Technical writers or non fiction writers scribble to pay the bills and for the love of the analytical or the exercise of truth or deception.

Fiction authors write to illuminate their world or escape it.

Whichever kind of writer, it's all about staying alive and helping or entertaining others.

The Writing Life

Like most writers, I have a love of reading and the power of words. When I was younger, I read everything I could get my hands on, but I don’t consider myself well read. I consumed books like a starved person, so quickly I hardly knew what I had read. By some strange process of osmosis, I learned from everything I read, but I cannot give you an erudite discussion of characters, plots, or authors. I can only tell you it’s lodged some where in the core of my being and informs my writing.

In addition to reading, I’ve spent a life time writing---from that first elementary school composition to my college days when I studied French literature and wrote explications de texte. Along the way, I fell into technical writing--to put food on the table and pay bills. In the 90s, I had the good fortune to take a dialog class with Sol Stein, former owner of Stein & Day publishers in New York and a prolific author. That led to his California-based writers’ group, Chapter One. It was a rigorous, ego-bruising experience, but I was intent on learning everything I could about fiction writing. A few years ago, I also had the good fortune to study with another writer, Louella Nelson, an experienced romance writer and teacher of fiction writing. She provided a different perspective and balance to my writing.

My novel, DREAMING OF LAUGHING HAWK, a mainstream, Sixties era novel, is available on Amazon in print and ebook (also available in Canada, Europe, Japan, and Brazil). Download a free sample. If you like it, I hope you'll download the book and post a review on Amazon.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Short Fiction: The Seer (Part Four)

I don’t know whether it’s the cold or my dream that wakes me up. I pull the down comforter over my shoulders and snuggle into its warmth. I try to fall asleep. I expect whatever nonsensical dream I was entangled in to evaporate as they always do. I am careless with dreams. I banish them because they annoy me. But this morning’s dream stays with me. I know I should pay attention to a dream that insists on hanging around because it could be an omen, a message. Sometimes a dream warns me of death or a disaster. It’s usually not good news, which is why I prefer amnesia when it comes to dreams.

I recall the dream. Almost always I am lost in a maze of rooms trying to find my way out. In this dream I was in a huge shopping mall, lost as usual, in and out of stores, going nowhere, around and around. But then suddenly I am sitting next to a man I have not seen in 10 years and he is telling me he is divorced. I ask him how his children are doing and comment how difficult it must be for them. He puts his arm around me and kisses me on the cheek. Well, that was enough to jolt me awake. I wonder what the hell he was doing walking around in my dream and then I remember he has visited me in dreams before but I can no longer recall what he said to me. I can only recall the time when I was wide awake and he was 4000 miles away and I burst into tears because I suddenly thought he was in danger. He survived the car accident.

And so now all these years later I stare at the ceiling in the gray morning light and wonder what I am to make of this. Some psychic I am.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Short Fiction: The Seer (Part 3)

The following short story is a continuation of the Seer series:

I am tending my orchids, these delicate beauties that produce a glorious but short-lived bloom once a year if I meet all their demands. I glance out the window at the Heliotrope that has withstood heat, drought, caterpillars, and brutal pruning but still keeps producing masses of purple, vanilla-scented blooms all summer.

There is a French song running through my head--an old Aznavour ballad of regret about carelessly playing out one's youth as if it were a magic wand only to realize too late that youth has vanished. The song will not leave me and I sense it is a foreshadowing. I check my watch. It is time to go to my office to meet the first client of the day.

* * *

I hear them talking in whispers punctuated by giggles as they sit in the reception area. They are two stylish young women, friends who have come to test my skills.


A long-legged woman in her mid thirties rises out of her chair and offers her hand in greeting. She has long blond hair, a delicate complexion, and a beautifully shaped body. She shines--her bright blue eyes, white teeth, painted nails, the golden sandals on her pretty feet.

I smile. She smiles back. It is a careful grimace and I catch a glimpse of her soul. She is an orchid, a fussy spoiled orchid, and she expects my reading to amuse her.

She follows me in and seats herself at my table. "How long have you been giving readings?" She glances around at the candles, the cards, the crystal ball.

I shrug. "It seems like forever." I explain my usual procedure in preparation for the reading. She takes the cards in her hands and we bow our heads in a short prayer. When I open my eyes she has that cat-that-swallowed-the-canary smile on her lips/.

"Shuffle the cards," I say. "What would you like to know?"

She stops shuffling and cocks her head to one side. "My love life."

I take the deck and lay out the cards. I stare at the cards for some time, trying to see what she is concealing from me. The words fall out of my mouth. "How will the man you are with feel about your new attraction?"

Her mouth drops open. "Should I leave him?"

"If you feel you must. If you love him, then give it careful thought. Look into your soul and know yourself."

She does not like this response. I close my eyes and see a haggard old woman who has sipped the bitter dregs of life. She is alone. Her body is bloated with illness and anger. I open my eyes and wish I could hold this mirror up to her eyes.  "Your youth and beauty are gifts. Use them wisely before they are gone. You will not find happiness with another until you solve the riddle of yourself."

Her mouth thins and her eyes are a cold blue.

"I see a tall man with dark hair and he is wearing a red and black plaid shirt. It's not a very flattering shirt. You kiss him on the cheek but no matter how much you both try, you can not talk to one another. Your words shimmer and waffle in the air like bubbles and then burst."

She rolls her eyes. "He has a shirt like that. He has terrible taste when it comes to clothes."

"You must learn to communicate from the heart and in order to do that you must know what is in your heart. You must grow a soul through meditation and prayer."

She bites her lip. "But what about the man I'm interested in?"

