Thursday, December 19, 2013

Getting Back to Lesbian Vampires (open letter and free gift to the fans of "Fireflies")

To the fans of Fireflies:

I hope you accept my sincerest apology for not coming out with the sequel yet. It was my intention to end with a cliff hanger and write a sequel if the book did well. Don’t worry, “Fireflies II” is in the works and it will be much more interesting and full of twists and turns than the first book was. I will leave a sneak preview of it at the end of this blog.

I had to first publish a novel I had been working on for years. In fact, I wrote “Fireflies” because I needed a break from writing, “Enlightened Ones,” which was released this year. To understand this better, you can read my blog on how writing about lesbian sex vampires is writing what you know:

Anyway, life doesn’t always go as planned and my day job and full time job of being a mother often gets in the way of being an edgy underground writer. To make it up to you, I will post a free excerpt of the yet to be released “Fireflies 2.” I haven’t thought of a name for it yet. Okay, here is a sneak peak of “Fireflies 2” which will be told through the eyes of Jessie, a character who is probably the exact opposite of Linda. Let me know what you think. I might post more if you like it. Btw, Happy Holidays… wishing everyone the most awesome season ever!!!!!

WARNING: The following excerpt contains sexually explicit material that may enhance the enjoyment of your consensual, romantic relationship, but will create a horribly awkward moment if your children get a hold of it...

It is my life that flashes through my mind as I watch Linda on the floor, cursing me for not letting her die. God, she looks so much like Ginger. I wanted to shove her face into reality and make her realize that her ideas about what we’re supposed to be are nothing but illusions. I didn’t ask her to make me into one of them and I don’t have to play by her rules. You’re probably thinking that I’m horrible. Why couldn’t I just play along and be the creature that Linda thought I would be? Let me ask you this: why should I have to kill and prey on the innocent like they do? You ask: why do I fight my destiny when it is so clearly set? Let me tell you the story from my point of view and then you can judge me as harshly as you like.

I was never one to care about what people thought and I always lived my life by my own rules. My parents enrolled me in a Baptist school and I lived under strict Christian rule until my parents divorced when I was twelve. The Baptists told me what I could and couldn’t watch on TV and schooled my parents on what I should and shouldn’t eat. My mother followed everything to the tee. Such a good obedient woman she was. I couldn’t have the toys my cousins had. I couldn’t watch the movies and shows they loved. Everything was evil and sinful and I felt a constant oppression for I loved everything about life and I didn’t understand what there was to fear. I suppose that putting the fear of God into a child would work if she is not curious about anything and needs to be told what to do, but it didn’t suit me at all.

            I got into mischief with my friend Sarah, Sarah Wilson. She was always scared at first but would play along in the end. I think she admired my ability to make her do things she wouldn’t do on her own. We never got caught putting mice in the nun’s desk drawer or writing Satanic verses on the girl’s bathroom mirror but when we got suspended for ditching school so we could spend an entire day at the park, Sarah was forbidden to see me ever again and my world crumbled. Perhaps I could have convinced her to come back to me but I could tell her parents beat her bad. She had bruises on her wrists and a welt on her leg when she returned to school. It was healing and barely perceptible but I was a keen child and I noticed everything.

            That was the fifth grade. I might have had to attend that prison well into High School had my parents not divorced that summer. I chose my dad for custody and saw my mom on the weekends. My parents had religious differences and my mom just couldn’t push her control on us any longer. I was free. I never thought I could ever have a friend like Sarah until I reached high school and met Ginger. Ginger reminded me a lot of Sarah but she was blond. Sarah was a brunette like me. Ginger was healthy and bright and when she smiled at me, she didn’t smile like that for anyone else. Ginger had the most intense intellect. She had a fascination for reading books that were ancient, forbidden or translated from another language. I could tell that daily life bored her just as much as it did me but she always had her books to escape into and they kept her sane. Because of her ravenous appetite for exotic knowledge, Ginger was sophisticated beyond her years. Most of the adults had no idea what the contents of her books were and she was introduced to the cultures and practices of exotic lands and times long gone. I remember her saying to me, “Jessie, they tell us about the way things used to be, that everyone got married before having sex and that everyone respected their elders but I’ve read books from hundreds of years back where people spoke up against the government. I’ve even read books about the sex lives of people back then and we can learn a lot from them.”

“Okay,” I responded. “Teach me,” there was a short pause and her blue eyes glinted as she laughed at me. Nothing was the same after that. I always looked at her differently and she at me and that was when all the experimenting started between us. But for me, it was more than sexual play. It wasn’t just an education in the lost arts. I was falling in love.

            All of us High School girls read Cosmo magazine and there were always articles on sex and how to do it right. It made us realize that for adults, sex is not a forbidden act. Rather, it is a form of play. I remember reading articles on the art of masturbation and we tried it together. We searched for our clitoris and g-spot. “Have you found it yet?” she asked me enthusiastically.

            “No… oh, wait a second.”

