Saturday, June 24, 2017

Day Three on the Camino - Pamplona

Pamplona. No bulls on the streets, at least not live ones, but plenty of lively action.
Another full day of walking in what was supposed to have been a shorter day but we ended up covering 17 miles anyway. Perfect weather.

Approaching Pamplona.

The French Gate entering old Pamplona.

Tapas Break.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Day Two on the Camino

Day two on the Camino and nearly 20 miles of walking today (Alan's legs finally gave out). Those fifteen pound packs felt pretty heavy by the time we reached our destination for the evening.

Great, only 790 kilometers left. Even though we had snow flurries overnight, we woke to clear blue skies.

Coming into the next town.

Walking through some cute little towns. It's still early (9:00) but there's nobody around. Except for the pilgrims strolling through.

Signs to point the way.

And of course, a church in every town.

Coffee break. Dos cafe solo.

 Hotel Akerreta, where we'll spend the night.

The view from our bedroom.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Day One on the Camino

Saint Jean Pied de Port, over the Pyrenees, to Roncesvalles. Walked up, up, up and across the Pyrenees fighting freezing temperatures and bitter cold wind. We found out that it is possible to sweat and be freezing at the same time. We lucked out, as it didn't start to snow until we reached our destination. 27K of walking. My mind is saying "Wow" and my feet are saying "Who's f@&king idea was this?"

Saturday, June 17, 2017

First Ten Hours In Paris

Steak tartare at Ma Bourgogne, twelve miles of walking, and a two-hour nap. It is so great to be back in the City of Lights.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Bon Voyage / Buen Viaje

Tomorrow Herman and I fly to Paris, where we’ll spend a three days getting over our jet lag. Then we fly down to St Jean Pied de Port in southwestern France to start a five-hundred mile pilgrimage across Spain called “The Way of Saint James, Camino de Santiago.”

During the past ten years the Camino has witnessed an amazing revival to regain its place as the most popular Christian pilgrim route in the world, but this ancient path has been transforming lives for more than ten centuries. In recognition of the 1,800 building of great historic interest that lie along its path it was proclaimed the first European Cultural Itinerary in 1987 and inscribed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1993.

Neither Herman nor I are Christian, but we both believe that dedication to a spiritual path opens a space that allows for profound personal transformation.

I'm not taking my computer, so this will be my last posting for the next two months while we’re in Europe. Please wish us luck and dry weather.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Writing Tip: Too Much Dialog Can Spoil the Soup

I love dialog. It brings one close to the characters, lets the reader know how the character’s mind thinks, reacts, persuades and complains. Dialog is one of the most powerful tools in a writer’s toolbox. I am of the opinion, that when it is overused, it tends to lose all its power. 

I’ve recently worked with two other authors, giving them suggestions on how to punch up their stories. In both cases, I felt they were doing too much with dialog. 

The first author started his murder mystery at the crime scene, but within a few pages, his team of detectives gathered in a room at the police station where they proceeded to do nothing but talk to each other for twelve pages. All the backstory was told through dialog during those pages. I can’t explain how excruciatingly BORING those pages were to read. My advice to this writer was, if he must use dialog to bring out these facts, then do it at the crime scene while the detectives are looking for clues. That way, they are doing something. There is action going on while they are talking. 

The second author did something similar, trying to tell the story mostly through dialog. I’m sorry, I told him, this simply doesn’t work. You’re not writing a play, you’re writing a novel. You need action to move the story forward. 

Dialog should not be used to tell the story. It should be used to punctuate the action in a story. Think of dialog as TNT. You want small controlled detonations in your prose in order to highlight certain ideas or actions or character traits. 

In short, try to tell the story in the narrator’s voice. Don’t make your characters tell the story. 

The other thing I’d like to point out about dialog is the way most people speak. If you pay attention while people talk, you’ll find that most people use very short bursts of dialog, fewer than ten words, before someone else responds and takes up the conversation. So having your characters constantly making long-winded soliloquies may not be the best option. Again, in my humble opinion, short burst are more entertaining and more in tune with human nature, thus it’s more believable.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Amos Lassen Reviews Buddha's Bad Boys by Alan Chin

Amos Lassen
I always look forward to a new book by Alan Chin and he never disappoints. In this new collection of six short stories, he looks at why we in the West gravitate to Eastern religions and it seems that in the East, the search for inner truth and love is easier to deal with. We learn that enlightenment comes to those who help others who are not as fortunate. We have here six stories of men trying to achieve enlightenment and in each case they find what they do not expect to find. Some of the stories are fiction while others are based on true happenings.
“Monk for a Month is the story of Reese, Darren and Archer, their seven-year-old son. They are on vacation as Buddhist monks in Thailand. Both Darren and Reece are acting out of their relationship; Darren seems to be involved with a young novice and Reece seems to be somewhat taken with a an who is wanted for murder. Chin sets the story up with quite a long exposition and his descriptions are a pleasure to read.
“Handcarved Elephants” is about a priest who has been defrocked because of his sexual advances with a teen. We meet him while he is on a yacht and it was here that he planned to take his own life by jumping overboard but instead he was washed up on a beach where he was found by Buddhist monks from a nearby monastery. He is given refuge there and to find out what happens you will have to read the story.
Philip Mann and his son Tru are the focus of “Empty Chairs”, the third story. Philip was a fireman who answered the calls to the World Trade Center on that fateful day, 9/11/01. He was so upset by what happened that he could not get his life back on tack and he left his wife and young son. He entered a Buddhist monastery. Now some ten years later, Tru, his son, who is still young tracks him down to the monastery where he tells his father that his mother took her own life not long before by jumping out of a window. Tru was sent to live with his grandparents (his mother’s parents) who sent him away to have his homosexuality deprogrammed. Philip decides that the time has come for him to take responsibility for his son (and for himself). He manages to regain guardianship of Tru and get rid of his grandparents who have been using him to gain his inheritance.
In “Almost Enough”, Palmer decides to leave everything behind and take a coworker who was diagnosed with a brain tumor to Thailand. The surprise here is that the coworker is Archer, the son in “Monk for a Month”. He is now an adult and he wishes to return to the monastery he had once visited with his two fathers. More than that, I cannot say.
“White Monkey” introduces us to Martin Braxton who is a guest at the monastery while he tries to work things out with his boyfriend who is becoming a monk. In return for housing and meals Martin is a helper when needed. We learn of their time together as well as of where they are now and whether the relationship can be saved is just not clear.
Finally, “Death of a Stranger” is about a man who takes care of elephants, a manhout. This is a story that brings some of the other stories together. Archer once again appears and he and the manhout along with a monk try to rescue Philip and Tru who have been imprisoned because of their politics and are in Myanmar.
I cannot say that this is a happy read but there are moments of happiness in the texts. Alan Chin has a wonderful name in the field of LGBT literature and reading this book shows us why that is. I don’t know much about the West but I did learn a lot here. Not only did I learned but I also had the chance to read beautiful writing.