X is for X Words

We are getting down to the last letters of the A to Z Blog Challenge. Through the challenge I have been writing daily about the Isle of Man where my book, The Manx, takes place.  Besides all the wonderful characters and the folktales, I also included posts about visiting the island and some of the basics about the Isle of Man.

Now we come to the letter X. In my 1932 edition of 20,000 Words there are only three words listed that start with X: Xanthippe, xenon, xylophone. None of these really relate to my book so I have been at a loss as to how to make X work for the A to Z Challenge.

Next out is Roget’s International Thesaurus, 4th Edition, 1977. There are a few more words listed which are: X (as in a cross), Xanadu (remember that movie?), xenophobia, xerography, Xerox, X Ray, xylography, and xylophone.

An X is also seen as a symbol like a railroad crossing, a mathematical symbol, and a signature. Love letters are signed with an XO for kiss and hug, or XXXOOO for lots of kisses and hugs.

The X is Gebo (Gifts) in Futhark Runes. The gift as in the sense of both generosity and sacrifice indicating balance and all things relating to exchanges, including contracts, personal relationships and partnerships.

Why is the X always pronounced like a Z? Why have the X at all? Just turn all the X-words to Z-words. Except, if that was done than an X-Ray would become a Z-Ray and then you have a weapon that shoots death rays rather than a camera that shoots death rays. Wait…..what? Yeah. That’s what goes on sometimes with my grey matter. It gets a little weird up there.

Have an X-cellent weekend!

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This post inspired by – X

U is for Universe

When the sun goes down and the stars come out, how many can you see? Where I live the night sky is getting filled with flood lights from shopping centers and parking lots. 18 years ago we could go out in our backyard and were able to see quite an abundance of stars. Today the numbers have dropped.

Isle of Man is considered one of the leaders Dark Sky sites in the British Isles. There are 26 sites given the status of Dark Sky Discovery. These are areas are so dark that the Milky Way seems to envelop the viewer. You can reach out and hold the universe in the cup of your hand. I’m told it is breathtaking.

The Isle of Man Observatory has a great photo montage that compares a night sky in an urban area all the way to a Dark Sky. Scroll down further on their site and you’ll find a calendar that shows the best viewing days for Dark Sky. Weather is a factor no matter where you star gaze, and the Isle of Man has it’s fair share of rain and clouds.Be sure to check the forecast before you make plans.

There is a wonderful inspirational piece by Nancy Willard that I keep by my desk:

Be hopeful…
I haven’t a clue as to how my story will end.
But that’s all right.
When you set out on a journey
and the night covers the road,
that’s when you discover the stars.

 

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This post inspired by – U

V is for Vampire Grave

G is for Geography

It’s time to talk geography. I have mentioned Isle of Man in previous posts, and told you how small it really is (221 square miles, in case you missed that post). Today I want to tell about the actual island and its geography makeup. This will not by your typical “this is this, and that is that” kind of post. I hated geography in school so I won’t make this tedious for you.

But, I do have to give you a few quick facts:

  • It is in the middle of the Irish Sea
  • Its highest point is Mt. Snaefell at 2,036 feet
  • Most of the coastline is rocky
  • It is treeless except in a few areas that are sheltered from the climate
  • Ramsey is a large northern town (population close to 8,000)
  • Douglas is the capital (Population 27,000+)
  • The southern most tip you’ll find Calf of Man

So, there are your facts about the Isle of Man. Now let’s take a look of some of the fun stuff like, the Drinking Dragon. At the southern tip is this wonderful rock formation that looks like a dragon dipping its nose in the sea for a sip of water.

Another fun feature of the island is Mt. Snaefell. This peak is lower than my house (I’m at 6,000 feet here in Colorado), and is not too exciting to look at.

There is an old building on top along with a radio tower. Even though it is wind blown and cloudy most of the time, if you go to the top on a clear day they say you can see six kingdoms: Isle of Man, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Heaven. Now that’s cool.

The last place we’ll visit is St. Patrick’s Isle. This small tidal island is mostly occupied by Peel Castle. This castle is where my characters, Donal and Kaitlin, will meet their first buggane, along with meeting the Witch of Slieu Whallian.

 The castle was originally a worship center until the Vikings arrived in the 11th century. It was fully constructed by King Magnus (aka Magnus Barefoot, and another in the cast of The Manx). According to legends he built this as his summer getaway. More likely this was a perfect staging area to conquer large portions of the coastal areas of the Irish Sea.

