Saturday, January 31, 2015

Science & the Spiritual by Eleanor Stem

Do you think science and the spiritual will ever meet? Recently, a professor of physics at Texas Tech University, Bill Poirier, proposed a theory that assumes parallel worlds exist, and they interact with one another.

This idea has been knocked around for centuries, in one form or another. Margaret Cavendish, the Duchess of Newcastle is considered the first to write science fiction, which is amazing because she lived in the 17th century. Her book The Blazing World is filled with her perceptions of the universe. It contains her concepts of what we know today as chemistry, physics, all sciences. In a world where women were considered chattels, she was educated, and allowed to express her forward thoughts. 

Margaret Cavendish

She wrote of a universe within a universe, set in an earring. Now, this may seem simplistic, but consider the implications. Most recently, scientists have said mathematically the idea of parallel worlds could exist alongside our own. Science fiction television shows, movies, and novels have explored this for generations. Why couldn’t this be, in fact, true?

Have you ever looked in a mirror through another mirror and see the reflection of yourself into seemingly infinity? What if each one of these reflections is another parallel life?

We believe time is secure; seconds, minutes tick from one moment to the next; moments we’ll never get back. We’ll only remember them. This idea keeps us anchored in a single dimension. We feel comfortable here because it’s not too complicated, and our lives are complex, hard, but there’s also a thought time is constant, fixed. We are in the past, present, and future, and in multiple dimensions all at the same time. We live all the experiences from the Big Bang to when the universe implodes. Our souls are tied to the universe; we are joined by a nebulous but strong tether to each other on this planet and into the cosmos. We are as one, and we are not alone.

From LiveScience Nov 19, 2014, Kelly Dickerson, Staff Writer, wrote an article titled ‘Parallel Worlds Could Explain Wacky Quantum Physics’. She explains that “an infinite number of parallel worlds could exist alongside our own called Many Worlds theory.”

Margaret Cavendish asked the question what “…of those creatures that are called the motes of the sun?” The answer was: “…that they were nothing else but streams of very small, rare and transparent particles, through which the sun was represented as through a glass… they would eclipse the light of the sun…they were thinner than the thinnest vapor, yet not so thin as the body of air.” This suggests quantum physics.

Then, she asks whether or not these sun motes were living creatures. The reply is: “Yes, because they did increase and decrease, and were nourished by the presence, and starved by the absence of the sun.” This suggests sun motes are living things. Our perception of inanimate objects are they are not alive, but dead. These objects will decay over time. They’re particles joined together during a life-cycle in which they have a purpose. Taking a walk, I trip over a rock made of carbon. I am made of carbon, so are plants, constructed of particles that will dissolve. Over time, a rock will dissolve into sand, trees into rock if the conditions are right. Are these alive?

I suppose the idea of all objects alive or dead is subjective, but mathematicians are willing to believe parallel worlds can exist with our own. Does this mean the constant upheaval occurring on this planet co-exists on all the other, parallel worlds?

Why is our world filled with so much pain? Fighting covers most of the planet; our weather charges angrily over populations; our planet’s innards explode into earthquakes and volcanoes. Are these events interconnected? Do they extend into the infinity of parallel worlds?

We know light lifts us out of darkness. Perhaps, scientists can tell us if darkness, heavier and murkier, is the absence of God, while light is buoyant, and filled with peace, contentment.

Perhaps, we can sit for a moment and meditate, feel the darkness the spews around our ankles, and envision light. Let that light fill our beings and raise us from the murk of constant gloom. Allow peace to fill us, surround us. Hopefully, this will extend over the plane of our earth and into the parallel worlds that co-exist alongside our own. Perhaps, the anger in our universes will diminish, and we will experience joy.  

Friday, January 30, 2015

Where No One Has Gone Before: World Building

“It is necessary to create constraints, in order to invent freely… In fiction, the surrounding world provides the constraint. This has nothing to do with realism… A completely unreal world can be constructed, in which asses fly and princesses are restored to life by a kiss; but that world, purely possible and unrealistic, must exist according to structures defined at the outset (we have to know whether it is a world where a princess can be restored to life only by the kiss of a prince, or also by that of a witch, and whether the princess’s kiss transforms only frogs into princes or also, for example, armadillos).”Umberto Eco, postscript to The Name of the Rose.

