Thursday, January 29, 2015

Clouds and Sky Watching

I have to ask you, who does not like sky watching? During the daylight hours, it can take place anywhere, but at night, it is especially precious in rural areas far away from ambient light, preferably on a cloudless night when the stars shine in all their glory. In between the light and dark of day and night, sunrises and sunsets can be extraordinarily gorgeous visual experiences, which is why so much artwork features them.

I do not know about you, but for me, seeing the night sky crowded with stars and the Milky Way is awe-inspiring, somehow putting my existence into perspective. Viewing the moon has been a human compulsion since prehistoric times not only to tell time but also to induce inspiration. It continues to hold its thrall for modern man, and now we have the added knowledge that man has visited there. (Off-topic, I know, but left garbage there, too; so human.) Some hold dreams of inhabiting the moon’s harsh landscape, others of developing it as a weapons base. Even on a cloudy night, the moon can be breathtaking. Its refracted light can illumine through layers of clouds. Atmospheric conditions sometimes create halos of light around the moon, and a moon with wisps of clouds drifting by makes the perfect Halloween night. Yet, a full moon radiating the sun’s golden light in an otherwise empty sky makes me want to dance. With all the media announcements about impending meteorite shows, passing comets, eclipses, and northern lights, I know many of you share this sky-watching urge.

While all of these are wondrous sights and events, the beauty and variety of common clouds entrance me. Clouds are water molecules loosely attracted in the atmosphere by what humans have learned about chemistry and physics. Clouds indicate weather and can be friendly or threatening, but always awesome. Did you know some of those clouds, if you had the water molecules collected here on the Earth’s surface, would weigh a million or more pounds? Just because they float, does not mean they weigh nothing. They come is such a wide variety of forms, all with scientific names, but I prefer to recognize them as scattered puffballs, as long overlapping sheets of grey, white, and blue, or as wispy mare’s tails. In their astonishing shapes, I have seen dragons, sharks, warriors, eagles, and other, imaginary, phenomenon.

Sometimes I am saddened to think that after I die I will never see such sights again, which is silly because of the all too obvious realities. Anyhow, the thought does serve as a good warning to enjoy them while I can. The sky reminds us time passes, day and night, midday and midnight, and everyone only has a limited amount of time. So take a minute for one of the world’s common miracles and watch a few clouds. Do some sky watching and let the Earth, sun, and moon remind you of the miracle of our planet, and celebrate life. Plus, it's free.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Reading and Writing Time

Ever since I learned to read, I’ve had a ritual for reading before sleep. I read at other times too, like when I’m ill, or just taking a rare day off to read some story that really has me hooked, or sometimes when traveling to pass time (finished two novels I’d started last Thursday on a road trip), but I have to read for thirty or more minutes before I can fall asleep. Sometimes that thirty minutes can turn into hours and a short sleep time. It might have started with my parents reading to me before bedtime because early habits like that are hard to break. I did it with my children too, but haven't asked them if they read at night.

What surprises me is the number of people who never pick up a book after leaving high school. Many of my students admit to disliking reading. Various statistics put that number of non-readers after high school at between thirty and forty percent. Isn’t that astounding?

On average, I read about sixty novels a year in a variety of genres from romance to mystery and suspense to scifi and fantasy before sleep. I do not keep track of my non-fiction reading in research for stories or blog posts, and the non-fiction I read for interest (new science discoveries and history are big draws). Some things I've had to read for work, in those instances I make time to read, often in segments so I can comprehend the information. So, I guess what I'm saying is I have many methods for dealing with reading.

I wish I had a set ritual for writing, but my method is very helter-skelter happening as my thoughts engage in moving the plot forward. One book I wrote in six weeks from start to the publisher. Another I have worked on for years, and it is still incomplete. Work, life, and other types of writing also distract from story writing, plus I’ve become interested writing short fiction and non-fiction blog posts on various topics.

From reading, I have learned that most authors have their own particular writing methods and schedules, some sticking to a strict regimen; others more like me, when driven. This seems to be all a matter of personal preference and time available. 

