I just signed up for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. On September 6th, I’ll be posting about an experience I had in a recent online Writing Boot Camp class taught by the fine folks at Creative Nonfiction, when my excellent teacher Rhonda challenged us to write in a new genre. So, for the first time ever, I played with a podcast/radio drama format, with good and not so good results. I’ll tell you all about it but tonight it’s after 10 pm and the Hawaiian tradewinds are howling outside my window and my bed awaits. I’m happy to be here, and look forward to writing my blog post, and reading everyone else. Thank you, Gail Baugniet, for turning me on to IWSG!
A Free-Roaming Cat Family (AKA Feral) and Me, Part 1 of 4
Eight weeks ago, Barry and I watched three half-grown cats roaming under houses and on the streets and backyards of this upscale neighborhood in lush upper Manoa valley above the University of Hawaii. Barry’s brother Peter lives with us and his 100-year-old mother Lily in this redwood house built six decades ago.
Peter thought I shouldn’t feed the cats. But their bony frames loosely covered by skin cried out to me for food. So I left tasty scraps for one of the three, a beauty with white paws, light brown, tortoise shell markings, and a sweet disposition unless I came too close. Little did I know I was feeding a female with a family.
Before the cats arrived, I’d hung a bird feeder in a Drasino Tree, changing the ecology of the down-sloping backyard overflowing with strawberry guava, tangerine and banana trees, ferns, and the anthurium plants my mom called little boy flowers. Dozens of rice birds, cardinals, a few wild parrots and some black-headed birds I didn’t recognize swamped the feeder, fighting for rice or black sunflower seeds, entertaining Lily, who sits on her long couch watching through a bank of picture windows. A thick branch grows parallel to the ground beneath the bird feeder, forms a perfect hiding place for a cat to lay in wait until an unsuspecting dove pecking for spilled seeds on the grass becomes complacent. Since the birds caw raucously whenever a cat’s around, this hasn’t happened. Yet.
Unknown to us, Mama Cat hid behind Peter’s spidery, torn cardboard boxes occupying the left side of the covered patio, alongside a spare wheelchair for Lily. Barry’s and my plastic boxes with clip-on lids, and a metal trunk stacked flush against the wall, occupy the right side. Unlike our boxes, Peter’s leave a bit of space between boxes and wall. I had no idea there was a kitten-sized sliver of an opening to the outside.
It amazes me what small spaces a little cat can fit into. I never saw the petite beauty when she looked even the least bit pregnant. Barely past the kitten stage herself, this Lolita kept her babies hidden behind Peter’s boxes until they were two weeks old and they started scrambling around, exploring, falling off boxes, peeking out from under the wheelchair.
The first time I knew about the little creatures was when I carried a bucket of towels and T-shirts to hang on the rope clothesline spanning the length of the patio. The sound of rustling plastic made me look down. Wedged between the spare wheelchair and the chair covered in plastic, three tiny kittens, one yellow, two white, suckled Mama Cat, who looked at me with baleful eyes as they kneaded their tiny toes on her underbelly.
I started feeding Mama more; cans of tuna, leftover bone-broth chicken after I picked out the bones. At first I tried to keep the cat family hidden from dog lover Peter. I was worried he’d want to take the little ones to the Humane Society, where 99 percent of feral cats are euthanized. Humane killing, they call it. What I’ve read about some of these killings makes me shudder. If kittens pass the Humane Society’s health and socialization standards, however, the animals are kept in cages until they’re adopted. But socialization, at least by me, was out of the question for these kittens. Mama Kitty was not about to let me anywhere near her children.
I tried to find homes for this cat family before Barry’s two sisters flew to Oahu in mid-July in case they looked at me askance for feeding the stray cat family in the backyard. Barry told me not to worry, so I didn’t, and visualized everything working out for the best. I thought about how precarious life can be for a little homeless cat with kittens.