 One of my greatest pleasures as a writer of historical fiction is researching the period in which I’ve chosen to set my stories. At the same time it is my hope to re-create the worlds in which they take place as believably and accurately as possible. It’s fun and enlightening, and also sparks ideas for the plot as a whole or a concept for a particular scene I would not have otherwise imagined. For example, while doing some research for The Partisan’s Wife, the study of old maps and descriptions of New York City during the American Revolution prompted me to write a scene in which my main characters do a bit of shopping at a popular place of the time called the Oswego Market. Making this long gone place and time come alive was a  challenge. I wanted the reader to travel back there in time with Peter and Anne, experiencing the surroundings with them. I was also working within the constraints of  a few certain particulars, such as the fact that in 1777 Broadway in Manhattan ran south and north, the same as it does today.

Now that I’m working on an epic fantasy, I am faced with a different sort of “world building.” There are no resources online or in any library or history book where I can find details of a world that exists solely in my imagination. And yet, in order to bring this world to life and make it convincing, I must approach my “research” in the same way I do with a book based in an actual time and place. Because this constructed world is populated with recognizable beings—mostly human—their lives, desires, feelings, likes, dislikes, goals and obstacles must ring true to the reader in the context I’ve set down. And it must be consistent. There must be rules and constraints, which cannot be broken or overstepped. The planet rotates on its axis and revolves around a sun very much in the way our planet does. It has a moon, like ours (or if I choose, it can have two or three or more moons). Night follows day; seasons change. The people have a history, mythology and legends, whether recorded or handed down in an oral tradition. They have wants and desires, fears and comforts. Society has its customs and taboos. There are social strata in which the people live and work according their class. But all of this happens in a universe that is not quite ours, where aberrant (to us) behaviors are acceptable…even the norm.

Since I’ve chosen as this world one that is similar to ours, with a few differences, it is imperative that the dissimilarities be established right from the beginning (as Umberto Eco states in the quote at the top of the page). One difference in this universe is that something akin to magic exists. To make it real and acceptable, the source and execution of this magic must flow seamlessly within the physical and metaphysical laws I’ve created. Other differences involve the melding of cultures. For the “Lothrians,” a peaceful, learned, culturally advanced bunch, I’ve endowed them with characteristics drawn from Celtic and Native American cultures. For the “Notlunders,” a greedy, ruthless, warlike people, I’ve combined aspects of Roman and Viking culture and history. Although not Tolkien-esque “elves,” the “Milithos” or forest people are Lothrians who have evolved in an environment, which over time has changed their physical appearance and solidified their behaviors. And then there are the little “Skaddock,” who resemble primitive humans in a hunter-gatherer society. All invove research into the beliefs and nature of  these cultures.

In the quote above, Umberto Eco says that this process of world building has nothing to do with realism. Novelists by their very nature create new realities in every book they write. And readers are too smart to accept a world whose laws of nature and physics change at the author’s whim in order to make a plot device work. How the magic is called upon and brought into action depends on how believably these devices are set up in the creation of the fictional universe. How the Milith” people changed in appearance over the centuries since their banishment to the forest calls upon the laws of evolution as we know them and is in itself an explanation for some of their extraordinary abilities. (Through use of a substance they’ve refined over centuries, they can make themselves invisible in certain conditions).

Working within the constraints of this created world and the people who inhabit it, I've established rules that define what is real and what can conceivably happen...hopefully, in a way that is not jarring or false, causing the reader to hurl the book across the room.


Following is a short excerpt from my work in progress, Sword of Names. I hope it is not only enjoyable, but presents an explanation for how a particular old wizard calls upon his magic:

On the other side of the fire pit, seated on a fallen tree trunk, his back to her, Gamba remained engrossed in his work. Moonbeams outlined his form against the smoldering embers, his closely cropped hair sparkling like a snowy crown, his bald pate shining in the silver light. Hunched over the gnarled root of the bracklenut shaft, her grandfather continued to whittle away. Save for his scraping and paring, he had hardly moved and made no sound for hours.

When the moon reached its apex, he pulled a dark cloth from his haversack. He unwrapped an object in his lap, regarded it for a moment, then held it up to the light. A multifaceted crystal the size of a toddling child’s fist flickered with a milky glow. He mumbled something in an ancient tongue and slipped the jewel into the roots of his bracklenut rod, which closed one-by-one, like fingers, around it.

She sat, hugging her knees to her chest. “Gamba,” she said quietly.

After a moment, her grandfather turned, his features masked by the night. He set down the knife and raised his staff to peer through the swath of murky light it cut through the darkness. “I thought you were asleep.”

She shielded her eyes with a hand against the unexpected brightness. “Is that a corrath?

“I have not had a suitable staff for it since before you were born.” She sensed his smile in the soft tone of his voice.

Elthwen scrambled to her feet, and barely suppressing her eagerness, entered the pool of soft light spilling around him.