            Our mutual masturbation session was our first really intense sexual moment because we felt things in the presence of each other that we shouldn’t have been feeling. It didn’t matter, what was private to me could include her. She was a part of me then. I came before she did and she watched me gasp as I rubbed myself more vigorously. I was hot and sweating and spent while I watched her climax, her head falling back, her body heaving, her mouth moaning. She was so beautiful at that moment. We both looked at each other in silence for a long time when we were done, not knowing what to say. That was just the beginning.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Why I Never Went Back to Facebook

If I wrote this blog two years ago, it would be called “Why I left facebook” but since I never went back, I have titled it, “why I never went back to facebook.” I dropped my facebook account during a time when many other people fell off the facebook bandwagon. Many of my friends followed suit but just about all of them went back. Why didn’t I go back? I saw many issues with the forum so I weighed my options and decided it wasn’t worth my time. Others didn’t like facebook, but decided that the problems they had were small compared to the positives, so they went back.

Well, we are all different. We are all wired differently and my reasons for leaving may not be the same for others but since I’m constantly being asked to go back, I feel obligated to state my reasons for why I don’t want to. Please keep in mind that I am a writer. I am very introverted and private so keep this in mind as I explain why facebook is not for me. Also, facebook has created a new culture which is changing how we treat each other and ourselves and I feel obligated to share my observations on how this will affect us as human beings.

I decided not to go back to facebook for many reasons:

1) They do not care for the privacy or rights of any of their members. They have made my private profile public without warning due to their updates and they took away the ability for me to keep the comments I put on other people's statuses private. They seem to be hell bent on taking your privacy for granted. Of course we live in a time where nobody cares about their privacy. Still, privacy is important to me. It creeps me out that people can spy on you through skype and that we have given up our privacy rights to the government. It gives me the creeps that our fourth amendment rights are being taken away and that anyone can accuse me of being a terrorist. There is so much more to this that people are not aware of but that’s another blog, I guess.

2) I don’t trust them. When my private profile has been made public without warning so many times, how can I trust facebook at all? They will change their settings at a drop of a hat. Many people say to me, there is a way to change your privacy settings but that doesn’t matter because facebook messes them up all the time. When I become a member of a social networking forum or do any kind of business with anyone, I have to trust the entity I am engaging with. Otherwise, I live in a state of paranoia, constantly having to keep track of updates and personal settings in case of gliches. When I dropped facebook, I became markedly less stressed.

3) People don't communicate the way they used to because of facebook. I was once at a party and people started showing us things that were on their facebook page. Next thing I know, the whole room was silent and everyone was in their own world, forgetting that a social gathering was going on around them. People who have facebook have no idea what they look like to those of us who stopped using it. Is this where the world is going? There was a time when ignoring the person who is right in front of you was considered rude, but it has become the status quo.

4) I have an addictive personality. Facebook uses the psychology of reward to get you to go to their site. Reward causes dopamine to be released into your system giving you the sensation of temporary pleasure. You write something and you look forward to someone liking it or commenting on it. When someone does, you feel rewarded. You want to keep going back to see how anyone else reacts. Facebook uses optimal conditioning and trains us like dogs to keep going back. If you have an addictive personality, this can really take over your life.

5) It was a huge time waster and when I think of the hours I spent on facebook, it is depressing to realize those were days of my life I can never get back. One day I looked at the time and realized that I had spent three hours on facebook, posting pictures and responding to comments. When I told a friend of mine that I dropped facebook because I saw I had spent that much mindless time on it, she said that three hours a day on facebook is normal. What? With three hours a day I could finish writing a novel, take on a part time job, look for a job, learn a new hobby, and spend time with my family. Ironically, the same people who spend three hours a day on facebook are the same people who complain that they don't have time or money. Is facebook really where I want to be spending that time?

6) I wrote a novel. I had to make time to finish writing a novel and could only do that if I cut out distractions like facebook. Maybe I’ll go back but then again, I’d like to write another novel and work on other projects that help me grow as a person.

7) It made me a bad mother. I was being rude to my son, ignoring what he was saying so I could read a comment someone made on my status. Then, I have the nerve to try to control his computer addiction. I just heard someone say that the cynicism of teens is due to the hypocrisy of their parents. Why are children addicted to electronics and social media? Because their parents are.

8) I’m protesting free speech. I got kicked off of facebook for writing a political blog on why gay marriage is a civil right. This post was flagged by those who were trying to keep Prop 8 passed during a time when it was going to court. Facebook never considered my side of the story.  I have seen this happen with many other people. Misogynistic comments are spared while feminist comments are deleted. There seems to be a very biased moderation group that does not allow free speech. Yeah yeah, free speech is not an issue because facebook is a private company and can allow what they want. Truth is, we don’t have free speech at all. If I wanted to protest anything on the streets, I have to register with the government to rent out the public streets. The government has to approve it. People have gone to jail for speaking their mind and if you think we have free speech, it’s because you have never really tried to use it. We are becoming a country where everything you say is being policed. How do people react? They decide to never talk about politics. In a democratic nation where we vote for our own laws and leaders, this is very dangerous. If we don’t discuss important issues, we lose what is important to us. People need to wake up and start fighting for what they believe in. Social networking has empowered people to vote for who they want on American Idol but it has made them more timid when it comes to fighting for their rights.

