Closer to the Spirit

Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

Review of AINSWORTH by Anthea Carson

AINSWORTH is a gem of a story. Carson writes with emotional honesty and such a fine sense of detail that one wonders why she is not a better known author. Janey-Lou, eight years old and the scapegoat of older siblings, tells the story of family secrets that are unearthed during a summer her family spends at the farmhouse of her aunt, uncle, and cousins in the prairie of Nebraska.

The story begins: “The same wind that blew dirt in my eyes blew over Claude’s gave, over all their graves, over the plains of Nebraska, over that flat bed hay hauler where I sat now sweltering in the afternoon. The hot wind moaned and howled. The corn fields bent. The giant elms bowed in its path. Everyone in my family agreed that wind was the worst kind of weather. I might pick wind as my favorite, just to be different.”

Janey-Lou’s voice drew me right in from this beginning and kept me engaged during the whole book. The characters are intensely real: the brainy and dominant brother Daniel, cousin “Scram,” the only other girl who mentors Janey-Lou in how to control both wayward horses and brothers, though she ultimately sides with the boys, and Aunt Pearl who scolds and fusses, impatient with the children, but who seems to be more wind than fury.

The children explore the abandoned house of their great-grandparents, defying their parents warnings to never set foot in the place because of the dangers inherent in its dilapidated state. But it beckons the children nonetheless. Objects are unearthed that tie their family to the mystery surrounding the death of a great uncle, his fascination and connection to the Sioux culture, and a direct link to the massacre at Wounded Knee. Janey-Lou is forced to undergo a trial by terror by the other children which finally uncovers the ghost the family has lived with for a hundred years.

I wondered about the feat the children accomplished in the final pages. Would it be possible? But what they find is harrowing, especially in the light of Janey-Lou’s innocence.

Carson, the author of the OSHKOSH TRILOGY and the intense psychological thriller The DARK LAKE, writes with aching beauty in this book. This is a novel with such a strong sense of character and place that it will stay with you for some time.

The Secrets of the Odyssey (3)

Alethea Eason:

This is a soul opener.

Originally posted on symbolreader:

According to a well-known saying by Whitehead, all Western philosophy is a footnote to Plato. Philosophy may have begun with Plato but storytelling and literature began with minstrel poets such as Homer. Our cultural womb and cradle is ancient Greece; rereading the Odyssey and marveling at its psychological depth left me with no doubt about that. The world of the Odyssey is imbued with the presence of gods and goddesses. You may be familiar with James Hillman’s notion that in our times gods have been replaced with symptoms with some dire consequences for our collective and individual psyches. Reading myths helps us keep in touch with the divine realm and our own divine essence, hence my little project with the Odyssey. Tracing Hillman’s thought, it is true that we can say that Odysseus is depressed on the island of Calypso, but how much more fascinating and non-pathologizing is to…

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Interview with Roland Clarke, Author of Spiral of Hooves

19345344Roland Clarke is the author of the thriller SPIIRAL OF HOOVES, a taut novel about murder and deception in the high stakes horse world of European eventing, also known as horse trials.

Thank you for coming to The Heron’s Path. You were an equine journalist and a photographer. You must have made many connections with both breeders and riders. In the real world of eventing, are the stakes as high as portrayed in SPIRAL OF HOOVES?

Although I was never aware of any murders, the stakes were high in the sense of personal commitments. As Carly Tanner’s lifestyle shows, making a success of a career in horses makes a lot of demands on one’s life. For all the professional riders it is a job with more painful downs than exhilarating ups, and the sport is a high risk activity in which there are injuries. And as Carly says a few riders have been killed while competing. I saw relationships being tested, broken and re-built. Partners changed and for observers there was little warning, just subtle signs hiding behind a public facade. Yet the community is very friendly and close knit. 1,767 people expressing their condolences at the death of an Italian rider’s star horse in 20 hours on Facebook is testament to the depth of feeling. Finally, there may be far less money involved than in the racing world but I know of horses being taken, doped and abused. There is plenty of motivation for a murder, or worse.

I was fascinated with the relationship of Carly, the expert rider, with the breeders who owned the horses she rode. Carly was not only a rider but also had a highly trained science background. Is this typical?