“Bracklenut…not too green, not too dry.” He let out a short, muffled laugh. “This was an auspicious find.”

She dropped beside him on the log. Enveloped by the crystal’s light, she basked in its warmth spreading through her aching bones. Like a weight, her head defied all attempts to keep it upright. She rested it on his shoulder and fixed her gaze on the stone’s radiance growing in intensity. “How does it do that?”

As he slowly rotated the staff between his palms, the crystal changed from opaque white to pink and back to white again. “I am a ghalthrach,” he said simply. “The staff is but a conduit. It connects us—the corrath and me—and the two of us to the earth. By the grace of Nirmanath, we are now one with the current of life.” The light sputtered, nearly going out. “Ach! Perhaps I should have said, ‘We soon shall be one….’ We are both old and woefully out of practice. It will take us a bit of time to…. ” Focusing full attention on his task, he rolled the staff between his hands until the stone flickered back into luminescence.

Kathy Fischer-Brown has published four historical novels with Books We Love, Ltd. To find out more about Kathy and her books, please visit her at her Books We Love author page. For updates on Sword of Names and for further information, check out her website.

Thursday, January 29, 2015


The best laid plans gang aft awry, or whatever the exact quote is. I had a plan for this October, because I’ve had borderline too many commitments to handle, among them, a plot this year in our town's community garden. I was lucky to get a space in this gold-plated community effort, for once my town decides to do something,  it is all-the-way luxury class. We have an electronic gate, a sturdy fence, and the township supplies aged compost and sturdy raised boxes. We’ve had a chilly autumn, so this senior waited for the stillest and warmest day to finish up. I’d watched Weather World faithfully--predictions from the Wise Men at the Penn State Department of Meteorology. An upcoming Monday and Tuesday would be the last hurrah of Indian Summer, warm and still. Perfect, I thought, as this was the drop dead-week for clearing up.

In the meantime, I was eating vegetables, both my own and those of generous garden plot neighbors. On the day of near-doom, I’d enjoyed a delicious lunch of green peppers stuffed with beans, of Brussels sprouts and bright orange winter squash. I'd finished the meal with a fresh apple—a crisp, yet sugary Empire--fresh from the tree.  The coup de grace to this high fiber orgy was an mid-afternoon snack consisting of a big, crunchy, raw-from-the-garden carrot.

(Oh, and there is a backstory. Significant portions of my gut are gone after a long illness followed by two Trekkian "cut and sew like garments" surgeries.) 

By 5 p.m., I knew I was in trouble. By midnight, the pains were child-birth-big. It was time to head to the ER for the ritual of vein piercing and hydration. Afterward, I was a sad-sack hunk of flesh, still breathing only because of attentive nursing and good old Ringer’s Lactase solution.   Needless to say, I was in hospital during those two perfectly warm days during which I’d planned to make my final harvest, haul dirt, and "put the ground to bed."

Still standing were two four-foot foot plus stalks of Brussels sprout and a bed of kale and one of beets. Only the beets, after my release from the hospital, were still on the menu—at least for the next few months, they said. After that, caution was advised regarding how much fiber I attempt to put through my system.  My kind neighbor was happy to receive the sprouts. The dino leaves of Lacinto kale went into the freezer for some distant dish of Colcannon.

It was sobering to realize that ingesting a raw carrot could, in my case, become a flirtation with death. I'd confused a desire "to live normally,” with what was, in cold reality, possible. Simply "eating what I wanted" had wandered into the Kingdom of Denial. The episode was one of those humbling -- but inevitable -- reality checks that are part of aging.

~Day of the Dead Altar, Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian~

 Juliet Waldron       Amazon Author Page                            Website                 Facebook Author Page

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Vacation, Coffee, and Me By Connie Vines

'A writer never has a vacation. For a writer, life consists of either writing or thinking about writing.'  

From the Urban Dictionary:   

Coffee snob

1- An individual who cares about what coffee or coffee mix drink they put in their mouth. A coffee snob is not okay with Starbucks, or Tim Hotrons, or Dunkin Doughnuts, or McDonald's (including McD's--my clarification)...etc.

2- A coffee snob would rather drink water than drink old coffee. An anal coffee snob will not drink the coffee if it needs milk and anything more than 1 tsp of sugar.

3- A coffee snob supports local roasters and refuses to drink Folgers, Maxwell House, or any other pre-ground non-fresh coffee--including instant.

"Hey, you want some coffee?" 
"What do you have?"
"Instant and Folgers."
"Umm... You got water?" 
"Oh. You must be a coffee snob, huh?"
"Yes, sorry."

