Posts Tagged ‘becoming layla’


Dark Climbing

on October 31, 2011 in Misc 2 Comments »

You know you’re desperate for any action hero silliness when a shoe on the roof of your condo building’s garage strikes you as an opportunity.

As you know, I live in a lovely old 1939 building with a long garage in the rear, and you know that I’ve climbed up onto the garage roof in the dark.

(Doing it in the day doesn’t work because 1) sensible people, such as the building manager, might ask what the hell you’re doing up there; 2) climbing up in the daylight is no challenge; and 3) Layla climbs trees and buildings in the dark so that’s what I have to do.)  Anyway, in the last week or two someone tossed an old shoe up there.  It’s on the east side of the garage roof and near the tree — my favorite means of ascent.  (At the other end are power lines way too close to the roof for my comfort.)

Yesterday I figured that old shoe would look better on the roof or an eave of the least popular neighbors in my neighborhood:  the ones who live in the party house.  In fact, super gluing that shoe to their house would be rather appropriate since on Saturday they had yet another party that woke me up at 3:00 a.m.

So last night near midnight I went out a couple times and climbed the tree beside the garage.  I had to do it a couple times because the first time I got up there I didn’t have a flashlight and couldn’t see the shoe.  So I got my tiny, very bright LED flashlight, went back out and again climbed up to the roof’s edge, only to realize that the shoe was farther out on the roof than I’d thought, and yes I could get to it but not without making a hell of a lot of noise.

You see, the leaves and vines and branches on that side of the garage are still so freaking CRUNCHY!

I thought the snow we’d had, which has already melted, would soften all the vegetation, but nope, it’s SUPER CRISPY and VERY NOISY yet again.  This is why climbing up there in other seasons is easier.  You may also recall that in my neighborhood PEOPLE NEVER SEEM TO SLEEP!  There’s always someone out walking a dog or jogging or whatever, and porch lights are burning brightly, hence practicing secret climbing can be a challenge.

And that’s when I remembered, as I stood straddle-legged on two branches of the tree, that Monday was Halloween.  People would be going up and down the sidewalk only a few yards away, and making noise, and crunching through the leaves, and if someone is climbing up a tree to a roof, they won’t pay much mind ’cause folks are out having weird fun.  I’ve never done a Layla stunt under such bustling social circumstances, have I?

So guess what I’ll be doing tonight for Halloween.  Then again, it should only take a few minutes, which will leave me plenty of time to go out and see all the decorations and pumpkins and trick or treaters.  And those little kids will be a great cover for me as I wander over to the partying neighbor’s house.

Have a spooky one.

I’m happy to announce that today (Thursday) I’m a guest over on writer Hart Johnson’s sassy blog, CONFESSIONS OF A WATERY TART.  Please check me out at this link, and while you’re at it say hello to the gloriously irreverent Hart.

http://waterytart23.blogspot.com/

Meanwhile, Amazon has STILL not posted the first chapter of The Compass Master on its page, and they have STILL not responded to my queries about it (“We will reply to your email within 12 hours.”  Liars).  So or your entertainment I’m posting here the first part of the first chapter.

Have a wonderful day.

Chapter 1

The guards appeared like dark threats in the empty landscape. There were five of them, and all were slouching in boredom and fiddling with their Kalashnikovs, and none wore distinguishing uniforms but instead the kind of black leather jackets favored by Serbian tough guys. They were blocking a road that split off from the two-lane highway and led around a hill to an unseen Serbian town—an enemy’s legally separate enclave in predominantly Muslim-Croat Bosnia. It didn’t matter that the war had been over for years. Because bad memories never die, the men stood armed and ready in the mid­dle of nowhere.

Layla Daltry knew they might give her trouble. Might force her to stop by stringing themselves across the road. Might swagger over to her slowing car and shove the barrels of their guns up against its windows, and shout at her in a language she didn’t understand. She was driving on the Bosnian side of the border, but hers was the only car on the highway. No one else was around to prevent the guards from doing whatever they wanted.