9) It bombards me with advertising. When I left facebook, I could see the sky, trees and mountains again. I could hear the birds chirping. It felt good to leave the matrix. Now I can focus on what I want to focus on.

10) I was getting stressed out by the fact that anything I said could be taken the wrong way and often was. Most things are not to be said in a public wall, but directly to the people who want to hear it. Seeing how cranky facebook made people due to misunderstandings made me just want to go back to emails and phone calls.

11) I was getting bored by people talking about “fake friends.” It’s sad that no one on facebook seems to know who their real friends are. If you leave facebook, your real friends will email you, hang out with you and talk to you on the phone. The fake friends will still be wasting their time on facebook.

12) Do I really need to stay in touch with people I dropped as friends and lovers years ago? If I'm not your friend now, there's a reason for that.

13) I had been annoyed by so many of facebooks policies and the way they handled their business but I stayed a member due to peer pressure. I will never do something that I do not agree with again. I would rather give my time other websites who use practices that harmonize with my sense of the greater good.

14) It didn't help my business. Everything they say about facebook helping your business is bull. My numbers didn't go up after spending mind numbing time on facebook. You get more clients and buyers by contacting people and being good at what you do, not for getting likes on facebook. Since I left facebook, my business has gotten better because I started focusing on what I really needed to do to make it work.

15) It didn’t help me sell more books. I am better off finding forums and websites that specifically target readers and the type of readers who read my kind of books.

What have I been doing since I left facebook?

I’ve been exercising and taking care of my body.

I’ve been a better mother to my son

I’ve gone back to reading books and periodicals that are well researched and that come from reputable sources. This has made me much more intelligent and knowledgeable about what is really going on in the world, which sure beats reading someone complain about who their “fake” friends are.

I finally finished writing “Enlightened Ones”

I’m having more sex. Why did I spend mindless time sitting in front of a screen when I could have been spending quality time making love to my man? I must say, sex is much better for your skin than screen time.

I’ve been getting enough sleep, which is also much better for your skin.

Well, there you go. Again, if facebook is your thing, I totally understand. I just hope everyone understands why it isn’t my thing. We all have different interests and different lifestyles and staying off facebook really works for me.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Don't Be Afraid of the Dead

This time of year, for me, is as sacred as it is festive.

I still recall my first trick or treating rampage when I was nine or ten after moving to the United States.  I was in complete awe.  This was the mid eighties and my cousin's neighborhood was the place to be if you were a kid.  It was all families.  Ever watch E.T.?  That's what it looked like back then, a neighborhood full of people who worked in Hollywood and they all had children.  All houses gave candy and the streets were alive with every kind of costume imaginable.  Times were good and we got a ton of candy.  I couldn't believe it.  You go to people's door and they just give you candy, just like that.  It was unlike anything I had ever experienced.  I had been indoctrinated into the mass consumerism that was America and it left a long lasting impression on my inner child.

I have taken my family trick or treating in that very same neighborhood.  Some of those people still lived there but they were old and their children were grown.  Not all houses gave out candy anymore but it's still fun.

The day after Halloween, I usually go to the Dias De Los Muertos festival to relieve my cultural itch. Sometimes my pagan friends do a ritual for Samhain. Once, my druid priest friend let me join his group for an ancestral regression where I spoke to my long dead family members, shortly after my grandmother died. From the Mexicans, to the Pagans to the Catholics all over the world, we all have one thing in common. We set aside a special place and time to commune with the dead.

In the Philippines, we don't eat candy at this time.  We go on a procession with the family to the cemetery and pay homage to those loved ones who have passed away.  The cemetery was never scary to me.  All of the silly American lore that makes people scared of the dead means nothing to me.  The cemetery is a sacred place where we lay the bodies of our ancestors.  It is a place of peace, a home, a place to go when you are lost.  This is what All Hallows Day is about.

Later on, I moved to Australia and attended Catholic school there.  We didn't congregate at the cemetery but went to church.  Our ancestors were in a grave in the Philippines anyway.  I recall the Priest talking about a place called Purgatory and my parents explained that it was a middle ground between here and heaven and hell.  We prayed for the souls stuck in purgatory and hoped they would go safety into the afterlife.  The Catholic church gets a bad rap these days.  Well, all religions get a bad rap due to the conflict people have raised over them but that is only because we have forgotten the rituals that connect us with what is important.  Many have forgotten what these rituals were truly about.

Later on in my life, I became very curious about my psychic powers.  I dreamed the future and just knew things that scared people.  I made friends with others who shared the same talents and they taught me about the old religion that came before Christianity in Europe.  Most of my Pagan friends are Irish which is funny as I have some Spanish-Irish on my mums side.  There were a few times where I participated in the Samhain rituals.  It is very sacred and it should take place in a graveyard but often takes place in someones backyard or in a nature spot and once in a Unitarian church.  These rituals were very similar to the ones we did in the Philippines during All Hallows (or all Saints) Day.  I learned, that many Catholic holidays such as Easter and the Yule Tide have their roots in Paganism.

