For All the Girls on the Schoolyard

Beautiful morning, out running the streets of Phoenix, fantasizing about the Zombie Apocalypse because those wide, eerily empty and silent streets always make me imagine hordes of zombies are about to burst around a corner (I love my imagination).

Anyway, as I ended with some jump squats, two men on bicycles, decked out in bright blue helmets and tight spandex outfits that showed off their paunches, whizzed by yelling “ribbit, ribbit!” and laughing obnoxiously.

Suddenly, instead of the Zombie Apocalypse, I was someplace far worse: back on the schoolyard with all those entitled boys, and me wanting to join in the dodge ball, basketball, and handball games and them pushing me out.

“Why can’t I play?”

“Cuz you’re a girl.”

I pushed back and got in those games, and I was as good and most times better than those boys. It makes me mad to this day that I had to “prove” myself. In fact, I realize now that they were intimidated by me. I was taller than all of them. Maybe not always as strong, but a whole lot more focused and generally more coordinated. There were a couple of boys who gave me respect, but even they never gave up the distinction that I was a girl in a boy’s game. I got made fun of constantly. I was called all kinds of derogatory terms, but the one I remember is “Mommy Long Legs” which I would now consider a compliment, but they didn’t mean it that way.

The school bully was named Bill. I know it sounds cliché, but that was really his name. Even more cliché, he had a blond buzz cut, was meaty, and turned pink under the hot sun. Bill would stand at the end of the street, just beyond the school, and demand money from everyone who needed to walk home that way. In the private world of children, where real monsters are always more prolific and scarier than imagined ones, no one said anything to the clueless adults about this.

I never gave Bill a penny. It was one of those important life lessons where I learned how to get out of a sticky situation by using my  brain and not giving in to fear. Bill was lazy and hid his own fear inside his big body, preying on the weak. Except that he was really weaker than everyone else. I always managed to talk my way around Bill, confusing him with language, until before he knew it, I was gone.

You learn to pick your battles.

As for the incident this morning, if I’d been a hefty guy doing those jump squats, or if a guy had been jumping with me, not a peep would have come out of those smirking, lily-white mouths.

I envisioned chasing after them, pulling them off their bikes and grounding their smirking mugs into the pavement. Making them apologize, not to me because what do I care, I’m a fighter who can well defend myself, but to all the little girls they must have intimidated on the schoolyard and then the women in the workplace and just generally in everyday life that they must somehow feel they have the right to lord it over.

Ah, the satisfaction of making them grovel.

I used to train with some British Kyokushin men who would come to Los Angeles every summer. I was the only women “allowed” to train with them. These guys were tough, seemingly oblivious to pain. The workouts were grueling, probably the hardest I’ve ever experienced. That’s why I liked them. It was freeing to train like that, to have all thought of differences in sex or ability fall away. I do remember one time when the guy who led the class, a scrappy fellow with a heavy cockney accent, tough as nails, half my height, yelled out, “Come on, don’t fucking hit like a bunch of girls!”

I was right in the front row, in the middle. No one reacted, I didn’t think anyone but me  realized he had made a faux pas. But then, maybe to them I wasn’t a “girl.” But then, what was I? Should I have taken it as a compliment that they didn’t put me in that category? Of course not. Still, I didn’t say anything. I didn’t throw a fit, demand an apology, or walk out in a huff. I just kept on training.

Again, you pick your battles. I was already doing something that most women never get the chance to experience. My actions spoke for me because afterwards, a couple of the men came up to me and apologized, explaining their fearless leader came from a rough background and wasn’t all that educated in proper etiquette.

“He didn’t mean it that way.”

I didn’t want to say, “What way?” I just left it at that.

As I did with the twerps on the bikes. I didn’t attack. I continued to jump my way home. Ribbit, ribbit….

And then, I did the same I did with Bill. I used my brain and wrote these words.

How Social Activism can Inspire and Promote Your Writing–All while Turning You into a Better Person

As writers and artists we have unique opportunities to change the world.

Check out my article in Night Owl Reviews about the win-win opportunities of social activism.

How Social Activism can Inspire and Promote Your Writing–All while Turning You Into a Better Person

We Are All The Same, and Thankfully, Different

Students in China Made to Take Exams Outdoors in Toxic Smog

I am teaching English online to kids and adults in China. This is proving to be an enlightening experience and my students are delightful. I love nothing more than finding out about a new culture and meeting new people. Funny how the differences remind us how much we are the same.

Lately, we have discussed the air pollution in China, as some of my students have been kept home from school because of it. Another one of my adult students works in waste management in Beijing and described the challenges of dealing with this problem.

Being able to communicate one-on-one with people in another country, one where the United States seems to have increasingly hostile relations, brings a deeper level of understanding. Now, I read that Americans’ feelings of good will towards Russians has dropped by 30%. It’s important to remember that we, the people of any nation, are all the same. Nothing has changed from day to the next, from one year to the next, from one administration to the next, in who we are. We all want to live a peaceful life, have a roof over our heads and take care of our families. It is the governments, the media, the corporations, the special interest groups with their own agendas, that create these widening gulfs of misunderstanding and manipulate emotions and play on fears.

Now we have new buzzwords, within the United States, polarizing groups of people, more and more. We lump people together inside a prison of words, and think we have the right to keep them there. Then, the other side fires back with its own prison of words. And before we know it, the words are so deeply embedded on our consciousness, we don’t even remember how they got there or why. The story gets repeated and embellished, always from one point of view. The other side retaliates. The words become violence, somehow justified because we no longer look at our opponents as people just like us. They are something dangerous and worthy of extermination–or at least worth of being taught a serious lesson.