There was only one thing she could do to escape them. She slammed her foot on the gas pedal, which made the little rented Yugo give a heave and a jerk. Lord, how she hated Yugos! Worst gears in the world. But in seconds the car was ripping down the asphalt like a screaming demon. The guards turned in her direction and one held up his hand and another his gun. That was when she performed her oldie but goodie, dazzle ‘em with fun and sex. She tossed her head so that her hair fell playfully across one eye, teasingly unbuttoned her shirt halfway down, and flashed a crooked, naughty smile. The guards gawked in surprise. Before they could move her car zipped past them. In the rearview mirror she saw them laughing and waving at her while one hooted a catcall.

“Talk about being dangerously bored,” Layla whispered. At least those men were the last trap she had to negotiate—she hoped.

Long minutes dragged by before traffic appeared on the road ahead. Like an animal seeking shelter in a herd, she steered into the thick of it until her nondescript car became invisible amid the sleek Mercedes, old junk heaps, and smoking trucks. A few miles later she murmured, “It’s just around the corner.” She took the last long curve of asphalt with reckless speed and didn’t slow down even when she saw it: her sanctuary, Sarajevo…

Today I’m singing my gratitude to, among others, the proudly naked Hart Johnson, the literary force to be reckoned with behind the very successful blog, Confessions of a Watery Tart. (She’s the tart.)

Yesterday (Sunday) Hart devoted her blog posting to yours truly and the release of  The Compass Master.  I was touched, I was thrilled, and I was embarrassed to realize that I’d spaced out the part in her email to me where she said she would write about TCM in her Sunday and Thursday postings.  I kinda misunderstood and thought she was giving me a choice so I chose Thursday.  But in fact she was giving me both days.  Anyway late yesterday afternoon I thought I’d stop by her blog, and lo and behold there was my name and book in large print!

Here’ the proof:  (Scroll down to Sunday after reading today’s moving post)

http://waterytart23.blogspot.com/

She also made me sound like someone impressive (lol) who’s been working like crazy on my Layla plan.  But the reality is, between finishing, publishing, and now trying to promote TCM, plus my full-time job and life in general, I’ve barely had time for the last month or two to devote myself to it as much as I should.  And as much as I want to.  I mean, I really NEED to start having some fun again.  But I can do without the sometimes physical pain.

Speaking of that plan, I am overdue in giving Robert Read a big hug and thanks for writing the first review for TCM on Amazon.  Like Hart, I met Robert in cyberspace, in his case when he started leaving comments on this blog.  And I mean they are always intelligent, well-written comments because he’s the kind of man who clearly knows what he’s talking about, whether it’s weight-lifting or poker or you name it, and he doesn’t let me get away with hot air, which I can be full of when I get lazy.  He also kindly volunteered to read a draft of TCM, and his critiques were so sharp and insightful I of course followed them closely as I rewrote the weak passages and elements he pointed out.  He definitely made my book better.  Thank you, Robert.   (And here’s an illustration of my image of you.)

Another person I’m singling out today is Ciara Knight, who’s an all-around generous and supportive person and a newly published writer.  You can find her at her blog of the same name, http://www.ciaraknight.com/, which as the cool subtitle of “Writing to the Edge of Darkness.”  I downloaded her ebook, Love’s Long Shadow from Amazon, and as soon as I find some FREAKING TIME this week I’m gonna relax and enjoy and read it.

Also, here’s a shout out and thanks to my cyber pal Ben Schmitt, a fellow writer, a very smart guy, a devotee of the martial arts, a crazy busy student and worker, and future great novelist and filmmaker.

To you all and more, I love ya.

Today I’m just catching y’all up on some Layla training and writing stuff, to whit…

MYOPATTERNING:  Also called floor barre pilates.  I had my third class on Saturday and I can already see the difference in my body.  I mean… dang!  This stuff really works in terms of shaping the body by exercising little muscles along with the big ones while simultaneously stretching them.  My various parts do seem a little leaner and curvier, and, all practical aspects of getting in better shape aside, looking good is important for us action heroes.  So far I’ve had the classes from two of the female instructors, who are both very slim yet freakishly strong.  Another thing – the class is 90 minutes long but both instructors like to run over the time period, which means an hour and forty-five minutes of working out on a straps-and-springs machine that could pass for a torture rack.  Whoopee.

