Friday, June 22, 2012

Friday Art & History Feature - Cats

"As every cat owner knows, nobody owns a cat" (attributed to Ellen Perry Berkeley)

I have always been a dog person...that is until I met my hubby and got introduced to his three cats. Since then, I'm both a dog and a cat person (well, I'm an animal person in general). Those three cats became like my children and I can't imagine my life without them. All three had the personality more of dogs than cats. They were loving and loved to cuddle. Today, we only have one left out of three. The other two have since passed away, which caused us much sadness and grief. We make sure to pamper the last one of the group we have left.

Kirk, who was like a son to us, especially to my hubby. RIP

You can love cats, don't love them and think they are stand-offish, you can treat them as children or be too allergic to even be in the same room with them. But you cannot deny that there's something mysterious and special about these creatures.

My little old man Bones, the cat we still have today

The history of house cats is immense, so I'm only going to tell you a few key and interesting facts out of it here.

It is now thought by scientist that the first domestication of wild cats occurred over 8,000 years ago. Some of the earliest findings of this domestication lead back to ancient Cyprus, where archaeologists discovered a skeleton of a cat buried with a human even earlier. Other scientists, however, believe that the domestication of cats happened around 12,000 years ago in the Middle East area, with the rise of the first agricultural societies.

While the domestication of dogs occurred much earlier before the domestication of cats, and dogs had many uses to humans, it is thought that the reason cats were initially domesticated during the beginning of agricultural societies was to have them hunt mice that would get into the grain storage.

Bast (Bastet)
 Since then, cats have been around humans as companions, as well as aloof observers. They are mysterious and often finicky, creatures that do whatever they want to and interact with humans when they wish to. Many cultures and some religions held cats in high esteem. For example, Egyptians were known for worshipping this animal and even had a goddess, Bastet, who had the head of a cat and was the goddess of love and protectress of Lower Egypt. It is interesting to note that she started out as a "lion-headed" goddess before her transformation into a feline one. The ancient Egyptians held such reverence for domestic cats, that to kill one meant death as punishment.

In the Middle Ages, cat became associated with dark powers and witchcraft. They were often killed as protection against evil and this went on until about 1600, until the domestic cat once again started to become popular in the West. A number of superstitions were also developed during the Middle Ages in Europe, such as the belief that a cat will suffocate a newborn infant by putting its nose to the child's mouth, sucking the breath out of the infant.

Interestingly, though, cats were favored by actors because they seemed to relax and calm their nerves before performances.

Chinese also valued cats highly but for more practical purposes of killing rats, but they were also favored as pets. Japanese respected and revered cats as bringing good luck and good fortune. The same is true in Russia, where cats are often put into a house first before a family moves in so they can bring good luck and cleanse the space of evil spirits.

Maneki-neko, the "lucky" cat of Japan

Today, cats are the most common pet in households around the world. With over 80 various breeds of domestic cats, there's a large variety to choose from. But whatever breed they are, they make great companions, even if sometimes they don't show the love as readily as dogs. In fact, sometimes it seems that cats behave more closely to us, humans.

I'd like to tell you a personal family story about cats. This story is fascinating and amazing, but also sad, so I have to give you a warning. I heard this story from my grandfather. When he was a child of about 3-4 years old, he was with his mother in evacuation (as this was during World War II) in some small village far away from any big city. He fell very ill, and the local doctor said that he will not survive the night. There was a cat in the house they were staying in. The cat kept coming and laying on my grandfather's chest. The adults tried to chase him away a number of times, but in the end they gave up and let him lay there. In the morning, my grandfather was all better...and the cat was dead. It was as if he took the sickness into himself. My grandfather is not a big believer in a lot of supernatural things, but the few times he told this story, I could see that there was still amazement in his voice.

What is the most amazing experience you've ever had with cats? Are you a cat person at all?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Contests & Giveaways in the Writing World - week of June 18th

Well, it's Monday, and for once I'm feeling energized and ready to be productive this week! Although I still feel a little like this:

To get the week started positively, don't forget to check out these cool contests and giveaways.

First off, I would like to tell you about an auction that Tina Moss and I are participating in for a cause that is very dear to our hearts. You can win a critique on your query and first three chapters from me and Tina in the BE HERE NOW auction. The proceeds of this auction will go to finish a documentary about Andy Whitfield's (Spartacus, Gabriel) struggle with cancer in the months preceding his death. Andy was an amazing, beautiful person and actor who died of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in September of 2011. You can read more about this auction and the cause here. To bid on our auction item, please go here.

