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December 2016

New Year, 1917, from “Kafka In The Castle”

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Excerpt from my novel: Kafka In The Castle

31 December 1916

The festivities down in the city are certainly subdued, which makes me one with the coming of the year.

There were a few shots fired into the air – which is a mockery, considering what is happening in the world. And some dismal fireworks.

Max wanted me at his party, but even he saw little point in celebration, and his entreaties were totally for form.

I understand form quite well – most of my life consists of doing the expected. Mouthing the proper words.

My letters to Felice have turned to such vehicles of propriety.

In such a way do all our days, and then our lives, acquire the necessary postmarks.

 

DE

(image)http://greatwar.nl/weekpictures/voorpagina78.jpg

Alison Alexandra and Harrison Ford Cast Off Lines To Get To Sea

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Alison Alexandra, the main character in my current Work in Progress, is about to set out on a sea cruise. She wishes nothing as boring as a Cruise Ship, so she is going on a freighter that has room for twelve passengers. She gets accommodations as comfortable as the ship’s officers, plus decent food and some entertainments. The drawback – which she does not consider a drawback – is that she goes where the freighter goes as it drops off and picks up cargo. Not necessarily fancy ports of call.

Alison Alexandra has just spent my week of writing watching the business on the dock as the freighter gets ready to cast off. For this scene I have stolen (and greatly altered) an incident that happened to me. I hear that’s what authors do, but it seems a rare situation for me.

I previously described what happened to me those many years ago, and do so again. Alison Alexandra is actually watching a crewman named Ellerton do what I did, when I stopped a submarine from running amok.

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Harrison Ford And Me

In 2001/02 the movie, WIDOWMAKER K-19, was made, much of it filmed in Halifax harbour and out on the nearby ocean. It deals with submarines and an in-ship disaster, staring Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson.

I was not aware of this when I visited Halifax. I went down to the waterfront and went along the boardwalk. It was very foggy on the water (which it can be without having much on land). I was exceedingly surprised to see, looming out of the fog, a submarine next to the wharf. There are submarines in Halifax, but they are berthed at the naval dockyard a couple of kilometers from where I was walking.

It took a couple of minutes to realize that it was not a naval submarine (no markings). What was happening was that the submarine was being turned by a couple of tugboats. I read later that each side of the same submarine was altered differently so, in close ups and aerial footage, it could appear to be two different submarines.

However, there quickly appeared to be a problem. From the shouts and gesticulations of a man on the wharf, I found out that one of the mooring lines had not been cast from the wharf. The submarine was being pulled away from the dock, but it was still attached. It was a gigantic and thick mooring line, and I do not know what damage would have been done to either ship or dock.

The man was yelling to another man on the deck of the sub, who had a bullhorn and in turn was bellowing to the crew of the tug boat. However, nothing was heard over the roar of the engines (tugboats have powerful engines). The man on the wharf was trying to lift the mooring line from its post before it got too taut to move. I ran over and helped him, and we managed to get it from the post just as it started to be pulled into the water.

Of course I watched the movie credits closely, but I was not mentioned.

No famous movie actors were involved in this incident.

DE

(image)https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/3f/Mooring.jpg/200px-Mooring.jpg

The Birth Of Jesus With Unicorn – A Christmas Tale

In my novel, A Lost Gospel, a Unicorn is present at the birth of Jesus – something, as far as I know, not disputed by religious scholars. Glarus, the Celtic priestess who accompanied the Unicorn, describes this event to Bettine and Sirona, themselves young women attending unicorns. Glarus was asked to be present at the birth by The Magi.

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Excerpt from A Lost Gospel

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“The kings had some information, but the rest they had to figure out. They had

surrounded themselves with astrologers, navigators and philosophers. They knew

from the Jew’s Holy Book that the baby was to be born in Bet Lehem, and the Star

helped lead them to that town. We didn’t need the Star the last couple of days, but

it had given us comfort during a hard and uncomfortable trip. That last night we

waited on the outskirts of the town, and went in after sunset.”

