The Mystery of Alchemy

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Some mysteries flow over the centuries. Some never are solved, and the passion to discover it never dies down. There is one that has persisted down through the ages. It is the mystery of alchemy.

What is Alchemy

The Royal Society of Chemistry had this to say about alchemy: “Simplified, the aims of the alchemists were threefold: to find the Stone of Knowledge (The Philosophers’ Stone), to discover the medium of Eternal Youth and Health, and to discover the transmutation of metals. To the medieval alchemist’s mind the different elements were but the same original substance in varying degrees of purity. Gold was the purest of all and silver followed closely.” (https://www.rsc.org/periodic-table/alchemy/what-is-alchemy) It has been seen as sorcery and witchcraft by many over the years. Sad to say, this filtered over into anyone who practiced any form of medicine.

Alchemy was early chemistry but done in a way that made it look shady. It sought answers that appeared to be magical. In truth, those who practiced it were the earliest chemist. They just didn’t understand what they were working with.

Playing With the Supernatural

The early years of chemistry did seem like witchcraft. The understanding of the physical world around us was limited years ago. Anything that stretched beyond the understanding of the present day was witchcraft and deserved death. That meant even the legitimate explorers of chemistry were seen with distrustful eyes.

It was all connected to magic. That was deemed evil and dangerous. It was observed as a slight against society and God. Alchemist looked into the supernatural to find the secret for long life and riches untold.

A Joy for Writers

The supernatural has always been a wonderful playground for writers. It should be. Everything is possible. There really are no rules as, to our knowledge, it is not a real possibility.

Alchemy has been dabbled in by many authors. By dabbled, I mean mentioned or highly woven into a plot. This can be a subject matter that can allow characters the ability to do so much more. Even with a book that shows alchemy as nothing but science fiction, it can add so much more depth to the plot. It is a great mystery to give all the needed twists and turns in a story.

What stories involve alchemy can you name?

I Think I’m Cursed When It Comes to Plans

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I’ve been told my whole life to have a plan. There should be a plan for the next ten years, five years, twelve months, next week, and today. I do try to do this. I try to be good and make a plan. Then the curse descends.

I think I call on it by writing out my plan for the day or the week. So I plan it in my head. Nope! The curse still appears. I can never do what I plan to do.

I can plan to get the dishes done today. Oh, that won’t happen. Something will interfere. I know it will because it always does. An event will be sprung upon me by my daughter. My husband will be sick and have to go to the ER. It never fails.

Once, I was told that I exaggerated the chaos in my life. Then they spent an afternoon and evening with us and were shocked. I couldn’t get anything accomplished. All I did was put out fires. By the end of the night, I couldn’t do the things I knew needed to be done.

Today, I can plan to get an article written, do the dishes, and fold laundry. When I get home, we will have to run an errand, husband will be sick, daughter will need help with homework. Then I develop a headache. Nothing gets done.

My planning has a curse on it. I’m not sure who put it on me. I’d like for them to lift it. I’d like to get things done. As I’m writing this, I am getting work done online but nothing else. That is only because I’m home sick with the stomach flu. Not what I had planned.

I’m still told that success comes from planning. What they don’t ever talk about is what to do when the planning is interfered with. That is what I need advice for.

What do you feel cursed about? What seems to always go wrong for you?

Alone in a Sea of People

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Have you ever heard that you can be alone in a crowd? I heard that phrase and thought it was poetic sounding and meant to be discussed in a philosophy class. That can be true, but it can be a very literal saying that I have learned from personal experience. You can be alone with a hundred people around you.

A crowd does not mean you are connected. That is what it comes down to. Connections. A crowd is just people. They are bodies, many times with no interest in you.

Think of it this way. You are sitting at a family gathering. You are troubled about an issue at work or are having marital problems. It could be depression haunting you. Those around you have no idea about what is hurting you inside. You are alone because no one else can connect with you.

Being alone can be physical and emotional. Alone can be no one around or no one who can understand and connect to you. I’ve felt it way too often.

Hurt is familiar to all of us. Not everyone knows about it. Your pain eats at you, but no one else can see it. It’s like seeing a ghost no one else can. Those around you cannot understand your reaction nor your feelings. You are alone in a crowd.

Most of the time, people don’t want to discuss such issues. To expose our inner feelings, makes us more vulnerable. That is dangerous and uncomfortable to us. We want to avoid those feelings.

I have found that writing scenes that require a character to feel alone in a character can be enjoyable because I have been there and felt that way. An author writes the best scenes if they have experienced the characters’ feelings. The author can make the scene real.

I wrote a novel for my master’s thesis. It turned out to be a very emotional piece of writing as I put so many real events from my life in it. The Black Sheep is a story of a middle-aged woman facing the death of her mother. Not only does she have to deal with the intense feelings within her, she has to deal with family drama which everyone faces at one time or another. The emotions of her mother dying, tension with siblings, and the fear and questions of the past are all from me. That made the scenes harder to write and more real.