Review From Here is running an interview with Giacomo Giammatteo, the author of a mystery thriller Murder Takes Time. Pump Up Your Book and Giacomo Giammatteo are teaming up to offer a contest/giveaway for a chance to win an iPad 3, a Kindle Fire or a $50 Gift certificate! Now that would many anybody's Monday! The contest ends August 17th.

Kelsey's Book Corner is having a guest post and giveaway by Laurel Bradley. Check it out and enter to win a signed copy of Laurel's book Trust No One. Contest ends July 2nd.

SA Larsen of the Writer's Ally is part of the a Daemons in the Mist Tour - Meet the Characters Giveaways by author Alicia Kat Dillman. Check out the character interview and enter to win a signed eBook copy of Daemons in the Mist, as well as some other cool prizes!

Visit Vicky Dreiling's blog for a chance to win book 1 of The Falcon Club series (When a Scot Loves a Lady) by Katherine Ashe plus a signed copy of How to Ravish a Rake.

More great Giveaways and Contests to come in two weeks!

*As always, please contact me for the inclusion of your contests/giveaways into the Monday Contests and Giveaways in the Writing World posts.

Have fun and good luck!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

On virtues and struggles of Perseverance and Discipline

per·se·ver·ance : continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition (Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

 dis·ci·pline : training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character (Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

We all have moments of looking at ourselves, shaking our heads and wanting to give up. Moments when we want to crawl under the covers, get into a fetal position and shut the whole world out. Moments when life gets tough, the brain refuses to function much and the body is an exhausted mess. Oh, how we want to give into these moments sometimes. And it's ok to allow yourself to feel that for a moment - but not more than that. Because while you're feeling all out of sorts and like it's all too much, you're taking yourself out of a whole world of options, opportunities and achieving your most precious goals. 
 And what I recently found out was that when I push myself at a point where I don't think I can do anymore pushing - I find a whole new reserve of strength and energy and even passion within myself. And that newly found reserve pushes me onward and makes me happy. As long as I remember this revelation, I'll be able to push myself forward. As long as I remember that pushing myself to get past exhaustion and do a 3-hour cross-training twice a week suddenly gives me more physical energy and the excitement of training my body hard, I'll do it. As long as I remember that pushing myself to get past the fog in my head at the end of the day and write, even for half an hour, gives me an immense feeling of satisfaction and urges me to keep writing more, I'll do it.
Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments. -Jim Rohn
So what does all this have to do with perseverance and discipline? One is married to the other. If you want to persevere and endeavor in reaching certain goals, you will find the discipline to do it. And as long as you have discipline that guides your life, you will persevere in reaching those goals. But more than that, being disciplined will open up amazing new opportunities and even make you fearless. Because you will know that with discipline you can overcome so much, you can push yourself so far - and be happy doing it!

 We start learning the principles of discipline when we're children. Children need structure, they can't run around doing whatever they want. In the same way, we as adults need structure and discipline to become the best that we can be, to realize our potential. We often tend to forget this, or just not care enough about it, when we become adults. Yes, life can get in the way - but only if you let it!

The whole attitude of perseverance and being disciplined in your life brings an inherent satisfaction all by itself. A lot of people seem to be happy letting life dictate their actions and attitudes. They are happy to sit on the couch at the end of a hard work day because it just feels easier. But down the road, they become depressed and dissatisfied with what they do and how they act. They realize that they are not going anywhere, that there's an emptiness within them that is extremely dissatisfying. They realize that they are not able to reach for the stars that way - and isn't that what most of us intrinsically want?

 So get into the habit of pushing yourself a little more each day and watch a whole new world of satisfaction open up in front of you. Mold yourself into being the best human being you can be. Be disciplined about what you want to do, what you want to achieve. And in between the pushes, don't forget to take restful breaks and recharge, so that you're able to push yourself harder the next day!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A tribute to Ray Bradbury

 The first time I read Bradbury, it was in Russian. Since then, I've read him in both Russian and English and have loved all of his stories. I believe his works were my first foray into the darkness of human nature and they influenced me as a young woman, and later a as a writer.

