a cautionary tale written to remind us how beautiful, yet fragile, is our world,  and how important is our stewardship of  it. It is  a story of  a boy coming of age, for readers of all ages.

 

Escape from Mount Sanctuary now available from the Kindle store at Amazon.com. It’s a bargain at only $.99. No Kindle, no problem. Simply download the FREE Kindle app  and you can view the book on your computer.  Here’s a link to the site:

http://www.amazon.com/Escape-Mount-Sanctuary-Imagine-discover-ebook/dp/B00JYJ5AZI/ref=pd_rhf_ee_p_dnr_2

 

On the lower right hand corner of the page you will see a link to the free Kindle app. The book will be available in print on demand in the coming weeks if you prefer traditional books.

Book Description

 April 25, 2014
What if you had the chance to discover the world all over again? In Escape from Mount Sanctuary, a young boy named Ke does exactly that. Ke has lived his life in special caverns built to shelter survivors and their descendants beneath the Earth’s surface following a cataclysmic event ages ago. Ke learns that there is an “outside” to his world, a world long thought abandoned. Ke is intrigued, especially when he meets a girl (Mira) from an outside settlement and a wolf named Tip, who possesses special abilities. With this pair of adventurers, Ke and his elder friend, Tuck, embark on a journey into a world far more wondrous, and dangerous, than they imagined. During their journey, Ke, a naïve young boy with dreams of becoming a storyteller, learns much about friendships and family, self-reliance and sacrifice. By journey’s end, they all come to realize that courage is not measured by one’s size or one’s age, but by the conviction in one’s heart. Their story celebrates the joy of discovery, the wonder of our world and the rewards of perseverance. It encourages its readers to follow their dreams wherever they may lead. It is about discovering the world all over again.

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: The Outsiders

Daily Prompt:

Tell us about the experience of being outside, looking in — however you’d like to interpret that.

Today was another topical prompt for me, and I’ll use it shamelessly as a teaser of things to come. I have just completed the editing (thanks to my editor in chief, Linda) and revising of my book. I plan to take a class in marketing and selling an eBook /POD this month, and hope to have the book ready to go by the end of the six-week class. It is a children’s book, targeted for the middle grade reader, but I think its message is one best heeded by us all.

Imagine a scenario where a cataclysm strikes the earth at some point in the future, and the remnants of humanity have taken sanctuary in caverns deep beneath the surface. Their civilization has thrived for many generations, powered by an array of massive machines, A boy named  Ke, determined to become a storyteller, learns of an “Outside” to his world. His imagination drives him to discover what this “Outside “might look like.  With his elder, friend, Tuck, a girl named Mira and a very special animal companion named Tip, Ke begins his quest, just as the massive machines powering his world begin to fail. His quest now becomes a matter of life and death  for his people…

Imagine if you could discover the world, all over again…

Stay tuned!

(Note: an early version of this book was presented on my Focus On: Fiction blog with the working title: The Storyteller.)

Staying in Focus: Focus on: Just Between You, I and Me

Linda and I are almost finished with the revising and editing of my book, Safely to Aurora. It has been a lot of fun for Linda and me.

I hope my beleaguered editor gets a chuckle out of the sentences above, for despite her sincere efforts, I continue to exasperate her with my misuse of the I/me rule.  There is no excuse, especially as the Harbrace College Handbook and a copy of Woe is I by Patricia O’Conner sit on my bookshelf in full view, as I write. My only plea is that I write from conversations in my mind and some of those characters are as bad at grammar as I am!  I even look for such gross misuse of grammar when I proof-read and still I miss them.  That is why, I have concluded. a writer is only as good as her editor is sharp.

I must add one more plea for forgiveness from my editor, as it seems the great bard himself once wrote, in a conversation between Antonio and  Bassanio, “All debts are clear’d between you and I, if I might but see you at my death.” (from The Merchant of Venice).  Now, in all fairness to the bard, perhaps the I/me rule had not been firmly established at that time. Or, mayhap, he, being the great bard, felt himself above such limitations. Can we claim poetic license? More than likely, I think, it was just a matter of his editor not being as sharp as mine.