"He needs to grow a soul too, but that is not something you will be able to successfully do together."

"But I'm sure he loves me."

I shake my head. "The gift of youth and beauty is not a magic wand."

Monday, August 31, 2015

Short Fiction: The Seer (Part 2)

This is a continuation of psychic Celia's readings. (Click here to view the first part.)

* * *

Large drops of rain, cold and unrelenting, pelt the window and drizzle down the steamy panes. I button my sweater and put a pot of tea on the stove, wondering why on a day like this my client is so insistent on having an appointment. A psychic should know why. I laugh at myself. In a flash I see a woman carrying some sort of bundle in her arms.

The kettle whistles and I fill my tea pot. The client will want a cup, I’m sure. I start a fire to take the chill out of the house and set my tarot cards on the dining room table. The doorbell rings as I light candles.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Great Land

I just recently made my first trip to Alaska. It is an unimaginably big place forged in a cauldron of fire and ice.  It is a place of big silence: the skies are heavy and gray and the rain is softly insistent. The wildlife that you know is there moves quietly. It does not want to be seen--the back of a whale, whisker of squirrel, statue of moose, cluster of caribou, flutter of bird wing, splash, running bear.

Here are a few interesting facts about Alaska:

  • It's a water world of over 3,000,000 lakes and it's twice the size of Texas.
  • It has 29 active volcanoes and 100,000 glaciers.
  • The Alaska pipeline moves 88,000 barrels of oil per hour. The pipeline was a monumental accomplishment considering the geology and climate of Alaska.

Alaska is still largely untamed frontier and we should be thankful for that. What a gift it is to see nature as it was created. I'm not sure how anything manages to live in a place of such extremes in geology and climate. Most people seem to visit during the summer months and head back south before winter arrives. By the end of September, resorts shut down for the long winter, roads close, and the year-around residents hunker down for winter. Those living in the bush stock up on food and other supplies to last several months. The bears hibernate and the caribou and moose hopefully are carrying enough fat to get them through the long winter. Survival in Alaska is a supreme challenge for wildlife and people.

Try to imagine living in such a challenging environment. Once you are outside of the few small towns, you stand alone in the wilderness awestruck by the stark beauty and the necessity to stay alive. And you are just one small creature in a big, big country.

Glacier Bay

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Write...Edit...Publish August Challenge: Spectacular Settings

Thanks to Denise and Yolanda for hosting the monthly Write...Edit...Publish blog hop. Here are the guidelines:

This first challenge has two parts. You may do both parts or just one. Your choice.

For this challenge you will:
1.    Firstly share a paragraph from a novel, or an extract from a poem, or a photograph that stopped your heart with a spectacular setting etc. 

2.    Describe how your chosen 'setting' spoke to you. Why did you like it?

3.    Then you have the option to:

     a)     write your own 'setting' piece in any genre, or share a ‘setting’ from your WIP, or…
     b)     write your own poem which highlights 'setting', or 
     c)     share a photograph that blows you away every time you look at it and tell us why.
     d)     share an artwork that shows a 'setting' you love and tell us why you love it.
     e)     write a small playscript which highlights 'setting'.

I chose the opening of Hilary Mantel's Bringing Up the Bodies.

Wiltshire, September 1535

His children are falling from the sky. He watches from horseback, acres of England stretching behind him; they drop, gilt-winged, each with a blood-filled gaze. Grace Cromwell hovers in thin air. She is silent when she takes her prey, silent as she glides to his fist. But the sounds she makes then, the rustle of feathers and the creak, the sigh and riffle of pinion, the small cluck-cluck from her throat, these are sounds of recognition, intimate, daughterly, almost disapproving. Her breast is gore-streaked and flesh clings to her claws.

Later, Henry will say, `Your girls flew well today.' The hawk Anne Cromwell bounces on the glove of Rafe Sadler, who rides by the king in easy conversation. They are tired; the sun is declining, and they ride back to Wolf Hall with the reins slack on the necks of their mounts. Tomorrow his wife and two sisters will go out. These dead women, their bones long sunk in London clay, are now transmigrated. Weightless, they glide on the upper currents of the air. They pity no one. They answer to no one. Their lives are simple. When they look down, they see nothing but their prey, and the borrowed plumes of the hunters: they see a flittering, flinching universe, a universe filled with their dinner.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Mother Nature

Plants fascinate me. I try to discipline myself and restrain my tendency to find a home for every plant that I come across but my yard is full of flower beds, planters and pots. I like animals too but we don't have the right accommodations for them so we only have an old Maine Coon cat.

A Giant Dracula Orchid - Botanical Garden @ Golden Gate Park

Monday, August 3, 2015

Short Fiction: The Seer

I have an ordinary name: Celia. And while I lead an ordinary life, if there truly is such a thing, I must admit to an extraordinary profession. Some might call me a psychic, but I like the term seer better. I see what my clients prefer not to see.

When a client walks into my place of business, they are left to idle in the reception area for a few minutes to contemplate the paintings on the wall and the sculptures and ceramics on the tables. There is soft background music and comfy chairs. I want to take down that wall that keeps them from seeing.

People come to me for various reasons—for help in finding something or someone, to seek guidance about career or relationships, or to make me look like a fool.

Today, into my office strolls a tall willowy young woman. In her early forties, I guess. Her attire is expensively simple: blue jeans; a loose, lacy white blouse; and knee-high leather boots. She could be a star on Housewives of Orange County. I note her long, polished finger nails; the tawny-streaked hair artfully tousled; and the bangle earrings. She has a cool, dry handshake that has no more strength than the fluttering of butterfly wings. A deep breath could blow her away if her over-sized breasts did not anchor her to the earth.