Archive for July 2009

The Spiritual Route: we used to call it the Road less Travelled

July 28, 2009

In the ‘sixties, there were a lot of us about.  We called ourselves seekers, but others had less complimentary – yea, derogatory –  names for us: hippie was one of them; living on the land was another.  We didn’t care: we were poets, musicians, philosophers and we were catalysts for Earth Shift.  At the beginning of the ‘seventies, we thought everybody in the Universe was a believer; the world was going to flip overnight, heaven-on-earth was imminent.  We could and would create the World We Chose.

I lived in Northern California at the time and the world was my oyster.  Communes were two a penny; Buckminster Fuller domes proliferated, tree houses, goat shed shacks converted for summer living, tipis abounded, everyone had an organic garden and all kinds of people drifted through, joined and disjoined, contributed (sometimes) and accepted free food, board and lodging.  It was light-hearted, fun and nobody thought it was going to end.  We had come full circle: the Great Spirit was on our side and We Were Invincible.  

In my particular neck of the woods – I kid you not – Cat Mother (& his All-Night News Boys) were neighbors with Gene Clark of The Byrds. The Fifth Dimension sang the song ‘Age of Aquarius’. Fulleresque geniuses came from the Bay Area for an overnight stay and helped  build hyperbolic paraboloid structures in two days.  Fuller’s other shape, the Dome – sixteen plywood boards bent and bolted together – were like the Amish equivalent on the East Coast: erected in a day.  Small villages of these instant creations appeared on The Ridge, the known hangout of the Alternative Lifestyle.  Redwoods nodded wisely as humans found summer shelter in their root boles, bluejays didn’t object to sharing nest sites.  Gray whales waved huge arms in passing as if signaling approval of the human race. 

We all promised to hold the vision forever and as silently as the movement started, it faded into individual dreams as we each followed separate paths and drifted away.

Some, I know for a fact, became convinced on their return to the ‘real world’ that their dream was a fantasy and that they should follow the rest of the human race in amassing great fortunes or becoming famous for their contribution to the corporate world.  In the intervening forty years I often wondered if I should write and remind them of our Pact.  I didn’t, of course.  Others stood firm in their belief in themselves and their dream, but found the 9-to-5 a killer and succumbed to heart disease, self-doubt or disappointment in relationships and love.  It was a difficult time for believers: the age of Thatcherite Britain and Reaganite America.  I retreated to an organic garden of my own making, lost myself in writing about my dreams, having a family and getting on with life: the act of watching one’s genes grow into another being is hard to resist.  The Path (and the Pact) were still there, but tucked away in a subliminal stratum.  Life moved in circles of parenthood, overdrafts, insurance, schooling and subsequently into computers, cell phones and the internet.  Imperceptibly we grew old, let some things go, held on to others and became different people.  They say the body changes all its cells completely every seven years.  In six times that number, it isn’t surprising that the bodies and minds of those dreamers forgot everything they promised themselves in a few brief years at the dawning of the Aquarian Age.

Astrological progressed chart for Valentine's Day 2009 Until February 14th this year.  Then, according to respected and accurate ‘progressed’ chart astrology analysts, Planet Earth did in fact enter the Age of Aquarius.  On that day, lyrics of the song from the Broadway musical ‘Hair’,  made popular by the Fifth Dimension  in 1969, came true:

When the moon is in the Seventh House,  And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets,    And love will steer the stars
This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius
The age of Aquarius  Aquarius!    Aquarius!

Harmony and understanding     Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions    Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation       And the mind’s true liberation
Aquarius!   Aquarius!

 It is ironic that those visionaries in 1969 had to wait half a lifetime to watch the rest of the human race reach epiphany:   it took scientific and engineering and electronic miracles like the internet, satellite communications, jet travel and cell phones to bring about an electromagnetic shift in planetary consciousness.  Now, with the miracle of virtual friendships, instant messaging,  spiritual .ning sites – even blogs – the world has begun again on the Road Less Travelled.  

Tomorrow (July 28th, 2009) there will be a planet-wide meditation and spiritual convocation of believers in our common destiny: for one hour we may all, if we wish, visualize, contemplate, dance, sing or ‘Om’ together in celebrating our shared ability to create the World We Choose.