It’s hard to find a good editor these days, as proper grammar and correct spelling are being corrupted by the cryptic language of the Internet, so shop carefully for one. Just remember, between you and I, you can’t have mine! lol

(So, Linda, are you ready to start on my next book, The Secret of the Dreamtime Spirits: An Arthur and Eleanor Mystery?

Daily Prompt: Bookworms/Staying in Focus: Books: My Timeline

Daily Prompt: Bookworms:Photographers, artists, poets: show us BOOKS.

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Books: A TImeline

Picture books were the seed

Dick and Jane taught me to read

See Dick. Run Jane. See Spot Run.

The Bobbsey Twins were lots of fun

The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew

The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew

Little Women, Little Men

I really should read them all again.

The Black Stallion books by William Farley

where horses were the heart of the story

The Adventures of Tom Swift swept me away

to places unknown on warm summer days

Ann of Green Gables was a charm

as was Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm

and Heidi and Lassie and Peter Pan

friends I would visit again and again

I fell in love with the written word

and with Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird

and my all-time favorite heroine

is Scarlett O’Hara of Gone With the Wind

not to mention my addiction

to so many books of science fiction

I could go on forever and ever

and never remember all of the treasure

of wonderful books  that have filled my days

with joy and contentment in so many ways

books are among my cherished friends

they bring to me adventure without end

and drama, humor, a touch of mystery

romance, thrillers, Shakespeare, poetry

to read a book engages your mind

the best way of all to pass the time!

-pc 2013

Staying in Focus: A Rainy Saturday Read

Daily Prompt: Three – Tenths:  Staying in Focus:   A Rainy Saturday Read

Scribble down the first ten words that come to mind. Pick three of them. There’s your post title. Now write!  My three words :Saturday, rainy, read

A  Rainy Saturday Read

What to do on a rainy weekend in August? Thanks to Mother Nature, the plants outside do not need watering.  The house could use some cleaning and the laundry needs to be done, but my inclination on such a day is to spend it lost in writing, creating a world of my own imagination,  or being  drawn into the world of someone else’s imagination – in other words, reading a book.

This weekend I just happen to have a new book to read, written by my nephew, Matt Seidel.  Matt has written and told stories since he could talk.  An interesting anecdote comes to mind here. When Matt was little, he didn’t talk much. It seemed like instead of being on output as most people are, Matt chose introspection, taking information in. His parents, though, were concerned and sent him to a speech therapist. I don’t know if it were the sessions he attended with the therapist, or the fact that Matt decided he had taken in enough and was ready now to share his words with the world, but once the floodgates opened, they never closed. Matt wrote stories, told stories, and made up stories on the spot throughout his childhood.  On one visit to our house, he retold the entire Star Wars saga using the army of action figures he had collected. Today, Matt teaches at a community college in Bloomington, Indiana. He is also a musician, video game designer, and now, published author.

This is Matt’s first published novel, entitled Saviors, and I used my rainy Saturday to finish reading the book.  It is one of those books that is hard to put down because the author deftly paces the chapters, revealing  just enough to keep you hungry for more. The story revolves around Tobias,  a  serial killer, who believes he is on a mission assigned him by God , to save the souls of individuals who lack morality (bullies, murderers, a man who beats women, for example) by torturing and killing them. Tobias meets a young woman named Emily, and as he is drawn into her world, he finds himself losing touch with his mission. But circumstances evolve in such a manner that Tobias must ultimately choose between the two. The novel ends with the reader contemplating the question, who are the saviors and who are the monsters? Matt offers interesting insights and raises questions concerning matters of morality, life and death, religious convictions, atheism, justice and ultimately, the condition and salvation of our very souls. I’m not one who can handle torture in any form, but Matt handles the serial killer scenes without resorting to lengthy, gratuitous sessions of violence. In fact, given the subject matter, I was expecting a dark novel of late night shadows and illicit deeds.  Although the book does deal with these dark matters, most of it is spent in the world Tobias is trying to protect and the people  around him who are moral and involved in helping others less fortunate with compassion and sincerity. Tobias is a multi-dimensional character, one I could not completely like or totally condemn.

