Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Darkness Within Rome



I was a late bloomer to Anne Rice. Truth be told, I went the route of Clive Barker when it came to seductive horror and Brian Lumley for unique vampires. However, when I finally read Interview with the Vampire, my whole world changed. As much as I loved New Orleans, Anne Rice showed me a different side to the city, one that I truly believe in. if the city is host to so many Strange and Unusual things, why not vampires as well? I read her books, okay devoured, and wanted only more. When I began writing my own version of Gothic, I left her books behind. However, due to a conversation between me and several of my NOLA Sisters, I decided to return to her world - I knew the just the one to return with. Pandora: New Tales of the Vampires, tells the story of Pandora, nee Lydia, as she converses with David (formerly of the Talamasca and now a vampire) and finally decides to write her story.

I've always loved Ancient Roman history - from the emperors to the vomitoriums, from the Bread and Circuses to the inventions that we use even now, I've believed in the phrase: To Know Rome, You Must Honour and Love Her. The Rome that we get to see through Pandora's eyes is filled with opulence, decadence, blood, gorging, gods and goddesses, and above it all - literature and poetry. Lydia, even as a mortal child, is a free thinking outspoken young woman who is loved and adored by her father. Yet, one day, she meets a man named Marius who will change her live forever (literally). When she is older, she begins to be plagued by dreams of being a Blood Drinker under the gaze of the Ancient Ones - those who whisper to her and tell her of her Fate. From there, we see her rise, utter fall, and then her Rise into the Dark Gift.

I LOVED this book when I first read it, yet I couldn't remember too much of it. When I recently returned to it, I found myself loving it even more. Anne Rice is a natural when it comes to sensual horror - this books made me wish to be in Ancient Rome and experience it to the fullest.

I've ordered a copy of Merrick and I'm looking forward to returning to that book as well very soon.

Much love to my NOLA Sisters and see you soon!

EX LIBRIS!

Saturday, August 4, 2018

The Gothic Tragedy of Erik



For the longest time, the only thing I knew about the Phantom of the Opera was the musical and the Lon Chaney film. Some time ago, I read (and LOVED) Prince of Conjurers by my friend Laurie L. Bolanos - it gave me a wonderful introduction into Erik's world. I reviewed the book - check out the Archives of this blog to locate it. Knowing me, though, I knew that I needed to read the original work and so I did. The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux was a FANTASTIC read, one that I devoured within days. Even if the story were never turned into a musical romance, I still feel sorry for Erik. Let me explain why.

Erik is the Opera Ghost, the mysterious being who "resides" within and under the Paris Opera. He receives money on a monthly basis, uses Box 5 for performances, and is enamoured with Christine Daae, the opera singer with the angelic voice. If anyone tries to capture the Ghost, Erik pays them back dearly through death or eternal shame. No one seems to be able to stop him, except for Raoul, Christine's lover, and the Persian (LOVE THIS CHARACTER!) The two men stop at nothing to defeat Erik and rescue Christine from his clutches and they do . . .  However, after I finished the book today, I wondered: if Erik was normal looking or even handsome, would he still have been considered to be a monster? Would he have been instead a "misunderstood man"? true, Erik did revel in his deformity to a point, yet he still had a heart (black and twisted but it was still there). He found in Christine a special soul, one who could possibly understand and maybe love him. That was all he wanted - love. His parents hated him for how he looked and his mother never gave him a kiss. Yet, before he died, he shared kisses with Christine and their tears "mingled".  tragically beautiful - I'm such a sap for those things (grin).

As I read the story, I tried to imagine Erik's face followed by looking up pics online. I wanted to see Erik for who and what he was - a truly tragic character that used his intelligence and wits to stay ahead. Did he love Christine? Honestly, I'm not sure. I think it was more of an obsession than love but that's my opinion. In Prince of Conjurers, Laurie gives him the chance to love someone and she does it well. She shows that Erik, despite his appearance, can love and be loved despite what he has to go through to obtain it.

Well done, Monsieur Leroux and Madame Bolanos - Phantom of the Opera should be a must read for anyone who loves to read or wants to read a good story. And if you've read Phantom and want more of Erik, pick up a copy of Prince of Conjurers through her website (linked above) or through Tubby and Coos MidCity Bookshop in NOLA.

EX LIBRIS!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

A Haitian Voice



When a Haitian wishes to tell a story, they say "Krik?" and the listeners reply with, "Krak!" Such is the title of Edwidge Danticat's book Krik? Krak! The short story collection is a wonderful representation of the people of Haiti as it shows outsiders the depth of their culture. These stories also delve into the relationships between women in and out of families. The men appear to be background characters as the women dictate the way to live and embrace their culture. The women, no matter where they are located, are representatives of the love and pain of Haiti.

The first story, Children of the Sea, was both depressing and horrifying to read, yet it conveyed the spirit of those who wish for a better life despite the price. The story is set up like letters as a young man and woman convey their continued love for each other: while he is on a boat seeking asylum, she is in Haiti seeking asylum as well. The desire for something better will overcome even the most futile of gestures. The story Between the Pool and the Gardenias disturbed me greatly when I figured out what was going on. I won't give the plot away but I will say that you need to savour it. The story is beautiful in that desperation never looked lovelier. All of the stories were incredible yet those two stuck out in my mind the most.

I can't believe it's taken me this long to read Danticat's works yet better late than never. She writes with such passion and spirit for her culture that you can't help but get caught up in it as well. She is the voice of Haitian women, proud and strong, free and terrorized. She tells the stories and we must listen. We must answer with Krak!

EX LIBRIS!


Sunday, July 29, 2018

sylvia - poem



In this space -
here and now, beginning and ending -
she exists between it all.
A colour not yet defined of her eyes
appears when she touches me.
I am a humble man
set before a most banal path
that she placed before me
over a simple game of chess.
She came to me when she had no one.
The world, she claimed, wanted to
put her out, douse the flames to cool her skin.
Are you too much for Life, I asked,
not expecting an answer.
You see me as I once was, she replied.
When I danced with gods
and slept with demons.
I want to hold her pale sturdy body,
caress her hair that moves on command,
and feel her lips next to mine
as she tries to steal my soul.
Can she, this woman from misused words -
can she survive out there?
Does she desire such power?
When she sees me, dear friend
and fellow scholar of the dark,
does she understand
that my thoughts will consume her?
I hate my flawed skin,
the hair that grows on my face
and covers my lies.
She touches me like a pet -
cautious and careful with a hint
of cruelty.
I want to fall to my knees
and beg for her to not go away.
Don't leave me here among those who are blind.
You say you understand me, she says,
yet you haven't listened.
She wants to love and forget me
because she knows I share her blood.
I am real, I whisper to her.
Touch the wounds, taste my blood of yours,
let me cover you and give you refuge
in between it all.


Friday, July 20, 2018

Grim Dark Shakespeare



It's been some time since I last visited the realm of Warhammer 40K. Through the grim dark, I created a special "fondness" for the Eldar and the Dark Eldar. These two "races" take decadence and raise it several thousand levels - a blessing and very much a curse. However, in delving into The Masque of Vyle, a novella by Andy Chambers, I was "introduced" to the Harlequins. Mysterious and dangerous, they are the "thespians" that can bring you to your knees with their dramas . . or leave you completely insane and covered in gore seeping from your body. This story gives a nod to Shakespeare while giving what 40K fans come to expect from the Harlequins.