This one-hour appointment with our Higher Self is the initiative of Fire+The+Grid, a group of young people (about the same age as we were in 1969) led by Shelley, musician and lyricist Bradfield and singer-songwriter Anael.  They fired the planetary grid in July 2007 and were surprised that 800,000 other people joined them in a wave of world meditation.  Tomorrow – at 1919 Rio de Janeiro time (conveniently, at 11:19p.m. in your time zone wherever you are) – we shall do it again: fire the planetary grid of light, dream dreams and send beams of potential round the world – another chance for all of us to create the World We Choose.  This time it is expected we will be joined by upwards of one million souls.  Don’t take my word for it – you can check the truth of this at and, if your inner child (or cosmic dreamer) is still active, you too can be part of creating the New Heaven and the New Earth.

In 1969 a seed was planted in human consciousness.  Without the internet and instant sharing worldwide, there was only intuition, channeling, a medium frowned on by middle-of-the-road humanity.  In 2009 we’re all in the middle of the road: the Road Less Travelled, and we’re in it together.

Dabbling in the Quantum Field

July 10, 2009

Spiritual novel 'SHASTA: Critical Mass'


In quantum physics, the act of Observation changes the object observed.  


Writers, especially novelists, beware. 


It is a truth worth remembering when knuckling down to the synopsis.  A necessary evil, some say;  but it is really important to remind yourself, when you lift your head up again after you’ve sent the ‘hook’ off to your editor/publisher/reading group that it was an exercise in stepping into the quantum field.  That’s all.  It isn’t really you.  You were acting as a mere observer presenting an object as you saw it to an outside agency.  The real you in still in there, champing at the bit, ready and waiting to get back to REAL writing.


I’ve been asked a few times: ‘So, what is your novel about?’  an open-ended – but natural – question from a reader.  The answer varies with the mood of the request.  Which got me thinking about queries in general and query letters in particular: oh, no, not again, sounds the imaginary chorus of rejected authors in the agent/publisher debate.


Any excuse will do.


There IS a case to be made for the poor, maligned, ever-hopeful, endless optimist writer; she does have to lay down all tools of the scribe and pick up tools of the adman to get her subject noticed.  Her query letter, synopsis and an impeccable first chapter are all she’s got.


But not today.   If she’s a trooper, then her Muse will return, the pen or keyboard will beckon and the wild ride will begin once more.


So what is my novel about?  The thing is: I didn’t think I was writing a fantasy adventure; I thought it would turn out to be an historical romance with some realtime spiritual insights; a kind of James Redfield-style handbook set in both past and present Scotland with a respectful nod to the New Age, California style.  I spent my childhood in Scotland, some early adult years in California and now swing between the two.  It made sense that I should draw on my own history to create an authentic atmosphere; I spent 20 years writing and giving lectures on the suppressed, unwritten history of my country. It wants to be told.


But my spirit soars when I step into the wild country of the Pacific Northwest and I guess my Muse knows that at her core.  So, let’s face it, after setting the romantic framework of ancient Scotland, my Muse was itching to get in there and change it all around.


As I began to relax and allow my characters to speak, Muse Girl (MG for short, thanks to S.King for his male version) wasn’t standing for any nonsense.  If it was authenticity I wanted, she would show me what the real message was in the book:  I am the instrument and she directs as the movie unfolds.  Drop the dry historical facts, castle interiors, ancient hunting forests, family lineages;  enter a succession of vivid past lives intermingled with a present day drama of a family caught up in cataclysmic events precipitated by a planet in environmental crisis.   


Even my title got changed:  it became SHASTA. You don’t want to know what it was before.  That got relegated to short-story-dom.


In some awesome way I could not (didn’t want to) control,  the 14,000-ft mountain colluded with MG to become the dominant presence.   And, gradually the historical corridor of my original vision morphed into a capsule which faded in and out, while a dormant volcano in the present-day Cascades proceeded to take over; create a tectonic miracle, and develop a scenario with potential to disrupt national and international communications. 


All right.  It’s true: a lot of writers see their novels as movies in their heads: it’s the way the right hemisphere transmits information.  Yet I was carried along on this visual current like a swollen river of ash and mud within a backdrop that was more than real. Daily reports issued by NOAA and the Global Volcanism Program were mirroring my scenes: Yellowstone, Mauna Loa, Kamchatka, Vesuvius.  There was no way I could put this down.


When each morning I went back to edit what I’d written the day before, the left hemisphere often had punctuation and grammar to correct, but the right hemisphere was right there (along with MG), ready to pick up where we left off.


Naturally Shasta saw to it that I learned Native American respect for her, researched her early history, became immersed in her volcanic past.  In process I discovered the difficulty humans faced constructing highways and railroads  in trying to tame her; her influence on local tradition, myths and legends surrounding her, filtered through New Age groups and sects that inhabit the valley at her feet. 