I hope you enjoyed this little tour of the Isle of Man. Although small in size, the island is large in interesting landscapes.

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This post inspire by – G

Pop’s Story

I recently completed editing my great grandfather’s autobiographical manuscript about his life as a railroad man in the early 1900’s.  It was inspirational to read his words and be a part of something he started to write so long ago. He wrote everything in longhand and, in turn, my great aunt would put the words to the typewriter. Correspondence was by snail mail so each leg of the writing was done over weeks and months rather than the minutes we enjoy in today’s electronic world. There was no spell check, just a dictionary. Errors were erased and retyped, or the page was just pulled out of the typewriter and thrown away.

Research, and his manuscript, have taught me a lot about the railroad business of the early 1900’s. It was a mix of brutality and joy with a little despair mixed in. Grand-“Pop” was a civil engineer who found the lay of the land and supervised the workers to lay the track, and with this unique perspective he wrote about events that happened nearly a hundred twenty years ago. He loved this work that it took him through hostile lands both here and abroad.  He fought swamps and deserts, along with rebels and farmers.  He went so far as to be a founding father of a small town just so a railroad station could be built there. He had moxie.

I am working on my own novel based on some of his stories. I find it challenging to try and put words into his mouth for fear of painting him with the wrong palette. Even after reading and transcribing his memoir, I still worry. To put words in his mouth brings him back down to the human plane when, to me, he is larger than life. I ask myself if he would say something like what I’m writing? How would he look at his men after they berated a Chinese laborer? What did he actually say to them? What would he be thinking as he lay nearly frozen to death in the north woods? How did he get across the muskeg, on foot, so many times?

My great grandfather passed away in the late 40’s. To know him and what he might say is lost to time. I hope that the character I have created for him lives up to him at least a little bit. Only when I join him in the afterlife will I know who he really was. So, until then my imaginings will have to do.

I Like to Feel Literary, Too

Interrobang‽

I occasionally frequent a poetry reading in a well-known college town perhaps a bit outside the capital city I live in. (Hey kids! Being vague is fun!) It takes place at one of only three poetry-exclusive bookstores in These Corporate States of America. Innisfree is also, wonderfully, a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop. The sort of place with high stools to look at passerby through big windows, lots of table space to drink your large mocha, skim (delicious, by the way) and whip out your overdue assignment for that week’s writing workshop. The staff are the sort of beautiful not-quite-hipsters that make you feel like yes, today, you are a poet, and no, you don’t have to look or act a certain way to do it. I’m serious. The guy who runs the poetry reading they have every Tuesday has this shocking pink fringe that falls from under his pageboy hat and…

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…and Now For the Present

This morning I was on a writers’ check-in (DelveWriting.com) and we were discussing what the definition of a writer is. Several of my fellow writers felt  they were not being taken seriously by their family and friends.  We all know we are writers yet the lack of outside support brought the whole idea into a bit of a question mark. When is a writer a writer and how is that defined?

Just over 3 months ago my personal life made an unexpected left turn that forced a directional change in my profession.  My entire life has been spent in one creative medium or another (painting, photography, jewelry design, and writing just to name a few) with many of these, amazingly, provided me with a bit of an income too.  Writing was a constant since I can remember.  I wrote my first poem in grade school.  In high school I consumed everything ever written by Edgar Allen Poe, and wrote as much as I read.  College was the same.  I studied creative writing and wrote several articles for local and online publications.  As adulthood came and went (I think I’m back in my youth) I found myself reading hundreds of books from science fiction/fantasy to historical novels, and from the spiritual to steam-punk. Then, for the last 8 years I pursued several businesses that sucked my time, and my life, with little reward.

At the beginning of 2013 I found myself, yet again, re-evaluating my career and saw an opportunity to do something that has niggled at me since I can remember.  Now, in reliving some of my youth, I find myself with a writer’s itch and have started a novel of my own.  Does this make me a professional writer?  If you do a Google search with the key words “definition of writer” and “definition of author” the results are very similar.  The word “author” is simply defined as someone who writes a poem, novel, report, blog, letter or any type of manuscript.  A writer, on the other hand, does the same thing with the added note that the items he or she has authored are published and the writer is being paid to do the work.  Following this line of thought brings us to the notion that everyone who has ever written something, whether a letter to Aunt Genevieve or a poem to an ex-wife, is an author.  The writer gets paid to do the same things.