Such as those “fly-over” states, spoken of with such disdain. It seems that highly educated pundits now find it okay to openly label country folk stupid. How stupid is that? Surely one of the most basic rules you learn in college when doing research is not to make sweeping generalized statements about an entire group of people? Mind you, the country folk do the same. despising the city folk for their privilege and education.

Amazing… the word stupid was banned in my family. One of the best things my parents taught me was to be very careful about using a word like that, because using it could well prove my own stupidity. Be sure of your facts. Don’t generalize. Calling people who are somehow different from you stupid (or any other negative term) only shows your own ignorance. And fear.

In fact, the whole flinging of nasty comments across borders is just plain, well… stupid. And that means it could well grow into something dangerous. For everyone.

MALEKU CHILDREN SHARE THEIR STORIES: My World Project in Costa Rica

My World Project on Facebook

“Conservemas la Naturaleza y aseguremos la Vida al Mundo.”

~ Eugenia Alvarez Elizondo, teacher in the Maleku school.

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Maleku school children, their teacher, Eugenia Alvarez Elizondo, and Daniel Spreen Wilson

On July 6, 2016 I landed in Liberia, intent on staying near Lake Arenal for three months, maybe longer. It’s now September and the time has flown by. I am returning to Los Angeles in a couple of weeks and then, I will probably come back. I haven’t quite had enough of this beautiful place yet.

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Arenal Volcano

During my time here, I’ve had the joy of conducting the My World Project with Maleku youth on the Reserva Indigena Maleku. There are only about six hundred Maleku left in Costa Rica. They have been rounded up and given land on which to live. Meanwhile, much of the land they used to call home has been cleared in order to create pastures and fields. Many Maleku are now farmers. The Maleku can no longer build their traditional homes, since the palms they used have become endangered. Kind of ironic. The Maleku are not the ones who caused the plants and animals to become endangered. Yet, they are the ones whose lives have been changed forever because of it. Now they must live in cement houses that do not “breathe.”

Maleku 7  Maleku 15  Maleku 2

Everywhere I go I meet people who offer to help with My World Project. And I have people contacting me who want to do it in other places around the world. So, day by day, this community is growing.

As happened in the Sahara Desert, I had no idea when I got to Arenal how I would make this project work. But I have always found if you open yourself to possibilities, they will find you. Sure enough, I met a great guy, Daniel Spreen Wilson, who founded La Reserva Forest Foundation. This great nonprofit has taken upon itself to help reforest the Maleku Indigenous Reserve, allowing native animals, such as the Mantled Howler Monkeys, sloths, reptiles, amphibians and tropical birds to once again live in their natural habitat.

Maleku 16  Maleku 18 Maleku 19

Daniel has been here for thirty-three years and speaks fluent Spanish. So I was very thankful to have his help. Together we traversed the bumpy road from Lake Arenal to the reserve. We met with the teachers in three schools. So far, we have been to the first school to do the program and we go to the others over the next week.

Maleku drawing 7

From Africa to the Americas and beyond, what are children telling us with this project? Well, they are telling us that they love their natural world. They love their lakes and rivers, mountains, forests, deserts and oceans. They love their plants and animals. They love their families and their traditions. They love peace. They are interested to share their ideas with other children around the world who feel the same.

Maleku drawing 2

What they don’t want is the continued destruction of their worlds by outside forces. Not only is their natural world being destroyed but so is their spiritual world, meaning their traditional ways of life. And the drug culture that is now so prevalent in the United States is slowly but surely invading their lives as well. These are not just clichés to be switched off because we have heard them a thousand times. These children do not know the meaning of a cliché. This is the world they live in. This is what is happening to them. These are their real day-to-day struggles. These children see very clearly, without anyone having to tell them how express it, that their worlds are being destroyed.

Perhaps we should listen more to our children.

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WHO ARE THE NIGHT ANGELS? The Story of Blanca

Book of Angels on Amazon.com

Book of Angels, volume two in the NIGHT ANGELS CHRONICLES, opens with Sera’s Turning. In order for her to survive, she is given the blood of the five Night Angels and she becomes one with them and sees their terrible pasts. This gives Sera her first real understanding of who they are.

Blanca is the NIGHT ANGEL who Sera feels hates her and wants her dead. In Key of Mystery, Sera thought that Blanca must be Peter’s girlfriend, but she finds out this isn’t so. Their relationship goes back hundreds of years. Sera still doesn’t find out what happened all those years ago, that will have to wait for another book. But this is what she does now know:

  1. As a human, Blanca was a gypsy, or a “traveler” would be a better term. She was thought to be a witch and was a victim of the Catholic Church, at a time just before the official start of the Spanish Inquisition in 1478. All of the Night Angels suffered terribly as humans before they became vampires, but for Blanca, that suffering was the worst. She was tortured and thrown in a trash heap, left for dead.
  2. Sera doesn’t get any insight into how Blanca ends up in the court of Sultan Mehmet II, in the Ottoman Empire. But once Blanca is there, Sera sees how Blanca meets Fabian Gore, Peter, Strejan, Malek and Marianne. Together they fight as Janissaries in the Sultan’s army. The Sultan is the one who turns Blanca and the other Night Angels into vampires.
  3. Sera doesn’t yet understand why Blanca hates her so much, but she struggles with her own hatred of the Night Angel. However, as she begins to get to know Blanca better, a grudging respect and even compassion unfolds. When it comes time for them to go on a mission together to find out if the Queen is still imprisoned in the Life Box in St. Catherine’s Monastery, Sera and Blanca make an uneasy pact. Sera begins to wonder if she isn’t misinterpreting Blanca’s hatred and it is really about something else.
  4. There is one more interesting fact about Blanca that Sera finds out in Book of Angels, but I will leave that for readers to discover for themselves! It will be interesting to see how Sera and Blanca’s difficult relationship unfolds throughout the series!