An abandoned and desecrated Craftword is discovered by a group of Harlequins within the webway and they take it upon themselves to discover who did it and why. To desecrate a Craftworld is akin to sacrilege to the Eldar. They soon find themselves within an area of the Dark Eldar known as the Sable Marches and decide to do what they do best - put on a performance. However, this performance also serves as a way to discover the truth behind the desecrated Craftworld with a price that must be paid in blood.

If you are not familiar with 40k and the Eldar, let me give you a brief rundown: the Eldar are just one race within the grim dark universe of 40K. They are beyond beautiful with an edge for killing, torture, and anything that pleases them beyond normal (and rational) understanding. Enhance that over a 1000 times and you have the Dark Eldar. However, it was due to their excesses that they involuntarily created a Chaos god - Slaanesh or She Who Thirsts. Because of their choices and the birth of Slaanesh, the Eldar and Dark Eldar keep themselves hidden from her; if she discovers them, she "welcomes them home", to put it mildly. If you want to learn more about the Eldar and Dark Eldar, I highly recommend this novella with its well written story, Shakespearian plot, and much action, decadence, and violence. I also recommend looking at the CODEX for the Eldar, Dark Eldar, and the Craftworlds as well - I own all three, of course. The Black Library is the website of all books within the 40K realm- go check it out to start your path down that dark road.

EX LIBRIS!


Thursday, July 19, 2018

Confessions of a Southern Taoist - Gratitude of Grief






I’m currently working through a 31 day meditation that focuses on gratitude. Gratitude for your body, your mind, emotions, everything. Today’s topic was on grief. The meditation instructor read a quote about how grief is love that is left over. We still love those whom we’ve lost, or a dream we wanted so badly to happen and it didn’t. I’ve lost family members, friends who took different directions, and dreams I once had that never happened. Yet, in looking at what we’ve lost, we are also reminded as to what we still have. I’m grateful for the friends who are still in my life, the dreams that continue to unfold, and the ability to embrace it all. 

Breathe. 

Monday, July 16, 2018

Confessions of a Southern Taoist - Monday



Monday is usually Do Nothing Day for me - I come in from work, put on my jamy jams, eat dinner, then play video games/read/watch movies as a way to relax and enjoy some down time. However, this Monday was more of my usual working time - after my glorious trip to NOLA, I felt myself recharged and energized. While at my corporate job, I collaborated with several women regarding a book idea and spoke with a contact for another venue for my tea blends contacted me. I felt my anxiety wanting to creep up, so I delved into my work instead and it dissipated. When I got home, I immediately began cleaning my place while creating the price list for the contact. I'm currently working on a serial for my Facebook page The House of Byzantium - a shrine to Decadence - and I felt inspired to put the latest episode up. Now that it's 9:30, I feel wired and ready to run around my neighbourhood several times. Instead, I will continue listening to music (currently listening to Lacuna Coil). I guess what I'm trying to say is that - Monday. It's a day we don't like because its our low from the weekend. We want to run from it while screaming, "I HATE Mondays!" Yet, what if we treated it like a day? Just a day. We know that soon, Friday will be knocking on our door but for now, Monday is here. What are your Mondays like? Do you repeatedly hit the SNOOZE button on your clock? Do you drink an extra cup of coffee or "fake it till you make it"? Or, do you do like me and treat it like a day? I wake up, I breathe, I am here. No matter what happens, I am here. On a Monday.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Confessions of a Southern Taoist - Strength



I've just returned from a lovely trip to New Orleans. Although it was a quick overnighter, it was filled with moments of laughter, art, Nature, and good food. It was also a good time to spend with friends - there are several women that I call Sisters. Although we have different stories, we are of similar mindsets. To outsiders, we may seem as Odd or Strange/Unusual but to us, at least to me, I see nothing but strength. Strength can come in many forms - mental, physical, emotional, spiritual. These women that I am lucky to know exhibit all of these strengths. We don't have perfect lives - shit will blow up in our faces on a regular basis. We will do/say the wrong thing at the really wrong time. We may want to scream, shake our fists at the sky and wonder why WE are going through this. I've done that many times. I've had my moments of crying in a pillow when it feels like the world just fell apart at my feet. However, once the crying is over and I suddenly get hungry, I get up, dust myself off, and keep moving forward. It sounds easier than it is and YES, it is. Sometimes, the desire to stay down and give up feels right. Give up trying and just exist. Resist everything and stay down. Yet, whenever I'm around my NOLA Sisters, I get a recharge of my life. In fact, I talked to myself halfway through my return trip - remembering who said what at dinner last night, remembering to return to Anne Rice's vampires (I loved Pandora - one of my favourites of her works), and remembering who and WHAT I am and my place within all of THIS. We get strength from a smile from a stranger, or a kind word, or even when a friend calls you up and wants to hang out with you. Sometimes, strength can come from when you finally decide that enough is ENOUGH and that today, you are taking back your life. When you flow, you ARE.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Confessions of a Southern Taoist - Pain



I love to move. Walk, run, bike, hike, anything - my body has to move. When I lived in Washington DC, I moved quickly: running to class, trying to catch the Metro, speeding up to be with friends. However, I am learning the delicate art of Resting. Because of me going and going only to crash, my body has "informed" me that, at age 44, I need to slow down and rest. In feeling the pain shoot through my back, I know that yes, I need to rest. However, I'm also learning how to rest on other levels. I now take time to look around me whenever I stop in my car at an intersection light. What am I normally missing by trying to get to work? Hmmm, never noticed that tree before. Check out that funky looking house. That's a new restaurant to try out. Taking five minutes out of my day to meditate helps my mind and soul tremendously as well. Eating baby carrots in the morning is quite nice too. When I slow down, I can feel myself coming together after being scattered. Whenever I remind myself that I am part of this and THIS is part of me, I rest. Time to stop allowing thoughts to run rampant in my mind and rest. Time to read a book or watch British or French period drama while sitting on my couch (although right now the movie about French gangster Jacques Mesrine is playing in my living room and that's NOT a relaxing movie! LOL)

Rest. Slow down once in a while. And eat baby carrots.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Confessions of a Southern Taoist - Demons



I read yesterday how a famous actor that I admire had a meltdown in an airplane. The first thought that came into my head was, “But why? He’s so talented and good looking. Why again?” I then spoke with one of my best friends who advised that we all have demons. I couldn’t help but agree with her. I know so many talented and beautiful people and probably most of them have personal demons: I’m not pretty enough, I’m not talented enough, I feel like a freak. We are all here for a reason, as corny as that may sound. We are all here on this blue greenish ball and we are HERE. Do your thing and make it count. I know I am.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Confessions of a Southern Taoist - Lies



I recently learned that someone I considered to be a friend had lied. I wasn't offended - not even surprised. We all do it at one point or another in our lives. It's part of what makes us human. I've told lies in my life and will probably tell more before Death takes me by the hand and carries me away. If I ever saw this person again, I wouldn't even mention the fact of knowing about their lies. Does it really matter? Will it change how I feel about this person or will it just be another day in Paradise? Sometimes, I wonder if people are telling me the truth when they talk with me - does she really like me or is she just putting up with me? Is he really tied up in a meeting? When someone tells me that I'm attractive, do I want to yell at them to STOP LYING TO ME because I can't accept their words? I know I'm over thinking it all and yet . . . and yet. As a new day begins, I wake up with a smile on my face despite my anxiety whispering in my ear, knowing that what will happen will happen. A lie here, a side glance there - it all comes to the front. And that is the truth.