When I take my family to the Dias De Los Muertos festival, we eat some great food from the booths and the kids do some wonderful art projects and went on some fun rides.  There are alters for lighting candles, performances on stage by our local Latino musicians and lots of community outreach work going on.  My favorite part about the festival is looking at the chalk art.  I took some pictures once, and I'd post them but I'm very bad with retrieving photos.  the art is sometimes about the holiday, great colorful works of people with flowers and decorated skulls.  Sometimes  you see a random work of art that has nothing to do with the holiday.  Then there are a few beautiful depictions of people the artist loved who had passed away.  They are usually drawn in black and white.  

My two favorite chalk drawings were of these.  One showed two faces in black and white.  In between them was a large flame of what looks like the top of a candle.  The light that comes from it is rendered beautifully.  Above them is a round and serene face looking down on them.  Underneath them it said something about remembering my father and brother.  I wondered what the face on the top depicted until I passed by again and realized that it was the face of the artist.  Another painting in black and white shows the face of a girl and that is it.  I fell in love with it because you could see so much depth in that face even thought the work is in black and white.  I could see her soul in the drawing.  I think people who draw out of love, transfer their soul into the work and it is such a shame that eventually the chalk washes away.  There was a sunny picture of a dog with a hat on, probably a dog that had passed and one of Michael Jackson.

There is always a  parade at the end or an Aztec drum dance.  I love the half naked Latino men and the well dressed Latino women dancing to the live drums.  Once, while watching the parade, I noticed that they were lead by a cross and people in robes and that many people followed their dance with a solemn walk, heads bowed and candles in their hands.  The Catholic church was usually good about mixing religions with indigenous cultures if they were willing to adapt.  Here we have the Catholic holiday, intermingling with the indigenous holiday of the Mexicans.  People often put down living in the city but I love that all of us here have such varied cultures and can still find ways to relate. I can't help thinking how alike we all our.  From Europe, to the Philippines, to Latin America, we all share a common need, the need to remember the loved ones who have passed.

So after your thrill of Halloween and and scary spooky stories has died down, remember the dead for what they really were, people we once loved.  One of the things that separates humans from animals is the ability to think in terms of past and future.  They say it is a bad thing as it prevents us from living in the present.  Yet, it also helps us learn from the past and if we do not listen to the voice of our ancestors; if we do not take heed of our own history, we are doomed.  The voice of our ancestors are everywhere.  When they die, they never truly disappear as their memory and the result of their deeds always live on to affect the future generations. Here's to you, for my two grandmas and my too grandpas. Maybe you can hear me now that the the veil between your world and mine is thin.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

My Split Personality, The Marqis De Sade and The Holy Bible

A few years ago, we had an old friend over for dinner. The first thing he noticed was my ever growing book shelves. On one shelf was a stack of two books. The books were “The Holy Bible,” and “The Selected Works of the Marquis De Sade.” He found it so humorous that I would stack a holy work on top of a book hailing one of the most infamous sexual deviants of all time. But such is the story of my dualistic interests. I’ll read Deepak Chopra one day and “My Secret Life” another. I’ll read sacred books on Buddhism and yoga one day and violent horror stories about vampires, monsters and psychopathic killers another. I have read countless autobiographies written by the greatest people of all time and have been moved by their valor and heroism. I have also read the diaries of drug attics, prostitutes and criminals. I’m one big walking contradiction and I’m quite happy to be so.

            If you believe in dualism, this strange notion that there can’t be good without evil or love without hate or any other opposite, you can easily split my personality in two. In fact, I have done this myself, making Lacey Reah the author of books I would rather my boss didn’t know I wrote. Now I have two names. There’s Lacey Reah and… well… let’s call her Mary Sue.

            Lacey Reah writes about erotic vampires and has the guts to tackle socio-political ideas such as brainwashing, cults and even (Lord forbid) religion. Lacey Reah has a strange attraction to shibari, the Japanese bondage art of sexual rope tying and other eastern arts of submission and dominance such as jujitsu. Lacey Reah likes to experiment, go on night hikes, and check out strange venues, alternate lifestyles and crazy people. She has a dirty mind and a sick sense of humor. Though she might offend some uptight twats, she is pretty fun to be around.

            However, when I go to work every day, I don’t act like Lacey Reah. No one knows I’m Lacey Reah. All they see is Mary Sue. Mary Sue is very positive and professional. She is a great mother and role model. She always aspires to be a better person and she keeps her dirty laundry exactly where it should be kept, at home. I guess we all have this Mary Sue mask to wear. Though, every once in a while Lacey Reah might whisper an inappropriate comment at the PTA meeting, she is kept pretty suppressed.

            Lacey Reah hates being suppressed. This is why she writes. She sees no reason why she should put on a mask of professionalism all the time. She’s pretty gritty and wants to be a rap or rock star so she could get paid to act nuts, cuss and pretty much put down the establishment. Too bad she has very little musical talent.

            Mary Sue works hard, stays organized and doesn’t stray from her responsibilities. Her favorite words are: duty, compassion, discipline and service. Lacey Reah’s favorite comment is, “that’s what she said.” Her favorite response to any question is, “your mamma.”

            The two keep me sane. Mary Sue keeps Lacey Reah from falling into the rabbit hole of dreams, mysticism and addiction. She slaps her around and brings her back to reality when need be. She’s the one that says, “don’t forget you have to work tomorrow” and “is what you are doing really worth the consequence?”