LOCKPICKING:  I am so not happy to find out that my skills have slid backwards.   I figured that once I got the basics down they’d stay with me, but apparently not. It’s been only two or three months since I did some serious picking, and I’ve definitely lost some of the feel and speed.  Thus I gotta make it a habit to pick more often.  I’ve also got to send in for a couple more finer and stronger torques and look into learning about lock bumping.

POST-PUBLISHING EMOTIONAL STATE:   Oh lordy, I am so all over the place.   One minute I’m elated at the slightest hint of a compliment from anyone for The Compass Master, and the next I’m spiraling down into a pitch-black brooding depression.  One minute I’m glad and relieved and proud of myself for my self-publishing effort, the next I’m plagued with doubts and swear I should have slogged along the traditional route, never mind that at one point I had an agent and TCM came heart-breakingly close to being picked up by a publisher.

Which is why I enjoyed a recent piece in the New York Times by an author who gloomily summarized her literary efforts:

“The life of a printed book goes something like this: bookstores, Amazon bargains, used bookstores, free bookshelves, landfills. And then, someday, we all die.”

Ain’t that cheerful?  And she was published by one of the big houses.  So let this be a lesson to all us writers:  publishing is not for wusses.  Doesn’t matter if you go self-pub or traditional pub.  You must have heart and soul and tough-as-nails literary gonads to put your stuff out there.  And you might as well try to enjoy the process and dance and celebrate because in the end… in the end…

Oh, hell!  Now I’m depressed again.

At long last, after countless months and years and what seemed an eternity to me, THE COMPASS MASTER IS FINALLY IN PRINT!

Pause for me to breathe a weary sigh and lift a glass of champagne in celebration.

And for your entertainment and enlightenment, here’s the blurb as it appears on the back.

In this masterpiece of suspenseful storytelling…

Museums and wealthy private collectors of antiquities turn to Layla Daltry when their more respectable sources fail. As a scholar of ancient manuscripts, she knows what to look for. But as a romantic idealist and thrill-seeker, she takes too many risks and balances on the edge of the law.

Yet even Daltry isn’t prepared for the deadly endgame that’s set in motion when her mentor dies. She learns too late that the professor had been secretly following an ancient trail of codes and ciphers that lead to hidden letters capable of changing history.

Now an unseen enemy determined to destroy the letters has stolen the professor’s final clues and is shadowing Layla. With her life in the balance, she must race across Europe and find the hiding place. The only expert who can help her is former lover Zach Sandoval – a man who betrayed her once before. Together they discover that the professor and the enemy had, years earlier, chosen them to be both players and rivals in a lightning-paced hunt that is now spiraling out of control into a contest of intrigue, treachery, and lethal mystery.

OMG, my fat manuscript is FINALLY now a fat book.   523 pages!  What was I thinking?  But hey, there are 100 chapters, most of them short, along with  a short epilogue so there’s a fair amount of blank space.  There’s also lots of action ’cause this is a thriller and the story moves quickly, as I’ve been told by my readers/friends who poured over my story looking for literary problems and hiccups and burps.   I rewrote and polished this baby until it now shines like the sun on a hot summer day.

I am so proud of it.

And it’s available on Amazon.com and I’m so sorry it costs $16 and Amazon isn’t giving my book a discount price just yet.   BUT the Kindle/ebook version should be available within the next couple weeks at the much lower sum of $3.99.   Such a bargain for a fat, brilliant book.

Here’s the link, if you wanna just take a look…

http://www.amazon.com/Compass-Master-Helena-Soister/dp/061546162X/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1318347579&sr=1-4

Now I’ve got to arrange for Amazon to have the first couple chapters available to read for free and get some links on the page to advertise it and I’ve got to start promoting it…

But for right now I want to thank my reader/fellow writer Robert Read for giving The Compass Master its first glowing review.  I’ve been promised lots more glowing reviews by friends and a couple family members who are still reading the thing and are unfortunately so honest they don’t want to review it until they’ve finished, even though they really, really like the book so far and would it hurt them to, like, post a good review NOW?

Do I sound  anxious and insecure?  Oh please — show me a writer who’s all confidence and calm at a book’s release and I’ll show you an alien yeti.