Here is an excerpt from the time when Sera, Peter and Blanca are about to embark on their journey to St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai Desert. Blanca doesn’t want to take Sera and an argument ensues, during which Sera discovers some important things about Blanca’s character and the bond between the Night Angels:

Blanca groaned impatiently. “Why must we take her?”

“Be quiet,” said Peter with a growl.

I was desperate to stall for time. I didn’t care if it made Blanca angry. “What I want to know it, am I going to have to listen to you two fight the whole time? Because it’s fucking boring. How do you even keep it going for hundreds of years?”

Peter pretended surprise. “Fight? Us? Perhaps on occasion, like everyone, but never on a mission.”

“We’re on a mission and you’re fighting.” I raised my eyebrows. “Hello?”

“Shut up,” said Blanca, adjusting her sword on her back.

“Whatever,” I said.

“Whatever,” Blanca mimicked. And under her breath, she said, “Ignorant Oak Haven bimbo.”

I had literally taken off into the air to attack Blanca, but Peter grabbed me and slammed me back onto the ground.

Blanca folded her arms, chin raised triumphantly. “See that?” She walked right up to me, while Peter restrained me. “Let’s get one thing straight, baby. I don’t like you. I don’t trust you. I don’t want  you here.”

“That’s three things.,” I said through gritted teeth.

One corner of Blanca’s mouth turned up slightly. And then she laughed. Peter let me go, and I glared at him. I didn’t know which one of them made me angrier.

“An irritating little thing, isn’t she?” said Blanca.

Peter grinned. “Yes, she is.”

Blanca turned back to me. “Peter and I might have our problems. But we trust each other. And we have each other’s back. We have fought together for hundreds of years. When we’re on a mission, we put our differences aside. I’m willing to do the same with you. Think you can reciprocate?”

I just stared at her, saying nothing. I hated her so much.

Peter reached toward me. I flinched, but he put his hand on my arm gently and I calmed down. “Maybe you don’t like Blanca’s rough ways, but she’s telling you something important. When you’re in battle, there’s no one better than Blanca to have at your side. Do you understand?”

“No, I don’t!” I jerked away from him resentfully. “Why should I? This is all crazy! But still, I’m trying. And what do I get for it? I get made fun of,  insulted. By everybody! You treat me like dirt, Blanca, and I’m supposed to take it?”

“Pretty much, yes,” she said. “You’re the runt of the litter. You have to pay your dues.”

“Okay,” said Peter. “Can we do this? Can we all agree to put our differences behind us while on this dangerous mission?” We nodded. “Great. Now, humans would call what we are doing teleportation. As I said, we call it the Passage. You are a denizen, Sera. This means you know yourself on a molecular level. You will easily navigate the Passage.”

I sighed. “If you say so. I’m ready, let’s get this over with.”

The next thing I knew, I had leapt into the air with the two of them, my mind on St. Catherine’s Monastery, and I found myself hurtling through the Passage, horribly aware of every atom in my body and the indomitable forces of the universe that were trying to pull me apart.

Painting by Theodor Aman

 

 

THE BOGEY-MAN INSIDE OF US

These elections and the associated conventions have taken our country so far down into the murky waters of greed, lies and hypocrisy, I am hard pressed to see how we could sink any lower.

The American people, like the team players that we are, hop on the bandwagon and are carried along by the speeches and fanfare. If you believe one view, then Trump is the good guy. If you believe the other view, then Hillary is the good woman.

Finally, we have reached that wonderful fairytale world, where good and evil are clearly defined and we know what we are fighting for.

There is a bogey-man and it is, most definitely, the other side.

Watching these elections on television, I keep remembering the Iraq War, delcared in 2003.

Everyone now seems to admit that it was a terrible “mistake.” The intelligence information was all wrong.

Oops. Oh, well!

Words fail me as I watch the insanity of this election and how easily we have fallen into it. As easily as we fell into the Iraq War.

John Tirman, the principal research scientist at MIT Center for International Studies has said that an average figure “suggests roughly 700,000” Iraqis died in the Iraq War. That figure does not include deaths among the millions of displaced Iraqis, which accounted for 20% of the population. Those statistics were repressed by the media. What we saw on television wasn’t anything like what was really happening.

When war was declared, no one dared to question the Shock and Awe campaign. I was president of InsideOUT Writers at that time. I sent out an email  to my contacts saying that weapons of mass destruction was surely a lie and this war was a disaster. I wish I could find that email and review it now. It seemed so clear. I thought surely the majority of people in my mostly liberal circle would agree with me.

Much to my surprise, I was bombarded by vitriolic responses. I was labeled unpatriotic. I was told to keep my thoughts to myself at such a sensitive time, when we should show a united front and support for our leaders.

Now we know the truth. There were no weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein did not present a threat to the United States of America.

The decisions made in 2003 are directly responsible for the bloodbath in Syria,  which is now spreading up through Turkey and into Europe. Those decisions are directly responsible for the rise of ISIS, and for the rise of terrorism in general.

Yet, no one is taking responsiblity. No one is standing trial for these crimes. The terroists are the evil ones, who somehow rose out of hell all on their own, without any provocation. We are pure in our righteous indignation.