The background of riders varies a great deal, from those with nine-to-five office jobs to those who have a University level education, be it in equine science like Carly or as veterinary surgeons. I even interviewed one rider who was part of an exclusive armed response police unit – remember our police are normally unarmed. Some riders are even members of the armed services; not surprising when eventing has its roots in the military as a challenge for cavalry officers. It is even called the Military in some European countries. Carly’s science background is closely based on the advanced education of a rider friend, who went to an agricultural college that I knew well. Quite a few English agricultural colleges have equine courses, and one, Hartpury College, has been running International Horse Trials for many years. When Carly says, “…I was in the Young Rider team at the Europeans,” I had in mind the Europeans at Hartpury, which I covered for an internet site.

Are breeding operations all controlled by corporations or are there private people who are able to compete?

Unlike racing, the small private operations are at the forefront. There are some notable studs with a handful of well-bred stallions, a few dozen mares, and they breed both their own foals and supply stud services to owners of single mares upwards. Many of the Olympic horses can trace their bloodlines to these studs. I also know of successful family operations, including one rider that bred ten intermediate and advanced horses from her star mare. For ten years I ran the South East Eventers League and we always gave a prize for the season’s Leading Mare – in the SE – and that was sponsored over the years by various prestigious sport horse studs. They were professional operations but never corporations. In each case, the owners were approachable and familiar figures on the eventing circuit.

The competing horses in the book are the results of highly selective breeding. Also, they are fed a highly modified diet of GMO enhanced food that seems to affect their performance as well as genetically altering the potentials of their future offspring. Can you talk about the role of bio-engineer in the world of horse breeding and nutrition?

Selective breeding is part of the eventing world, with the program at most events carrying details of a horse’s sire and dam – stallion and mare. Some stallions and stud prefixes appear repeatedly demonstrating their success and popularity. When I was involved, bio-engineering was a fringe activity barely mentioned, and I was unaware of anyone making use of it. Therefore, the Boissard operation is a projection of what I suspected might happen. Having been involved in the organic food movement in the late 70s, I was aware of the emergence of GMO, which is now everywhere. Then when Dolly the Sheep was cloned in 1996, I began following all the developments in the area of cloning. After Prometea, a Haflinger mare, was cloned in 2003, my interest in the cloning debate intensified; I had already worked it into the first few drafts of ‘Spiral of Hooves’. I knew about embryo transplants from a top rider whose owners were using it extensively as breeders. At that point the concept of a cloned competition horse lay in the future, and even embryo transplants were a rarity in England. Not so on the continent where it was an accepted way to breed from a competition mare. By the time ‘Spiral of Hooves’ was accepted for publication, the bio-engineering of horses and feed was becoming more common – even though the argument whether to allow them to compete still raged, and the costs were still prohibitive to regular horse owners. However in 2012 the FEI, who govern sports horse disciplines worldwide, lifted their ban. Too late to make any radical changes to the novel, but I suspect that they would never endorse the offspring of the illegal activities that dominate my fictional breeding world.

I was impressed with the amount of research you must have done to write this novel. You not only describe eventing in amazing detail, but you also seem to have an encyclopedic knowledge of weapons, cyber-spying, military strategy, and biotechnology. How long did it take you to write this book? Did you use any system to keep this information organized?

Pleased that the novel gave the impression of well-researched. The writing time period, from the moment that I first began developing the idea to when I had a manuscript ready for submission, must have been thirteen years. Although that doesn’t include the first scribbled outline when I was living in Canada in the early 70s, but the only common elements were possibly eventing, an English female rider, and a Canadian male rider. As for the encyclopedic knowledge, thanks for the compliment, but I think it’s got more to do with research and copious notes, many of which have been discarded while moving house or are buried in files on a hard drive. In the early days, while I was still a journalist, the information was scribbled down in notebooks or recorded on mini-tapes. Then I progressed to computer files, which were easier to consult, although ‘organized’ might be an exaggeration. More recently I used internet links to point me to relevant articles and research by wiser beings. This was all in the days when I used Word to organize (?) information, and before I moved first to WriteItNow software, then Scrivener.

What have been the most satisfying aspects in the writing and publication of SPIRAL OF HOOVES?