I also want to thank you and hug and kiss you, my lovely blog readers, for hanging in there with me and giving me encouragement on days when, maybe unbeknownst to you, I really was down in the dumps and needed a friendly cyber pat on the back.

Love you all.

First of all, I failed to show you the rest of the photos for my “When It’s Okay to Use the *F* Word” posting. One is above, and the rest are below.

Second of all, and far more important, Ciara Knight’s book Love’s Long Shadow – Battle for Souls was published yesterday!  (Pause to shout Huzzah!  Hurray!)  It’s in e-book format and available at Turquoise Morning Press, Amazon Kindle, Smashwords, Bookstrand, and All Romance Ebooks/OmniLit.  For more on Ciara’s fabulousness, check out her Writing to the Edge of Darkness blog at http://www.ciaraknight.com/

I hope that Ciara doesn’t mind that in the interest of promotion I lifted the cover and blurb from her website:

Sammy Lorre was cast from Heaven for conduct unbecoming an angel. Living in a demon-infested small town with no memory of her previous life, she faces never-ending purgatory until Boon saunters into her life with a promise of angelic love. But is he an angel from Heaven or a minion from the underworld preying on her human emotions? To discover his true identity, she must risk eternal damnation and her heart.

Personally, there’s no way I can resist reading this story.

Now, as for me and on a much less celestial level…

This was me late Saturday morning… OMG MY CALVES AND BUTT ARE BURNING!!!

Strictly speaking, it was the back upper top of my hips and just at the bottom of my spine that was on fire.  Right along the lowest part of my back that had been hurting me but which the sports therapist fixed last week, along with my left leg (see my last posting).  Anyway, the therapist had recommended a friend’s workout class in myopatterning because, she said, it would stretch and loosen the little obscure muscles and tendons in me that had tightened up after years of bad walking habits.  The place’s website says that myopatterning is “a Pilates-based system designed to increase strength and flexibility while reducing risk of injury.”  What I found was that it calls for working out on a flat machine and using pulleys and straps and do-dads to pull and push my muscles and limbs in directions that nature never intended.

So on Saturday morning there were about ten of us pulling and pushing away (including two women who kept yapping through class and wouldn’t SHUT UP!), and I definitely felt a few muscles I never knew I had.  I’m also happy to say that afterward the instructor told me I was very limber and strong. My Layla workouts have been paying off!

Happily too, the first class for me was free. And at $46 a month for one class a week, I should be able to keep going.  What surprised me was how the exercises not only stretched me out but really worked my different muscle groups.  Only when I was walking away did I realize that parts of me were hot and Jello-y.  I mean, I didn’t even work up a bead of sweat during class.  Then on Sunday it was my quads’ turn to ache.  And, of course, where the sports therapist rubbed me down still feels bruised, but I don’t mind because… THE BACK PAIN AND THE PAINFUL TWINGE IN MY THIGH TENDON ARE GONE AND I’M STRETCHING MORE EASILY ALREADY!

And this means I’m beginning to feel more like Layla again and less like a beat-up old lady.

Walking Upright

on September 30, 2011 in Misc 4 Comments »

My left thigh feels like someone took a bat to it.

My left hip and lower back on my left side feel bruised too.  But the most painful, tender part is the top and back of my left thigh.

Did I have an injury, you wonder?  Did I foolishly overwork myself in a burst of frenzied exercise?

Nope.  Yesterday morning my left leg and lower back got worked over by the toughest sports massage therapist in the Rocky Mountain region.  At least that’s my opinion of her.  She’s also a serious hiker, a shaman trained by shamans in Peru (I am not making this up), and the spiritual guide to more than a few CEO’s in both Colorado and southern California.

For almost two hours, this woman dug – and I mean DUG – with ferociously strong fingers, hands, and elbows into the body parts I described above.  That’s because I told her what had been bugging me and within seconds of touching my said parts she diagnosed what ailed me.

