Sunday, April 20, 2014

Forgiveness


Yesterday one of my email accounts was hacked and the hackers attempted to send out viruses in my name as an attachment. That account is not connected to my blog, so you don't have to worry about communicating with me here. I never had that happen to me before. It feels like digital rape. Hacking is an intrusive, vile invasion of ones privacy. I am so ashamed and sorry to the people that I communicate with, in integrity, that this has happened. I don't know if this has happened to you before but it is truly an invasive and violating experience. If it has happened to you, please send your comments below. Sharing information on this activity is a way to overcome it but if we keep it to ourselves they win. When I first discovered that it had happened, it temporarily took all the air out of my body.

My blog is a respite. It is a virtual studio of creativity and spirituality, where I share almost daily inspirations. Hackers, I will not let you disturb the positive vibration I am putting out into the world. I am not going to dwell on negativity in this space--not now--or ever. Suffice it to say, I have taken numerous steps to remedy the situation and to make sure it does not happen again.

With a heart filled with forgiveness towards the devious hackers, and apologies to my friends and family, so mote it be and Blessed Be!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Query Burn Out



Last year I finished the manuscript for my first novel. Through the process of writing it  I had several readers and hired an editor. Things didn't work out with the editor so I trudged onward on my own. I also workshopped the book several times in professional writer's groups.
I read the manuscript and re-read it, editing all the while. Finally, I was ready to send out queries. I had read that if you don't query at least 100 places, whether that is agents or publishers that allow queries from authors, that you haven't really tried hard enough. So, query and query some more, is what I did.
I had highs and lows. I had a very prestigious literary agent in New York immediately request to see the whole manuscript, after receiving the first chapter. I had several niche small publishers ask to read the whole manuscript. Two of which, took months to reply back after receiving it, raising my hopes.
I got some nice rejections from that effort. Saying they loved the book; thought it was well-written and a good story but they had no idea how to publish such a book. I inserted in my mind, the word strange, so what they said would read, "I don't know how to publish such a strange book." In reality who knows what they really meant. What it meant to me, is that I did not have a home for my book.
Then, I started grasping for straws. I had my top agent candidates and my top publisher's list at first. Then I went mid-level. Toward the end of my four month process, I started submitting anywhere that seemed remotely open to what I was doing.
I have a lot of books on publishing and have read many blog posts and online articles on publishers and agents. I have successfully had published 5 nonfiction books and have a 6th under contract. I knew nothing was wrong with my query letter because it got bites of interest but I revised it anyway, when my inner critic said so. I tried submitting the beginning of the book, the middle and the end, when I had a choice of which part to query with. All this to no avail. Bites but no one really on the hook, committed enough to publish the novel. I tried breaking it down into short stories and submitted those to literary journals--still, no go.
I never thought I'd give up on one of my manuscripts but that is what happened. I shelved it reluctantly and started a brand new novel. The new novel gave me hope and it has been exciting to develop a fresh, new story. I am in a course called Novel in a Year. Every month we need to write at least 30 pages and so far I have stuck to that. It is a bit of a lighter story, involving Greek mythology and African American culture, set back in the post-war era in rural Alabama.
As for the first novel--I still wonder about it. Was it the subject matter itself that people couldn't stomach? It is about a young African American girl who is a witch and shape-shifter who gets molested by an aunt, and physically abused by her father, while being psychologically abused by her mother and bullied at school. She has an uncle who is also involved with magical traditions, who takes her off to Australia. There she finds healing through a group of Aboriginal women healers. She returns home a more whole person and she has been empowered by her experiences down under. Her parents had an explosive and violent event while she was away from home, leaving the father dead and the mother in prison, so that she gets resettled in a more functional household with her grandfather, who was one of her heroes in the story,and her cousin who she adores--so there was a happy ending after much grief and suffering.
I thought I was completely burnt out on querying for this book to be published. Recently though, I saw a small publishing house that once again seemed the perfect fit, so I reluctantly queried again, restarting a process that will hopefully, like my novel, have a happy ending.

