This week, I would like to talk about my favorite instrument — the banjo. I’ve always loved the sound of bluegrass music, and I always listen for breaks with the banjo solos. Some tunes call for bands to play at blazing speeds. I like listening to them, but that’s not the kind of music I enjoy playing myself. I like some rhythm in my tunes, a little slower pace with syncopation — that’s my kind of music!
If you play the banjo, or just love the sound of it, Tom Adams is my hero. I absolutely love the way he plays. He also writes original tunes, and I liked so many of them that I got his whole book of tunes, with accompanying tablature. They’re better suited for intermediate to advanced banjo players ’cause they’re not easy, but I do love every tune! If you’re interested in learning more about Tom Adams, you can find him at www.AdamsCountyBanjo.com. I’m not promoting him, I’m just a fan!
Comedian Steve Martin also plays a mean banjo, and he is one of the guys who inspired me to learn. He plays fast, three-finger style too, but the last time I saw him, he played the clawhammer style. Clawhammer is okay, but for me, I prefer the sound of the three-finger style.
I still love my violin and playing Irish music on the fiddle, too. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough time to pursue music right now, because I am very involved in the marketing and publishing process of A Shadow Away, the first book of my “Alex Cort Adventures” series. In addition, I have just completed my second book, All Under Heaven, a time-traveling adventure in ancient China, with a sorcerer who controls mythical dragons and wants to force my hero, Alex, to find the enchanted cauldron of the First Emperor of China. It is now going to the copyeditor/proofreader and will be released in the fall of 2018. The third book, Secrets of the Crystal Skulls, a different take on the legend of Atlantis, is now entering the editing phase, so that it can be released in the spring of 2019. As wonderful as my stories are, there is always a bit of editing needed to make sure they are “perfect” for you to read and enjoy.
Again, all that editing and correcting and copyediting and proofreading takes time! And that’s why I don’t have time right now for my banjo, or anything else, really. If I play a little, then don’t get back for a while, I forget the progress I made and have to start all over again. That’s happened to me at least three times, and it’s very frustrating! I learned a beautiful boss nova tune on the guitar — and now it’s completely gone from my brain. Muscle memory is very interesting, because my fingers can remember parts of the tune even if I can’t. That’s why practice and repetition are so-o-o-o important!
Music is a part of my life, and always will be. It gives me joy, and a sense of accomplishment when I learn a new piece. I’m happy to say that while I will still be involved in my weekly blogs, writing articles, and doing radio interviews, I have scheduled time for my music in a way that I can still write my fourth book, The Black Horseman, set in Ireland, which will be released in the fall of 2019.
I hope you all enjoy music of some kind in your lives, too.
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This week I’d like to write first about TV shows that expand my imagination. Everyone benefits from new ideas, and writers thrive on inspiration. I especially enjoy science programs, because there is almost always something that triggers an idea for a plot or storyline.
One of my favorite TV shows is How the Universe Works. Scientists are making many discoveries that can add fuel to science fiction writers’ imaginations, because what we are discovering “out there” is often more strange and bizarre than the most vivid writer’s imagination. I also like Secrets of the Earth, because even our own world is far more active and volatile and less safe for many of us than we like to believe. From tornadoes to floods, from wild fires burning out of control to the latest volcanic eruption, the mostly safe world we knew before is starting to fight back.
National Geographic, NOVA, and the Science Channel all offer insights into this wonderful world we live in. When I see the beauty of nature and the abundance of myriad creatures that surround us, I realize how fragile the world is that has been created here.
Magazines offer a great deal of information I find interesting, too. I’ve always been fascinated by earlier cultures and civilizations, and Archaeology magazine delivers the latest discoveries and updated opinions about what transpired before our own civilization progressed, from hunter-gatherers to farmers, to the beginnings of our first cities.
Discover and Smithsonian magazines always have articles I find interesting in a social context, as well as nuggets of some new piece of information I can use to think about as a writer to further a story line or create another plot for a new adventure.
My oldest and dearest friends are the many books I’ve read over the years. Besides a love of art and music, I developed an early interest in science as well. I always loved adventure stories, and the magical fairytales collected by the Brothers Grimm. The books of Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series are very entertaining stories of mystery and archaeology, which have always appealed to me. Other favorites include books like The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra, and Steven Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.In Search of Schroedinger’sCat, by John Gribbin, afforded me an introduction into the strange and unpredictable world of quantum physics. So, you can see how I wove all the threads of what I learned over the years into my magical adventure series Alex Cort Adventures.