See, off and on for a couple months now my lower back has ached when I walk for more than about ten minutes.  And I have a strong back and abs, so this didn’t make sense.  And ‘course you know how I’ve written here that stretching and getting very limber has been part of my Layla routine.  Well, after making some good progress for a while, I started regressing.  For the last couple months just sitting cross-legged kinda hurt.  A tendon in my upper left thigh would twinge painfully with nearly any kind of outward movements.  Anyway, these and a couple other really bothering symptoms made me figure that for all my stretching there were some bunched-up, tight muscles in me that were holding me back and making me hurt.

Turns out I was right.  And finding this out  made me feel better about spending $120 I could ill afford and for which I won’t be reimbursed by my health insurance.  But dang, this sport therapist/shaman was worth it!  She described the little muscles in my thigh and butt that were drum tight even as she pressed down mercilessly and rubbed and pushed while I tried not to gasp and squeak and squirm in agony.

Oh, and about my tendons in that area – they were rock hard, she explained, which isn’t good because they should be supple.  But my muscles’ tightness and other factors had cut off circulation to the tendons, rendering them rigid which can create all kind of problems.  And this tendon that was over here was supposed to be over there, and she had to push it back into place, and gosh darn wasn’t that an interesting sensation.

But here’s the real revelation:  you know why I had this leg/ hip/ back problem to begin with?  Why I’ve always been tight in certain places and no amount of stretching would loosen me up?   BECAUSE I DON’T WALK CORRECTLY!

That’s right, folks.  Despite my self-image of having good posture and being fairly athletic, the way my left foot rolls outward and a couple other details about my gait (she had me walk back and forth in front of her) have screwed up my body.  And the frustrating thing is, I’VE BEEN WALKING LIKE THIS SINCE I WAS A KID!  I know this because even when I was very young the heels of my shoes would always wear down on the outside, especially on the left.  Sound harmless to you?  Well, it’s NOT!

And I know this therapist is right because already my hips and leg, despite the bruising pain she inflicted on me, feel looser and better and that sharp tendon twinge is gone.  I’m also relieved to learn that there’s a medical, logical reason behind my body’s inability to truly stretch in a few specific positions.  Now I might finally make some progress.

All I have to do is break a life-long bad habit and learn to walk properly and get into the particular stretching classes she strongly recommended and which are run by a guy who’ll be able to tell me when I’m screwing up my body parts.  That’s all.

Piece of cake.

Okay, so now I have to educate myself on how to upload the digital version of The Compass Master to Amazon, even though this e-version isn’t finished yet, or I can choose to let the CreateSpace people do it for me.

Decisions, decisions!

Meanwhile I gotta post something here, but it’s not like I’ve got time to write anything.  So today I’m just gonna give you some reasons why, as a writer, you may find justification for using the F word in your description of a scene.

Also, these photos really eat memory, so I’m posting only a few today and more tomorrow.

Hope you enjoy them.  Or maybe wince or cringe.

WHEN IT’S OKAY TO USE THE * F *  WORD…..

Add an Image

This last one really is so very, very gross.  Oh, F*****!

A Morbid Confession

on September 23, 2011 in Misc 6 Comments »

They say that the wages of sin is death.  But after taxes its just a tired feeling – Woody Allen

So today I’m making a couple small confessions.

The first one is a little embarrassing because what I have to admit is that… (pause to clear throat)… I LOVE GHOST STORIES SO MUCH AND I REALLY WANT TO GO GHOSTHUNTING!

There, I said it.  But before you dismiss me as a flake and nut job I have to tell you that I just found out how bestselling, serious literary writer Jodi Picoult has done some serious ghosthunting.  In fact, she’s been one of the Ghosthunters with those two guys on the sci fi channel show.  She just hasn’t done any of the hunting on camera, but she thanks them in the acknowledgments of one of her novels, and I read about her ghosthunting adventures in the book Seeking Spirits, which the two guys wrote.  So there!  My ghostly urge has got literary creds!

Anyway, in Seeking Spirits the guys write that sometimes a ghost (or soul or spirit or energy or whatever you want to call it) might be hanging around because of unfinished business.  This is also what I’ve heard from my Irish mother and a sprinkling of my gobs of Irish relatives.  “Never leave unfinished business on this earth or you’ll have to come back to finish it,” they warn.  A variation of this is not fulfilling a promise or not doing the good deed you should’ve done.  Then they finish with a story (and the Irish are masters at storytelling) that they swear is true and that can make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.  I LOVE that tingling excitement!