Initially the most satisfying aspect was finishing the novel after so many years in which acquaintances were asking, “which Olympics will it be finished by?” It might have been released in 2013 but it was finished in time for the London Olympics, which in an earlier draft was the climactic scene – but it didn’t fit the plot line. I am also satisfied with the way that the story worked out and just hope that the readers like the ending. Hopefully, many of the readers will be eventers and the sport will ring as true to them as it did when I enjoyed writing it. Finally, I am satisfied to have my first novel published and out there, so I can call myself an author. Of course the real test comes over the forthcoming eventing season, starting March 1st in the UK. How will ‘Spiral of Hooves’ fare in the horsebox parks at events? I will be immensely satisfied if it becomes a positive rumor spreading from rider to rider, from event to event.

Would you care to tell us about any new writing projects on your plate?

I finished the first draft of the sequel to ‘Spiral of Hooves’ in November, as my NaNoWriMo entry, and, although it involves some of the characters, eventing is not the main focus. The sport in ‘Tortuous Terrain’ is endurance riding and the setting is Idaho and Nevada in the USA. Plus it has even more murders. I have a third sport knocking around in my head, carriage driving, and that would be called ‘Suicide Seat’. Does that mean a greater body count, or just more thrills?

However, there are other projects ahead of those equestrian-themed mysteries in the creative pipeline. I have three mysteries at various draft stages, the first up being a cyber-crime set against a fantasy role-playing game. ‘Wyrm Bait’ has been edited professionally, but needs a re-write before my beta-readers get their chance to improve on it. The role-playing game, called ‘Gossamer Steel’, is a project in itself as it entails creating a post-apocalyptic world, using Scrivener to compile all the research. I am working on some short stories set in the Gossamer Steel world, including a novella, ‘The Last Leaf’. Moving to Wales will also inspire new ideas as well.

My grateful thanks, Alethea, for this opportunity to talk about ‘Spiral of Hooves’ and my writing; also many thanks for your wonderful review of the book. My website at gives further information on my writing, including more details on how to acquire my novel.


Paint & Process: Joan Mitchell

Alethea Eason:

WOW! I never heard of Joan Mitchell before. She’s blowing me away!

Originally posted on Painting OWU:

“Although there is no specific place, nature is more ‘really’ present than in most representational paintings. It is because of the ‘reality’ of the details. The details, shaped like brushstrokes, have committed shapes, and the colors have committed texture, hue, and substance. They are not muddy, which has nothing to do with the presence or absence of browns or grays, but with their being clearly what they are. Miss Mitchell has been attentive to outside nature and her inner experience, and she gives you something real.”

Fairfield Porter on Joan Mitchell. From Reality and the Museum, 1961.

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Alethea Eason: author of imagination and humour

Alethea Eason:

Thank you, Roland Clarke, for the interview about Heron’s Path and Starved. Also, I’m thrilled you put in a picture of the beautiful Klamath River!

Originally posted on Writing Wings:


Today I am pleased to be interviewing fellow Spectacle author Alethea Eason. She is the author of the fantasy novel HERON’S PATH, (Spectacle PMG), a novel set in an alternative history setting of Northern California circa 1908.  The story focuses on the clash of cultures between the mostly white settler and the Nanchuti, the native people, in the wilderness area along the Talum River.  Two sisters, Katy and Celeste, are caught amidst this conflict, while they discover that they are an integral part of the legends that are unfolding in the midst of the seeming disintegration of Nanchuti culture.


Heron’s Path has been classified as a young-adult novel, yet you’re finding that it’s not so young adults who are its primary readers.  Why do you think this is the case?

Novels who have young protagonist are often classified as young-adult.  I believe there is an audience of young…

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Interview with Dbrrrksh of Mpfld and the Author Alethea Eason

Starved_New 2Kali Susser, transitional kindergarten teacher in Winters, California,  Emerald coach at Beachbody, and the editor of Macaroni Kids of Northern California interviewed both Deborah Jones (aka Dbrrrksh of Mpfld) and me.  Read on to find out how hard it is to be both a 7th grader and resistance fighter trying to save not one, but two species from destruction.

Interview with Willy Logan from STARVED

Willy Logan is Deborah’s best friend from middle school.  He’s also won her heart.  In HUNGRY, Grandmother Pgsbttk targeted his family.  Her reasoning was that if Deborah could eat her best friend…did I forget to say Deborah comes from a long line of flesh-eating aliens?…that should would finally prove her loyalty to the Home World.  Now, Deborah is a junior member of the Resistance, and Willy and the whole world…our world…is in for a   lot of trouble if they don’t win out over the marauding hordes.