This book will have readers thinking and book clubs talking long after the coffee and cake are served.  I can’t deny some prejudice in that the author is my nephew, but I know a good read when I read it, and Saviors more than fits the bill. The book will be available on Amazon soon. I’ll keep you posted.

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: Bookworm

Daily Prompt:  Bookworm. What is the last book you read? Why did you choose it?

Spoiler Alert: If you plan to read Inferno by Dan Brown, please read it before you read this post. One piece of advice: As you read this book, check out the places Robert Langdon visits on Google Maps. You’ll feel like you’re there!

The latest book I’ve read is Inferno by Dan Brown. I chose it because I like the fast pace and intricate plots Dan develops in his books. This one did not involve the Vatican as several earlier books did. The Vatican, with its religious symbology provided Dan with a wealth of historical intrigue. I wondered what he was going to choose next, and what better for symbology this time than Dante’s Inferno? Once again Professor of Art History, Robert Langdon, is on the run, this time through the art museums and basilicas of Florence and Venice,. And, as always, accompanied by an intelligent and attractive younger woman. The plot twists in this book are amazing and had me guessing right to the end.

The central question this book deals with,  though, is a perplexing moral dilemma some scientists and mathematicians believe we , the human race, will face in the not too distant future and that is overpopulation. The population is growing exponentially and will soon  outgrow the planet’s ability to sustain it. Without space flight to other habitable planets, à la  Star Trek, this will lead to mass starvation, widespread illness, and even cause nature itself to make an adjustment, perhaps in the form of plague or pandemic. So Robert Langdon is asked the question, “If you knew this to be a certainty, would you take steps to avoid this crisis if it involved sterilizing  about  a third of the population, randomly, to slow the growth without the fear and pain of a plague or pandemic? In other words, should we genetically engineer ourselves?

To me the important word here is certainty. There is little in life that is certain.  In fact, life has a way of  unfolding more in the realm of uncertainty. To quote John Lennon, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” We really can’t predict the future. Who’s to say the mathematics or science used to form these theories are derived from irrefutable fact? People once believed the Earth was the center of the universe, that the Earth was flat or that the atom could not be split. Even today, we are far from having all the answers. The topics of science – dark matter, dark energy, the theory of everything,  the strange world of quantum physics, all of this is subject to change as we learn more about the universe. We are not ready yet to handle decisions of such magnitude. We must tread carefully.

With near certainty, then, I can say we  still have more questions than we have answers, and that is good because it gets us thinking.

Dan Brown’s Inferno, certainly does that. ***** Recommended.

Focus On: Challenges, and Gratitude


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It has been a year of challenge for us, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get better any time soon. Mom wasn’t able to tolerate the pill form of the chemo, and now, after a week or so to recover from that protocol, she is starting weekly intravenous chemo, which will more than likely cause her to lose her hair as well as having to weather the same side effects .as before – mouth sores, diarrhea and nausea.  We explained the situation as clearly we could, and she is determined to try again.

We are born with an innate strength to survive and hang on to life as long as we can, to struggle to beat the odds for a little more time. Time to be with family and friends, time to enjoy what this world has to offer.

When I wake up in the morning, the world seems full of possibility. I sit in my favorite chair in my “snuggery” and watch the sun rise. It does so, like clockwork, and everyday we can count on it to be there . The birds awaken and the sweet morning air is filled with their cheerful song. We are surrounded by gifts too great to count, and too often we fail to express the gratitude we should have for them.