She is a rumbling giant; she never sleeps.   With or without a volcanic murmur, northern California suffers annual forest fires and spring deluge.   It’s what people live with all the time.  What I was being asked to do was to give it a little tweak to up the ante.  It all fit.  I had to move with the story.  It was telling itself.  And by setting the scene over one long weekend I simply brought the elements together to make it believable – in a fantastic sort of way. 


Ancient Scotland plays a part.  It has to.  In a quasi-science fiction way it becomes a timeline thread, interjected into the future-present narrative, meshing the background of the principal characters with a deeper element – I like to think.  Past meets present creates future earth where all is possible… of course I’m an idealist.   


So what is it about?  We should be grateful for the gentle reader, the well-meaning questioner.  It makes us look at genre (the agent/publisher’s tool) and in observing, perhaps changes us the writer from quantum instrument to quantum fly on the wall.


SHASTA made the decision for me: molded my characters, attached me to the project, wouldn’t let me go.  My historical journeys became woven through and around her, creating more substance than I originally planned.  But what story is not improved by a mystery weaving a web to pull one in, to keep up the pace, to NOT give away the ending?   


Quantum field? Personal movies or Images of this scale are beyond quantum physics, in my humble opinion.  A project guided from beyond? A spiritual adventure? Particle or wave, it chose me to put it into print, and I am the first to say that I, the observer, was changed by it. Not the other way around.  

The Timeless Art of Getting Back on the Horse

July 3, 2009

We’ve all been there.

I got rejected by a BIG publishing house editor around 10 days ago and I haven’t really been able to share the information until now.

Some of us use the dear joan letter as a springboard for our next plunge into an alien world and rebound with a kitbag of ideas; others take rejection (from an agent, a publisher, an editor – they all hit hard) very personally and never surface again.

But there is part of me that uses the kick of the mule of rejection – timelapse included – as a way of getting back up on the animal; I think I come to terms with my own vulnerability, start to look at the wounded soft centre as a way through, as a tool to create a gentler version of a particularly difficult character, or to be ruthless and throw out a superfluous scene.

For me that’s a better way  than to allow the rejection process to gag and bind me into hardening and toughening and ‘becoming the adversary’.

Been there; done that.  And it doesn’t work because I’m still me inside. I live with me and my characters, my story are part of me.  Something phenomenal came from my keyboard and I’m not going to let it go.

It’s not easy to say this.  But I have slept on it.

Writers are traditionally loners by definition.  I think the part of this writer who feels most miffed is the invisible self-critic, the one on alert all the time; so being told by the ‘expert’ what I already know: that’s a little of a let-down. 

The thing is, the other comments were really helpful, constructive, even complimentary.  I liked having my writing style compared with Sheri Tepper; Barbara Kingsolver;  and yet sustaining a ‘fast pace which manages to stay just the right side of chaotic’ (?)

 I like chaotic.

But putting it out there, stretching out the young shoot and having it nipped by frost – again:  that is the hardest to handle.  It implies not good enough. Compromise, adaptation, tailoring required.

There are those who react to a negative response by thinking their work is somehow mediocre, not complete; needs re-grouping, splitting into two separate books; compromising the original idea which was to write a great big exciting blockbuster to end all blockbusters.  

Why then let the dream die?

Why shouldn’t the original dream  be more real than the  ultimate short story mini-format adaptation the publishing industry thinks it wants?  We know it’s the reader who counts : s/he’s the one with desire to read our book in the mindset we originally conceived it: holed up in the imagination, carried along by the story, wanting to see what happens next.

It’s the reader that keeps us in the novel business.  The publisher is incidental.  Heavens, don’t let them know I said that.  I might get rejected – again.

I don’t intend to offend the big publishing houses – if indeed there are personalities left to offend.  They are necessary to the whole works.  There are, however, one or two little things they should know: people have, do, and will continue to read. The book business isn’t going to die.

Like the rest of us it’s currently going through a process of change.  

One thing a new-age spiritual discipline teaches me is change can make or break me: make or break any enterprise. It’s up to the individual to see change (in this instance, rejection) as failure or potential success. And no outside critic is more valid than my own fierce inner censor.  

But a writer has to lay down his tools when it comes to the query letter  because it requires a different mindset to write, a commercial approach that’s usually foreign to the novelist, the romance author, the passionate thriller-writer.  Unlike the industry:  they have the edge on us. They get to use tools – like arbitrary filtering, rejection – that have kept them in business: it allows them to do what they do best: publish books. They get to shut out the best, the middling and the bad at the first hurdle, just because that’s what they have to do.

I like what Randy Pausch says in The Last Lecture

‘The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.’

I agree.  I’m not other people.  I’m going to make this one work.

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