K.T. Hunter kindly posted an interview with Willy on her blog Brooklynn’s Bridge.  The link is below.  Take a moment to get to know Willy…and K.T.’s work.  She’s a wonderful young writer that is going to make a name for herself.


STARVED is Available on Kindle. FREE DAYS FEBRUARY 1 AND 2!

Book Review: Shattered Paradise by Ileana Aruguti

17575379Ms. Aruguti writing, though absolutely true, reads like a world of magical realism.  The events of war that she experienced as a child were so horrendous, her family so full of characters that could have walked out of an Allende book, the marvels of her mountain rainforest home so cinematic in presentation, that the tragedies that arise in Shattered Paradise are felt on a profound level.  Brothers and sisters were torn from the family to fight in a cause that had little to do with them.  The pristine beautiful of their homeland was destroyed.  Ms. Arguti faced hunger, the disintegration of all she held dear, but then, as an immigrant to the United States, finds the ability to look back on her experiences with compassion and gentleness. Ms. Arguti now teaches elementary school and raises a family who has the security that was wrenched from her.

Search For the Authentic

IMG_1963 - Version 10This face seems like an oracle.  I felt I was making a flower.  A wavy vein of gold, a stem, grows up from the bottom of the page which was turned into a marsh or a lake by watercolors.  This is a mask, isn’t it?  If it weren’t a flower, it could be a sun.  Do you see anger?  Dormant power?  Something ancient and unruly?  Some power from the past that wants to speak?

IMG_1963 - Version 2 Gorilla Guy next to a tombstone that says “Loving.”  A young woman running towards him.  The red boots are so alive.  Husband… speaking up and free…Bill says I’m often not honest with him…. I often don’t know how I feel.   But we have had a “growth period” where I did feel angry…expressing it and opening one of those fields where you don’t know if you’ll survive the conversation…feeling words that could hurt or be my truth that could not find the words to reach his ears…but then we fell back into grace.  We are now at our best, and communication is good even though my husband and I speak different emotional languages.  Our experience of the world is so different.  Yet here we are…IMG_1963 - Version 3We’re held together by this stuff.  Stronger, faster, for the toughest job on Planet Earth.  When I pulled the picture, I didn’t think of Bill, only did so after it was in the collage.  The picture makes me feel bittersweet with awareness of impermanence.  Bill and I have more years behind us than we do in front of us.   I want to be and feel as authentic as I possibly can with him.

One thing that I realize…one of those personality things in yourself that’s like the sand in the oyster…that I am a people pleaser.  I’m really good at not being real.  Partly because I was taught to be polite, no matter what, and that the one of the worse things to do is to bring attention to yourself by “being rude.”  When I feel I have caused friction, I’m paralyzed.  And in disagreements, it is so easy to see the other’s person side and logic  …especially when they let you know what you have done (usually unconsciously) has been wrong personally to them, or just as a social faux pas.  Not speaking exclusively of husbands here.  So, I play it very safe, and in doing so, I know I sometimes come off as distant or a little too precious.

The red boots though…I look at this and think health and spontaneity.  Aliveness that I would love to have more often. (I also am a firm believer of a few days like the one I spent today.  Slow, reading in pjs).  I have been having huge issues with my legs.  Never a flexible person (that’s telling), my muscles are stiffening more and my pelvis is a bit out of kilter, stubborning so, so I have a form of sciatica…I HAVE to do yoga or Pilates, which I have been more faithful to the last few months than ever…but I want to look at this as a metaphor too, in the hopes that if I heal the “stuck” energy, my legs will heal.

IMG_1963 - Version 6

So… authenticity for me is to not be afraid to express myself!  Or at least in searching for the courage to do so, or asking for guidance in meditation and prayer to find ways that doors can open for me when I feel I can’t.  Or don’t have access to the words that need to be spoken.  I go mute.  That’s why Josephine Baker showed up!   Taking joy in expression and feeling free.  IMG_1963 - Version 8  I want to sing in my life.

And the blonde chick?  IMG_1963 - Version 4 It’s the same message.  Here is a woman who is the total opposite of how I feel about myself.  I’m so not a blonde, and her expression of femininity is in another universe than the one I live in.  Yes she’s idealized and probably air brushed…that’s not what I am talking about.  I love the fancifulness of the dress and shoes.  Authenticity and expression… I should honor the freak in me.