I believe research can be fun. If you are reading about something because it interests you, chances are it will be interesting to friends or your readers as well. At the very least, you will always have something new to talk about!
A number of movies have been inspiring and entertaining over the years as well. Who doesn’t love Star Wars and Indiana Jones. And now there is a new take on an older story, A Wrinkle in Time.
Tell me about your favorites — I’d love to know! Where do you get new story ideas?
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This week, I’d like to talk about the things I love most. The things that make me happy, and what I miss when there’s not enough time in the day to enjoy them.
I’ve always been an artist. I like working with my hands, so drawing came easily when I was still very young. I started out drawing rearing horses, because, like most young girls my age, I loved horses. We were lucky enough to live in the country outside San Diego, and my family always had a variety of pets: dogs, cats, rabbits for 4-H . . . even guinea pigs, and a white rat named Lightning. I just naturally came to love animals of all kinds, and that led to me wanting to draw them.
I started out with pencil sketches, then later charcoal drawings led to oil painting, and finally I discovered bronze sculpture. I always focused on animals as my subjects because of their sweet natures, and they were my friends. Living near the San Diego Zoo gave me the opportunity to study wild animals, and now I enjoy capturing their expressions in two-dimensional bas-relief sculptures. I did create a number of three-dimensional freestanding pieces, but I found it was their faces that interested me most.
At about that same time, I saw a TV program featuring Andrew Rodriguez. He is from New Mexico and created bas-relief images of Indian Spirits emerging from a flat background. His technique captured my attention, so I started experimenting with his style. I tried to make my images impressionistic, as his were, but I kept going back and adding more realism, until I developed my own style. It was an enjoyable journey of discovery!
The joy of playing music came to me later in life. I took piano lessons for seven years, and that gave me a good background for learning other instruments. I saw a video of a concert by Yanni called “Live at the Acropolis.” It changed my life. A woman in a red dress played her violin with so much joy and enthusiasm that I said to myself, “I want to do that!” I persuaded my husband that I really, really wanted to learn how to play like Karen Briggs, and he gave me a gift of a beautiful violin.
I started out learning to play Irish music, because that is one of my family’s histories. It is joyful music, and it’s a lot of fun to play with other people. I learned to play classical music because it is important to learn to play the violin correctly. There is a lot of technique involved, from holding the bow and violin properly, to learning how to play “up the neck.”
I always loved the sound of a banjo, and I just got it in my head that I wanted to learn to play the three-finger Earl Scruggs style. I think it was hearing Steve Martin play “Rocky Mountain Breakdown” that motivated me! I love that tune, and took some lessons to get started. I also love Bossa Nova, and when my husband got a guitar to accompany me, I “borrowed” it to teach myself that beautiful music with several instruction videos.
That’s all for now. See you next week!
Video: What Are Your Other Artistic Outlets?
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I’m changing topics this morning to share with you 12 funny error messages that were seen on Japanese computers a number of years ago. Some were written in Haiku, and they’re really pretty funny, unless, of course, it’s happening to you. Our computers are more reliable now, but these sayings still make me laugh!
Aren’t these better than less imaginative phrases like, “Your computer has performed an illegal operation”?
12 Funny Error Messages
1. Chaos reigns within. Reflect, repent, and reboot. Order shall return.
2. Program aborting. Close all that you have worked on. You ask far too much.
3. Windows NT crashed. I am the Blue Screen of Death. No one hears your screams.
4. Yesterday it worked…. Today, it is not working. Windows is like that.
5. Your file was so big. It might be very useful. But now it is gone.
6. Stay the patient course. Of little worth is your ire. The network is down.
7. A crash reduces your expensive computer to a simple stone.
8. Three things are certain: Death, taxes, and lost data. Guess which has occurred?
9. You step in the stream, but the water has moved on. This page is not here.
10. Out of memory. We wish to hold the whole sky. But we never will.
11. Having been erased, the document you’re seeking must now be retyped. (Not so funny!)
12. Screen. Mind. Both are blank.
These still make me laugh, and I’ve read them quite a few times. I hope you enjoy them, too.
Next week I will share books, magazines, and TV shows I find inspiring. Feel free to message me with those things that have inspired you!
Another hummingbird gets to live a long and happy life in gardens and at hummingbird feeders thanks to a neighbor who warned me another baby was trapped in an entranceway.
She helped me get the tallest ladder out of the garage, then held it while I climbed several steps higher than I ever want to go. The baby looked like it had been there a while, but still had enough energy to flutter against the glass ceiling trying to get out.