Being alone in a crowd is very real. Connection of emotions is what it means. We can’t do it with everyone. Don’t feel bad if you have these feelings. Admit them. You can deal with them better if you do.

A Lesson Chiggers Taught Me

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I recently visited where I was born in Kentucky. My family’s farm has been sold and the house removed. I hadn’t been there since it was sold three years earlier. For my own closure, I needed to go there.

It was hard to see the empty space where the house had been. I couldn’t stop the tears. I walked the area and pointed out where memories lived. It was a bittersweet moment.

Later that day at my sister’s, a spot on the back of my leg began to itch. A mosquito must have penetrated my jeans. In the middle of the night, I woke up, clawing at my leg. Dozens of spots were on my leg and itching to the point that I would gladly have made them bleed.

Over the next twenty-four hours, dozens more popped up. I had never had so many mosquito bites at one time. Then they got worse. More appeared. Nothing helped. They weren’t mosquito bites. They were chiggers buried in me!!!!

For days, I clawed at my skin. My entire left leg was covered. Then the right joined in. It moved up my body until all by my neck and head were covered in bites that bleed every day. I couldn’t stop scratching. During the night, I’d wake up clawing at them. My husband kept yelling at me to stop before any got infected. While he was right in doing so, I couldn’t stop it.

It’s been a couple of months now. The bites have stopped itches, but they left scars. Every time I look at any part of my body, I am reminded of the agony of that trip. I did not enjoy the trip as I should have all because of the misery. But I also see a lesson from it all.

There are times we can’t control our actions.

I’ve always been told that you can control how you react to things. To a degree, maybe. Yet our body and mind take over at times when we are unable to fight it. I couldn’t stop the itching. I couldn’t stop my nails from scratching while I slept. It was going to happen no matter what. These scars were destined to be a part of me.

I could lament them. I could think of all things I could have done differently. Aside from tying my hands while I slept the headboard, I was going to scratch myself. By choosing to get out of the car and walking my old home, I set in course something I could not change. Do I regret walking the homestead? No, I had to do it for saying goodbye to part of my past. That meant I had to exchange peace and smooth skin with closure.

How many people have to make exchanges like that and don’t even realize that? It gives me a different perspective I hope I can channel into my writing.

The Most Challenging Question I’ve Been Asked

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My daughter asked me a simple question the other day. It was very simple, yet I cannot shake my…answer.

The daughter who has been married for a couple of years asked, “Mom, if work gave you an opportunity to move to France for two years, would you go?” I work for a French owned company who send interns over to work in the States for a specified period of time. So in that aspect, it was a simple question.

Let’s start with the fact that I would never be asked to do that. I’m in not in a position in that company to ever be offerred that, but it still got me thinking. That was even more so after I quickly answered, “No!”

Catherine asked me, “Why not?”

“Well, there are things to consider like my house here, my husband, my….” That’s all I had. She pushed for more concrete answers, and I could not give her a single thing. I couldn’t even use my job as an excuse as it would have been my job sending me there. Therefore I would have income.

She hung up, and I kept hearing that question and my answer in my head. Shame swept over me. I gave a coward’s answer. I would be afraid to move to a different country and have to live in it for more than the time I would have spent if I had gone on vacation. Adventure would have awaited me, and I would have run from it.

I’m boring. It’s just a fact. I’m boring as watching sand fall through an hourglass. Telling anything about my life is blah. No one wants to know anything about me because there is nothing interesting. I read. I write. I work. I crochet. I’m learning to knit. Aren’t you excited to hear more? I’m not even interested.

I want to have my tombstone say, “She lived a hell of a life!” It won’t say that if I kicked the bucket today. I hang my head in shame.

I know why I’m like this. I was raised to be safe, to take the conservative route, to not take risks. My very upbringing prohibits me from enjoying life to its fullest. Only brother dared to break from that. He joined the Navy and has gone on adventures nearly every year of life even after leaving the Navy that took him throughout the Western hemisphere. Even though he moved back to within a few miles of where he had been born, he goes to places like Africa and experiences life. I’m so jealous of him. Note: I am jealous in a good way that only a sister who idolizes him can.

I want to do that. I want to live life. So I have decided to start a real bucket list. I’ll be fifty in a couple of years. My youngest is leaving home next year. I have the chance to live my life in a way like never before. I’m actually going to it.

I’ll share with you my list. I’ll share with you as I prepare for them and actually do them. World, watch out! Who knows what story ideas I’ll get from my adventures.

Should I Be Worried That I Enjoy Writing Evil Characters?

I’ve found a horrible secret that I’ve hid from myself. When I write an evil character, I find myself enjoying it. There! I said it! What a relief to that off my chest.

I hinted at this once and got the impression that I was horrible for feeling that way. Maybe they were right. But it feels so good when I’m in that character’s head.

Let me stop here and clear a few things up. I do not enjoy writing about deception, murder, or anything else horrific. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the challenge to be something I’m not and explore feelings that are taboo.

