Sunday, May 27, 2007

My Virtual LIfe

I can't tell you the name of more than two other residents on my cul-de-sac but I can tell you about writers who live in Canada, Florida, Great Britain, Australia, and Nebraska -- friends I've never met face-to-face.

Four years ago I was busy full time and loving my work. My husband insisted I wear a cell phone and keep it turned on, because even when we were on the same campus where he taught, he couldn't find me without it. Then a severe flare of fibromyalgia left me too weak to leave my house, and when I regained a little strength, I turned to the Internet.

I used the Internet to research our family tree in old and out-of-print books, and census pages, via a connection through the Multnomah County Library. Internet genealogy websites showed me researchers working on the same family genealogies, which is how I found the historian in Texas who wrote a book about my husband's great-grandfather. Through the Internet, I discovered the 1912 Port of Entry record for my Finnish grandmother at Ellis Island. The research I documented in the first two years was more than ten years working without the Internet.

The third year, still not recovered from my fibromyalgia flare, I found the NaNoWriMo website, and spent November 2005 working on my first novel. That led in turn to Forward Motion, a friendly website for writers where I learned to write haiku. In January 2006 I joined a free class at FM to work on my second novel.
(continued in my next posting)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Missing Muse Found

My missing Muse has been found, after an heroic search by Silvergull, who brought the Muse out of hiding with an e-mail game of 'story-tag', a lure that no Muse can resist.

Meanwhile moi, Panda, am recovering from attacks of vertigo, gratis my fibromyalgia - again! Would seriously consider transplant to a bio-cybernetic body at this point. Bids, anyone?

And - panda has a new friend, Goldibear. She arrived on Mother's Day from Washington, D.C., weighing eight-and-a-half ounces, and 12 inches long; godparents - Ruth and Jason.

Pictures soon to follow.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Missing my Muse

My muse has gone missing - lost, stolen, AOL, hiding, ill, imprisoned or (please not) dead. It is short story challenge month at Forward Motion, and when I stop to think of what to write, my mental landscape is as sere as Earth's moon. I don't see myself as someone who writes darkly, not horror or black humor or cynicism - but this may be the year.

In the absence of inspiration from within, I read and intimidate myself with the deep insights and sparkling wit of published writers such as Mary Balogh. I re-read books by such authors as Eluki bes Sharhar and S. L. Viehl, and marvel at the plot twists -- how do they DO that?!

Stopping by Paperback Writer's blog the other day, I found one of the answers: Viehl has a free e-book for download, a clever writing manual with answers to questions such as mine.

Perhaps, as the Book says, there is a time and a season for everything. Perhaps this is my season to write something on the dark side. I'm in the mood for it: missing my mother, impatient for my thyroid to recover and award me energy to function, looking at the short end of life with more questions than answers.

Hmm. Lemonade, served on the sharp side, coming right up.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mothers Day and Politics

Today I'm reading "Butterfly and Hellflower" for the second time, and finding it as enjoyable as it was earlier this year. Eluki bes Sharhar has scattered interesting soliloquies on the meaning of honor throughout the story and today, Mother's Day, I'm thinking of the influence of mothers.

Why honor mothers on Mother's Day unless it is true that they have a role to play in shaping the values and lives of their children, and by extension, the society in which we live? Surely it is not only for the single act of birth, while difficult and hazardous, that we honor mothers. No, it must be for the choices we mothers make day after day, year after year, thoughtfully forming the young lives we nurture.

If nurturing and demonstrating honor and other virtues is true motherhood, then many who have never had a child, many who are not even female, qualify as mothers.

Today, I honor my mother, who made many difficult choices, and showed love and honor. I honor also the other mothers in my life, who demonstrated patience and love and honor, and gave me truth and hope.

On page 326, the Hellflower muses, "Is there higher honor than honor? When honor itself twists like a serpent, what shall we prove ourselves against to know we are still human? ... If humans who betray are human no longer, what is honor that is only a tool of kingmakers?"

As the political debates heat up in preparation for next year's election, we see honor twisting like a serpent, and candidates also as they bend to appeal to voters on both sides of the issues. I look for a candidate with honor, one who will be the same person when the mic is turned off and the voters are no longer watching to see what they do.

The "honor that is only a tool of kingmakers" -- that is only for show and not of substance, is made of promises not kept and actions that are political payback regardless of the hurt to the country.

Perhaps we only see see true honor clearly when it is evident by what is lost. I'm thinking of President Ford, when he pardoned President Nixon. At the time, I said "He did it because he loves this country, and it was the best thing for the country." We were in a precarious military and financial position due to Nixon's resignation and what the world thought would be a public trial. People forget how fast the dollar was falling, and how dangerous that Cold War world was. At the time, Ford was judged with harsh cynicism, and people said he 'made a deal' just to be president. What the pardon really did was make him unelectable, and he and his advisers knew it at the time, as it has been revealed since his recent death. That is why I thought he had honor -- there was nothing but loss in it for him to pardon Nixon. He did it for us, not for his own ambitions. Time magazine honored him recently on their cover for his honor. Even though he had to wait until after he died, his honor was finally acknowledged.