If journalists do not toe the line and report what they are supposed to report, they are blacklisted.

Carne Ross, once known as “Mr. Iraq’ by the UN, was a senior British official and a leading figure in sanctions against Iraq. He has since apologised for that stance. In an interview with The Guardian, he said, “We would control access to the foreign secretary as a form of reward to journalists. If they were critical we would not give them the goodies of trips around the world. We would feed them factoids of sanitized intelligence, or we’d freeze them out.”

The public is quite used to being fed water-down or even made-up stories and accepting them. Slightly varied versions might be given to appeal to different segments, but the underlying story is the same. I think by now everyone knows that this is what happens. But, somehow, it just doesn’t matter. If the story appeals to us, we will believe it.

 

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When all of our recent presidents are photographed together, there are both Bushs smiling along with the others.

The Iraq War is only one of many lies and manipulations. Why aren’t the American people demanding that our leaders speak the truth? Silence on the part of our leaders is collusion. Bush should be tried for this crime, as should a silent Senate. We as a nation should bow our heads in horror that we stood by.

But no ones does this. It would cause unrest. It would make us look weak and vulernable to our enemies. And so, we perpetuate the lies and manipulation. As a result, the world becomes more unstable and dangerous–the very results we fear will happen if we admit the truth.

NO LEADER IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA GOT INTO A POSITION OF POWER BY TELLING THE TRUTH.

If you want to see things in a negative light, you vote for Trump. And if you want to see things in a positive light, you vote for Clinton. It’s okay, the marketing experts know how to appeal to consumers so that they think they are getting a different product. It is slightly different, but it is made by the same manufacturer. Give Americans the story they want; make them feel the way they want to feel and they will faithfully line the pockets of the rich and powerful, whether they be Republican or Democrat.

It doesn’t matter which one wins.

In fact, Clinton might well prove to be a greater mass murderer than Trump. In her 2008 bid for president she threatened to “totally obliterate” Iran with nuclear weapons. That is only one example of her eagerness to kill. We have yet to see.

Obama was a classy guy. And Michelle was super classy. People who like classy are going to miss them. I liked that Michelle included in her speech about slaves building the White House. It helped me see this fact in a new light. I had never imagined how incredible it must be for her and her daughters to wake up every day in the White House.

It made me think about the greater truth that this nation was built upon genocide, slavery and dishonesty. It was not built on the premise that “all men are created equal.” Slavery, genocide and dishonesty continue to this day. I never learned any of this in school. I never heard the statistics. I wasn’t given any tests on these subjects. I was never asked what it might mean to stand up against the lies of my own govnerment.

Democrat and Republican are two sides of the same coin. 

“The Obama administration has built more nuclear weapons, more nuclear warheads, more nuclear delivery systems, more nuclear factories. Nuclear warhead spending alone rose higher under Obama than under any American president. The cost over thirty years is more than $1 trillion.” John Pilger

If the cost is 1 trillion, you better believe the profit for defense companies who are building and selling these weapons is at least double that. As always, war is big business. Making money is the American ideal.

Nothing has changed since the Iraq War of 2003 began. Nothing will change as long as humans are so easily bought for a dollar. 

As Kurt Vonnegut so aptly said, “War is now a form of TV entertainment, and what made the First World War so particularly entertaining were two American inventions, the barbed wire and the machine gun.”

And now, we have the presidential election. One one side the police. On the other side the disenfranchized. Yet, wasn’t it Hillary Clinton who, in her 2008 bid for president labelled certain children as “super-predators.” Her words, “We can talk about how they became that way. But first, we have to bring them to heel.”

The Republican and Democartic conventions were carefully orchestrated. Like a sitcom, the audience laughed and clapped as instructed. It held up the appropriate signs that had been handed out ahead of time.

The world watches our hypocritical displays in disgust but without surprise.

Hillary Clinton is not a better choice than Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton represents the status quo, the way it has always been, the entrenched establishment. Donald Trump is unpredictable. I think he has some kind of wild idea that he can make independent decisions. But then, he isn’t a career politician.

Whoever wins, the polarization of the people of the United States will continue to escalate. With each faction believing the other is evil.

No president ever got to that position without selling themselves to the highest bidder. At that level of power, there is no more room for the ideal. There is no more room for kindness or generosity or understanding. There is only a slicker facade and an emptier soul.

Where are the mainstream journalists asking the question of why? Where are the journalists probing the build-up of American troops around the world, in aggression against Russia, China, not to mention the Middle East?

A map should be on display so we can see exactly how many American troops, how many nuclear warheads, how many military aircraft and ships are amassed on borders far from our own. And it should be compared to how many Russian troops and Chinese troops are amassed on borders far from their own.

Is it not imperative to have this information? Is it not imperative to know what is really happening?

Perhaps such information in front of our faces will help us to see how the United States, thanks to its own fundamentalist history as a Christian nation, has the dangerous idea that its “values,” must be embraced by all nations and all people. Even if it is done by force. As the Messiah will come back on his white horse and run all the infidels through with the sword–his Christian army beside him–so, too, the United States of America will lead the world as its Messiah, bringing to heel all who do not bow to our God-given rule.

Americans are fed just enough information to make us believe we are free to decide the fate of our nation and of ourselves.

We can “like” something. We can sign a petition. We can demonstrate. We can vote. We can publicly trash a politician or make jokes about them. It makes us feel as if we, as ordinary citizens, are influencers on this global stage. But we are just “liking” our way into World War Three. In fact, there are plenty of people in plenty of countries who would tell you a world war has already begun.

We are too distracted by the media lies to understand this.