I discovered this when I wrote my first book, Deep Connections, which is published under my pen name of Shadow Steele. I had sections of my trilogy where I wrote from the point of the view of the evil character. I enjoyed describing this greed and desire for revenge. It wasn’t long before I found his sections were meatier than the others.

Then I wrote a story called Pure Obsession that will be coming out under another pen name before the end of the year. It is a very dark story told from two different POVs. One chapter would be from the female character. The next one would be from the male character who could be classified as the bad guy. When I wrote the chapters for Marcus, I had to be completely alone. My temper was short as I got into his mind and reflected his thoughts and feelings. I mentally became Marcus. But his sections were sooooooo good.

What does that say about me? Maybe I just freed a part of me that had been locked up. Maybe I opened up an exciting new creative world that had yet been untapped by me. It was a challenge for me and one that continues to challenge me.

I’m playing around with the idea of writing a story just from the evil guy’s perspective. Not sure who or the premise, but it’s bouncing around in my head.

What are your thoughts? Got an idea for a story I can play around with?

When a Writer Learns to Knit

Hobbies can help a writer relax. They are meant to give inspiration and clear the mind. Unless you are learning to knit. Then you find that it drives you insane and sends you cussing worse than a sailor.

I’ve been crocheting for years. It is easy for me. I can crochet as I watch TV and with others around me talking. Not much distracts me. How much different could knitting be once I broke through the language of it and actually learned the basics.

Boy, was I wrong!

I have found that knitting is very foreign to me. I cannot count the stitches as easily as I can with crocheting. That means that when I am interrupted, I struggle finding where I was. That is just the beginning of my frustrations.

Knitting calls for my complete attention. I mean complete! I try to knit. I’m reading the instructions and trying to get it right. Then I’m interrupted.

“Mom….”

“Honey….”

ARGH!!!!!!! Leave me alone! I’m trying to get this one row done. I can’t get this pattern done. Shoot, I can’t even get the next row complete.

I thought this was supposed to relax me! It’s not!!!!!

I’m not too inspired. I don’t want to be creative. I want to get the hang of knitting. Maybe I need to go back to crocheting.

I will go back to knitting. I want to make items that are only knit, but I’m going to have to do it when I’m doing nothing else and no one else is around. That may never happen now that I think about it. Then again, I find time to write. Maybe I need to create the writing environment but for knitting. Or hire killers to take out family members who interrupt me. Both sounds pretty good.

Why In the World Did I Ever Think of Being a Writer?

To answer this question, I think I have to go back to my early childhoold. No, I did not dream of a being a best selling novel. No, I did not write notebooks full of stories. Wish I had. My beginnings as a writer were much more practical to me. I wrote stories in my head to help me sleep.

Some people can lay down and be asleep within minutes if not seconds. Not me. It would take me sometimes hours. I discovered that stories I wrote helped me sleep. It still took me quite a long time, but I would never notice when I slipped into DreamLand.

I would take a story I had read or something I had seen on TV (probably Disney as we only had two or three channels back then – yes, I just told my age.) One night, I’d work on the first scene. The next night, I’d try to remember where I left off and perfected a few things. That first scene could take a month or more to finish as I did it over and over, but it helped me to sleep. That was the goal.

When I was a kid, I read Gone With the Wind. This was a woman who had had no training as a writer and left a legacy. Why couldn’t I do it? Then I knew that one day I’d write a story. It took me another decade or two to actually attempt it.

Now, I have been told that I wrote stories in my school years, but I honestly do not remember them. Maybe they were just so bad that I wanted to forget they had ever existed.

My first story written was only to stop a recurring dream. A friend suggested I write it out so I’d stop dreaming. Then it turned into a book, then into a trilogy and then a few short stories to fill in gaps. The rest is the cliched history.

Sleep. Dreams. The perfect writing inspiration for me.

Too Much of a Good Thing?

It is true that you can have too much of a good thing. Too much fruit can increase your sugar levels and make you sick. Too much of your favorite foods can have you not wanthing them for a while. You can get too much of a good thing. Even writing.

I’ve been writing up to 2000 words a day for the last month and a half. Finished one story and picked up another that was halfway done. Then I felt sick to write even one line. I had done too much of it without a break. That was too much of a good thing.

Over the years, I’ve discovered that I need to step away from projects for a spell. I will put all my energy into a project and then can’t do more. I have to step away for a few days or weeks before the interest returns. Maybe my brain just needs recharging. Maybe too many thoughts are rummaging around up there.

Currently, I have been away from my writing for nearly a week. The urge is upon me again. I’ve spent these days off reading and watching shows. Inspiration has struck in several areas. Suddenly, I felt rejuvenated. Now I finished a short story and am working on the next chapter in the novel that is my current WIP.

This is exciting. I feel new energy. Now I have to make sure I don’t burn out quickly again. In order to avoid that, I’m going to force myself to have time away to just read and take walks. I think I can. I think I can. I sure hope I can.