            Lacey Reah keeps Mary Sue from being uptight and judgmental. She will often say, “lighten up and have a piece of chocolate,” or “when was the last time you got laid?”

            Lacey Reah has a light and dark side. Mary Sue has a light and dark side. Lacey Reah’s dark side can fall into a delusion of narcissism and over indulgence, allowing her whole reality to fall apart. Her light side keeps everything interesting, is the life of the party and keeps her loved ones amused and infatuated.

            Mary Sue’s dark side is too hard on herself. She is demanding and a perfectionist which can lead to tyranny and an inability to see or let go of the little things. Her bright side is honest and sane and loyal to her job and family.

            Mary Sue’s dark side has a light and a dark side and they have a light and dark side etc. In fact, each personality I have has a light and a dark side which has a light and a dark side which leaves me with an infinite number of personalities of which I can pick and choose from when writing characters. This infinity which can be reduced to absurdity is one of the reasons why I have become a non-dualist. There is no light and dark side, only infinite split personalities.

            In a way, this ability to pick and choose infinite split personalities makes me a better writer of fiction. It also makes me less judgmental of others because I know that they too have infinity of split personalities.

            So, how cool am I? Lol. Once again, I have taken one small philosophical rant and reduced it all to absurdity.  ;)  Maybe there was a lesson to this when I started writing but it got lost in the rant somewhere.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Ghosts -- Just because they aren't real, does that mean they don't exist?

In the past week, I watched two shows regarding ghosts. One was the movie, “The Awakening” and the other was the hit musical, “Next to Normal.” “The Awakening” was a horror film about a skeptic who disproved the existence of spirits, though deep down inside, she wanted them to exist. In the movie she said, “We all want ghosts to be real but that doesn’t mean they are.” “Next to Normal” never made any reference to ghosts. It was about a family dealing with a Mother who suffered from psychotic delusions. She believed her son who had been dead for years, was still alive. 

Ghost stories could fall into three categories, horror, paranormal drama or realistic drama. People who love horror get off on being frightened out of their wits by malicious ghosts who have the ability to terrify them to death. Lovers of paranormal drama fall in love with ghosts, want them to be real, and are touched when the dead are reunited with their loved ones. Realistic stories such as “Next to Normal” may never mention ghosts. The ghosts are memories or hallucinations. In “Next to Normal,” a family is torn apart by a ghost they know is not real and the mother goes through a series of horrible psychiatric treatments to help her get rid of her delusions.

Btw, I love ghost stories of every kind. I feel there is always something deep and archetypal about every type of ghost. They appeal to our own wishes and dreams much like vampires do. I think it is because we truly want ghosts to be real. I can’t think of how many times my door opened on its own. I realize it was just a draft but deep down inside, I was wishing it was the spirit of my long dead Grandfather watching over me. We want to believe that there is a connection to our souls that transcends death. Also, if ghosts are real, it would mean that we aren’t alone, even during our darkest days. They are our imaginary friends.

Harry Houdini, the greatest magician that ever lived, made it his life’s mission to expose mediums to be frauds. However, his initial intent was to contact his dead mother. He offered large amounts of money to find a medium that was real, but he proved them to be frauds each time. Here we have an example of someone who knows too much about magic tricks to be fooled. However, if someone did turn out to be the real thing, he was willing to offer them large sums of money. Deep down inside, he was looking for the genuine article. He never found him or her.

Until modern times, almost every society that ever existed; from ancient pagan cultures, to native tribal cultures, to Christian religions, believed in an afterlife. Coincidentally, most cultures attribute the start of winter or the end of fall as a time for the spirits to visit the living or to move on to the afterlife. I always find it fascinating that my Pagan, Christian and Native American friends celebrate a day where they give reverence to the dead all around the same time. In American culture, children dress up in costumes and haunt other people’s houses. They get candy in exchange for not playing tricks on the members of the household. Are we training our children to become mafia leaders when they grow up? Just kidding, I digress. While Halloween is a commercialized version of all these holidays, the truth is we all seem to need one day or more to pay homage the paranormal.

So the question that arises in my creative, rambling mind is: Just because ghosts aren’t real, does that mean they don’t exist? In the musical I just watched, “Next to Normal,” a ghost that didn’t exist was able to cause trauma to a family. If he wasn’t real, how did he manage to do this? To the writer of the musical, he was very real. He even cast an actor to play him. He wasn’t just a delusion; he was a metaphor. He didn’t just haunt the psychotic woman. In the end, we see how he haunted everybody. Yet, it was very clear that he wasn’t real. At some point in the musical, the mother complained that taking the delusion out of her head didn’t work because it wasn’t in her mind.  It was in her soul. Who can blame a grieving mother for harboring a ghost of a child she loves in the deepest parts of her spirit?

In Buddhism, no one really dies. We all share the same energy. Buddhists learn to accept death as an inevitable cycle, but there is no need to let go because nothing ever leaves and nothing ever dies. Death itself is an illusion. So if death doesn’t exist, is it real?