Freedom of speech is a scam. But it doesn’t matter. As long as we are presented with a spectacle, we will watch it.

The more we can debate and take sides, the more we will be duped into thinking our involvement matters. It is clear with this election that people are being expected to take a side. As if by doing so, we are all doing our part. We are all making a commitment to either bring about change or to uphold the status quo.

It is all lies.

Nothing has changed since the Iraq War of 2003 began.

Nothing will change as long as humans are ruled by selish greed and are so easily bought by the highest bidder.

Nothing will change as long as humans are ruled by fear and are so easily intimidated by those in power.

Nothing will change as long humans are ruled by self-deceit and are so easily manipulated for the sake of entertainment.

We are not right (whoever “we” may be), and everyone else is not wrong (whoever “everyone else” may be).

In 1917, David Loyd George, the British Prime Minister, said of World War One, “If people knew the truth, the war would be stopped tomorrow. But of course they don’t know and can’t know.”

Some have said it is a lack of education. It is not. Our leaders are educated and they are the ones who send us to war.

Almost 7,000,000 Russians died in the “Great War.” The estimated total number of people killed is 20,000,000.

Yet we continue to glorify war and elevate our nation as if we have some God-given right to kill.

Here is one of many powerful statements Kurt Vonnegut made about war, “Perhaps when we remember war, we should take off our clothes and paint ourselves blue and go on all fours all day long and grunt like pigs. That would surely be more appropriate than noble oratory and shows of flags and well-oiled guns.”

There is no bogey-man onto which we can turn our hatred. There is no scapegoat to blame. The bogey-man is inside each of us.

It is called human nature.

And until we change the nature of humanity, nothing else will change.

THANK YOU, MICHELLE OBAMA

Photo is of Michelle Obama and her daughters in South Africa.

Thank you Michelle Obama for drawing our attention to the historical fact that the White House was built by slaves. This is something I never considered before. It is now an incredible picture that I will  forever hold in my mind.

I cannot even begin to imagine how amazing it must feel, as Michelle said, to wake up in the White House, every day with her daughters.

Smithsonian Magazine states that “ironically, the Statue of Freedom that sits atop the Capitol dome was made with the help of Philip Reid, a man enslaved by sculptor Thomas Crawford, who was commissioned to build the statue.”

That is irony, indeed.

We don’t know a lot about these slaves because they were not considered important. It is tragic to think that all these nameless and faceless people toiled to “make America great,” and no one will ever know their stories. I think about this in relation to women, too. Half the population of the world. Repressed and enslaved down through history. I often wonder what our world would look like if the ideas and innovations of women had been respected and encouraged. As an African American and a woman, with two daughters, Michelle Obama inspires me.

We constantly hear from naysayers that anyone still addressing the significance of slavery in the present day should just “get over it.”

That is shameful.

Fact is, the United States was built on not just slavery, but genocide. Having taught creative writing to youth in juvenile hall for years, I venture to say that slavery and genocide are still practiced in the United States. Every American with a desire to be honest has only to look at our prison system and see this to be true.

Germans and Jews talk about Hitler and the genocide. This is healthy. The death camps are open to the public. Monuments have been built so that it will NEVER BE FORGOTEN.

NEVER FORGET. That should be our firm resolve. As a child of ten, I walked through Dachau and will always be grateful to my parents for giving me such a profound experience. That hell is ineradicably fixed in my brain. I will never forget.

The stories of slavery, the stories of genocide…these are the stories we should tell our children so that they, in turn, can pass them down to their children, keeping the truth alive.

Having this history drawn to my attention by Michelle Obama gives me a new and more inspired perspective of an African American family waking up every day in the White House.

It is a story that should not be discussed with controversy. It should be celebrated and never be forgotten.

 

 

WHAT SAVES ME IN THESE TROUBLED TIMES

A BEAUTIFUL WORLD…AND A VIOLENT, FEARFUL HUMAN RACE

Here I am in this little Pueblo in Costa Rica, overlooking Lake Arenal. Book of Angels was just released, volume two in the Night Angels Chronicles, and I’m doing publicity. I have jumped into the infinity pool. Like Sera in the River Styx.

The cries of the suffering rise to heaven and I’m doing publicity.

Even as a child, I heard those cries. At night, I used to run to my dad’s study and plead with him to tell me why there was so much suffering in the world. But he could never give me a satisfying answer.

THE WORLD HASN’T GONE MAD, HUMANS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN MAD

The world isn’t mad. The world is just fine. Humans are mad and we always have been. Why is anyone surprised by what is happening in the world right now? Look at history! Look at the history of the human race FOREVER. It has been one act of madness after another.

The majority of people in the world! They suffer horribly and constantly, with little relief. If one child is blown up by a bomb; if one child is raped; if one child is told mercilessly, over and over for their entire childhood by a disturbed adult who also suffered horribly as a child, that they are worthless…that is one child too many and it can never be corrected.

We can’t make it better. There is no justice, only compensation.

BUT HOW ABOUT ALL THE INSPIRING STORIES OF SELFLESS ACTS OF COURAGE?

We love to hear inspiring stories of acts of courage. The problem is, in order for an act of courage to occur, something terrible needs to have happened. first We exalt people who perform courageous acts in war. But this is what I want to know: Why does a war have to happen, why does hell have to open on earth for us to start acting courageous? Why does someone have to be drowning so that someone else can save them?

Why does it have to be this way? Is it some kind of perverse spiritual law? Good and Evil, yin and yang must be balanced?

Action and reaction.

Something bad happens, therefor something good happens.