“Were you afraid?” Sirona leaned closer.

“No. Why would I be?”

“You were going to see god.” Bettine glanced at Sirona as she spoke.

“To see god is a joy – not a fear.”

“And was he a baby?” Sirona giggled. “A baby god.”

“It was a time for the paying of taxes to Caesar, and Bet Lehem was crowded with people.” Glarus examined the fire for a moment. “The inns and resting places were fully occupied. We finally found Yeshua and his parents in a barn, beside one of the inns. He was settled with the animals, and sleeping in the hay.”

“But this was a god.”

“Yes.”

“But – ” Bettine sounded perplexed. “He should have been in a temple – or a palace. Not surrounded by animals.”

“There are more barns than palaces.” Glarus nudged the wood in the fire with a poker. “And more animals than priests. God is god of the world – not some carved gold in a temple.”

“But god can have whatever he wants.”

“Yes.” Glarus leaned forward and touched the young woman. “So remember what he chose.”

“What was god like?” Sirona was impatient, and pulled on Glarus’ skirt.

“God was the baby of a woman. A baby such as any of us could have.” Glarus looked at them closely. “You must not forget that. This god is as much man as god.” She stood suddenly and leaned toward the fireplace. “He was asleep when we entered. Even his mother was dozing as she held him.”

“What was she like?” Sirona didn’t realize one question interrupted another.

“Her name was Mary.” Glarus removed the pot from the open flame, and placed it upon a squat stone jutting into the hearth. “She smiled as her head nodded – she seemed quite peaceful. She was attractive, but not what one would call beautiful. She didn’t look much older than me.” Glarus looked mildly surprised. “She could still be alive, for that matter. She certainly seemed healthy enough.”

“Did she talk to you?” Sirona leaned forward, the heat of the fire against her face.

“She spoke to the ones who knew her tongue.” Glarus looked down at the women. “But no – not to me.” She suddenly smiled. “I saw her glancing at me a few times, as her husband talked to the others. And she took a liking to the unicorn – as did the baby.”

“Did she – ”

“What I felt most was her bewilderment.” Glarus didn’t realize she had interrupted Bettine. “She must have wondered why rich and powerful people were crowding into a barn to see her son. Giving birth for the first time was enough to get used to.”

The women were silent for awhile. Glarus stirred the pot, and tasted the liquid in the ladle. Bettine looked curiously around the house, while Sirona stared thoughtfully at her mother. She was hearing things she had never heard before.

“When did the baby wake up?” Bettine’s question broke into the silence.

“We hadn’t been there long.” Glarus began moving about the room, gathering some mugs together, along with food and utensils. “I think I was the first to notice. I just followed the lead of the unicorn, which already was walking toward him.”

“Did he touch the unicorn?”

“Yes.” Glarus took a loaf of bread from a cupboard, and removed some wedges of

cheese from a pottery jar. “It was obvious Mary had never seen such a creature. I

don’t think she was afraid, but she was hesitant to let the unicorn get too close

to the baby.” Glarus ladled the hot drink into the mugs. “However, Yeshua reached

out with his tiny hands, and tried to touch the ivory horn.”

“Did he touch you?” Bettine sipped the drink, and found the fruit tasted as if it were off the tree.

“Mary let me hold him, as she and Joseph prepared some of their food for the kings.” Glarus passed the platter of bread and cheese to the young women. “Food less grand than this. But still, the best of what they had.”

“You held god in your hands?” Sirona marvelled at the secrets she had never heard.

“Yes. While the others ate.”

“What was it like?”

“Damp.” Glarus looked at them both and laughed. “He was a warm and wet little baby, open-mouthed and smiling one moment, squeezing up his eyes in frustration the next. I still had the smell of myrrh on me, and he pushed his face into my breast, making contented baby noises. To the others, it looked as if he were trying to get fed. Joseph said something which made the others laugh.” Glarus chuckled as she took a bite of cheese. “When I finally heard what it was, I smiled too, even though I was embarrassed.”