While on most family vacations my ‘purest’ stance was a bit of a pain for my two children and husband (who doesn't care what the blend the coffee is as long as it’s throat burning hot).   However, when we vacationed in Louisiana (my husband’s home state), to his amazement, I never once voiced a complaint or dumped a full cup of coffee on the asphalt outside of a fast-food establishment (near the shrubbery—I am not without sensitivity) after being served a cup of coffee.

I savored.  I sipped. I was thrilled the morning I was awaken by the fragrance of hot, rich coffee. My husband and children walked over the Café de Monde at sunrise and brought coffee and beignets (still warm in the trademark paper bag) to our hotel room.

And at that moment, sipping coffee and munching on warm beignets, I became a New Orleans, French Quarter, coffee snob. Think: steaming mug, lazy strains of jazzy trumpets and the scent a gulf breeze, and powdered sugar.

Unless you have been to New Orleans and experienced café au lait, it’s difficult to understand why a cup of coffee could equal such bliss.  Unlike the coveted slice of French bread from San Francisco (yes, it really is unique when dining on the bay), or stone crab in Florida, or Montana huckleberries—these flavors can’t be packaged or frozen, or duplicated. The French Quarter coffee, however, can be purchased in supermarkets, or online. 

However, French Quarter coffee is cut with chicory. 

So what the heck is chicory?  Chicory, the knobby core at the base of an endive plant, roasted and ground (it has a sweet tobacco-smoke aroma) and mixed with coffee. When mixed with fresh ground coffee, the chicory adds that same dried-fruit sweet-sourness to the cup up front, and lightens the body with a "mellowing" effect.

Like countless writers before me I found New Orleans inspiring, magical, and seeped with history.  Jackson Square, a paddle boat ride up the Mississippi, St. Charles Street, surrey rides, walking the Quarter at night, dining, music and talking to residents of the city—it is wonderful to see how the city has re-emerging from the tragic consequences of Katrina.   And like many authors who have visited or lived within the city, a story that’s root inside your physic—a story which demands to be told.

And while I plot and polish my anthology that is set in New Orleans, I listen to jazz on Slacker radio and slip hot chicory coffee from my Café du Monde mug.

My home brew may not quite obtain the ‘perfection’ of a mug of coffee I sipped on vacation in New Orleans, I can console myself with a visit to the Blue Bayou Café at Disneyland when writer’s block nips at my heels.  There, seated at a waterfront table set with: white linen table cloth, china, goblets and ornate silverware, I watch the “Pirates of Caribbean” boat passengers as they float by.  I can hear croaking frogs and the soft strains of jazz trumpets from Jackson Square while twinkling fire-flies enhance my illusion of ‘bayou darkness’.  And for one magical moment, I am back in New Orleans.

Cafe du Monde

Steel Magnolias
Motion Picture
(not taken in New Orleans--this is near my husband's home town)

·        Author’s note: I do enjoy and indulge in Starbucks coffee.

Happy Reading,

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Have we lived before? by Vijaya Schartz

A common belief in most of Asia is that of reincarnation. After we die, the eternal soul reincarnates into another body. Some believe in metempsychosis, reincarnating as animals, often as punishment for bad behavior in our last life, while others believe the evolving soul chooses an unborn child in the womb and bonds with it, to continue its journey toward enlightenment.

In Tibetan Buddhism, when the Dalai lama dies, the monks go in search of their next religious leader, by seeking the children born the closest to the time of the old one's death. As each child grows, he is tested on his memories and knowledge from his previous life, and if recognized as the authentic reincarnation of his predecessor, he is declared the new Dalai Lama.

This ancient idea of reincarnation permeates even the Judeo-Christian culture, as it was still a common belief through the Middle East in biblical times. The scriptures, despite thorough editing, still mention that Jesus told his disciples that John the Baptist was indeed the prophet Elijah, who had died centuries earlier. The doctrine of reincarnation was once recognized as part of the secret teachings of Jesus. In 553 AD, however, at the Second Council of Constantinople, the Roman Church declared this doctrine a heresy. Reincarnation is still a tenet of Orthodox Judaism.

While the body returns to ashes, Christianity still recognizes the soul as eternal, and life as eternal. In the bible edits, the term reincarnated was often replaced by resurrected, like at the end of times, when we shall all return to witness the final battle between good and evil, before the meek can inherit the Earth.

Fun facts:
A popular French Christian name is René, which means "reborn." Until the last century, many families named their newborns after their grandfathers, as it was still believed that most likely the grandfather would choose to reincarnate inside the family to continue his work of leading and protecting it.