Lazarus died. Jesus took compassion and brought him back to life. How wonderful. But Lazarus died again, didn’t he? In fact, he had to go through the experience twice. Did he suffer again the second time? What was his second death like in comparison to the first?

I am most interested in how Lazarus felt about dying again. Was his fear of death worse or had it taken his fear away?

Because that’s what this is all about. The fear of death. The fear of the unknown.

FEAR OF THE APOCALYPSE

Christians talk about the apocalypse. It was a big topic in our family and in our church, one that struck hear into my heart. The elders claimed to be authorities on the apocalypse. Elaborate charts were made, based on in-depth studies of Revelations. The conclusions they reached came right from the mouth of God.

I have news for you. For the majority of people down through history, and for most people right now, they experience the apocalypse in their everyday lives.

Imagine telling someone in Dachau, “hey, no worries, the apocalypse hasn’t happened yet!”

Oh yes, it happened. It happened for the people in concentration camps; it happened in the trenches of WWI; it happened for those killed by Stalin.

It is happening in Syria, in Turkey, in Nigeria, in Lebanon.

For every police officer and every black man killed in the United States; for every child that is shot up in a school…they and their families have experienced the apocalypse.

It’s happening right now as I write. In Munich, shooters killing in a McDonald’s, and they say it’s happening in other locations in the city. If they turn out to be Terrorists, they are not afraid of death. I would like to learn more about this attitude towards death. Because, we are all going to die. They obviously have a different outlook towards what that means.

I’m trying to make sense of it. But really, how can I?

“Experts” analyze the “facts” and draw conclusions, even though they are just as disturbed as everyone else and just as influenced by their personal agendas. How quickly they are called upon and they gather around like vultures, feeding off the carcasses, because this their chance to make a splash in our media-driven society. Who wouldn’t want to rise above the masses, to make their life have a little more meaning by becoming the new pundit. Put a new spin on an old thought, so that people go, wow, this must be true. Get yourself on the hottest late night talk show and expound.

It’s the Hunger Games.

It’s the Roman Colosseum.

It’s American Football.

It’s the Nightly News.

SHADOW PUPPETS

Has anyone seen the movie, The Year of Living Dangerously? I watched those shadow puppets, mesmerized. It powerfully illustrates how blind we are, how we only understand the world through a “glass darkly.”

What then must we do? 

Life is suffering.

This modern-day obsession that we were born to be happy is a joke. What is that based on? Where is the proof? Show me. To believe this is an insult to every person who has grown up in pain and suffereing. It is an insult to every person who has grown up oppressed. I don’t think there are any children who when asked what they want to be when they grow up responds with: I want to be a murderer; I want to be a drug addict; I want to live in a ghetto and fear for my life; I want to be raped and tortured to death…. Every child wants the same things: a safe home; a family that loves them; food on the table; maybe even a story read to them at night. But most never know what any of that means.

I’m sorry, is that depressing?

TRAVELING INTO MOMENTS OF HAPPINESS

I don’t find it depressing. I find it to be liberating. It allows me to be honest. It means I’m not trying to fool myself out of desperation, or justify my elitist and separatists ideology.

If I can sit for a moment in peace.

If I can watch a sunset without distraction.

If I can find stillness  in the storm.

That moment is everything. It lives forever when I let it be. 

But the moment I start to think of that moment…it is gone. Another moment has taken its place. And then another. I can never capture a moment in time. I can only look back on it. But looking back is also another moment in my life.

MARTIAL ARTS TRAINING

I learned this in marital arts. I train to stay focused. To discipline my body and mind and to uplift my spirit. I train to feel, in each moment, that I am connected to the energy of the universe. It is my way of being. Everyone can find their own way.

TRAVELING

I travel for the same reason. To connect with life. I am free of possessions. I live simply and without constraints. In this, I have been fortunate. Most people don’t have such an opportunity.

MOMENTS PASS LIKE CLOUDS IN THE SKY

Each moment of pain or pleasure, joy or sadness, comes and then it is gone. They cannot be brought back. If I experience one moment of peace and joy, I am fortunate. I am blessed.

POWER CORRUPTS

Trump? Clinton? Do you really think anyone can reach that pinnacle of power without selling their souls to the highest bidder?

Imagine if we all shrugged and turned our backs on power. Imagine if everyone found beauty in small things.

When we pursue that path to the top, we are either destroyed by the journey or we slowly but surely compromise every bit of integrity we’ve ever had.

Of course, we tell ourselves that we haven’t. Humans are very good at telling ourselves stories and believing them with desperation.

At the end of the day. all the wealth and power won’t mean anything. We come into this world naked and we go out the same.

THE SECRETS TO THE ORIGINS OF LIFE

It is a mystery that I explore in the Night Angels Chronicles.

What if we could discover the Secrets to the Origins of Life? What if, by opening a book, we could gain the knowledge of God? What if we could answer the questions to the basic mysteries of life that, with all our supposed advancement, we are no closer to answering?

How Did We Get Here?

What Happens When We Die?

What IS Life??????

We see through a glass darkly, but then we shall see face to face.

Should humans, in our present state, know the answers to these questions?

How dangerous would that be?

But perhaps, knowing the answers, we would then rise to the highest level of consciousness. So, what is keeping this knowledge from us and why?

Isn’t this lack of knowledge and our obsession with knowing the root of all our fears?

What saves me in these troubled times?

Nothing, absolutely nothing, except my accpetance that I don’t have the answers.

Right now, I am going to sit on my balcony and watch the sunset. And let it be…..

My Guest Post for Author Christine Potter!

My Guest Post for Author Christine Potter!

