Here, There and Everywhere

Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

More Alive Than Ever

Love: The Beat Goes On by Lynda Filler.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51JCGXkVO9LHer life was flying, her heart was dying. Lynda Filler had a new job, loving family, and an almost too good to be true newly acquainted man she called “my cowboy”. There’d been for-warnings, “messages”, shortness of breath, but nothing really stopped her in her tracks (literally) until 2008 when she is told she has a form of congestive heart failure called dilated cardiomyopathy. Doctors told her it was a death sentence and she must “get your affairs in order”. Nine years later, after driving alone for many months between Canada and Mexico, visiting a shaman in Sedona, New Mexico, and realizing, “I was the change that needed to happen in my healing”, she wrote Love: The Beat Goes On. She’s more alive than ever.

I worked with hospice and bereavement programs for many years. Most people I met was dying, or had had someone die. Whenever I heard about someone having this or that “terminal” disease (or as the author calls it “dis-ease”), I accepted it as reality and tried to help them (and their loved ones) prepare as much as possible, and live whatever life was left to the fullest. Ms. Filler not only didn’t go along with the “program”, but somehow trusted something inside, and outside, herself. Against medical advice she took her own road. Her journey was not random. She learned to honor her intuition, take some risks, and, pardon the clique, follow her heart.

The chapters in this journal are most fitting and include – “The Widow Maker”, “Every Breath I Take”, “Swollen Heart”, “You Are Not Your Diagnosis”, “Red Rocks and Thunderstorms”, “Doctors and Doctorates”, “Is it a Miracle?”, and “It’s a Mind Game”. There is a perfect mixture of describing an event, what her personal reactions, thoughts, and feelings were about the experience, and her understanding and actions (if any) in response. Even though this pattern progresses throughout her writing, Lynda also becomes acutely aware that she is not what she writes about. “I have huge respect for all who survive anything, but I am not my story.”

Love: The Beat Goes On isn’t melancholy, or sanguine; it is as real as real can be. I know of few people who have learned to believe in something beyond themselves, willingly take steps into the unknown, and trust their own gut, as has Ms. Filler. Her life is example number uno of how to live a life of genuine belief and faith. Not in a religious sense, but with practical down-to-earth actions and spirit. This memoir is interesting for personal reflection, and provides a number of suggestions on how others can use what Ms. Filler learned for their own challenges. She doesn’t claim that her way is the only way, but her still being alive gives a lot of credence to what she has to say. “When I walked down from that vortex, my step was light. My heart beat normally again… and I knew it.”

 

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A Book’s Fate

51Lxqzd5JpL._SY346_Being Indie: A No Holds Barred Self-Publishing Guide for Fiction Authors by Eeva Lancaster. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Ms. Lancaster states right up front that, “Books have a publishing standard, and Indie authors are accountable to their readers in making sure these standards are met or exceeded.” Being Indie explains how to meet that standard and provides steps for doing so. It also describes how to be a “savvy Indie author”, as opposed to simply getting your book published.

The author of Being Indie practices what she preaches. The book’s cover catches the eye, the layout and editing are well done, and the content very relevant. She also has an excellent on-line and social media presence. These are all aspects of being an indie author which are clearly defined and presented. This is an excellent resource for anyone considering, or in the midst of, publishing their own book.

There are three parts to this work. Part One (Pre-Publishing) includes sections on – From Manuscript to Book – The Editing and Proofreading Stage – What Type of Editor Do You Need? – How to Approach Cover Design – Book Design and Formatting – Fixed Layout or PDF. Part Two (Building Your Author Platform) has information on – Your Website or Blog – Guest Posting – Your Online Presence – Social Media Presence. Part Three (Post Publishing) is a recap of the first two sections.

What I appreciate most about Being Indie is the experience, and knowledge, the author has about the process and the honesty with which she speaks. There is no sugar-coating, or sells pitch, trying to get you to buy her products, or do it here way. Being an indie author takes a lot of hard work and diligence. Very few make a living doing so. Ms. Lancaster says, “Doing nothing, and leaving a book’s fate to the gods, will only ensure failure. It will not sell itself. No one will buy it if it’s less than a book should be. No one will notice it if it’s not attractive. That’s the reality. The sooner you realize this, the better.”

 

Dying and Living Zen

41CcmYmNunLJewel in the Mud: Zen Musings by Harmony Kent
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

Jewel in the Mud is a laywoman’s guide to living life like a nun, as a householder living in the world. It is laid out beautifully, in fifty-two week increments, for anyone who chooses to practice being more aware of what is taking place with their inner and outer world. The author speaks from experience, having lived in both worlds. Ms. Kent resided in a Zen Temple for 13 years, and in mid-life decided to leave that environment, and began a new vocation, meeting a loving partner, and getting her own home.

Many of the weeks thoughts and words were previously conveyed on Ms. Kent’s blog. Luckily, for all who read Jewel in the Mud, she expanded her “Monday Musings” into book form. The weeks include titles such as, Nobility of Silence”, “No Strings”, “First, Breathe”, “Dying to Live”, and “It’s Okay. Have a Meltdown”. The illustration of the lotus flower for each week is lovely, and the caption summing up that section always fits perfectly. For example, in a talk about appreciation, she concludes with, “Gratitude turns what we have into enough.”

Here is a brief excerpt from Week Eighteen, called “Life Before Death”.

“Mindfulness is simply about seeing what we have right here, right now, in this moment. It’s about noticing the myriad of small things that make our lives whole. And about catching the stories we tell ourselves. Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way right in the present moment. The easiest way to notice as much as possible is to live each moment of your life as though it were the last moment of your life. Or, the first.”