Below her are the bathers.  This was the first picture I tore.  Water is very healing for me, though I’m not a strong swimmer, I love to be in it if I feel safe.  Steamy baths.  Or by the water. Walks next to the ocean.  I feel a longing when I see this, especially the little girl in the red cap.  To be authentic is to be vulnerable?  I wonder where the boat might take her?

IMG_1963 - Version 7 I am working on contemplative practices, as well as those that require an active imagination.  I chose her… it might be Kwan Lin and the Buddha… because it reminded me of the Virgin and the Child (and the Smithsonian magazine said that its artist was influenced by Madonnas)  Authenticity equals finding silence and non-duality in consciousness down to the core of my being.  I love the bird…rising from the crown chakra like the Holy Spirit.

The background on which these images rest is very alive.  A pond with tules growing from it.  A wild garden, or wilderness full of color and light.  Engrossing rainbow, grounded in flight, becoming.

What light is coming through the cracks?  I need to allow for mystery to speak to me in its way so that the work goes beyond the funnel of thought and words, but my deepening my authenticity seems to reside on saying my truth and expressing it as I accept I won’t always fit in.

Steps to the Spontaneous: Painting, Collage, Integration

IMG_1963 - Version 2Creating a portal into possibility is akin to seeing a crack in the door, and peeking at what is beyond the daily emotional and psychological material that we struggle with.  Shelly Kramer (

I’m going to write for me, much more so than for you.  But, I’m hoping the process I am going through can be used as a model to help you find a crack in your awareness that will let in light and direction for where your life wants to go.  In case you don’t want to read my rumination, and I don’t blame you if you have better things to do in your life, in this post I will highlight the steps I am taking for clarity’s sake.

You may want to get into your body first by doing something physical, even silly.  Om while your hoping on one foot, that sort of thing.  

1) Find something you want to paint on.  I’m using one of those big black sketch books.  Watercolor works great.  Paint intuitively, use whatever color that seem to be calling you moment by moment.   You may or may not paint images.  Paint until you’re done.  A good way to test this is to choose a color for no reason at all and just put a dot on your painting.  Does it feel you need to add more?  Does anything come to mind?  If yes, keep painting.  If no, you’re done.  I do suggest you push yourself a bit because often at the end there are surprises and the very last things you put on your painting are often some of the most important details. (Please check out Michele Cassou‘s work on Intuitive Painting or come with me to Willits, CA and attend a painting class offered by Beth Levitan, one of Michele’s students).

2) Observe judgements you have, whether thinking your painting is a masterpiece or a piece of trash. Don’t get attached to them.  Just let them be.  Allow for uncertainty.  And if something seems troubling for whatever reason, subject matter, the blotch you put by “mistake” and hate… let it be… Try not to paint over things that emerge, but modify and enhance as seems fitting.  Apply this as you do your collage.

3) Choose images from magazines, or whatever picture source your pulling from, again without thinking too much.  Go for what grabs your attention or gives you a strong emotion.  I don’t often get an emotional response but more of a “that’s interesting” feeling.

4) Arrange the images over what you painted. Play!

5) Give the collage and individual images time to speak to you.  It may speak in these ways: 1) immediate aha! or 2) huh? I don’t know why but I love this cow on roller skates. You will know immediately why you chose some images, but the meaning of others may take time to unfold.  A few will stay in the realm of mystery for a long time or even forever…but you will still have the feeling they are important.

6) This process  is akin to any tool that makes you go deeper.  Tarot, bird entrails…you get what I mean.  Is it divination?  Yes and no.  The unconscious works in symbols, so the symbols that you have chosen are telling you what you already know, but which the ego may or may not want you in on.  This is not predicting the future because the future is always flexible, but it is guidance as to how you can make that future a healing place, meaningful and sustaining.

6) Journal about your collage, write a poem, create a song…in short, write, write, write, and let the writing flow.  As in picking the images, don’t suppress ideas.  Anything that doesn’t seem real to you when you go back over what you put down (give your self some space again to revist), simply cross out.  But I bet most of what you write about will feel true.

7) Give yourself the time the process needs.  You may be inspired and do the work in a flash, one sitting.  BUT if the journey takes a month, celebrate!

8) Put the individual points together into a gestalt, if possible.  Don’t force this though.

So on to the personal…next post….

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