A to Z Challenge--"Q" is for Query

Friday, April 18, 2014

Pagans and Prayer

A lot of people don’t understand who Pagans are or what we do in terms of prayer. As part of the A to Z blogger’s challenge, I decided to blog about Pagan Prayer for the letter P.

Pagans believe in many gods and goddesses. Many Pagans pay tribute and invoke deities connected to their ethnicity and heritage. Others like myself, who consider themselves eclectics, work with deities both connected to their ethnicity and their identity.

We are spiritual, and pay homage to spirits as well as deities. These spirits are generally of the earth but may also be creation beings who helped form the universe. I am particularly fond of the Australian Aboriginal creation beings of the dreamtime, for example. These creation ancestors are timeless. They were here in the beginning of time and continue to work their wonders to this day. Many different types of traditional indigenous people pay tribute to spirits. Some religions, such as Vodou and Shintoism, also pay homage to various spirits that help our lives and to those spirits that exist in nature.

                                                    (Stephanie Rose Bird - Pastel on Paper)

As a Pagan, I do pray. I do a combination of goddess/god prayers and invocations to an eclectic collection of deities. I also make earth prayers. I am partial to this Navaho Chant:

O you who dwell in the house made of the dawn,
In the house made of the evening twilight . . .
Where the dark mist curtains the doorway,
The path to which is on the rainbow . . .
I have made your sacrifice.
I have prepared a smoke for you.

My feet restore for me.
My limbs restore for me.
My body restore for me.
My mind restore for me.
My voice restore for me.

Today, take away your spell from me.
Away from me you have taken it.
Far Off from me you have taken it.

Happily I recover.
Happily my interior becomes cool.
Happily my eyes regain their power.
Happily my head becomes cool.
Happily my limbs regain their power.
Happily I hear again.
Happily for me the spell is taken off.

Happily I walk.
Impervious to pain, I walk.
Feeling light within, I walk . . .
In beauty I walk.
With beauty before me, I walk.
With beauty behind me, I walk.
With beauty below me, I walk.
With beauty all around me, I walk.

It is finished in beauty.
It is finished in beauty.
It is finished in beauty

-Navaho Chant


We are in Christian Holy Week but for Pagans our big observance for this season of renewal and the rising of the sun, was Ostara. Now Beltane is quickly approaching and there will be more merriment, prayers of various kinds, and celebration of the earth’s gifts, spring, and her promising yield, yet to come, of summer, and then fall’s maturing crops.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Finding Peace in OM

I remember back in high school. We had a funky Spanish teacher who always had all sorts of animal hairs stuck to her clothing. She was an older woman that had many surprises up her sleeve. You could not judge her by appearances. I did not study Spanish with her but she was intriguing and also had a wonderful after school club. It was a yoga club. It was all the way back then, that I was first exposed to what our teacher described as the sound of the universe, OM. She said, if you could compress every sound in the universe into oneness its sound would be OM.



Now, when I chant OM with the group of local yogis during restorative yoga practice, a sense of community washes over me that is filling. OM is relaxing in and of itself. OM takes my mind away from being busy. In that moment of chanting the mantra, all that is important is that specific, beautiful sound escaping my mouth and interacting with the sound of others. That is why I say it can be a meaningful communal practice.




Chanting OM alone without any other words or even trying to invoke deity, is peaceful. It leads you to that  quiet instance of clarity that is nothingness and everything, all together in one precious moment in time.


Learning about OM from my first yoga teacher, retaining that knowledge over the years and putting it into spiritual practice, has been a lesson that continues to resonate like the sound, in many aspects of my life. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Using the "N" word

Over the years, we have been called by so many different names. I find it interesting the phrase, “I won’t call you outside of your name,” that I hear people saying to one another. I always wonder what they mean exactly. There are many names you can call a person, and that’s just being proper. The other sorts of names…well, we won’t go there.

 What’s in a name? Is it power or is it simply identification?

                You know the worse name for us. The “N” word. I heard it as a child, directed at me and my brother, when we first moved to a predominately White area. I hear it now in rap songs and on the Boondocks cartoon. It is still jarring. It still gets my attention. Inside…it still hurts. We should have never empowered that “N” word.