Sunday, June 24, 2018

Chess is A Game of Death



I've always been a fan of chess, although I'm rather a bad player. I love the feeling of trying to outwit your opponent with one move, all the while wondering about their moves and how far they've thought it through. The Luneburg Variation by Paolo Maurensig gripped me from beginning to end with its deadly tale of all things chess. I'm so glad I located it in a used bookstore - sometimes, one can find the most wonderful of literary gems in used bookstores. As a side note - I always wonder if the person who previously owned the book enjoyed it as much as I did, or if they read several pages then decided that it was too much (or too little) for them.

The story is thus: a distinguished business man named Frisch was found murdered in a garden in Vienna. The only clue to the murder is a chessboard made of sewn together rags with buttons used as pieces. Seems like a "locked room" mystery, right? Wrong. From there, the tale unfolds as we sit with Frisch and an acquaintance on a train from Munich to Vienna and watch them play their usual game of chess. At one point, a young man named Mayer enters their car area and proceeds to watch them play. When Frisch begins to converse with the young man in an abrupt manner, we learn that Mayer used to be a rising star within the chess world. And that, my dear readers, is when the literary sh*t hits the fan.

Revenge - ah, what a lovely subject to read and write about in a fictional setting. If the subject of the revenge was a deceitful bastard, then we can take some measure of satisfaction that they got their just reward. This novel does that so well yet with a tragic tale behind it. Mayer informs Frisch of a teacher he once had, an older eccentric man by the name of Tabori, and how that man initiated him into the world of chess. We then learn about the background of the eccentric teacher and how his life was less than stellar, yet chess proved to be a way out for him. . . . until he met his nemesis in the form of a young German man. This young German wanted to not only beat the young Tabori but to also defeat him - Tabori was a Jew. Fast forward to the time of WWII, when many Jews were in fear for their lives in Europe - Tabori and his family were sent to one of the camps. He witnessed horrific things within the camps yet the worst (and most mysterious) came in the form of a summons to visit a Nazi officer in his office. . . .

That's all I'm going to say about this book. When the ending comes, you will probably do what I did and talk it out for five minutes. I truly hope that people will give this book a chance and read it - it's worth losing an afternoon. This book also reignited my love for chess, although I'll just stick with a simple game against my computer. I would never want to play a game in which the stakes were the ones in this book.

EX LIBRIS!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Tea Review - Mandela by NYA TEA



I had the pleasure of meeting Kai Oredugba of NYA TEA at the World Tea Expo in Las Vegas last week and I have to say - he is one cool dude. I then turned my attention to their teas and instantly fell in love with many of them, one of them being DUBA The Mandela. This rooibos blend smelled divine and I knew I had to have some; thankfully, Kai gave me a sample of  the blend. I told him that I wanted to marry the blend and asked if that was crazy to say. He said no. While preparing it today, I could instantly smell orange and cloves as the hot water came in contact with it. When I finally tried my first cup, I was completely blown away by the simple yet complex taste. This rooibos blend is the BEST I've ever tried - a smashing blend of rooibos, orange peel, clove, cardamom, coconut, pink pepper, and flavour. The tea blend before preparation smells heady, exotic, and full of fruit flavour. The taste of the tea is fruity with a hint of a caramel like aftertaste. All of the ingredients blend so well that it comes at you all at once without being overpowering, almost like in layers that you don't even know are there. The mouth feel is inviting, cozy, and year long satisfaction. Since rooibos has no caffeine, you can enjoy this blend all day. You don't need to add any kind of sweetener to this blend - just prepare and enjoy. I look forward to ordering more of their teas - these guys know what they're doing when it comes to tea!


Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Tea Review - Twinings New Zealand Breakfast Blend



Leave it to me to order a tea straight from New Zealand.

As much as I do enjoy several teas from Twinings, I had no idea that they created a blend just for the country of New Zealand. When I did locate it, however, I immediately whipped out my credit card and placed my order, all the while wondering if I would actually receive it. After weeks of patiently waiting, my box arrived and several hours later, I had my first cup of Twinings New Zealand Breakfast - much thanks to Products from New Zealand!

Don't let the name fool you - this tea can be enjoyed all day long without worrying if the caffeine will keep you awake. I enjoyed this tea two hours before bed and when I did go to sleep, there were no caffeinated problems. This tea is subtle and delicious with every sip and thank goodness I ordered an 80 bag box - I've been drinking at least a bag or two every day. The tea has a smoky start, much like a Lapsang Souchong, then finishes with a bit of Earl Grey, leaving your palate refreshed and quite happy. The tea "rolls" well with a soft mouthfeel - no harshness in the mouth or in your stomach. If you add honey to the tea, it only gets better as honey enhances a tea's flavour (IMHO). Although I do enjoy drinking it with honey, this tea is quite good by itself. This tea also goes well with Biscoff cookies!

If you order this tea through Products from New Zealand, be advised that it will take between 8 to 20 business days before it reaches you, unless if you live in New Zealand or nearby. If you enjoy a good hardy tea that can be consumed all hours of the day, New Zealand Breakfast is the one for you!

Side Note:

I'm six day away from attending my first World Tea Expo - two days of networking with other tea companies, enjoying panels regarding tea, and being around other tea lovers and enthusiasts. I never thought I would ever go, yet next week that dream will become a reality. I am going to write several blog posts regarding my experience there  - who knows what that will lead to?

Join the Leaf!




Wednesday, May 30, 2018

A Tale of Two Women


The Door by Magda Szabo, printed through NYRB, was a challenging read for me. Not so much of the intellectual depth or the story itself, but rather the "relationship" between the two main women. Magda is a successful writer who is married and lives an affluent lifestyle. Due to the pressures of her and her husband's lives, they decide to hire Emerence, an older woman living in their village, as their housekeeper. Right from the beginning, Emerence comes across as a brash, unapologetic, and illiterate woman who could care less about the world. She has her small number of friends, her house filled with cats that no one may enter, and her housekeeping duties. Whenever someone tries to show compassion toward her, she lashes out with vitriolic words or she suddenly turns to stone and refuses to speak as punishment to the one who offended her. Yet, even with her bristling manner, Emerence shows her form of love toward Magda and Magda feels honoured to be the recipient of such a rare emotion.

I won't give all of the story away but like I said earlier, this was a challenging read for me. Although everyone seemed to eventually forgive Emerence for her ways, I found myself wondering about her power. Even when Magda tells her off and walks away, she is later wracked with guilt over what's she said to Emerence and then later feels that she deserved it. Everyone in the town knows of Emerence and willingly give her power to remain the same and never change. In all honesty, I wanted to stop reading the book several times yet I felt compelled to read it to see how it would end. I had to see how far the relationship between the two women would go. She refused care when people discovered that she had had a stroke and was living in filth. When someone tried to visit her, she yelled at them to go away and leave her alone. When Magda and her husband finally accepted Emerence's gift of a little dog statue, Emerence dusted it then threw it to the ground, causing it to shatter - this act later lead to peace in the household for quite some time. When a friend of hers committed suicide, Emerence advised Magda that she wouldn't have stopped her - if her friend was still lonely after being cared for and fed, then apparently she wanted to die. Sometimes, those who have nothing to lose can become the mirror of the world - they show the weakness of humanity in a truthful light with no apologies. Perhaps that was Emerence's job but then again, I know she wouldn't have cared less.