“What did he say?” Sirona and Bettine asked the question together.

“Well. It’s no secret I’m big up here.” Glarus placed an arm across her chest. “I’ve had too much attention from too many men to let me forget.” Glarus cut more slices from the loaf of bread. “Joseph had said, that if the baby became too used to me, they’d have to use one of the cows after I left.”

“What did you say?” Sirona shared a glance with Bettine.

“It wasn’t my place to say anything. Anyway, I could tell he wasn’t trying to be offensive – or attentive. He was a poor man surrounded by rich and powerful strangers, and he was trying to be accepted.”

“Did Mary say anything?”

“Mary did not push out her garment, even if she was full of milk. After the laughter had stopped, I dared glance at her. She gave a shy smile and shrugged her shoulders.”

“If you hadn’t gone the way you did.” Bettine dipped her mug back into the flavoured drink. “Without following the star and the kings – would you have known Yeshua was a god?”

“No.” Glarus sipped from her mug, then placed it on the table. “But the circumstances were not natural.” Glarus hesitated before cutting more cheese. “The unicorn would not have been present, and I would not have seen them share time.”

“What did he do?”

“The unicorn?”

“Yes.”

“Both.” Sirona was excited. “When they were together.”

“They looked at each other with recognition.”

“But – ” Sirona coughed over her drink. “They had never seen each other before.”

“They saw more than just the bodies they possess.” Glarus placed her hands side-by-side on the table, almost touching. “When Mary realized the unicorn would do no harm, she held the baby this close to him. Yeshua reached a grasping little fist toward the ivory horn.” Glarus smiled at the two women. “You know how the unicorns avoid a stranger’s touch.”

“Yes.” They both again spoke in unison, and laughed.

“He bent his head carefully toward Mary, and let the tiny fingers rub against his horn. Yeshua’s eyes went wide as he sniffed him all over. The unicorn pawed in the dirt and the straw, and as much as his face is capable of smiling, I’d swear that he did.

“He didn’t even mind when Mary began to scratch him behind the ears. He moved his head so she could stroke the base of his horn, which he loves most of all.”

“I didn’t know of that place for years.” Bettine absently rubbed her fingers across the table. “I hesitated a long time before I even touched the horn. It can be so cold.”

“They don’t encourage contact,” agreed Sirona.

“Perhaps I was jealous. He encouraged Mary and the baby to do things for which I had waited years.” Glarus looked into the fire a long time. “He showed complete trust amid the strangers and the tumult. Usually, just the smell of humans and other animals make him disappear. This time, he ceased being wary, and concentrated fully on that little baby.”

“And Yeshua?” Sirona stared at her mother. “What did he do?”

“The baby turned his head, and stared at me.” Glarus again hesitated. “It was then I knew that I was looking into eyes which had seen the OtherWorld.”

DE

(image)http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2008/12/12/article-1093889-02C68847000005DC-361_468x332.jpg

The Pagan Feast Of Christmas Where Jesus Tags Along

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Christmas is a fake that has taken root like the holly and survives tenaciously. It has become a goodies grab fest, and helps keep our commercial society stable. Perhaps reason enough to exist.

The wily Christians conquered the outnumbered Celts and supplanted their winter festival with the birth of their God. The wily pagans live on in the numerous traditions the Christians stole, so perhaps it is a fair trade. And no doubt those wily pagans chuckle over their mead, noting this celebration of reverence has become a surfeit of greed.

I have been no fan of Christmas for decades, but its mixed legacy encourages me not to abandon it. My Christian background encourages my enjoyment of the music and traditions. Most commercial intrusions can be muted or turned off. I have some personal traditions I almost follow religiously.

I do not even rail against Santa Claus. I heard his sleigh bells one Christmas Eve when I was five. I saw his sleigh runner tracks in the snow a couple of years later.

I have even been mistaken for Santa a couple of times.