When I went on the Ghost Tours during my visit to New Orleans, I learned that ghosts are a powerful energy of something traumatic left behind. The haunted areas were more like historical landmarks where very bad things happened. Something still existed, a horrible memory that refused to die.

To those of us who write fiction, we create ghosts. We use them as metaphors. They remind us of people we loved. They help us let go or deal with the unknown. Malicious ghosts represent what we abhor or can’t face. We use them as archetypes and create myths and legends around them. They help us explain concepts that can only be understood through the use of stories. We shape them out of thin air even though they aren’t real. Yet, in the worlds we create, they exist. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Hacking into Society's Code

Clliff was one of my favorite characters. I like the idea of a computer genius who is also interested in how to hack into society. I also gave him a dark past so his rational methods are not always enough to save him from himself. When we meet him, he says that his major, computers fit in really well with sociology:

“Don’t worry about her. It’s my first year as an RA. I’m a sophomore. I didn’t get too involved in stuff last year, so I really want to be a part of the school system this year. Plus, it’s free food and board. That’s probably the best reason why I’m doing it. The only thing is that I have to act like I was born to be an RA to get in. There’s a system to everything.”
“You think?”
“Take that from a sociology minor. It’s okay to act like a stingy, old RA around people like Carmen; just don’t lose your individuality.”
“I hate to break it to you, but I think that’s how she really is.” JC smiled. “What’s your major?”

“Computers. They fit in really well with sociology,” Cliff responded as he turned the corner. JC was stimulated by the articulation and quickness of Cliff’s voice. He thought that Cliff could talk forever, and it would seem like no time went by at all. As he spoke, his eyes would flutter, as if the wheels in his head were constantly turning, then he’d spurt out his ideas without delay as his brain thought of them. When he stopped talking, his eyes would rest on JC, as still as untouched water. “Computers are the great manipulators of the day. You can use them to infiltrate any system. You can learn a lot if you analyze the programming of coding and decoding. It’s sociology in the making. Society’s just one big computer.”

I like to think of Cliff as the Ian Malcolm of my story. Ian Malcolm was the mathematician in the book, "Jurassic Park," who often rambled on about the problems with with using the power of science without considering the ethics of one's motivations.
Being one of the ex cult members and a bit of a quirky genius has given Cliff the ability to see what is going on in a very objective light. This is refreshing because as the reader gets sucked into the cult, the same ways the characters are, Cliff gives the reader a chance to put their reactions into perspective. When he meets JC and tells him his theories, it provide foreshadowing for what is to come:

“So what does computer programming have to do with society? You mentioned something about it when we met, something about decoding . . .”
“Society is just a computer program. We’re taught this language, and it permeates everything in our lives. It influences our culture, morals, what we think is or isn’t important. Bring in another language, and we have to change everything we’ve been brought up to believe. Think about it—why do you think it’s so difficult to learn a foreign language after the age of ten? There’s just too much deprogramming that goes with taking in a whole new culture. If you hack into a computer program, you’ve got to know its language. Then you manipulate it. You use that language to convince the program that everything is normal, but really, you are controlling it. That’s what our media, advertisers, and politicians do. They use code words that are found in our language to hack into our minds and control us. They’re like passwords.”
“So how do you stop them from controlling us?”
“Antivirus.” JC giggled at this and Cliff noticed his reaction. He smiled and continued. “Let me explain. There are certain words or phrases that rile up emotions in you. They stand for things that you believe very strongly in like ‘patriotism.’ ‘God’ is a big one; so are ‘power’ and ‘money.’ When you hear these words, don’t let them bother you. Turn on your antivirus. Take the word out of its context. Listen to what is being said without the word being spoken. If it doesn’t make sense, then you know it’s a bug. I say, even if it does make sense, further investigation is required. See, most people only hear the key words and not the context because our emotional reaction to these words overrides our intellect.”
JC nodded. He noted the word “God.” Oh, how that word riled up Maggi the night they were in the cave. It made her angry, but JC still couldn’t understand how John could have controlled her by making her angry at him. Yet he knew that hatred was a powerful thing, and Maggi wasn’t the same after that. But if she decided that she hated John Cronus too much to ever listen to him again, how could he possibly control her? He felt that Cliff still had a lot of revising to do with his thesis. He thought of mentioning the situation to him, but decided against it. He would rather keep the subject away from such examples that were too close to home. He preferred sticking to the abstract, to the art of hacking, and the rules of the stars.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Art, Opinions, and The Voice

You may not know this about me, but I’m the biggest “The Voice” fan. The weird thing about that is I have always liked obscure cultural phenomenon years before anyone else knows about them. Then it blows up and I get dismayed by the fact that what I used to think was cool is suddenly trendy. Alas, I lose my uniqueness and move on. Well, that was when I was young and egotistical. I get more humble and wise in my old age.

I came across “The Voice” when there was nothing else to watch on T.V. and it just turned out to be the number one show in America. I guess that means I have good taste for an artsy fartsy bohemian. This contradicts me always identifying with obscure pop culture but I like what I like.

            The truth is, underneath my brooding, philosophical side is a quirky chick that enjoys life. I love music and am in awe of the talent of that show. I thought of taking voice lessons just so I can compete on “The Voice” and work with the most brilliant musical artists of our time. The show is remarkably uplifting and the coaches are not judges but mentors that always encourage their team to have faith in their abilities and follow their dreams. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside, and these days, I really need that.