EX LIBRIS!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Down Below to Madness



Ever since I read her collection of short stories published through The Dorothy Project, I have been in love with Leonora Carrington. Her madness, her surreal visions - all of it. However, I returned to the book that got me interested in her from the beginning - Down Below, as printed through NYRB. It is here in which Carrington tells of her decent into madness after her lover, Max Ernst, was arrested by the Nazis in Provence. She traveled to Spain to escape the Nazis yet ended up in an institution. This slim yet powerful book made me shake my head several times as Carrington tells her audience of her "attempts" to Down Below in order to escape the doctor and his staff and their cruel ways. Although she finally was able to leave, I wondered if perhaps this experience changed her in some form. In describing her madness and coming out of it, was she exposed to something more than the rest of us? Whenever I viewed her paintings, I wondered if they were the result of her madness that transformed into a "better" view of her world. Her words seem so calm in describing her decent - almost like an artist describing his "masterpiece" to the world and knowing that perhaps, the world won't understand it.

EX LIBRIS!

Monday, May 28, 2018

A Weekend of Guilt



Every so often, I enjoy reading what I like to call a "quiet novel". The characters spend their days contemplating their acts and when something tragic does occur, it is muted and subdued yet still powerful. Bernhard Schlink's The Weekend is one of those novels. I was first introduced to his work while watching the film The Reader (never read the book - I know, I know) and I fell in love with the tragically beautiful story. The Weekend kept me gripped within its story as the ending came with a sense of "hope" for all of the characters.

Jorg has finally been released after spending 24 years in jail for being part of the infamous Baader-Meinhof group, as his sister Christiane prepares a weekend celebration for him. Friends and loved ones will spend the weekend with their long lost friend, yet all is not right under the seemingly calm surface of the country weekend. Truths finally come into the light, most of them painful, while emotions will flare as the past is brought in as a guest. At the center of it all is Jorg, who merely wants to reconnect with the outside world and try to seek out his new place in life. However, there are those who wish for him to return to his past life, one filled with loud voices, murders, and actions carried out in the name of an idea of a supposedly better world.

Schlink's writing reminded me of W. G. Sebald - quiet, thoughtful, yet no less compelling. I found myself sitting with the group and wondering if his friends truly saw him as their friend or a symbol of something they despised and secretly (or not so secretly) adored. While others stood in the back to watch the parade go by, Jorg was in the middle of it. I felt sorry for him - after being released, Schlink describes him as a broken down older man. Has the parade moved on without him, or did it silently wait for him to be released? And if it did, does he truly want to be a part of it again or just walk away?


EX LIBRIS!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

To Fight The World, One Must Look Within



Although I'd heard of Pema Chodron, this is the first time I've ever read her work. When I finished reading When Things Fall Apart, published through Shambhala Publications, I repeatedly said, "Wow." This book is for anyone, not just Buddhists, because the message is simple: when things fall apart, look within to find the "answer".

These times are filled with much running around, constant feeding of information, and the desire to want more and more. Yet, we also suffer from depression, anxiety, fears, worries, "bad luck", everything. We think our lives are perfect until we lose a job, our spouse or partner decides to leave us, or unwanted and disturbing thoughts begin to creep into our minds and make us doubt ourselves. So, what do we do when things fall apart?

For some of us, the answer is talk with friends, go on retail therapy, alcohol or drugs, mindless sex, or anything else that would allow us to enjoy a sort of escapism - a feeling of pleasure from so much pain. Yet, as Chodron writes, what if we realized that pain COULD be pleasure? What if rather than running away from our fears and pain, we actually looked at it as a sense of pleasure in that it may teach us something about ourselves? Rather than run from the loneliness, we embrace it and see it for what it is, then let it go because we are stronger than that?

This book had me nodding YES so many times - her words are simple yet they carry a deeper meaning. In order to fight the battle of the world, we must look within for the strength. We alone have the power to look at our fears and darkness and see them for what they truly are. We must be still in order to move. We must be silent in order to hear. We must show compassion to ourselves and then to others. It may be easier said than done but when I honestly began showing compassion toward myself and others, I felt a shift. It was "moving mountains" but it was enough to get my attention and to make me want to continue doing it.

Thank you for your words, Pema Chodron. I truly do appreciate them.

Ex Libris.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Five of Cups





She wanted to get away. Drop everything and just run. She could feel her pulse racing as the thoughts continued to pound in her mind. Run away, run away, run away. She closed her eyes and told herself that it was only a dream, that people who run are those who needed to calm down and focus. She opened her eyes and looked around her living room, then began to talk with herself.
"The Five of Cups," she told herself, "is a powerful card. It tells me, now, that I look for the things I don't have rather than the things I already have. The one man who didn't want me. The job I should have taken. The friends I desperately wanted. The books I didn't publish. Instead, I have a wonderful partner in my life, the three books I've already published, the friends who take me as I am, and the chance to breathe in a forest on Saturdays." She leaned back in her couch and took in her surroundings. Silent books, ready for her to read them. Photography she loved to collect. Already calm emotions that needed to be acknowledged. She raided her eyes to the ceiling and thought of walking along a train track with one bag, one bag only. One step followed by another with the same problems tied to her neck. She wanted release and freedom and found it suffocating that she even wanted such a thing. She opened her hand and looked at the crumpled Five of Cups card that was determined to imprint her skin.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Dear, Dear Leonora





I first heard about Leonora Carrington (6 April 1917 – 25 May 2011)  through New York Review of Books - they were about to release one of her non fiction books and, given the synopsis, I knew I had to read it. Although I didn't read that book (yet), I was still fascinated with Carrington - who was she? What did she do? What did she find important in her life? On a whim, I finally purchased a copy of the book The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington through The Dorothy Project and devoured it. Carrington, being a part of the Surrealist Movement among so many other things, was a writer who was before her time. Her words seduced and haunted me and all I kept thinking was, "I wish I had met her."

After reading the first story titled The Debutante, I stared at the cover's image then said, "Hmmm. Okay, then!" The Debutante is the story a young woman who befriends a hyena at the Zoo, then coerces it to take her place at a party so that she can read in her room. Complete with the hyena eating the young woman's maid and placing her face on top of hers, this story made me fall in love with Carrington -I have a bad habit of falling in love with fellow creatives. Once there, the book leads you by the hand and takes you to a world far more dreamlike and macabre than you could ever imagine. The people are mad yet they like it as they stuff themselves with food that is most peculiar. Trees will talk and rip themselves out of the ground. Corpses offer themselves to be ridden through a dense forest. Winged beings that barely resemble humans howl at the moon and drink "red". People transforming themselves into horses and back and again and back. 

As I finished up the book this morning, my thoughts continued to reflect on the fact that mostly everyone in her stories were either mad or about to go mad. Yet, the madness that is portrayed does not seem to be life threatening (unless if you are a Queen) nor harmful. The madness here feels as the norm in this world - to be mad is to be understood. To be mad is to see the beauty of it all without question and if you do question, it just means that you GET IT. of course, these are my own opinions but DAMN, I love her version of madness. Her words and images are truly astounding and I feel at a loss because I will read something else rather than more of her work. However, absence makes the heart grow fonder, or perhaps it will be eaten by a large black bird. 

I almost splurged and purchased every book related to her last night. I haven't done that since my introduction to Ian McEwan. Still Leonora Carrington has a place in my heart, nestled right next to Clarice Lispector, Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, Nella Larsen, Iain Pears, Edna St. Vincent Millay and many many others. 

To end this review, I want to quote my all time favourite line from this book. Although I write dark fantasy, this line struck me as horrifically beautiful:

"You can't love anyone until you have drawn blood and dipped in your fingers and enjoyed it."

Leonora Carrington is my Goddess of Surrealism and Madness. 