Once, in the line-up in a bank near Christmas, a two year old pointed at me. Unfortunately, my presence terrified him and he started to scream and cry. His parents said things like “But Santa is nice and kind.” I was wise enough not to go Ho Ho Ho.

Another time a family approached me as I walked in a park. A boy, who looked to be six or seven, stopped in his tracks then ran back to his parents. “Santa Claus!”  He pointed. Happily he did not cry. They walked past me in silence.

Also, for decades, I lived close to a residence where one of the very first recitations of ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas happened. The author of that stirring piece, Clement Moore, who wrote it in 1822, sent a copy to his godfather, the Rev Johnathan O’Dell, of Fredericton New Brunswick. However, the poem was not published until 1837.

This year, I have been brushed by Christmas but twice.

I entered a restaurant to meet a friend for lunch. Before any query was out of my mouth, I was ushered to the correct table. I found out the maître d ‘ had been told to be on the outlook for Santa Claus.

And, just this morning, I was told by a revered friend and writer that she was going to write a Christmas Eve column about how silly Christmas really is.

Silly is a kind word.

DE

(image)http://www.irishcelticjewels.com/celtic-wedding/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/irish-christmas-angel.jpg

A Christmas Elephant Story For The Love Of God

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This is an abridged version of a story from “The Elephant Talks To God”.

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The Elephant was not oblivious to the Christmas season, and wanted to pay his respects. He travelled to the special clearing where a cloud waited for him.

“It’s your Son’s birthday and I want to congratulate him.”

“Thank you.” The cloud descended further. “It is a grand time.”

“I’d like to …” the elephant hesitated.

“Yes.”

“You sent your son for us to see, so we would believe.”

“Yes.”

“Well, I want to …”

“Spit it out,” said God. “You’re fired up.”

“I want to see you.” The elephant spoke quickly. “I don’t have to see you, you know that.  I believed even before you talked to me. But I want to see you; it would mean so much. I wasn’t around for the Baby, but cows and sheep and things got to see Him. I can’t explain, but …”

“Go home,” said the cloud.

“You’re not angry with me?” said the elephant.

“No.” The cloud started moving away. “It’s an honest request.”

“Thank you for coming to see me,” said the elephant.

“Sing some carols.” The voice was distant. “I like them.”

The elephant turned and started through the woods. He ignored the tasty leaves within easy reach, and the rich grass near the brook. He wanted to get home as quickly as possible, so he could join the singing at the Mission he knew was happening later in the evening.

He trotted along the trail, snapping a branch here and there in his haste, when he noted the stillness, the hush which had overtaken the forest. He slowed down and then stopped in his tracks.
He turned his head, his small eyes squinting into the brush. There was movement coming toward him, and when the trees parted, he went to his knees with a gasp. Tears rolled from his eyes, and the golden trunk touched his own, and gently
wiped them away.
DE
(purchase)

 

 

Serve Cranberry Old-Fashioned for Cocktails

Make this Cranberry Old-Fashioned recipe for Thanksgiving. Get the cocktail recipe from PBS Food.

{I might go for cranberry juice}

Source: Serve Cranberry Old-Fashioned for Cocktails

8 tips for writing a novel

These are detailed and workable observations. A lot of helpful advice,

Annmarie McQueen

So recently I’ve decided to get more active in the online writing community. I think the internet provides so much opportunity for writers to connect, to share knowledge and help each other improve, more so than writers in the past have ever had. It’s a resource I’m determined to make the most out of. The writers forums and sites I’m currently part of are incredibly supportive; they include a mix of professional authors and beginner writers and provide a safe space, free of judgement, for people to have open and honest conversations about their writing. It’s something a younger, pre-University version of me would have killed for.

As part of this new resolution I applied to be part of the The Literary Consultancy’s ‘free read’ scheme which is a merit-based scheme offered to low-income writers who they see as having potential. I was accepted into the scheme and quickly paired…

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The House Of Kafka – Now Picture Perfect

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House No. 22 on The Golden Lane is situated in the Prague Castle. It is so called because in the 16th Century, the Emperor had a number of Alchemists trying to make gold. They were housed on this lane.

