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.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Nature of Magic Blogfest: Darkest Magic

Here is the task for the Nature of Magic Blogfest: Write or share something you’ve already written that, to you, shows the nature of magic (in 1000 words or less). It can be an excerpt from your WIP, something you’ve written especially, poetry, whatever strikes your fancy. It just needs to show the nature of magic as it exists for you or for those you write about.

So here is my take on magic. It's a bit dark, but true.

Magic is often thought of as a trick upon the mind, an illusion that diverts you from reality—the rabbit pulled out of the hat. I tend to think of magic as a vision of truth that forces you to confront life. Some magical occurrences are amusing or inspirational while others are mysterious, even terrifying.

My mother, who has been dead now for almost 15 years, once told me this story about her youth. When she was a young woman of twenty, she had a good friend whose mother read tea leaves. We all say that we don't believe in fortune telling, that it is only for amusement that we engage in such silliness, yet we love it. There's something magical about divining the future from tea leaves or tarot cards or the lines on the palm of a hand. It makes us giddy with excitement, yet we cannot possibly admit to ourselves that there might be truth in these things. We play with the idea of magic, but back off before we burn ourselves.

One day when they were reading the tea leaves at the kitchen table and laughing over it, my mother asked to have the leaves read for her. Her friend's mother refused. My mother begged and begged until finally the woman relented. What did my mother say that finally convinced her? I'll never know.

Staring at the pattern of tea leaves in the saucer and with an audacity few fortune tellers possess, the friend's mother made the following prophecy: In two weeks, someone in your family is going to die. There will be a very large funeral mass and people will come from all over, people you have never met before in your life. By what magic could those tea leaves in a saucer possibly predict death? If there was any more wisdom in those leaves, my mother never mentioned it in her recounting. It was the death prediction that was burned into her mind.

My mother never told me what her initial reaction was to this terrible event that the tea leaves had predicted. No shock. No anger. No denial. Nothing. In the telling, her mind always leapt forward two weeks to the night her brother, the one person she idolized and loved most in the world, came home drunk while she was there alone. My mother always believed he was distraught over a lost love. He walked over to the fireplace and took down the loaded rifle my grandfather always kept there above the mantel, sat down, and placed the end of the barrel against his forehead. He wondered aloud what would happen if he pulled the trigger, and then shot himself dead in front of my mother. There in that freeze-frame is the terrible, unspeakable magic of tea leaves in a saucer. It left my mother emotionally scarred for life. I wonder what she did as her brother lay there lifeless. Did she scream hysterically, run to a neighbor for help, or call the police? What did she see? What did she feel? She never said, but in that split second before her brother died, she must have heard the words her friend's mother had spoken. Surely she did when strangers from miles around filled the church to hear the mass.

Perhaps because it was too painful, my mother could never completely put herself into the story. It was all about the tea leaves and her brother. She always stood transfixed before the horrible vision conjured up by a kitchen table magician. I think the magic of the fortune telling was that it gave my mother a space in time to prepare herself for tragedy. Without this dark magic, she would have surely lost her mind.


  1. How sad. Yet, you've made a beautiful retelling of such a tragic event.

  2. How strange and terrible. What a personal view of magic. Unexpected and moving.
    Edge of Your Seat Romance

  3. I didn't expect to encounter a true story in this blogfest, but thank you for sharing - it gave me chills and I'm sure I'll never be brave enough to have my fortune read. But you had a great point, real-life magic is mysterious and I like how you describe it gives you a "vision of truth that forces you to confront life"

    the magic over at my place

  4. ps I'm also a crusader and somehow I must have missed you until now! Now i'm a follower.

  5. How tragic and beautiful.

    "I tend to think of magic as a vision of truth that forces you to confront life."

    I think your version of magic is so true.

  6. That is a deeply moving tale told very well. Did it help that she knew in advance? I wonder.

    Thank you for sharing the story.

  7. This is an amazing story, so horrible for your mom! She must have been so scarred from all these events..the future telling and the loss of her brother, never mind the unspeakable sight of seeing it take place.
    I am glad to have found your blog through this hop, you're a wonderful writer... :)

  8. Thank you all for your kind comments. Magic was a great topic for a blogfest, wasn't it? Magic seems to be all around us in so many different forms. It's interesting to see how different writers approach it.

  9. Terrible. I am so sorry for her. But I am glad she was able to bring herself to tell you a little about it. To bury such an event can leave us in a desperate place.

    I'm never going to let anyone read my tea leaves.
    N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium.

  10. Wow. What a tragic story. Magic in real life is hard to believe, but stories like this make me wonder.

  11. Hi Linda, I'm clicking over from the magic blogfest and what a moving story yours was. Moving and eerie at the same time.

    Thank you for sharing this personal experience, that rebel, Olivia

  12. great story on a terrifying occurrence

  13. Oooh, this gave me shivers! Thanks for participating!

  14. Oh, chills. That's nicely written and full of tension. I wonder what it's a part of. It definitely makes me want to read more, and find out about the mysterious woman with the tea leaves.