Monday, April 16, 2018

The River Before



The first time I saw him, he was naked and lying on the banks of the river. I was on a walk with several friends when we spotted him and rushed over. As we ran, I knew he was dead and I wasn't a friend of Death. By the time we were a foot away from him, the man slowly got up and stared at us with eyes that I'd never seen before. They were blue and yet with a hint of mud to them. His pale skin held a slight twinge of blue that swirled around like waves. We stopped in our tracks as he raised a hand to us and smiled. His short black hair was still wet as it stuck out in all directions from his head. He then saw my face and walked towards me. I felt my heart beating rapidly as he came towards me and my so called friends moved away to give him room. He asked me my name and I told him with a shaky voice.
"No," he said, "what is the name that the River gave you?" I told him that I had no other name, to which he reached out to touch my hand. I did not flinch as his warm watery hand made contact with my suddenly dry skin. His eyes studied me and soon, I felt a warm wash flow through me. One of my friends asked him if he was alright, to which he replied that he had come from the River Before. He looked at my friends with a calm gaze then returned his focus on me. The blue muddy eyes welcomed me into his soul. Thankfully, my friends were all dreamers - one asked if the River Before was a beautiful place. He, still focused on me, traced a line down my arm as he said that the River Before is too blue to behold - a place for his kind to drink and rest. I then asked for his name. "Silt," he said with a grin. Another friend asked if he wanted to come with us for clothes and shelter. Just then, others came running up to our group and Silt in amazement. A man yelled that Silt had no business being naked around here and that if he came quietly, they would "take care" of him. I stood in front of him and said that he was coming home with us. I could feel Silt's breath on my neck and knew that my choice was a sound one. The other people looked at us with a mixture of disgust, fear, and a little wonder as they slowly walked away. Silt came with us.
He stayed with me and taught me the ways of the River Before. His body could change colours on a whim - clear blue like his home, muddy as the food he ate, and clear like the dreams he spoke of. His eyes showed the equal of blue and brown when he laughed with me. When he touched me as a man touches a woman and his lips brushed against mine, I saw the River Before and his people. His body smelled of pure rain water mingled with freshly turned earth. One day, after so many others passed, Silt asked if I wanted to go home with him. I asked if this meant that I would die, to which he laughed and said no. We returned to the bank where we first found him and he slowly removed my clothes. I then removed his and, after sharing a deep kiss, we walked into the River. As the cold waters covered my body inch by inch, I began to feel fear until Silt squeezed my hand and said to not be afraid. I nodded as the river covered my head and I gasped for breath, yet Silt continued to hold my hand as we slowly walked through the muddy water. I saw nothing, nothing . . . until I saw the bluest blue, clear and welcoming. Warm and happy. I saw others like him swimming along, all like him. All dreamt from the River Before. When they saw us, they waved and welcomed us home.

My name is Tide. I am of the River Before.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

THOSE People


(Cafe Eclectic - Harbor Town Memphis)


I see them everywhere. THOSE people. They seem to meet up in packs, converse about whose house they'll be visiting later that day, and who will bring what craft beer. I watch them from behind my curtain of shyness, desperate to be a part of their world. They see more, experience more, and dress in ways I could never imagine. They wear clothes that make them look as though they just woke up from a perfect night in which nothing fell out of place. Black framed glasses with a careless attitude make me wonder if they wear them just as an accessory rather than for vision problems. I wanted in, I kept telling myself. I wanted into their world and their jokes that seemed to be private. I wanted to shop with them at the local grocery store, searching for the best apples. I wanted them to help me with my wardrobe and tell me how to put on my hemp lip gloss properly. I wanted to be invited to their houses to talk about my latest read over wine and cheese whose name I couldn't pronounce. I wanted to be like them and hate them within the same breath. And then, one day, one of them noticed the book I was reading and asked me if I liked it so far. I looked up from my book and noticed the face - clean and free of makeup, female sensitive with a hint of something earthy, short black hair, clothes that were made for her. I smiled and said yes and asked if she'd ever read it, to which she sat down next to me and told me (with a white teeth smile that proved she drank a lot of coffee) that her group had JUST finished reading it. Can you imagine the odds, I said with a smile. She continued her smile then asked if I was doing anything later - her friends were going over to Tom, Steve, Joan, Sarah's house for wine and watching French films. Book closed, grin even wider. 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Ink Stained Nothing


(from the Woodruff Fontaine House in Memphis, TN)


My words, my blood. My thoughts, shared on paper for the world to see and possibly ridicule. I see people using their words so carelessly, as though they wanted to give away their power. Not I. I refuse to give anyone anything that I treasure. Each thought comes from my mind like a soft whisper, a delicate knife slicing through the air, or a single drop of water to land in a glass. You see my words and you KNOW. I want them to be near me, forever. And yet. . . my hands tremble when I hold my pen. My eyes dart here and there, searching for something that fell out without warning. My heart beats rapidly as I read line by line on the too white paper. My words, my prison. I want them to feed me so that I never know hunger again. I close my eyes and feel . . . .

The stain grows above me on my ceiling. Black and viscous. Muted whispers of nothing sensible. I look up and see my words there. They float and fly towards the over growing mass above my head. Are they going to kill me? Will they take mercy on me, their Creator? The whispers grow louder. I want to see them. Each little line. One stroke of my pen becomes my noose. They suddenly slide down my walls, changing the white to a heartless black. I sit at my desk in the middle of the room. No windows, no fear. They come towards me as children returning to their parents after a long day of playing. Here we come, they whisper. Open your mouth, dear. Open wide. I do what they want. Soft. Slow. Pulsing. Fear. Tremble. Regret. Love. Anguish. Terror. Please, please, please. Let us return. Let us in. In. In.

In.


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Laina - a fragment


(my grandmother's hands, yet I think Laina's hands would look just like hers)


I have seen several lifetimes and still I am amazed at how limited humanity appears to be. So much beyond the realms of Maybe and Hopefully. My hands, wrinkled and brown from many suns kissing them, can still serve tea faster than the wood elves in the next town! I want to share my life with you - what I did and still do, whom I've seen, whom I've slept with (wink), and which areas I'm banned from because I disobeyed their rules. A Tea Traveler, once set out into the worlds, is loyal to only one set of laws - the laws that bind a Tea Traveler to what they do for the sake of Tea. When I took the oath, I was a mere 20 years old and rebellious. Still am I guess but I digress. I wanted to leave Birmingham for good when I stumbled upon the town of Mabon during spring break. Yes . . . the way you looked at me when I said that name. You know of it, don't you? When I found it, I couldn't believe my eyes. All of the things I'd hoped and wished for were real. When I crossed the Veil to the Otherworld, I held my first conversation with a strange man who wore loose blue clothing, claimed he was from the Land of Sleep, and served me the best cup of tea while telling me a story about a desert dryad. When I finished my cup, I thanked them then asked where I could get more of that tea (it's called Blue Wave and it's now one of the Forgotten Teas), he told me something better - visit the Tea Temple and study to become a Tea Traveler. The rest, as the Tea Mystics never say, is history. Of course, I'm only giving you a sample of my life. If you want more, then pull up a chair, chew on those Soft Shoulder tea leaves, and let's begin . . . . 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Wasure - a fragment



The name I chose was Wasure - forgotten. Just like the teas I study, I am forgotten by my past.