                We have been Negroes too, for quite a long time. Where did the Negroes go off to? Was it too close to the “N” word? I am unsure. I have returned to the days of the Negro in my new novel. Set in 1947, in rural Alabama. In that space and time, that is what we were called. That is what we were.



                My grandfather lived for a very long time. He was born in the late 1800’s. He was at first a Negro, then he was colored, then Black. I think he was just becoming an African American when he passed away. He used all of those names quite freely to talk about different people but I think inside he may have been stuck on being colored.




                I am not sure why my book had to be set in 1947 but it did. I don't know why we have to be Negroes in my book. Why it is still very possible that the “N” word will be hurled at my characters, as the worse type of insult. It is a very intriguing territory to live in and write in and when you write it you live it. Only time will tell the significance.




A to Z April Challenge N is for the "N" word
*These paintings are from the Harlem Renaissance by various artists.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Mixed Media for the Soul


When I was in art school my main stay as an artist was oil on canvas. As I have matured as an artist, I have found myself gravitating towards mixed media. I find it fulfilling in many ways. It allows for experimentation and it is always full of surprises. This piece was created using kitchen vegetable and fruit scraps from the juicer to make handmade paper. Materials were added to make it able to achieve archival quality and to be permanent. Then twigs were added in and found paper scraps. I call this "Ghost in the Frame."


This next piece was created in much the same way as the one above it but it does not have the prominent element of assemblage through twigs, instead it is more of a painted collage. It combines the same type of handmade paper and found paper with water-based paints like gouache and plaka with natural inks. It is an abstraction with landscape elements and its title is "Mixed media Landscape."


I am an eclectic in my pagan, earth-based spirituality and also in the types of materials I use, as well as the application of those materials in my visual art. This is another handmade paper piece made from vegetable and fruit pulp with found objects such as coins and cowrie shells added. Called "Mixed Media with Cowrie Shells" this painting brings together my interests in Traditional African Religions, Hoodoo, folklore and fine art, in one piece.

I plan to continue this series once it is warmer outdoors. (Yesterday it snowed here!) I typically like to create these pieces, with all the water they require, on tables outside. It also helps them dry faster. I find the combination of being outdoors, warm weather conditions, the marriage of materials with mixed media and the inclusion of my literary and spiritual interests, to be meditative and relaxing to my soul.



A to Z Challenge--M is for Mixed Media

Monday, April 14, 2014

When Lucid Dreams Turn Dark

Lucid Dreaming is when you are aware that you are dreaming. In this lucid state, you can control your dreams. Knowing the state you are in, enables you to play with reality within the dream structure and do otherwise impossible things. Usually it is a pleasant experience but sometimes, if your mind is so inclined, it can be a dark and frightening experience.


I don't know for sure why I had a series of lucid dreaming experiences last night from 1 a.m. until 5 a.m. I am unsure if it is a result of my post yesterday, "Dreaming the Dreamer's Dream." It could well be.

I have done some fantastic things as a lucid dreamer, including flying and shape-shifting which I mentioned yesterday. As I said, usually it is pleasant, though implausible, though I do believe in the flying and shape-shifting dreams.

If you are a lucid dreamer I'd love to hear about your experiences. If you have not done it but want to lucid dream, look for sign posts in the dream that tell you that it is not reality but a dream. Then, it is up to you how you manipulate those objects, happenings, activities or situations. Lucid dreaming is a great tool for artists and writers because it can lead you into becoming a visionary during waking hours. It can also lead to OBE's (out of body experiences), though that is a subject of controversy. Some people have to work at becoming a lucid dreamer, whereas for people like me, it has come naturally over the years.


Getting back to this morning, I was put into a horrible situation that seemed impossible to get out of. I think I returned to the dream again and again over the period of 4 hours because I wanted to overcome and triumph over the awful situation that I was in. It never happened. I was left this morning filling unfulfilled and uneasy, so I thought I would get it out by blogging about it. Hopefully, I won't return to that twisted world, which unfortunately, is an all to real situation for some, for it was a series of dreams about being plunged into the dark world of modern day slavery.


L is for Lucid Dreaming--A to Z April Blogger's Challenge