            One of the lessons I have taken from watching the voice is a constant validation of something I learned years ago, when I was a young acting student in New York. I was in a scene study class and performed a two person scene from the play, “Angels in America” where I played a bum. My teacher gave us some great direction. Later on, we had to perform for the acting director. His note to me was that I had bad posture. Later on, as I got to know the man, I realize that he believed that posture is the most important mark of a great actor. However, I made a creative choice to not use great posture because I was playing a homeless person who was used to being hunched over her can of stale soup.

            I asked my teacher why he hadn’t given me this note. After all, if he said it, I would have a chance to improve upon it and receive a better grade from the acting director. My teacher was very politically correct about his answer. He simply told me that “art is an opinion.” This was his way of saying that he liked my choice to use bad posture but he didn’t want to contradict his superior.

            The truth can be painful at first, but eventually, it sets you free. You can do everything in your power to perfect your painting, music, acting, writing etc. but in the end, it all boils down to someone’s opinion. In the end, it all boils down to whether or not your audience agreed with the choices you make.

            This brings me back to the voice. The other night Shakira coached a singer to yodel as often as she could because it was her signature sound (and Shakira’s too) and it would make her stand out among the rest. At the end of her performance Blake Sheldon told her she overdid the yodeling and Usher argued that he was about to compliment her on it--two extremely divergent view points coming from two very respected artists in the field of music.

            Over and over again, I watch the coaches disagree with the choices the artists make or whether or not this artist deserves to stay on the show compared to another one. I am constantly reminded that success is a game of chance. One person can wow all four judges with a mind blowing audition, and then sing a song that isn’t good enough to keep them on the show a week later. I know what that’s like. I’ve been there.

            And I guess it boils down to that. I can relate to the voice because my whole life has been a struggle with my own art. I come to terms with this fact when, after receiving some glowing reviews of my book, someone comes along to bash it because she just didn’t like the lead character.  

            My son has a very prejudiced loathing towards Justin Beiber. I’m pretty sure it’s because he’s dating the lovely Selena Gomez who my son just adores to pieces, but that’s beside the point. For everyone that hates Justin Beiber, he has millions of adoring fans.

Anne Rice, one of the greatest and most respected vampire authors, had a ton of glowing reviews for her recent book. But I couldn’t help noticing the one star reviewers who were probably disappointed that she wrote about werewolves instead of vampires.

Our relationship with our entertainers is a love story that involves chemistry. I can’t exactly say why I think John Cusack is such a great actor while Tom Cruise, who is even more famous, gives me the creeps and does nothing for me acting wise. It’s just the way it is. I’m just not attracted to Tom the way I am to John but there are plenty of women who would gladly take their clothes of for Tom Cruise.

            It’s all still worth it to have one or just a few people love you because to them, you have awoken something in them and this is a special relationship to have with your fans. It’s chemistry. They relate to you and because of this, someone out there is a little less lonely.

            So don’t be afraid to tell your story. Stories are wonderful. They help people connect with each other and bring the world together. And if someone breaks your heart by leaving you a bad review or a heartbreaking critique after all your hard work, remember this story:

            A young man auditioned to be on “The Voice” and did not make the auditions. He took the notes the coaches gave him and practiced every day. This season, Shakira became a coach for the first time. She was the only one to turn her chair around and give this teen a second chance. If she had not been on the show, he would not have had this chance. Thank God Shakira had an opinion that contradicted the others. No one thought he would make it past the battle rounds but he surprised everyone and he is still on the show. Often, life is just a turn of a coin. You meet the right person at the right time and chemistry happens. Don’t give up if it doesn’t happen right away. Commit to your choices. They are what make you who you are.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

What if you woke up one day and found that everything that you had previously believed was a lie

I saw this discussion on a linkedin group. Someone came up with this hypothetical question when she “witnessed the breakdown of communication between people who are passionately attached to their beliefs.” I couldn't read the entire thread which literally had thousands of comments. Some said that this paradigm shift would be the best thing that ever happened to them. Others said it would be depressing or horrifying. Some made references to “The Matrix” and other science fiction stories. However, a few people, including myself admitted that this is not a far fetched scenario. This happens all the time. In fact, it happened to most of the characters in my latest novel.

When I first started writing this story, I was a playwright and asked myself the question of how a cult leader can convince someone to kill themselves. The idea that someone can control your mind so well that you would override the basic instinct of survival just to obey him was unfathomable, yet it has happened so many times in history, and relatively recently with the news of the Order of the Solar Temple’s suicides (this news was recent when I started writing this story). I started writing this play as I researched the topic of cults and brainwashing. As I did this, I came across some remarkable stories and realized there was so much more than brainwashing going on.

As I researched the psychology of brainwashing, I learned that while some people may believe a lie wholeheartedly, others may have doubts but will stay in an organization because that is there home. They may not agree with their authority figures but will still obey them due to loyalty to their tribe. And, as someone mentioned in her linkedin thread, some people wake up one day and realize that everything they believed is a lie. This doesn't mean they will leave. This doesn't mean they will stay. This is an earth shattering revelation because it might mean that everything they gave their life too no longer exists. When I started writing this story as a play, I explored brainwashing. When I explored it as a novel, I examined the different ways people respond when they realize that all they had previously believed was a lie.