People see me and whisper to their friends. Is she? Is that the one who - ? I catch their glances at me and smile from behind my black fan. They nod quickly then rush off to their destination, while I remain in the Temple. They want to see Me as I truly am, want all of those lingering questions answered. I refuse to show yet I do tell them - yes, I am of both. I studied the history of the Forgotten Teas and was "blessed" afterward. No, it is not a curse. Far from it. People from all over come to the Temple to pay homage to our work, enjoy our carefully blended teas, and listen to our stories or our adventures. And, as always, they finish their day at the Temple with a visit to my area. They come to hear my stories and to peer carefully at my face and my handmade red silk kimono. I always have a smile for them, for is that not the Way of the Temple? One night, as I prepared for dinner with the rest of the Mystics, my teacher pulled me to the side and placed a hand on my forehead.
"Three Apples," he said to me with a smile. I looked at him with a blank look on my face, knowing better than to question him. Since he was over 400 years old and looked barely 60, I trusted him with everything he ever told me. "Seek the Three Apples," he continued, "and your Path will truly begin." He then bowed before me and went into the dining room. I stood there in silence as I felt the warmth from his hand still on my forehead. I then nodded to the air and walked into the dining room. For three months, the three apples remained on my mind as I continued with my daily duties. In all of my time studying the Forgotten Teas, I felt as though my Path was clear to me. I was wrong. Every time I saw a new face enter the Temple, I wondered if they had anything to do with three apples. Every time I went into the city for errands, I searched for three apples laying on the road, or in a shop, or even at homes I visited for special requests. Then, on a rainy morning, a woman walked into the Temple. She came alone and wore clothing befitting that of a lost soul. I paid no attention to her except to give her the standard greeting, only to stop in amazement. She noticed me staring at her and walked over to me.
"Greetings," she said with a grin, "why did I shock you so?" I quickly closed my mouth and tried to regain some form of composure.
"Your necklace," I whispered. "Where did you get it?" She looked down at her necklace - three silver apple charms strung on a thick black string hung from her neck - then looked at me again.
"I received it as a gift from a friend now long dead. He said it was the way to my Door being opened." She grinned again. "Perhaps you could tell me?" I reached out to touch the necklace and immediately felt a strong current of power from it and her. I bowed low.
"My name is Wasure," I said with a trembling voice as I caressed her cheek. "I am Blessed."

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

A Darker Wonderland


I found a copy of The Floating World in a used bookstore here in Memphis. Being a lover of Japanese culture, I figured that it would be an interesting read. I was wrong. The Floating World by Cynthia Gralla is an excellent read, one that I would like to read repeatedly. This book is lush and sensual, allowing the reader to dive into a darker Wonderland with hopes of never returning home.

Liza, a student at an Ivy League university, leaves it all behind to travel to Japan after being entranced by the world of ankoku butoh, meaning the dance of utter darkness. She sees a different world and longs to become a part of it. Her life in Japan soon consists of dancing butoh, starving herself, taking in new lovers while she taunts her former lover back home, and meeting and befriending a strange woman who leads the way. Maboroshi, a woman who dwells in this Wonderland, lives a life of decadence, extremes, and never ending pleasures. She and her group of women dressed as maiko (apprentice geisha) wreak havoc in the streets of Tokyo with perfume scented kimonos, daggers, and distorted visions. They lure Liza into their world and it is here that she evolves and becomes something stranger and deeper than she could ever imagine. The Floating World is a novel of a woman's attempt to discover her hidden side, the one she knew possibly existed yet never met it until now. Reading this book was like having a delicious erotic dream.

When I was halfway through the novel, I knew I had to reach out to the author. I had to let her know just how much I adored her book and that I had to create a tea blend for it - The Dance of Maboroshi tea blend will be coming out in two months - be on the lookout for it!

I fell in love with Gralla's writing - she makes you feel everything you read. You want to see the horrific because it pleases you so. A light brush of silk across the face as you are blindfolded, your heart beating fast because you are in someone else's hands. You desire more and you know that you'll get it, yet be warned. The darkness never leaves this Wonderland, this modern ukiyo. It will crawl across your skin like the sushi placed on the naked woman in the more expensive restaurants. You take your chopsticks and delicately pluck the darkness from the woman's body and eat it, feeling the slight warmth from the skin envelop around your morsel. Gralla gives us morsels to savour just like Liza and we feel full from it. We feel lighter than air and stronger than ever because we have tasted true desire. I could go on and on but I'll just end this review with - Buy The Book.

Arigato, Cynthia-san!

EX LIBRIS!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Harney and Sons Organic Bangkok - Tea Review



I may have found a new Spring/Summer favourite.

Harney and Sons Tea Company has done it again with Organic Bangkok Tea Blend. This green tea is quite the refreshing blend, as you enjoy the tastes of ginger, coconut, and vanilla along with the green tea. The smell of the tea is quite grassy and fresh, making me burn my mouth in the process because I didn't want to wait for it to cool down.


The overall experience of this tea is exotic, delicious, and for me, simple. Although the tea smelled grassy and fresh, the taste was very much a pleasing blend of green tea, coconut without being overpowering, and vanilla. I tasted only the barest hint of ginger at the very end of the sip - that surprised me, as ginger tends to be strong and sometimes bitter at times depending on how much is used. Yet with every sip, the flavours came alive for me while the mouthfeel was wet and satisfying. The instant I took a sip, I felt as though I was in another land, enjoying a Spring day while people watching in a cafe. This is a tea for when you are on vacation - adds to the overall excitement of being somewhere else! This tea is a good "comfort the soul" tea blend as well and I would love to try it iced. I didn't need any sugar or sweetener for this tea; however, I did eat some mango sorbet before sipping the tea (works well - try it if you can!) and that flavour enhanced the tea. This tea came in my Murder on the Orient Express tea order as a free sample and I'm glad I had a chance to try it. I will definitely be ordering this tea very soon.

Much thanks to Harney and Sons!


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Murder on the Orient Express - New Tea Review



Murder on the Orient Express is one of my favourite films and books - someone has died on a snowbound luxury train, and it's up to Hercule Poirot to solve the murder! When I learned that Kenneth Branagh would be directing an all new version of the classic film, I knew I had to watch it. However, when I learned that Harney and Sons Tea Company made a blend for the film/book, I really knew that I had to have it. I decided to enjoy a cup of the tea while watching the film and the experience was more than I bargained for.

Let me start by saying that I truly enjoyed the film. While the first film will always be my favourite and the book is a lovely piece of work, the Kenneth Branagh version is worth watching. An all star cast against a luscious and colourful backdrop with a heinous murder underneath it all - go rent the film!

Now - on to the tea!



The Murder on the Orient Express tea blend is a decadent mixture of black tea, oolong tea, jasmine tea, and bergamot oil. When you open the tea tin, the first thing you smell is the bergamot - a winner in my book. However, when the tea is prepared, the levels of the flavours change. First sip was quite smoky - a nice surprise to the tea. When I let it cool down somewhat, the smoky flavour remained yet now with a bergamot/jasmine end. The mouthfeel was wet and longing for a another sip. As the tea continued to cool down, the mouthfeel increased as wet and now soft. The best way to describe drinking this tea is: getting on a train with adventure in mind, wearing all black clothes, packed with books and a trusty camera, a feeling of decadence and longing to see the world. All of that in one cup.

This tea is perfect for all day but I think I'll be enjoying this tea on the weekends or in the evening, preferably while watching a foreign film or enjoying a really good book. This tea blend should be savoured little by little - no slurping it down.

Much thanks to Harney and Sons for creating such a delightful tea!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

B R E A T H E



I love it here.