Sadly, life, the greatest gift of all, is often treated with the least amount of reverence and care and we are bombarded daily by the news of yet another war, another murder, another threat  to our lives and our well-being. It’s no wonder so many people are depressed and anxious.

I look at my mother, at 90, facing the fight of her life, for her life, with a strength I can only hope to emulate as my disease progresses. Her current battle has me looking my own mortality right in the face. I can either crumble before it, or refuse to be intimidated, and continue to find joy in the things I’ve always loved – my writing, my  photography, gardening and nature, the joy I find in this beautiful world, in the people I love and who love me  in return. Time passes too quickly not to grasp at joy and happiness while we can.

Michael J. Fox once said, “Parkinson’s disease is the gift which just keeps on taking.” With his characteristic, positive insight, he can acknowledge that even within the diagnosis of a progressive disease,there can be  found a hidden gift. In his  case the diagnosis was a wake-up call. He was, at the time, partying a little too hard, his train on the wrong track. In his book, Lucky Man, he says, “I am no longer the person described in this chapter, and I am forever grateful for that. I would never want to go back to that life – a sheltered, narrow existence fueled by fear and made livable by insulation, isolation, and self-indulgence. It was a life lived in a bubble, but bubbles, being the most fragile constructions, are easily destroyed. All it takes is a little finger.” He goes on to explain that absent this neurophysiological catastrophe, he would have never have embarked on the journey he has taken, or been so profoundly enriched. I am not yet at the point of saying I am glad I have PD, but I admit I am more conscious of the gifts I have been given, and  am grateful for them. Right now, I am grateful for the meds that keep me moving and the researchers working on finding a cure.

At some point most of us will be faced  with a serious challenge. Some of us will win, and some of us will lose, but most of us will have fought the good fight and will know when it is time to let it go. My mother is prepared to take another stab at fighting this disease. With her fortitude, I think she can make it, but I also think she’ll know when enough is enough.  I know I will have a hard time dealing with that and I ardently hope that it is much later than sooner,  In the meantime, we will make the most of our precious moments, and  express gratitude for what we have, right now.. My gift to you, this poem, on gratitude: Take some time to think about what you are most grateful for, and  tomorrow morning, when the sun rises again and the world is full of possibilities, go out and find them.

With Gratitude…

For sweeping skies of crystal blue
And mighty mountains standing tallPhoto06_1 - Copy
For the new grown green of early spring
And the brightly colored leaves of fall
For butterflies and singing birds
Morning light and summer showers
For treasured books, filled with words
A special place to read for hours
For Christmas trees and twinkling lights
For gathering with those most dear
For silent snow that frosts the night
And dreams of peace to conquer fear
For delicate flowers and a star-spangled sky
For the marvel that is our universeIMG_7633
For the sense of wonder as we try
To unravel things mysterious
For the light and warmth of the golden sun
For ocean waves that rush to shore
For spending time just having fun
with my close friends, whom I adore
For the doctors who take care of me
For my family, how I love them so
For the best of times, most certainly
and for all there is to learn and know
And all the things still left to do
I’ filled with heartfelt gratitude.
                       -pc 2012

 

Focus On: Quiet Courage

“Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.'” -Mary Anne Radmacher.

the voice of quiet courage
                    by pat coyle

it is an office with a cut glass chandelier in the lobby
brilliant pictures grace the walls
framing a much different world
than the one they inhabit –
those who must come here
those who fight the silent battle
with fortitude and  quiet courage

Called forth by a smiling nurse
one on each side, the three musketeers
questions are asked, answers given
blood pressure taken
he will be in soon
and we wait