Kafka did not really live in this tiny house on this narrow lane – his sister did.

And she did not really live in this tiny house on this narrow lane – she rented it so she could have a place to meet her lover in secret.

The secret was necessary because her lover was a Christian.

So the house was vacant most of the time.

Enter Kafka. He  started to go there (at the suggestion of his sister) so he could have a place to be alone. Otherwise he would be with his parents, which was not conducive to either his (nor his sister’s) desires.

He never stayed the night, but was there most evenings for months. He wrote a whole book of short stories in his book The Country Doctor  while there.

I set a third of my novel about Kafka in this tiny house.
I’ve visited it.
Peered from the windows.
Looked up the stairs.
Ducked in the doorway.
When I was there while the country was still under Communist control, it was a book store.
But – Kafka being Kafkaesque long after death – none of his books were displayed.

From Kafka In The Castle

27 November 1916

Should I comment upon my unique and strange surroundings – this tiny house of Ottla’s. Not shared with a fiancée, but a sister. This place would not do for Felice, it is too small and too spare and too far from the heart of the city. But I feel secure against the winter. Up here in the castle.

As with all the tiny houses on Alchemist Lane, this one has its history of the quest for gold. Thus I fit right in, for I am after such purity.

29 November 1916

I like these walks up and down from the castle. I am surprised – and surprised because I am surprised. Perhaps I will sometime stay overnight, but I doubt it. It is Ottla’s house, and she should keep possession in appearance as well as fact. I impose as it is, which may be the right of an older brother, but not my wish. If it weren’t for Ottla, my life would be bleak beyond what I could bear.

27 December 1916

Ottla says I am staying here too late into the night. But she is implying more. I am certain she is soon to tell

me that I should stay in her tiny house all night. Sleep here. Have things prepared and ready so I could go directly to the office in the morning. But the office must be more than just distance from this place.

30 January 1917

What a storm. The storm of the year, perhaps. It was with difficulty that I came here today, and this might be the night when I shall actually stay. This tiny house, once it’s warm, is a perfect refuge. The winds howling along the Stag Moat, throwing snow at the window behind me, can easily put one back into Medieval times. Might someone have been where I am now – not with pen and paper – but tools and flasks, and elusive gold?  With questions and a quest?

DE

(image)https://rail.cc/img/loc/1/1331728884316e067a8fa1b029edac249de7ca0d2d.jpg

Message From The Bottom of The Sea “Hello!”

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A number of years ago I was away for the weekend and returned late. There was a phone message. I would do nothing about it at that hour but . . . I listened to it anyway.

It was a garble of words just out of reach, and sounds as if bubbling through water. The backdrop to a horror movie. Or an opaque dream. It kept on and on.  I hung up before the end.

 

Next day I had many things to do, so I did not listen to the message until late afternoon. My interpretation of it was no different. It consisted of sounds heard behind a door in a dream.

I probably would have just ignored and deleted, but it went on and on. The phone number of the caller meant nothing to me (other than it was localized to the two immediate provinces). So, from curiosity and a touch of concern, I phoned back.

A woman answered. She was as confused as I would be if I was hearing the message I was now delivering. She even said that she did not understand. I repeated my predicament. Then she checked the phone number I was calling from.

“That number is from Chelsea, a friend of my daughter,” said she.

Although this added to the confusion, it also started to make some sense. I had been getting phone calls for “Chelsea” for the last couple of months.

“But Chelsea has moved.”  The woman also started to make a connection. “But I still have her on my speed dial. You must now have her number. I must have hit it somehow when it was in my pocket or my purse. I’ll erase it.”

Two mysteries solved.

I listened to the message a bit longer before I deleted it.

There was a portion where I could make out the CBC National News on television. Probably from a pocket but, it still sounded as if it was more from a fish tank.

DE

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