I want to thank Christine for hosting me. This is my first experience writing a post in an exchange with another author and it was fun! Here is my post about how my traveling experiences inspired Book of Angels and the NIGHT ANGELS CHRONICLES, with photos and everything! The photo featured here is the seventh century Swiss castle I lived in as a child.

Book of Angels Released Today!

Book of Angels $4.99 @Evernight Teen

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All Sera ever wanted to do was to solve the mystery of her dad’s death and find out if the Night Angel, Peter, really loved her. Now, there are bigger issues at stake. After being saved from death by the Night Angels, Sera returns to Oak Haven to find her brother, Salem, has been saved by her nemesis, the sinister Los Angeles mayor-to-be, Fabian Gore. Sera and Salem meet again, in their hometown, as powerful denizens. And as enemies. Someone is channeling power to the Queen, imprisoned in St. Catherine’s Monastery. If she escapes, the Ancient Ones will rise up from their sarcophagi beneath churches throughout the word and wreak vengeance on denizens and humans alike.

To thwart the Queen, Sera has no choice but to form an uneasy alliance with Gore. Meanwhile, Sera’s power and her connection to the Key of Mystery is growing. Only she can open the Book of Angels. But whoever does that will become something that Sera never wants to be: the Seventh Angel. How can Sera solve her own problems when everyone else wants her to solve their problems as well?

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Book of Angels in an Editor’s Pick.

Excerpt:

The next thing I knew, I had leaped into the air, my mind on St. Catherine’s Monastery, and I found myself hurtling through the Passage, horribly aware of every atom in my body and the indomitable forces of the universe that were trying to pull me apart.

As if it were a part of my very being, I held myself together, “remembered myself,” and traveled through the Passage.

Within seconds I was floating down from the sky, surrounded by the immense, desolate beauty of what looked like a moonscape. Except that the moon shone brighter and bigger than I had ever seen. Behind me, sand stretched, wave upon wave of it, with not a hint of grass or trees, while in front rose a sheer cliff, taller than a skyscraper. The monastery seemed to grow out of the rock, so closely was it pressed against the cliff.

“All looks peaceful,” observed Peter.

“Maybe too peaceful,” said Blanca.

Together, we jumped over the fortress walls, landing in the empty courtyard. We entered the sixth century basilica. We walked from the vestibule into the ornate nave and down the aisle, toward the sanctuary. I gazed in awe at the ancient artifacts and the icons shining with gold.  Hundreds of lamps hung from the ceiling like glittering galaxies, bathing the vast room in an eerie light. Out of the shadows the figure of the Abbot appeared, wearing a long gray robe and a cylindrical, flat-topped hat. His long black hair was tied in a knot at the nape of his head, a frizzy beard spreading out from his face ling tangled wire. His large, hooked nose resembled a bird’s beak and his dark eyes burned uncannily from deep sockets.

He greeted us with a humble bow and wordlessly led us through a dark and narrow arched doorway, and into a small circular, windowless chamber, padding silently on bare feet. The chamber was empty except for one plain wooden table. On the table sat the black lacquered Life Box, looking just as insignificant as the Object Holder had when I had first seen it and fought over it with Salem. This box, though, was about twice the size of the one that had held the key. And whereas the Object Holder had a gold lock and a tiny gold key to open it, the Life Box had no key and no visible way to open it.

On either side of the table stood two impressive Bedouin warriors. Each had one hand resting on a curved scimitar and the other hold the hilt of a knife, tucked into a belt. Their faces were lined and weather-beaten and expressionless, as if carved from the rocks of the mountain. The desert surrounding the monastery was home to many Bedouin. They were devout Muslims with a long history of guarding the monastery. They had made a vow to guard the Life Box with their lives.

The Abbot motioned for the Bedouin to stand at ease.

Bowing low to us, the guards said in unison, “Assalamu Alaikum.” It meant, “peace be upon you.”

Along with Peter and Blanca, I responded, “Alaikum Assalamu.” This meant, “upon you be peace.”

Like everything else in my crazy life these days, I had no idea how I knew to say that, but I did.

The Abbot didn’t speak, just gestured for us to gather around the box.

“He has taken a vow of silence and hasn’t spoken in thirty years,” said Peter.

My attention was drawn to the box. I realized it vibrated and hummed in an almost undetectable manner. Only when I remained completely still and stared fixedly did I notice it.

“This is does without stopping, and just today it gained in force,” said one of the Bedouin.

Sure enough, as we watched, the box jumped slightly, shuddered, and jumped again before falling back into its continual vibration. It hummed a little louder now.

As I watched in fascination, I slowly became aware that the key around my neck was growing heavier and beginning to burn.

The box vibrated more violently and hummed louder. As it did, it rose into the air and hovered about two feet above the table. The vibrating and humming grew so loud, I thought the box might split apart.

The key was searing my skin and I yelled in pain. I tried to tear it off but it was stuck to my chest and my hand burned when I touched it. I felt the Queen’s presence, reaching out to me. It was pure evil and I felt attracted to it. I wanted to bow down and worship the Queen, give her the key. I became brutally aware of her perfections and my own failings. I loved the Queen! I despised and hated myself! Horrible thoughts rose in my mind, the impulse to do horrible things.

Blood was pouring from my eyes. Tears or something worse, I didn’t know.

“Take me away!” I cried out to the others. “She’s grabbing at me. Take me away. Please!”

The Bedouin had drawn their swords and whipped out their daggers, but there was nothing they could do except stand there, at the ready. Blanca and Peter had drawn their swords, too. They’d placed themselves as a shield between me and the box. The Abbot ran in front of us all and pushed Blanca and Peter back.

