Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Thoughts for December

Jesus was born in a humble place, a stall, with a manger as his first bed. The lowly circumstances of his birth tell us that he came for everyone: the poor, the hungry, the homeless and the hopeless. No one is beneath him. But he also came for the rich and affluent, the famous, the diligent workers and the people who can get by. No one is well off enough to do without him.

His mother, Mary, was found to be pregnant before she was formally married. Therefore, we should remember that God uses all kinds of situations for His divine purpose, and so guard against judgement of "imperfect" circumstances.

His father, Joseph, looked after his family - including the son that technically wasn't his. He didn't make decisions based on outward appearances - but maybe we wouldn't either if we were in on God's plan. We must listen if we are to hear God's direction for our lives, which means always leaving time for silence during our prayers.

Angels announced his birth. A fitting welcome for the King of the Universe, isn't it? This tells me that I should announce his birth too. Christmas carols, poetry, blog posts, greeting cards, my Facebook status and Tweets and all forms of communication can bring to mind "the reason for the season".

Shepherds came to see him, which tells me that they believed and acted on that belief. The multitude of angels suddenly singing in the sky got their attention, and down to the stall they went to greet the new king. If it happened today, would we go or would we wait for the media coverage and watch it from home?

Wise men brought gifts, and very valuable ones at that. Rethinking gift giving would be in order. No more consumerism, as people often complain, but gifts of value to mark the birth of our King. This could be something needed or wanted, but it could also be a phone call or a helping hand. We are commanded to love our neighbors as we love ourselves and to take care of the less fortunate, and our gifts can show our loved ones how much we care about them.

Jesus gave us our mission: go and make disciples. Let us announce him to all people, accept our imperfect circumstances, and hear God's voice and believe. Let us act on our beliefs and give the gift of eternal life this Christmas, and for all the Christmases to come.

For as Jesus said, Eternal life is to know you, the only true God, and to know Jesus Christ, the one you sent. (John 17:3 CEV)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Coming soon.... the Giallo Milanese 2014 anthology!

For the record, I came in second. I had a great time.

The anthology containing the 16 stories selected by the contest commission will be out around mid-December. The book is in Italian, of course, but I'm finishing the translation soon so that I can post the story right here on my blog.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The finals!

I have worked my way through the selection process in the Giallo Milanese literary contest. On Saturday, November 15th, I'll be reading for the last time so that the audience can vote for the story they like best.

There are only two to choose from, so I've got a fifty-fifty chance actually winning!

Obviously I'm excited, and really happy that the story was appreciated - especially since it isn't written in my native language. I'm still translating it, and I plan to post it somewhere (probably here) for my English speaking readers (all 5 of you be patient now). I'm sorry it's taking me so long.

Now I'm on Twitter and Facebook inviting people to come and vote.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

My first reading

Strangely enough, I wasn't nervous.

I got my turn reading my story at the Giallo Milanese literary contest on October 16th. (The link goes to a short video with Italian audio in which I read a few lines.)

The last person reading in the video is an actor, not the author of the story, and it shows. We writers tend to be a little shy in front of a microphone. In the past, I've attended readings where the authors obviously were used to speaking in front of a group, but they're exceptions.

The ExCogita publisher, who sponsors the Giallo Milanese contest, says that publishers choose what to publish, but the public decides what is worth reading. Therefore, the people who come to listen get to vote for the stories they like best.

I passed this selection so I'm scheduled to read again on November 6th.
I'm so excited!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Giallo Milanese - An Italian Literary Contest

I'm in! I'm having a story published!

Giallo Milanese is a contest run by Ex Cogita publisher. They pick sixteen stories to publish in a small book, and then organise a tournament to pick the favorite story as the "absolute winner".

Winners invite friends, family, acquaintences, and everyone else that they happen to run into to the reading so that they will all vote. I read on October 16th, and YOU are invited.

As a footnote, I wrote this story in Italian. I'll be doing the translation soon (as soon as I get time because I'm up to my ears in work). But in the meantime - if you happen to read Italian - check out the contest website and read all of the stories.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Blog news

I changed the URL for my Italian language blog A Spasso sul Mare so that it would be easier to find. I'll be giving up the old URL at the end of the month.

There's also a new post up on Walking on Water - finally!
Let me know what you think.

Book reviews: The Temple of Light

I finished the book Il Tempio della Luce by Daniela Piazza, written in Italian and published in 2012. It's a historical novel set in 15th century Milan about a group of priests overseeing a period of the cathedral's construction and raising a young boy who was the secret heir of the late Duke of Milan. The author weaves fictional characters and real people into a semi-fictional account of an assassination that actually took place.

I really enjoyed the historical descriptions because I know a lot about Milan. I found the plot to contain a lot of cruelty and violence, which unfortunately is not wrong for the time period. In the 15th century, women and children were not seen as people. Orphans were left in the middle of the streets to become beggars, and young girls were married off or sent to convents or brothels. Rulers really were ruthless (if you don't believe me, click here) and the Inquisition is a blight on the history of the church.