Anyway, all this stuff about ghosts floating around and bothering people because of unfinished business such as say, dead writers wailing like banshees over how they never got their novels published, leads me to my second confession, which is…

I’m hurrying up and self-publishing my novels because I just want those blasted, glorious, imperfect, pain-in-the-butt offspring of my imagination in print before I die.  If a publisher ends up liking them and wants to publish them too, fine.  Meanwhile, these babies are turning into real books  while I’m still this side of the grave.

Sounds kinda morbid, doesn’t it?  But it’s the truth.  I mean, a few years ago one of my cousins dropped dead of a sudden massive heart attack.  He was in his 50s.  Another cousin died very young from cancer.  Car accidents happen.  Shit happens.  I myself have no illusions of being immortal.  Meanwhile my unpublished novels are sitting in a computer and in manuscripts on my desk.

For whatever macabre reason I have long borne in mind the fate of John Kennedy Toole (note the Irish name).  He tried to get his novel A Confederacy of Dunces published but it was rejected.  The poor guy gave up the ghost and killed himself, whereupon his mother took up his cause and endured SEVEN YEARS of rejections from publishers.  Then she showed it to legendary American writer Walker Percy, who fell in love with it and got it published by a small university press.

A Confederacy of Dunces became a bestseller and won the Pulitzer.

And you just know that poor Toole was floating ghost-like around that Pulitzer award and mounting royalties and glowing reviews and saying, “Oh, crap!”

So there you have it.  A morbid Irish fatalism is one of the reasons I’m publishing my novels myself.  And believe it or not, my decision has given me some peace of mind.

Almost a Gambler

on September 20, 2011 in Misc 6 Comments »

First of all, my apologies to any of you who stopped by yesterday only to be greeted by a page that said “Account Suspended.”  In my non-cyber life I am very, very good about paying my bills.  However, when it comes to this blog I can kinda space out when an annual payment is due…. Oops.  Sorry about that.

Anyway, you know what Layla/ action hero stuff I was finally ready to do this last weekend?  I was going to go gambling.  As in head for a local casino in the foothills outside Denver where I can lay down cold hard cash and play games of Texas hold ‘em.  Which by the way I’ve never played with anyone and never for cash, but hey, gotta start some time, right?

If I’m sounding less than wildly enthusiastic about this, there’s a reason:  I’m just not a gambler by nature.  I mean, I LOVE adventure and excitement and lots of physical risks and thrills and spills, at least the kind that don’t inflict physical pain and injuries.  But gambling?  Nope, doesn’t do a thing for me.

Of course I’ve been in a casino at least once where I played a couple slot machines (nickel level only) and came out two dollars ahead.  My reaction was a sarcastic Whoop-de-Doo.  I mean, risking bodily harm or even death can be fun.  But risking my money?  That’s what small cap funds are for, and even those I stay away from.

The problem is action heroes are often whizzes in any casino.  They walk in like winners and walk out with money stuck to them like lint.  In Casino Royale M even assigns James Bond the official task of winning over $100 million dollars from the bad guy in, like, the most exclusive card game in the most exclusive casino in the world.  Guess what happens – HE WINS! (Shocker, I know.)

But here’s a reality factoid:  In Ian Fleming’s original Casino Royale novel, which was the first in his Bond series, even a swank gambling joint is a weary, grim place.  “The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning.”

Or at three in the afternoon, I might add.

Still, Layla/ action hero duty calls, and I really did have the firm intention this last weekend of dragging my reluctant backside to said casino.  I was even kinda looking forward to it, which gives you an idea of how bored outta my mind I’ve been from too much work, both the paying kind and the writing kind.

But on Saturday the weather was crappy and I had chores to do, so I figured I’d go Sunday.  Then Sunday rolls around and a few REALLY CRAPPY THINGS happen and it was like, okay, my day is shot to hell.  I’d rather be up in the hills losing my hard-earned money.

So now it’s Tuesday and I’m at work.  But one of these upcoming weekends I really will go to a casino, where I intend to win lots of money.  Because action heroes never lose and because I really, really need the cash.