My favorites were the two works that are probably the most known: Fahrenheit 451 and the Martial Chronicles. But I also enjoyed the Illustrated Man and Dandelion Wine, as well as many other stories. Bradbury was a true visionary (as many sci-fi authors turn out to be) into the human nature, the modernization of the human society and the perils that come with it. Within his works, one can find reality shows watched on large screens (decades before they actually became popular in our culture), the decrease (or loss) of simple human face-to-face interaction because of technology (think text messaging, email, skype, etc..) and the ever growing threat of literature giving way to interactive gaming and such. It is a truly scary and dark world when you read these novels and stories - until you realize that so much of what Bradbury wrote about is part of our present.

But beyond these problems and darkness, there is also a sense of great wonder and curiosity in all of Bradbury's work. And a sense of the human indomitable spirit shining through.

This is my little tribute to the great visionary and writer Ray Bradbury. May you rest in peace - your legacy will remain in this world.

Writers, don't forget to check out Ray Bradbury's essays on writing: The Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity.

A few of my favorite quotes by Ray Bradbury:

- Jump, and you will find out how to unfold your wings as you fall.

- I know you've heard it a thousand times before. But it's true - hard work pays off. If you want to be good, you have to practice, practice, practice. If you don't love something, then don't do it.

- Love is the answer to everything. It's the only reason to do anything. If you don't write stories you love, you'll never make it. If you don't write stories that other people love, you'll never make it.

- Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for.

- The best scientist is open to experience and begins with romance - the idea that anything is possible.
- There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.

When did you first read Ray Bradbury? How did he influence you? What were your favorite works by him?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Contests and Giveaways in the Writing World - week of June 4th

This is definitely how I felt all day - the rain part included:

To get the week going in a positive direction, don't forget to check out these cool contests and giveaways.

InkPagaent June contest page is up! Enter to win one of the greatest writing aides out there - The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression, by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi! They are also giving away a $20 Amazon gift card! Who can resist that? (I know I can't!)

Heather McCorkle is giving away signed hardback of LACRIMOSA by Christine Fonseca during her Puca tour this week! Check out the details at her blog, and follow Heather on her tour!

Hurry to Goodreads to enter for a chance to win a signed copy of The Forever Girl by Rebecca Hamilton.

A fun challenge and "freak" giveaway from Jennifer Hillier! The challenge is to write a short story using the word "freak". It can be as short as one sentence and as long as 150 words. Enter for your chance to win advance review copies of Freak, a hardcover of Creep and a $50 Amazon gift card!

More great Giveaways and Contests to come in two weeks!

*As always, please contact me for the inclusion of your contests/giveaways into the Monday Contests and Giveaways in the Writing World posts.

Have fun and good luck!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Friday Art & History Feature - Auguste Rodin

Eternal Spring by Auguste Rodin
Everyone is familiar with Auguste Rodin's famous "The Thinker". I fell in love, however, with Rodin's ethereal sculptures such as the Eternal Kiss and Eternal Spring, as well as his less known watercolor drawings and sketches.

The Thinker by Rodin

Auguste Rodin was born in 1840 in Paris. The start of his education was mainly self-taught, until he started attending the Petite Ecole, a school with an emphasis on mathematics and art. He began to draw as early as ten, however. After leaving the school in 1856, Rodin worked as a craftsman and decorator or architectural structures. After his favorite sister's death, Rodin briefly turned to a Catholic order. The founder of the order recognized Rodin's talent and encouraged him to leave the order and continue with his artistic endeavors.

Auguste Rodin

Rose in a straw hat by Rodin
 Rodin had lived with a woman named Rose Beuret from 1864 until the rest of his life, although he would go on to have other mistresses. He had a son with Rose. In 1883 Rodin met an 18-year old Camille Claudel.She was also a sculptor at the studio where Rodin worked. Their relationship was fiery, passionate and volatile, and they influenced each other's work. Eventually, the double life took its toll and Rodin broke off with Claudel in 1898. Following the break up, Claudel suffered a mental breakdown and was committed to a mental institution for the rest of her life.

Rodin often worked in clay first before casting his sculptures in bronze or vied it in marble. This was a new way for a sculptor to work. Rodin held a strong belief that one's physical features revealed their character. He liked his models to move naturally and free around the studio.

Eternal Kiss by Rodin
In his later years, Rodin became internationally known and accepted. After decades as a couple, Rodin finally married Rose Beuret in 1917. Two weeks later, Rose died. Rodin, already sickly, died a few months later.
Rodin is considered the father of modern sculpture and his legacy is tremendous.

Idol by Rodin

Gates of Hell by Rodin

Minerva by Rodin
Book on Rodin's Drawings and Watercolors (available on Amazon)
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