On the surface, these differences may seem trivial to the passing reader, but to a writer they can make the difference between being the family’s poet for greeting cards, or a best selling novelist who rubs elbows with the likes of Agathie Christie or Norman Mailer.  It is the difference between being taken seriously and given an “atta-boy” pat on the back.  In my opinion, a writer is a person who takes their work seriously enough to spend the time it takes to create a work of written art and then have the gumption to believe they should be paid for it.

Vietnamese Culture Camp Makes A Wonderful Weekend

I have just returned from a wonderful weekend in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado! This was the Vietnamese Heritage Camp at Snow Mountain Ranch. Our whole family had an incredible time and this is our view on the event.

We went up on Thursday evening to allow us time to get settled and find out the where and when of things. We had dinner at the Buckboard Grill which is right there at the ranch. The menu was your basic grill food … nothing to brag about but good.

Friday was a day for all the families to have time together. Most of us went on a wagon ride which the kids thought was great fun. They took us to the original settlement homestead where the kids saw first hand how the early settlers of the west lived. After the wagon ride our family divided with Mark taking Cody on the pony ride and the petting farm, and I and Kyra on an hour horseback ride through the beautiful woods. We then went back to the Rawley Room (where registration and workshops were held) to find many families were arriving. A total of 42 families came from California, New York, Colorado, Tennessee, Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan. While registration was in full swing some of the families made “lacquer” boxes. Everyone created some wonderful boxes. The opening ceremony introduced everyone that organized this years event with a loud round of applause going to Marcia Baird who was the director of this year’s camp, along with a standing ovation for the camp counselors. Many thanks were given to all of the volunteers who helped to make this camp a success. We then broke into groups for volunteer training. Everyone that attends the camp (adults) has a volunteer position at the camp to help in some way whether it was as clean-up crew or the dragon parade, everyone pitches in.

Saturday was the big day. We started the day with a group photograph at 8:30 AM which was followed by the start of the workshops. All of the kids went with their camp councilors divided by their grade in school. Their day was spent in one of 6 areas. The middle school kids went on a Challenge course with the Snow Mountain staff where they learned team building skills. The younger kids were off to build a dragon, learn Vietnamese songs, hear folk tales, plant “rice”, make dragon masks, learn a little of the language, or have HeART Talks. HeART Talks is a wonderful program that uses art as a form of expressing feelings and thoughts regarding adoption, culture, family, and more.

The adults were off to their own programs.Trish Maskew talked of the issues involved in bring a new child into a family, whether the child was an infant or older. Jeanie Sumrall-Ajero shared her experiences and photographs while she was living and teaching in Vietnam. There was an open discussion with Jessica Medinger and her adoptive mother about being adopted and being an adoptive parent. Sister Sen Nguyen, who was born in Vietnam and left as one of the “boat people” shared slides and talked about the religion and philosophies of Vietnam and how these have melded together to make the Vietnamese who they are and why. Cherie Clark was there for an informal discussion on IMH issues as well as a book signing. Then, of course, Kathy Jorin joined this wonderful group to share her expertise in a Vietnamese Cooking class which left our cabin smelling delicious!

Saturday evening was very special. We had a blast! After dinner the children dressed in their best Vietnamese outfits for the Dragon Parade. Each class had made their own dragon that they were able to show off with the company of dragon dancers from Queens Vietnamese Modern Church youth group. We were then treated to a show that was introduced by Cam Tren. There were songs, a fan dance, a skit that acted out the games Vietnamese children play, plus another dragon dance. The encore was performed by our own children! They sang the song they had learned during one of their workshops in Vietnamese! What a fabulous closing to the day.

Sunday brought kite flying for the children. They made and decorated their own kites to fly in the picnic area. The adults were treated to an incredible presentation by LeAnn Thieman. She told her story of her involvement in Operation Babylift. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

The weekend was over so quickly! What a fantastic weekend! If you were there you know what I mean, if you weren’t there…come next year and experience it for yourself! They have already set the date for next year so start planning now. It will be August 9, 10, 11, 2001. I highly recommend that everyone attend. It is a unique opportunity for you and your children to share a weekend filled with everything Vietnamese.

Published 2000; “Adopt Vietnam”