I look over at her she sits quietly
lost in her own thoughts
lost in a world not of her choosing
searching for a beacon to show her the way
the way out, the way back, the way home

he  arrives

strange words float in the air
metastatic, PET scan, estrogen, radiation,
but then they fade and scatter
diminished by one word,
which fills the room with the taste of fear
chemotherapy

 he explains

she nods
not understanding some of it
bewildered by most of it
but knowing her musketeers are getting it
and will explain it to her

taken orally, not as harsh
less side effects
no hair loss

he leaves

to give orders
write prescriptions
arm her with the weapons needed
to win the day
we relax somewhat and breathe again

she gazes down
she does not recognize this body
crisscrossed with battle scars
this is not me, she thinks
but it is, and she knows
she will do what she must
she will take what she should
for as long as she can

she is a fighter
she is a survivor
she is our mother
and we, her musketeers

And so we enter the next phase in Mom’s battle against breast cancer with a visit to the oncologist.  My sister, Mary Lou, and I accompanied her, both for moral support and because, despite her hearing aid, she misses a lot of what is being said. And who wouldn’t, hearing impaired or not, when the doctor is throwing our words like metastatic, Pet scans, and chemotherapy at you.

The bottom line is that the first cancer she had (22 years ago) was estrogen driven. When it re-occurred  later, which was 5 years ago, it was treated with radiation, and then she was given tamoxifen , a drug that helps suppress these estrogen driven tumors. The doctor was curious as to why the tamoxifen failed in light of this third occurrence and then the pathology report arrived and showed that this was not an estrogen driven cancer, but a metastatic one, capable of moving to other parts of the body. It is  a completely different cancer. So she must have a PET scan to see if any of it has metastasized elsewhere. If not, then she will take six chemotherapy pills orally each day for two weeks, then be off for a week, and this rotation will last quite some time, perhaps for the rest of her life. If cancer is present elsewhere, then a new protocol will have to be addressed.

The good news is that side effects are milder than intravenous chemo, she won’t lose her hair or experience the vomiting associated with it either. Some nausea, maybe, and we have to watch her coumadin dosage, as the new medication will boost its blood thinning properties.

So again we wait, for the PET scan to be scheduled and the new meds to be acquired.
We will try to do so with the same fortitude and quiet courage she has exhibited through all the challenges of her life. No matter what the future holds, she knows the three musketeers will see it through together  — all for one and one for all!

Focus on:Glaciers

           glaciers

     they are rivers of ice
            from mountains they flow
       toward waiting waters
 unhurried and slow
   the quiet of morning
        disturbed when is heard
        the groan as the glacier
  calves off an iceberg
 which floats away in
    waters of aquamarine
   the wonders of nature
delights unforeseen
– pc 2012

In addition to the majesty of the Alaskan Mountains are the glaciers, rivers of frozen ice which form because the accumulation of snow each year exceeds the snowmelt.  As the snow accumulates, it compacts the layers below it into solid ice. On our visit to Alaska we saw two glaciers, the South Sawyer glacier in the Tracy Arm fjord and the Mendenhall Glacier.  Both of these glaciers are part of the Juneau Icefield, which covers 1,500 square miles.  In fact, the largest glaciers in the world, outside of the Antarctic and Greenland icecaps,  are located in Alaska.

Sadly, current climatic conditions are causing the glaciers to recede at an alarming rate and possibly at some future date will be a memory preserved in pictures taken by those of us lucky enough to see them before their time runs out.

But, as always, mother nature has a plan .  When the glaciers retreat, bare rock is uncovered and eventually moss takes root, soil accumulates followed by plants and trees.  These add to the organic composition of the soil and are eventually replaced by other species of plants and trees.  The new forest becomes a habitat for additional plant and animal species to enjoy.(This process takes about 350 years)

In the meantime, the glaciers are still there, glistening blue in the morning sun.(They are blue because glacial ice absorbs all the colors of visible light except blue, which it transmits.)  Here are some photos to enjoy.

Facts about the glaciers obtained from the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center and  Mendenhall Glacier Flowing Through Time by Katherine Hocker.

South Sawyer Glacier

icebergs precede our arrival at the glacier. Most of these are too small to really qualify as icebergs. An iceberg must be at least 14 feet long to qualify.

Another view : South Sawyer Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier and Lake

ice dropping off the glacial face is plentiful in the waters  around it