In this book, the priests are devout followers of a Celtic goddess and they recognize the Virgin Mary as an incarnation of her. They are trying to see the cathedral through to completion in order to bring Man back into contact with God, but what they've got in mind is not merely spiritual.

Look for the English translation.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Italian language blog

I haven't been able to find a lot of Italian blogs about faith, so I started my own. I plan to translate the articles for the English language blog I started two years ago. Up to now, I've kept my blogging to myself and a few close friends, probably just to get comfortable with the idea of people actually reading what I write.

That shouldn't sound weird, but it does. A writer should want people to read her stuff, but I find it painful at times. The idea that someone could find fault with my writing just makes my stomach churn, but the flip side of that is even stronger. What if someone actually likes it?

In the end, deciding to go public is giving into the idea that my ideas are not just for me. We live in a community, and no one is supposed to go it alone. Ideas are to be shared. That's why we read.

Drop by if you can read Italian: A Spasso sul Mare
If you prefer English, the same article was posted here: Walking on Water

Saturday, June 14, 2014


It's time to go to camp. Now, what will I work on?

I have a distraction (called a "day job") that has prevented me from reaching my word count in previous editions. Maybe this year, I'll have it licked. I just have to find the right notebook.

Years ago, I had an idea for a novel that I would like to read. All writers want to write the sort of books we love to read, of course. In fact, I have already scribbled several pages on it. I just need to find the notebook.

It's blue with a plastic cover and spiral binding. I even remember that it was college-ruled paper. (Oh so annoying because I love to scrawl all over the place!) It's in a box someplace with other stuff that didn't need to be urgently unpacked after my move last year.

If I can find it, I will just type it in and start with a decent word count. Heck, I might even be able to finish the darn thing!

So now you know I'm planning to work on a novel. Maybe you'll get curious enough to find out why.

PS. If you want to go to camp, there's still time to sign up. We're having s'mores around the bonfire.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Living Room Library

We've just finished putting up new bookshelves at home. We unpacked all sorts of stuff: encyclopedias, medical journals, novels, and non-fiction books on everything - business, religion, politics, animals, the Italian aristocracy, cooking, history, astronomy, ... well, you get the picture. I'm seriously thinking about organising them somehow (think Dewey Decimal System) and keeping an updated file on the hard drive. We already have an incomplete list (started by my daughters a few years ago on a boring, rainy afternoon) but it really needs to be updated and searchable.

Most of our books are in English or Italian, but I did find a few in French and one or two in Chinese (I think). Those are for decoration, I'm sure. They really are pretty, but I have no idea what they're about.

I picked up a historical novel to read called Il Tempio della Luce by Daniela Piazza. It's in Italian, and I don't know if it has been translated because it came out in 2012. It's set in medieval Milan during the period the Duomo was built. The central cathedral is a massive Gothic church that was begun in 1387 and has actually never been finished. There is a still a company that manages repairs and renovation, so it's considered to be an ongoing enterprise. In fact, the Milanese have a saying that compares monumental jobs or tasks that never seem to be finished to this "Duomo Factory".

Il Tempio della Luce is set in the mid 1400s and tells the story of a boy who is supposedly the rightful heir of the dukedom and the priests who take him in and raise him. The religious order overseeing the cathedral's completion are devoted to a goddess, who they recognize as the Virgin Mary. They raise their young charge to accept his rightful vocation as leader of Milan, and also as a member of their secret society. The descriptions of the medieval city and its politics, and the intertwined aspects of Celtic mythology and Christian tradition give the story a feeling of authenticity and mystery.

I'm enjoying it, and I'll admit that curiosity has gotten the better of me so I've taken the time to check a few facts and dates. So far, what I've checked has checked out as it should. When I finish it, I'll let you know what I think.

It's really nice to go into the room and look at all of the different titles. Our books are a collection of different historical periods and genres. I don't believe in throwing books away. When they are no longer wanted, they should be given to someone else. A book never goes out of style, it just gets put on a shelf for a while. These old stories give us a glimpse into our own past, and let us contemplate the psychology and grammatical choices of past generations.

I've decided to read them all - one by one - just because they're there. I've also decided to share my opinions about them - just to write something.

People who read live hundred of lives in thousands of different places. We do everything, and experience all kinds of situations. We learn and grow through the experiences of others - be they real people or fictitious characters. We become depositories of collective knowledge and vessels filled with the wisdom of the ages.

And we learn how to string melodramatic sentences too.  :-)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Resurrection time.

It's time to get back on line. Things are shifting ever so slowly, and the new season is going to bring new content. It's been almost a year since my last post on Walking on Water.
It's all about trying to sort out life, and still write.

Hope you are a patient as I am.