When this happens, some fall into depression, maybe even suicide. Others escape, change their lives or turn over a new leaf. Some will deny the truth to the bitter end and live in denial. Some will passionately fight the truth and will enact revenge on those who took away their fantasy. We've seen all of these things happen throughout the dawn of history and no matter how many times we witness seeing what happens when the beliefs of people clash, we are still dismayed and saddened by the results.

In my small, intimate story, I explore all of these things. Through the lives of these different but very real characters, I created scenarios that challenge our own sense of judgment. This book took a lot of courage for me to write and release to the public. I suspect (as pointed out by my first reviewer) that it will take a lot of courage to read but if you ask yourself these same questions and you have a passion for psychology, relationships and adventure, please check it out. Maybe you will find all of your former beliefs of what a novel should be, challenged to the extreme.

Enlightened Ones is now available on Amazon on kindle or ebook format. It will be out in paperback edition very shortly:
Purchase Enlightened Ones here

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Life Affirming Seven Year Cycle

According to Deepak Chopra’s book, “Quantum Health,” we are not the same person we were seven years ago. After seven years, every single cell in our body has completely regenerated. We are simply a clone of who we used to be and every part of us, including our brain, is completely brand new.

So I started looking back at each seven year cycle of my life and wrote down my random thoughts.

When I was seven, I reached what the Catholics called the age of awareness, the age where we can actually sin because we gain awareness of our own actions. I remember my father telling me he would stop throwing birthday parties for me because I had reached maturity and didn’t need them anymore. It is true that I gained great awareness between the ages of 7-14. I attended four different schools and lived in two different countries, all the while comparing each experience with one of the past and seeing how all people are different and how they are all the same.

When I was fourteen, teenage rebellion hit and I realized that my father’s choice to stop throwing me birthday parties had nothing to do with me coming of age but more to do with the fact that he’s lazy. I mean jeez, I was only seven!

Fourteen was the start of my goth period which lasted throughout my seven year cycle. I wasn’t goth on the outside. I could care less for my outside appearance, despite my mother’s fight to get me to wear decent clothes. I must admit my disinterest for material things left no room for fashion. I was definitely goth on the inside. I started reading gothic texts like John Donne and Alister Crowly and William Shakespeare. I threw myself into the existential absurdity of Sam Beckett as I tried to make sense of the absurdity of my own life.

Strangely enough, it was also the cycle of boys. Looking back, I still don’t understand how a young girl who had no fashion sense and always had her head in a book managed to attract so much attention from the opposite sex, but I guess I can chalk it all up to hormones. Also chalk it up to the fact that I got really athletic at this age, which is good because energy is often wasted on the youth and if I didn’t have books and athletics, I’d probably have been in a lot of trouble despite my strict upbringing.

My goth period came to a close at the age of 21, the start of a brand new seven year cycle. I was so ready for change that I left everything I knew and love and moved to the other side of the country. I left behind all my mystical, psychic and witchcraft books to witness the gritty world of art in New York City. Who needed metaphysics when you had art? I also got a tattoo which turned out to be permanent despite the fact that our body regenerates every seven years. Shrug.

This seven year cycle would be all about action. I took my head out of the books to actually do things and make something of myself. I didn’t just read and write, I acted and produced plays. I worked with directors and actors. I stopped playing the field and got married. I had a baby and moved back to Los Angeles to be a mom. I was so many people during this period, you couldn’t pigeon hole me if you tried. Guess I was learning to be a strong, modern woman.

At the age of 28, I reinvented myself. I became certified in fitness and personal training. I became a working mom who could balance the husband, home, children and a job that she loved. Ugh, now that I think of it, I sound like some kind of stereotype of someone with a perfect life but things always look better from the outside. It was a struggle in many ways, financially and relationship-wise. I never lost my love of writing and managed to work on making one of my old plays into a novel which I plan to release this month.

35 marked the start of a new cycle. Strangely enough, that was the year I published my first book, “Fireflies.” I split myself into three people. One is in charge of her business, one writes and publishes books and one is a devoted mother and wife. Strange how I somehow figured out to be everything I want to be and I’m finally publishing a book I’ve been working on for 13 years, while going through life. I’m still in this cycle and if you know what year I published “Fireflies,” you could probably guess my age.

There is so much potential in this cycle. I realize that after the end of every seven year cycle, I look back and am amazed at what I have done and how I have grown. Chopra said that when you have cancer, its never the same cancer because the cells die and reproduce. It’s our memory of cancer that keeps it there. Cancer is just a bad habit. If we don’t heal, if we can’t change, its because we refuse too. We are addicted to a blue print that is nothing but a memory. We attach ourselves to these memories long after the structures have been broken down. I guess it helps that I’m in a cycle of great awareness. I know I can change how I think. I don’t have to stay glued to a little girl who is no longer there. Chopra says there is a world of infinite possibilities out there. What happens next? Sky’s the limit.