I wonder if there is a candidate running now who would take the hard choice? The only one I can see who has a track record of living with hard choices is McCain. He survived as a prisoner of war, and kept his honor. He is old enough to see what his life has been about, old enough to have made mistakes and learned from them, old enough to have gained wisdom as well as knowledge and experience. There are candidates more handsome and more eloquent, but I don't see any who have a better history of honor. I wish him well, and hope the voters will be looking past the sound bites, the easy answers and the pretty faces.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Sensuals and Visuals

"The cliff face was warm and hard..."; "the wind howling around their feet and whipping at her skirt"; "the sunlight sparkling on the water far below;" "the gulls crying from above": Mary Balogh writes wonderful visuals and sensuals in "The Gilded Web", such as these excerpts from page 278 of her 1989 historical romance, republished last year in paperback and digital editions.

Although most of her books receive higher ratings than "The Gilded Web", I enjoyed it so much, I sought out more books by Mary Balogh. "Slightly Scandalous", "Slightly Tempted" and "A Summer to Remember" gave me hours of pleasure. There is a quality in Balogh's writing that I don't find in most romance genre novels, little gems of thought scattered among the plot and character development which reward the reader looking for something extra. Her musings on such subjects as caring for the inner child, protection vis a vis oppression, the nature of death, life and happines give added depth and interest to her charming settings, quirky characters and sometimes unpredictable plots.

In Mary Balogh's books, themes of honor, the respect of society, and integrity play out amongst the human drama and social constraints of London and rural England in the eighteen-hundreds. Issues of gender equality, treatment of the handicapped, class distinctions and other social topics lose their boring anonymity and generalizations in Mary's appealing characters.

When I need a "time-out" (as I have lately - due to a thyroid dysfunction) I can think of no better way to relax than a good book. For those like myself, who enjoy well-researched historical romance novels, I'd have to say, "Give a novel by Mary Balogh a try".

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

It's time to tell the truth

It is so easy to be politically correct - makes no waves and makes everybody happy.

It's time to tell the truth. Maybe I'll make waves. Maybe some people will take issue with me. But what is plain to see can be told, and if some people still want to say they see something different than what I see, well that's their right too.

Today, May 1st, rallies in cities across America featured illegal aliens demanding their rights, telling news anchors they 'just want to help their family', they're 'hard workers and shouldn't be illegal' and so on. So therefore, say these people, they should be granted citizenship, legal status, all the rights of an American.

Strangely, not one of them that I heard said "I love America. I want to be an American. I'm turning my back on the country of my birth, and my future is to become a U.S. citizen."

No, not one. What they did say is that they needed money, that they had a right to be here because they were able to cross an unguarded border, and that people that didn't want them here are prejudiced. They want to make money here, take it over the border, and have citizenship in both America and (fill in the blank Latino country).

Where is the passion for this country that my grandparents had when they left everyone they knew and came here from Finland? Where is the commitment to America that my grandparents had when they applied for American citizenship and swore loyalty to this country and no other?

I only see a passion for material wealth, and privilege. Fine, my ancestors came to better themselves too. Only they didn't think anyone else should just hand them privileges without getting anything in return. They gave all they had -- their loyalty, their lives invested here and here alone.

The truth is, there are over six and a half billion people on this planet, and about half of them want to live in America, make money in America, have rights like Americans. Many of those people have invested years in legal applications for visas to immigrate to America.

What gives the Latinos who made up the majority of today's marchers the right to push ahead of all those other people to the head of the line? What is special about them, that they should get citizenship or work visas before people who have legally applied?

The truth is - nothing. Nothing at all. The have no special rights and no special abilities. They have only one thing those other people don't -- proximity to a loosely guarded border that they have crossed illegally.

Do I sound cold? Proud? Uncaring? WELL then - you try "caring" for the half of the world's population that suffers from lack of freedom, or food, or job opportunities. You might quickly become overwhelmed. You might decide, as have I, that you can send money to starving orphans, and people suffering from earthquakes or tsunamis, but inviting a few billion of them to come live in your country doesn't make much sense - not for you and not for them. Because your country will quickly take on the woes of the places they left. Your country will soon run out of resources to help its own people - or anyone else.

Isn't the better solution to encourage those other countries to find their own path to a fair economy and equality for all their citizens? There are things we can do to help - buy FAIR TRADE products, elect men and women to Congress who will stand up for fair foreign policy, Give regularly to Mercy Corps or some other highly rated medical group that will help reduce illness in impoverished countries, thereby giving the person (and by extension, their whole country) a better opportunity to work on their own future.

Sure there are other aspects to the immigration issue: languague, assimilation, culture clash, crime, and yes - job issues from both the employer's and employee's views, -- many other issues.

And not one of those other issues can take precedence over fairness (after all, 'fairness' is what all the rallies were about today, right?)

Fair is to expect people who want the rights and priveleges of citizens to invest their lives, their WHOLE lives, in THIS country, along with all the rest of us. Fair is to expect that people take turns with everyone else who wants to come here, and not start out their demand for fairness with "but only for us, not those others".

Fairness is equal justice and equal immigration opportunity for all, not just those who are close enough to illegally cross a border.