In many ways, Jewel in the Mud, reminds me of the classes Stephen Gaskin held each week in San Francisco, California, in 1969 and 1970, which were later turned into a book called Monday Night Class. He spoke about life, death, community, love, and awareness, in a way that was easily relatable and personable. Ms. Kent’s work has the same vibe. Like Stephen, she does not come off as preachy, egotistical, or superior. Jewel in the Mud has gifts of compassionate and experienced insight for one and all.

From the Depths

51+ATsTqTWL._UY250_She’s Gone: Broken, Battered and Bruised
by JAnn Bowers. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

You wouldn’t think  that poems awash in sadness, heartbreak, loneliness, and darkness, would be interesting to read, but this collection is. The poet, JAnn Bowers, has used this form of writing as a catharsis, without any filter, or concern, for sharing her deepest hurt and pain.

She’s Gone is not for the faint of heart, or someone who wants to read happy, lyrical poetry filled with flowers, love, and sweetness. Though there is nothing wrong with that poetry, this is different. Here’s her poem Such A Fool which speaks of friendship and loss with insight and clarity.

As I sit here wiping the tears from my eyes

Knowing that I have lost you as a friend

You meant the world to me

My heart breaks because I know I will miss you

But then I know it’s time to move on

To deal with this loss

And bury the hatchet

That broke us apart

As I say my goodbyes

With tears in my eyes

I will walk away with my head up high

For I know you will always be there in the back of my mind.

And in my heart

For I know you are

Fighting it to

So take care, my friend

I will always cherish you.

Ms. Bowers states in the book that she has moved on and found some solace and breaks, from episodes of depression and hopelessness, but felt that the poems in She’s Gone were needed, for her, at the time they were written. Readers can identify with times in there lives when they too may have touched the edges, or were inundated, with such feelings of despair and pain themselves.

Stars Rising and Falling

51KWV913P1LMy Stars Are Still Shining: A Memoir by Amina Warsuma.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

Amina Warsuma has experienced abandonment, bullying, abuse, jealousy, drugs, rape, destitution, wealth, celebrity, insight, care and compassion in her life, so far. In My Stars Are Still Shining she shares these childhood, adolescent and adult events, reactions, and consequences with complete honesty and understanding. Nobody is vilified, or perfect, including herself. I found her life to be both fascinating, and instructive.

The story begins with the background of the two women who had the most influence on Amina – Miss June and Miss Billie. She describes there lives growing up in Mobile, Alabama, how they ended up in New York, and how they came into Amina’s life. She shares there relationships, families, ups and downs, and personalities. Once that foundation is set, she takes the reader into her confidence and explores her own beginning years, and the mother (Virginia) who was so often absent.

“We were at Miss June’s no more than 10 minutes when my mother said, ‘I’m going to the store. I’ll be right back.’ She exited Miss June’s apartment and day after day, Miss June and I waited for her to return. A week passed and my mother was nowhere to be seen. My mother disappeared for 5 years.” Similar occurrences took place throughout Amina’s life, including moving from one house to another throughout New York City.

This is a fascinating book. It is part historical (about the South in the last century, and New York City and Harlem in the 40s, 50s, and 60s); part autobiographical (as the author grows up and comes into her own); and part biography (about Michael Jackson, and her longtime friendship with him and his family). Amina has endured many things, and flourished as a model, writer, actress, producer, and dancer. She reveals herself with both objectivity, insight and emotion. Don’t hesitate to get a copy of My Stars Are Still Shining.

A Cornucopia of Value

51a7xrY5DzLPublishing Tools of the Trade Every Author Must Know by Lama Jabr.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

This book caught me off guard, and in a very good way. I’ve done a lot of research over the years into writing, publishing and marketing books, and thought I was aware of most of the resources available for writers. Girl, was I wrong.

Publishing Tools of the Trade Every Author Must Know is a cornucopia of valuable links to most every legitimate, helpful site that I’ve know about, plus many others that I had not heard of before. There is a brief description, and the direct link, for every website listed.

Sections range from “Editing and proofreading”, “Book promotion sites”, and “Author Interview Opportunities”, to “Blogs”, “Marketing” and “Social Networking Sites for Authors”. Every area of this resource manual is also updated regularly, so there are few links out of date.

What is most amazing, and appreciated, is that all this information is assembled in one place and provided for free. Lama Jabr has given us a unique service, without strings. Her kindness, and care, in putting this together, and offering it without charge, deserves deep gratitude.

For further information about Lama Jabr and Xana Publishing and Marketing:
http://xanapublishingandmarketing.com

You Can Do Better

15085511-571384093053277-7761181997008017758-nSo, this was interesting. After a few years writing the screenplay for my story “Sorrow’s Embrace“, it was finally optioned by Breezeway Productions, and is now in development with Breezeway and Buffalo 8 Productions. I thought this was the beginning of the end for this screenwriting journey and it would soon be in distribution. Thankfully, my head got pulled out of the clouds before I floated away.

Just as directors, actors, actresses, producers, and others are lining up to get involved, the casting director, Nicole, tells me the script needs some work, and isn’t good enough to send out to “named talent”. At first, I thought, “Okay. Let me know what needs to be fixed and I’ll get it back to you in a day or two.” What needed “fixing” turned out to be much more extensive and time-consuming.

After grumbling to myself about all the work it would take, I started the rewrite using her suggestions, comments, and insight. Two weeks later, I am proud to say that this is now a story that will not only attract “name talent”, but be well worth watching, when it is released. Though I was reluctant at first, and skeptical, I am happy to admit that she was right on all accounts.

Now, it is on to rewrite my other screenplays (Buddha’s Wife, and The Last Conception), which are based on my books of the same names. I thought they were good already, now I can see how to make them much much better.

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