He turned to face the box, as if bracing himself against a great wind, and raised his hands to heaven to pray.

Peter and Blanca were then able to pull me out of the chamber. I don’t think I could have moved before the Abbot faced the box. As soon as we were back in the nave, I collapsed onto the ground, gasping great gulps of air, thankful to find the heat of the key subsiding. With a great cry, I tried to take it off, but it was stuck. Completely stuck now. To my skin.

“Fuck this key! Why am I cursed with it?”

My entire body was bathed in read sweat. I looked down at myself in horror. What had I become? What nightmare had I entered? I pushed back my hair and swallowed, my throat dry and constricted. I breathed in and out deeply.

“She’s getting stronger all the time. She’ll get out. Maybe soon. And I was going to help her!” I shuddered.

“But you didn’t,” said Peter.

“At least now we are sure she is still inside,” said Blanca.

“She won’t stay there.” I could see my fate as I had already seen it in my Turning, and it was clearer than ever. One day I would face the Queen.

And I would fail! How could I not when she was so easily able to deceive and confuse me?

One of the Bedouin exited the chamber. “The Abbot wants you to know he is now sure someone is channeling power to the Queen, but he cannot see who.”

“It’s just not possible,” said Blanca.

The Bedouin bowed respectfully. “I only tell you what the Abbot believes.”

“Thank you,” said Peter.

He bowed again and returned to the nave.

“He’s right,” I said, as we walked out of the sanctuary and into the vestibule. “She and her sons will kill me and take the key.”

“Coward!” Blanca kicked the church door open with her foot. “We might as well be protecting a pile of trash. If it weren’t for the key around your neck, I’d kill you myself.”

For the first time, Blanca’s words didn’t bother me. “You can call me what you want, I don’t care. But you better listen because she will escape and we won’t be able to stop her. We need to figure out what to do instead of arguing all the time.”

“Well said,” said Peter. “Let’s get back to the castle and tell the others.”

We were outside of the basilica now and we stood for a moment, surveying the courtyard, the full moon casting eerie shadows across the ground. I looked more carefully and saw that some of the shadows moved like living things.

“What’s that?” I asked.

Peter and Blanca looked up at the sky and I did the same. A gathering storm of wispy black tendrils snaked across the sky, mirroring the moving shadows on the ground.

“What the hell…” I said.

“Wind demons,” said Blanca.

I looked at Peter inquiringly. “Seventy-two demons were captured by King Solomon and then released by mistake. Up there you see maybe twenty of them.”

The Abbot and the Bedouin had joined us in the courtyard.

“We have never seen them here before,” said one of the Bedouin.

“And so many,” said Peter. He sighed. “I hate wind demons.”

The Abbot was motioning us to follow him. We hurried across the courtyard, which was now filled with a howling wind, the shadows of the wind demons slithering back and forth across the stones like snakes. A group of monks appeared, running in the opposite direction, heading for the church.

“They will pray,” yelled one of the Bedouin above the din.

This was not making me any happier. I had just escaped the clutches of the Queen and now I had to contend with wind demons? Was there no end to the problems I had to face in one day?

The Abbot led us into the Fatimid Mosque that stood across from the church. Standing on its own, opposite the gigantic bell tower was the minaret and we entered and climbed swiftly up the stairs. It was from this highest point that the muezzin sang across the desert, calling the followers of Islam to prayer, five times a day. We climbed out onto the little platform that ran around the top of the minaret, and from here, I felt the full force of the gale. The shadows screamed and I could see cavernous, greedy mouths appear and disappear as they whipped around the tower, creating a whirlpool of darkness. Only when I looked straight up could I see clear sky and stars. But that opening was growing narrower by the minute. All around was completely empty of light, as if the very sky itself had been sucked into a giant black hole of whirling mouths and tails, into which we, too, would be sucked if we tried to fly upwards.

Peter and Blanca unsheathed their swords and I did the same.

Peter pointed with his sword. “We must fly straight up. They don’t dare come to c close to the minaret.”

The Abbot nodded, making motions that we should hurry.

“Put your sword away,” Peter said.

I began to object, then obeyed. This didn’t seem like the time to argue.

He gripped my arm. “Listen carefully. Jump onto my back. Once we’ve achieved the Passage we’ll be safe. Until then, you must hold your breath–don’t breathe, understand? If you do, the shadows will enter and steal your soul.

I nodded, terrified.

I jumped onto his back and held on tightly.

The Abbot raised his arms, while the Bedouin brandished their swords at the swirling darkness. It seemed to abate a bit, and Peter and Blanca seized that moment to leap into the air. I breathed in deeply and held onto my breath.

All was chaos in the tunnel through the shadows, the terrible wind trying to push us back. down, a screaming noise, like a thousand pigs being gutted. Flying straight upwards, the two Night Angels fought the demons with their swords, slicing into the tendrils that tried to encircle them.

I was sure we had almost made it when I felt an icy tendril touch my leg. I almost opened my mouth to scream. As it was, I let go of Peter with one arm and tried to reach down to bat at the tendril. I felt myself slipping halfway down his back and scrambled to pull myself back up again.

I was falling!

The snaky thing had my ankle now. I tried to kick with my foot to shake it off, while struggling to get a better hold on Peter. I was growing weaker. I had to take a breath. My chest was exploding.

And then, the Passage was achieved and we were through. I pushed away from Peter with relief, feeling the now familiar force of my molecules trying to split apart and me holding them together as we rocketed through space and time, landing within seconds in the little garden of the castle.