Modern philosophers are revisiting the theory of reincarnation with new eyes. Many use regression under hypnosis to search for memories of previous lives and claim to have found irrefutable proof. Having studied in India, I find the topic fascinating. I especially like the notion of Karma and Samsara, knowing that justice will prevail in the end, and we are just at different stages in our personal evolution. Assuming that God is just, such a theory would explain all the inequality in this world.

As a novelist, I couldn't resist writing a story based on reincarnation. If you enjoy exotic settings and provocative ideas, try ASHES FOR THE ELEPHANT GOD. It's about two lovers, murdered in a previous life, who meet again in this life, in India, where their murderess awaits...

Vijaya Schartz

Monday, January 26, 2015

Tricia McGill asks: “Don’t you just love the internet?”

There are many downsides to the internet. One being phishers and hackers. I have just received a suspicious email with an attachment stating it is from PayPal. I know they never send emails such as this and certainly not with an invoice attached. Knowing this was suspect I sent it on to them and they are grateful as they like to know of these emails and are in the process of checking if it is malicious.

But, having said this I do love the internet, and one of the main reasons being the ease of researching. This morning I have fixed a faulty cistern in my toilet. How, you ask, did I know how to do this task that most would think is strictly one for a male. When you live alone you have to become adaptable, and the www has helped me over the years in so many ways. I Googled the name of my cistern and the fact that it was leaking and how should I go about fixing it, and lo there was this informative video with step by step instructions. It might have taken me a while longer than a man to fix, but I’ve done it and am proud of this small achievement.

When I began writing long ago I wrote everything in longhand until my husband bought me a typewriter. I taught myself to touch type and in no time had dumped that for a small word processor. Then I graduated to a computer—ah, the joy. In those early days all the research for my books was done at the local library. I’ve always loved research so this was no ordeal and many happy hours were spent there poring over the valuable books on various subjects.

Any writer will tell you that research is essential, whether it be for the day a conflict started in a certain country to what a Viking woman would be wearing on an average day. My initial most intense research was for my Remnants of Dreams. This story starts in 1914 and goes through the two world wars and beyond. There were such things to learn as when the first newspaper was printed, what were the methods of birth control used in the early 1900s or even later into the 50s, what did basic food items cost. Then both wars had to be researched thoroughly. I knew little about WW1 and just a fraction more about WW11. Luckily my eldest sister was a teenager at the start of the Second World War so her input was invaluable. She could put me straight about gas masks, black-out curtains and air-raid shelters in London, not to mention ration books and the thriving black market.
This snip from my Time-Travel The Laird proves I had to learn, amongst many other things, all there was to know about the wildlife in Scotland in 1050.

“Why would any man wish to trap or harm a creature as magnificent as the eagle? An’ just where have they gone? Why cannae ye bring them back?” His brows met in a deep frown.
Liz sighed. “I’m afraid it’s impossible. Many families of animals have gone forever from this earth. Do you see many wolves roaming these parts?”
“Aye, we have our share of them, sure.” He looked puzzled.
“Well, the last one will be killed about 1800, and then if you ride these moors you would never see another. Man has made a real mess of things in the future, I’m sad to say.”
“An’ what man is this?” he wondered, snarling with anger.
“When I say man, I mean mankind in general. Not just one person.”
“Aye, I see. In what way have they made a mess, as ye put it?” He was obviously appalled. Liz hid a smile. It was apparent in his interest he’d forgotten he didn’t believe they were from the future.
“Well, he’s polluted the air the ground and the sea. He has blatantly slain many animals, simply for their hide, or their horns, or their innards. Usually for monetary gain. Sometimes simply for the pleasure of the hunt and the kill.”
“This I understand, there is no greater thrill than outrunning yer prey.” Travis grinned.
“Ah, but why do you hunt, Travis?”
“To eat, and feed my kinsmen and family, why else?” He shrugged at what was clearly, to him, a stupid question.
“There you are, you see. You hunt and kill simply to eat, but in the future animals are hunted for a stack of reasons. Food being the last and least of them.”

In researching for my Settlers series I learned so much that I didn’t know about early Australia, and have to admit this was probably my favorite research of all. To think that in a mere 220 plus years we have come—as has America—so far, is incredible.

So, why is the internet such a boon? Now, instead of trotting off to the library when I come up with a fact I need to verify all I have to do is google it and within seconds I have the answer. Perhaps I sometimes yearn for those long ago days when I spent hours in the beautiful surroundings of the library amongst a wealth of knowledge, but think how much time the internet saves us, and how easy it is to access the world’s fantastic array of advice and knowledge. Then there is the added benefit of a video to show us how to go about doing certain things, such as fixing a leaking cistern in the toilet.

All Tricia McGill’s books can be found here:
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