I climbed the last two steps — don’t do this at home unless you are very sure-footed or have someone to help with the ladder — and reached up to gently gather the little bird in my hands. As scared as it was, somehow hummingbirds know I am trying to help them. Sometimes it takes a while, but sooner or later, they flutter down to the ledge where I can reach them. One little guy clung desperately with his little toes, so I waited for him to relax then carefully lifted him off the ledge.
The tricky part is getting down off a tall ladder while holding a bird in your hands. I take my time and the hummingbirds stay still inside my cupped hands. They all seem to know they are being helped and don’t struggle at all. As I always do, I spoke to him softly, warning him (it looked like a boy) not to come close to houses anymore because they are dangerous. He, and all his relatives before him, watched me as I whispered to him. None of them show any fear, and one was so tired he stayed on my open hand quite a while before he caught his breath and took off. This one only took a few moments before it was ready to fly away home.
Hummingbirds are wonderful little birds. They have feelings and personality, as do all of the creatures in this world. I’m not even afraid of spiders anymore, unless they’re too big! Even they show fear, and I wonder, if they can be afraid, what other feelings might they possess? I must say one thing about a terrible picture I saw of a trapped monkey a couple of days ago. He had to bend down because his arms were tightly tied behind his back. That picture still haunts me, and I wonder how mankind can be so cruel.
I ask all of you to realize how close we are in many ways to the creatures who share this world. Please be kind.
If you have saved an animal in need of your help, please write me. I’d love to know your story, and if you choose, perhaps we could share it here in a future blog.
Thank you for joining me and reading my first blog. I’m looking forward to connecting with you and sharing our stories. In the future, I will discuss the process of everything it takes to write a magical adventure series, as well as other topics of interest.
I’d like for you to tell me your stories, too. Let’s start with an animal that means the most to you, like a favorite dog that’s your best friend, or a cat that sits in your lap and keeps you company. Perhaps a bird that is amazingly smart, or even a gerbil or hamster buddy. I’d love for you to tell me about them!
Now for my story about tiny, colorful birds that have always been special to me. A friend told me hummingbirds bring her good luck!
Hummingbirds have been coming into my life for many years. The first was a young bird whose mother built her nest too close to the walkway to my apartment. I could tell he was a boy because he just acted like one. He didn’t have any feathers yet. He was still covered with soft brown down when I first saw him, and I thought he needed help. Something I have learned is that parents keep an eye on their young even after they leave the nest, so it’s best to leave young birds alone. Anyway, in my zeal to help this little one, who would probably have been fine without me, I took him home and put him on a pocket of Kleenex in a small cup.
Every two hours, I mixed honey into some water and fed him with an eyedropper. I took him to work with me, put him in his new nest on top of a cabinet and fed him on schedule. The first days, I’d fill his craw with honey water, but he soon got the hang of it and drank on his own. After a while, he recognized me, and would stand up on his little legs and stretch out his neck for a meal. I held the eyedropper for him to suck out the nectar with his tongue.
He was doing well, and when his iridescent green feathers started coming in, I wondered how I was going to teach him to fly. His story was short, though, because I thought he’d like some sun, and one weekend I left him on the windowsill too long. I thought I was being kind, but I was wrong. His trust in me made the hurt even stronger, but he did teach me to be more careful with other birds and creatures who have come to me for help over the years.
The amazing thing about hummingbirds is they are fearless. If I get too close to their favorite flowers in my garden, they will dive-bomb me, whirring their wings in warning. Sometimes, one will fly right up, face me straight on, and look me in the eye, as though trying to figure out what kind of strange bird I am. Once a hummingbird flew up to greet me, as though it recognized me. I’m sure it was one of the little ones I saved before. Nearly every year, some young one will fly into our glass-covered entryway. When they are trapped against the slanted ceiling, I get out my tall stepladder and climb up to where I can reach them if they come down to my level. The amazing little birds will actually flutter to the lower edge of the glass, perch on the ledge, and wait for me (more or less) to cup them in my hands.
After I make my way down the ladder, I walk with them to the center of our cul de sac and softly warn them to stay away from buildings because they are dangerous. They aren’t afraid of me. They watch me talking to them, and they actually seem to be listening to my words. I feel so close to these trusting little creatures. Their trust warms my heart. When I open my hands, they usually sit for a moment if they’re tired, then take off fast, making a beeline for home.
Someone told me that when a person is curious, consistent, non-threatening, and patient enough, the usual boundaries between species can be erased. I believe this completely and have proven it to myself again and again. Try it, if you like. You will receive much more than you give.