An eternal sense of bliss. Nothing to do but just breathe. The clouds crawl across the sky. My eyes barely move to watch them. There are others near me. They feel the same as I. One woman never moves her head as she rests against a tree. An older man lifts a flower to his face as he lays in the grass. He eats the flower then lets his hand drop to his side to locate another one. Three children dressed in white breathe in unison. I raise my arms to the clouds and watch them move back and forth. So slender. I can see my bones protruding under my skin. When was the last time I ate? Ah, another cloud.

I remember one time when my world was filled with noise. Rushing to get out of bed, rushing to get to work, rushing to get home to my husband, rushing through uninspired sex, sleep for three hours then do it all over again. One rainy day, a man with a dented tea pot stood at my door. He said he could slow me down. At first, I thought he was insane until he gave me a cup of his tea. One sip and I felt my eyelids grow heavy as the man became a blur. I blinked ever so slowly and soon found myself in a vast valley. I saw people of every race, gender, and age either laying on the grass, leaning against trees, or just walking around. I then heard the voice of the man telling us all to breathe. I slowed down. I took a deep breath then fell on the extremely soft grass. I slowed down. I'm still slowing down.

I see the man every so often. He calls us his friends.

Sometimes . . . I see . . . someone suddenly jump . . . .up and look around . . . .in fright. . . . as though . . . . . . . they don't know why they are here. . . . . . . . . . . they try to . . . . . . . . . . run . . . . . . . . . . . . and the ground holds them . . . . . . . . . . . . . fast. . . . . . . . . . soon they . . . . . . . . . .  . . . . return to just breathing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I raise . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . my . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . arms . . . . . . . . . . . . to the . . . . . . . . . . clouds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . when did . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I last . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . eat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

(time for tea, my friends)





(breathe just breathe)


 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . breathe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Condemnation of the Soul



I stand before you a condemned man. This rope around my neck will soon end my life, thanks to you out there. Scoff at me all you want but I speak the truth. Each and every one of you are to blame for this. You claim that I committed such an atrocious act, yet I know my innocence. I would never do what you claimed I did. Rachelle was my life, my love. I wanted to grow old with her. To kill the one thing that brings me joy . . .I'm sorry, what used to bring me joy. You know how much I loved her.

Yell at me all you want but I didn't kill her! Never in a million years!

Are you through screaming at me? In fact, I should be the one screaming at you. Yes. Look at you, so smug, so blissfully unaware. I may die an innocent man but I am still condemned thanks to my beliefs. You have no idea what you're a part of now. Remember when your lives were as fulfilling as the slop you gave the pigs? Remember those days? We were all poor yet we were content. And then . . . She arrived. Dressed in a simple dress, she appealed to your sense of wanting something more and gave it to you. No more wishing for a decent bed to sleep in, no more hidden fears, no more loss of coin. She revealed her true nature as She erased your faults and gave your perfection. You took it willingly. She saved you in exchange for unwavering loyalty, of which you were all too happy to give. Tell me: when was the last time any of you left this town? When was the last time you desired to walk the forests to search for the delicious red apples? When was the last time you did anything? I refused to give in so easily and She knew it. At first, She offered me lands in other worlds, then a chance for unlimited wealth. I continued to refuse. Then, that bitch of a goddess turned my love against me. I thought that Rachelle would soon see reason yet that never happened. And yet, I still loved her. I knew she would come around soon enough. Then oh then She showed Her true nature. She . . .drained my Rachelle's life right before my eyes. That goddess you claim to love so much, SHE killed my love!

I have nothing more to say to you people.

You there, take your mask off and get this over with. I know they can't wait to see the life fade from my eyes. I just hope that Rachelle's soul is cleansed through Death. I can only hope for the same with me.

Make it quick. Do it now.




(break)

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Sensei of the West



I refuse to be angry. When one is angry, one feels less than what they were yesterday. I want to remember him, how he moved around me and talked about which poets turned him on. We were never meant to be together, I realize that now. For us to say YES to each other would have meant a year of crying under a grey sky. He wants to see me. I still tell him no. He smiles for himself, now. I want to remember him. The words, words, words strike cold on my skin, causing blisters. I feel at a crossroads - take one to forget or take the other and be in pain. His green eyes. My brown ones. His full shock of salt and pepper hair. My dark brown hair that has a mind of its own. So much older yet I was his equal. My Sensei of the West.

(the mind of Sophie, older from my novel The Decembrists)

Monday, March 5, 2018

Speaking Into Infinity



My grandmother refused to speak with me after she died. I was warned about that, of course. He told me to expect silence after they have passed on. "I wanted to tell her one last thing," I said to him, to which he only smiled and took my hand in his.
"It's not possible," he said. "The dead become deaf to this world and only hear the Winds. Your prayers, pleas, promises, all of that falls short." I wanted to believe him. I wanted to show him and everyone else that I was okay, that I could move forward with no regrets. I saw others and how they handled their losses - screaming, crying, wondering, thanking. They were different to me  - apples to apples, dust to dust. He told me that their eyes become golden when they reach whatever they reach.
"Why tell me this?" I asked him. "Why do you know what the rest of the planet does not?"
"You," he replied, "wanted to know the truth." I suppose I should fault my damn curiosity for this. I see my grandmother, in her whitest of white, seated at a table in the middle of a vast something (can't place it, I refuse to lie) as she watches the clouds drift by. Her golden eyes see everything before her and nothing behind. No flesh wrapped worries of paying bills, getting to work on time, enjoying records with the person you love, feeling heartbroken when the person you want doesn't want you back. She shed all of that when she died.
"And who," I asked my friend as we sipped on our Oolong tea, "are you?"
"I am nothing, everything, listening for a single drop of water to fall in an ocean. I am within you and outside. I am here." I took another sip of my tea, knowing that my friend was more than what he showed me. I noticed his delicate white skin that held a dull glow. He told his name, once. I wanted to forget it. He called himself a Poet. I wanted him to love me for I knew that I would never survive the ordeal. He came here to find me. I know that. He saw my grandmother and she said nothing about me. He wanted to tell me that the Cycle is real (feel this and guide me through it). He loved me before I was born. I wanted to laugh until I saw his eyes shift. Can I believe in gods now, I wondered. Will he let me?

Saturday, March 3, 2018

All Hail the NEW Vampire Master - Book Review



I really hope this isn't the last of the Black Knight Chronicles. Since book one, I've been with Jimmy and Greg, Charlotte's geeky and kick ass vampires, as they fight their way through the OTHER side of Charlotte, complete with fallen angels, Lilith, renegade vampires, the Fae, the Goblin Market, etc. And every time, they seem to come out on top. However, book five, In the Still of the Knight, left me wondering about their future, albeit an undead one. At the end of book five, Jimmy was (somewhat) made the Master Vampire of Charlotte after Tiram was killed. I remembered closing the book and thinking, "Now what?" Thanks to Renaissance man and friend John G. Hartness, Man in Black answered my question.

Man in Black literally picks up right where book five left off. Jimmy, now Master Vampire of Charlotte, doesn't know the first thing about ruling a city. Nor what to do when a representative of the Vampire Council shows up to "evaluate" his actions befitting a Master. Nor what to do that Greg, his best friend, is still pissed at him. Nor what to do that Sabrina, his I-think-she's-my-ex-girlfriend, has left him as well. Nor what to do when the entire city seems to be flooded with otherworldly creatures. All he knows is to stay (un)alive when many want him Final Dead. Not to mention trying to solve a kidnapping of the daughter of a crime boss who would make any vampire actually tremble.

Did I also mention snake men? Yep. Pumped up werewolves? Check. Demons eating actors? Got it.