To learn more about other authors' methods, rituals for reading and writing visit:
A.J. Maguire 
Geeta Kakade
Margaret Fieland
Skye Taylor 
Marci Baun 
Fiona McGier
Connie Vines
Beverley Bateman
Rita Karnopp 
Rachael Kosnski
Helena Fairfax 
Heidi M. Thomas
Ginger Simpson

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

All Things Eight


Part of world-building for any story is relating it to the readers. Most already have 'favorite numbers' and most have what they think is coincidental information about certain numbers, but these beliefs have developed over literally millennia of using numbers. They are considered powerful concepts, which I used as part of a belief system in the fantasy series of the Aegis stories. So I continue with more factual, magical, and mythical information about numbers, this time eight.

Cardinal: EIGHT
Hindu-Arabic: 8
Ordinate: Eighth
Roman: VIII 
Greek: Eta
Pythagorean number: the ogdoad
1+7, 2+6, 3+5, 4+4, 2x4, 2x2x2
The first cube number

The Roman word octo (Octavius) indicated eight and gives us October (the Roman 8th month), octave, octopus, and octagon.

Roman had an eight-day week. The geometric symbol for eight is an octagon. Oxygen (O) is the eighth periodic number. It is the first cube number (2x2x2). Cars used to routinely have eight-cylinder engines, but now only select models, some SUVs and trucks have them.

In various religious associations, eight is the Christian number of regeneration or resurrection. The Eighth Commandment is ‘Thou shalt not steal.’ Jews practiced circumcision on the eighth day after birth. There were eight sects of Pharisees, and eight prophets descended from Rahab. Triple eight (888) is the number of Christ the redeemer.

In games, we have the eight ball in pool, and eight pawns on each side in Chess.

Numerology assigns eight to the letters h, q, and z. The eighth house is the House of Scorpio in Astrology. It is the number of material success and worldly involvement because eight has a four-fold balance because when halved its parts are equal and when halved again they are still equal. The Greeks considered it the number of justice because of its equal divisions. It represents all that is solid and complete. Eight represents cycles of time, too, as the four seasons sub-divided once more into two solstices and equinoxes. In Christian symbolism, it stands for the afterlife. It is the number of regeneration and of the Gods who accompanied Thoth. The number eight represents the joining of the two spheres of heaven and earth. It is the number of the force, which exists between terrestrial order (the square) and external order (the circle). Eight is associated with the Serpents of the Caduceus, the balancing of forces, the equilibrium of different forms of power and with infinity. Eight is the balance of cause and effect.

Eight is a mysterious number also associated with the Eleusinian Mysteries and the Cabiri. Also called the little holy number. Eight is a mysterious number also associated with the Eleusinian Mysteries, and the Cabiri.

In Tarot divination, the eighth card represents strength, which represents rest and victory, self-discipline and stability. It indicates learning to balance between spiritual & carnal nature. It shows the force of character, spiritual power overcoming material power, love triumphing over hate.

Saturn, which governs melancholy, reserve, limitations, seriousness, economy, authority and the ability to accept and work with the limitations of life symbolizes eight. It is the number of Demeter. The Caduceus, the figure of Justice with a sword pointing upwards and a balance in her left hand, also symbolizes eight. A double square and the infinity sign (eight on its side) symbolize eight.

You might use common, the slang phrase behind the eightball, to show a loss.

The date, 08/08/08 had an impact in social media. From an article about weddings on August 08/08 by Jennifer Lee in the New York Times, 8/3/08: AFTER becoming engaged last year in Paris, Grace F and her fiancĂ© returned to New York to discover that event spaces for their wedding on the second Friday of August were already booked. The logjam was unusual for a Friday, but the date in question is this Friday — 08/08/08. “As a homonym, the number 8 sounds like ‘good fortune’ in Mandarin and Cantonese,” said Ms. F, who, like her fiancĂ©, is of Chinese descent.