Man in Black is a damn roller coaster of a ride AGAIN through Hartness' city of Charlotte. Just when you think you can take a breath after In the Still of the Knight, Man in Black straps you in even tighter, gives you a helmet, then pats you on the back while saying, "I warned you. . . " Non stop action, fights, MUCH gore, and above everything else, Jimmy's smart ass humour. Gotta love that. I always know that whenever I read a Hartness book, I know that I will cringe, laugh, and plow my way through it. I was glad that a certain character showed up at the end - kinda missed him (grin).

If Man in Black just happens to be the final book in the Chronicles, then I would be satisfied. But. . . if there is another book in the works, then YES! If you have not read the Black Knight Chronicles, you REALLY need to invest in the books. Trust me.

Thanks John, as always. Love your work!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

A New Day, A New Breath


She woke up after a deep eight hour sleep, looked around her bedroom, and realized that today was that day. Miranda jumped out of bed, put on her slippers, then made her way to her living room and plopped down on the couch. She took a deep breath as she turned on her phone: was she really going to do this, she asked herself. As soon as the phone came to life, she noticed several notifications from the very people who led her to this decision. Miranda took another breath then clicked on the notifications and began to type. Ten minutes later, she submitted her replies then got up to make a cup of coffee. As the coffee began to brew, Miranda leaned against the counter and thought. And thought. And thought. Too much time wasted, she said to herself. Too many people wanting more than they really deserved. Too much time following people who never gave a damn. Too much time thinking one thing when it was clearly another. I want out, she said out loud. She quickly made her coffee with a small pour of hazelnut creamer then returned to the living room, where her phone had begun to blow up with reply messages. Miranda stared at the messages as they came in, each one trying to justify their actions of the sender. I was busy. Life goes on, ya know? Well, you haven't made any attempt on your end. Blah, blah, blah, Miranda said as she took a sip of her coffee. Today began a new direction on her Path. As she sipped and watched the messages continue to appear, she thought about Joseph, her dear friend who recently moved back in town. There was something there between them, a spark that both of them tried to ignore. He wanted a woman who loved to cook spaghetti. She wanted a man who could juggle. As her phone finally stopped vibrating from the barrage of messages, Miranda took another sip of her coffee then picked up the phone and sent a text to Joseph, asking if angel hair pasta with Italian sausage was all that was required.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Leaves of Fortune



When the waitress handed our fortune cookies to us, she looked directly at me. I smiled and told her thank you in terrible Chinese, to which she still stared at me. I looked around at my friends then looked at my cookie. Rather than the standard golden brown I was so accustomed to, my cookie was a deep red. I looked up to ask the waitress a question, only to realize that she had disappeared. I unwrapped my cookie and held it up to the light. My friends asked me why mine was red, to which I just shrugged then opened it. A piece of paper fell in my hand and as I ate my deliciously sweet cookie, I read my fortune. Rather than the usual "Good Luck Will Come To You Today" fortune, this one had only one word - LEAVES. I stared at the word for several minutes, as though my brain would decipher this word that was obviously a code. My friends became bored of staring at me staring at a piece of paper, so we left the restaurant and drove off. As I drove, I kept the piece of paper in my left hand like a talisman. Leaves. Why leaves? When I reached home, I got out of my car, ran upstairs to my apartment only to turn around, get back in my car, and return to the Chinese restaurant. As soon as I walked in, I found the waitress enjoying a cup of tea at a table in the back. She looked up at me with an expectant gaze then waved me over to her table. I walked over to her and sat down as she poured me a cup of her tea. Oolong, I thought. After she poured and I took my cup, she told me that I could stop running. Before I could ask her what she meant, she continued and stated that I was like her. Like so many others before and after. We answer a different call, she said in a soft tone. The blessing of Leaves are upon you, she whispered just as a door suddenly appeared to the left of her. I drained my cup of tea then got up and opened the door to another world I prayed would someday be real.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Justine - fragment 2 -



Justine showed her secret to me. I pulled away. She looked at me with a stunned expression then began to cry. I wanted to show you, she said as the tears fell down her face. I wanted you to see me as I truly am. I stared at her in silence. I wanted to turn away yet couldn't. She turned away from me. I sat next to her and stroked her long red hair. I'm sorry, I said, taking in her scent of peppermints. She said she was blessed on her side. I continued to stroke her hair. Do you know how much I love you, she said as she turned her face toward me. Her eyes, once ever shifting colours, were now a solid deep blue. I love you, Justine repeated. I traced her lips with my finger. I still couldn't believe it. I don't know, I said as I turned away. Justine continued to cry as I walked out of her room. I wanted to get away from her and her scent of peppermints. I wanted to get away from her love that I didn't deserve. I sat in her living room and listened to her crying. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I got up before I could change my mind and returned to her room. Justine remained in the same position. I said nothing yet sat down next to her again and kissed her shoulder. She stopped crying yet remained silent. Help me to understand, I said. I want to understand you. Justine turned to face me then placed two tear stained fingers on my lips. I suddenly saw her home on the other side, the paintings she created with colours I never knew existed. I saw her world, open and waiting for me. My eyes returned to her again. Her eyes resumed their shifting colours. Can you love me, she asked. My love is meant for you and you alone.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Justine - Fragment #1


I first met her at a party. The host, a good friend of mine and sometimes drinking buddy, led me toward her. He told me her name was Justine and I reached out to shake her hand. I remembered that her faint paint splattered hands were soft. She wore a white shirt with jeans and her eyes took in everything at once. I remembered that moment as, several weeks later, we lay in her bed while it rained outside of her apartment. I still couldn't believe I . . . I wasn't a lesbian. Neither was she, she told me when she caressed my cheek while flute music from Japan played in the background. Her eyes stared right into my soul and I couldn't look away. She said she wanted to kiss me. I let her. She claimed later that she fell in love in with me when I met her at the party. I touched her face then her lips. She told me where she came from and I knew she was serious. She had to have been from there - how else could she explain her eyes that changed colour every few seconds? She said she waited for the right moment to meet me. I asked her if she was my Muse. She rolled me on my back. The rain continued to fall.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Fey Sounds of the Appalachia



I love listening to musical groups that have many labels yet are always shifting and evolving. Tuatha Dea, the tribal/pagan/Celtic/rock/Steampunk group from Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is one of those groups. A friend of mine recommended the band to me several years ago, and the Viking in my life gave me all of their CDs (he's a BIG fan). When I learned that Tuatha Dea had a concert set in Memphis, I knew I had to go. Seeing them live was a performance I will never forget - electric, sensual, eclectic, fey, everything! The concert that I attended was at Hard Rock Cafe - I was told that in order to get the full effect of the band, it's better to see them in an outdoor event. I do remember losing a bit of my hearing for several hours after the concert - I regret nothing! While on my latest jaunt to My Second Home, I decided to listen to their newest CD, Kilts and Corsets.

WOW.

From the first title track to the bittersweet end track Open Letter to You, this CD delivers and packs a punch that is solid all the way through. Every song is flawless and rich with their sound and there wasn't a song that I disliked. Several of my favourites, however, were Kilts and Corsets, Morgan le Fay, and Appalachia Burning (written about the 2016 fire in Gatlinburg). These three songs stood out to me with the flow of the music, the blending of the singing voices, and the lyrics. If you have never seen them in concert, I highly recommend doing so. If you've never heard of them until today, you need to listen to their music. Their music will make you want to dance even if you claim you "can't dance". I know I'm a late bloomer to Tuatha Dea but I'm so glad their music is a part of my life now.  If you want to start collecting their CDs, start with Kilts and Corsets. You will not be disappointed.