Luckily Mama Kitty found us. Luckily Barry and I were privileged to watch the kittens grow and play, climb trees, chase leaves and lizards and Mama Cat’s tail. We watched them from the picture windows as they leaped and raced and pounced on each other through the lush, overgrown yard. How great to live in a house rather than a high rise, with birds flocking to the bird feeder and kittens looking longingly upward, wishing they could fly.
I snapped pictures of the kittens and advertised them on Craigslist. I was emailing a guy named Allen who claimed he wanted the kittens as a companion to his rescue kitten, even though I told him the kittens were wild. Then a cat lady from a Facebook forum clued me in that some people take free kittens on Craigslist and use them for dog or fish bait. I shuddered and removed my ad.
Wouldn’t it be fabulous if you could rewrite a heartbreaking event in your life so it would turn out the way you wanted it to happen?
This short story is based on true events described in my true crime romance memoir, “Angel Hero, Murder in Hawai’i, A True Story,” but fictionalized to have a happier ending. The episode at the beginning with the clairvoyant palmist actually happened. The episode at the end could have happened if the hero hadn’t…well, I shouldn’t give the ending away. For a tantalizing taste of the book, go to https://authorlizbethhartz/chapter1 and download the first chapter for free.
I titled this short story “Only Love.” It’s too long for one blog post, so I’ll share it in five consecutive posts.
Tacked to a peeling front door in Chinatown, a purple-lettered sign announces Aurora, Clairvoyant Palmist. Longing for a little magic, I enter the candle-lit shop. A kind-faced, white-haired woman in a billowing purple muumuu floats to a wooden spool table. I sit across from her, the woodsy scent of sandalwood incense wafting over me.
Clairvoyant, huh? Sure. But she makes a believer out of me the moment she touches my right hand. Her touch zaps me like an electric current, waking up intense grief I didn’t know was buried inside. Stunned, I feel pain tearing through me. My heart throbs painfully and I sob so convulsively I hiccup for air. Oh my god. I’m having a nervous breakdown.
“Ah, I see you’re sensitive, Goldilocks. It’s just past life sorrow, dear.” She runs a purple fingernail lightly across my palm, stares at me with luminescent blue-green eyes. “See the cross connecting your life line and your heart line? That’s a psychic cross.”
I sniffle, nod. “My mother called me her little witch Lizzy.”
She studies my right hand. “Was your father present when you were a child, Liz?”
“When he wasn’t flying B-52s for the Air Force, or working long hours.”
Aurora points to a dimple where my second finger meets my palm. “See this? The lack of a mount tells me you lacked a supportive male role model growing up.”
I start crying again. I just can’t help it. “You got that right. I never knew when Dad would explode in anger. I walked on pins and needles around him, and woke up sweating from nightmares about men chasing me, screaming.”
The woman says softly, “You still carry heartbreak in your aura from longing for, but lacking, a man’s love.” She tells me I carried the heartache into this life from a prior lifetime. “You loved a married man. He asked you to be his mistress, as was the custom of the times.”
She went on about how the thought of unsanctified sex had terrified me. How I escaped by becoming a nun, and made spiritual gains through prayer and meditation. “Hence your psychic ability now. But you hurt yourself withdrawing like that.” Aurora frowns. “Such a retreat is a kind of suicide. God wants you to say yes to life, not hide from it.”
But how do I say yes?
As if she could read my mind, Aurora said, “If you can break out of your shell, and learn to speak up for yourself, you’ll experience an exalted spiritual relationship with a man in this lifetime.”
“Really? You suppose assertiveness training would help?”
She smiles, her blue-green eyes reflecting the flickering candlelight. “But be careful not to fall for angry men like your dad, lest you perpetuate the heartache that has plagued you so long.”
A is for the Astrological Connection of Palmistry and the Planets #AtoZApril2017Challenge
Interested in palmistry? If you are, you’ll notice many astrological terms used therein, such as Mounts of Venus, Jupiter, and Mercury, Line of Mars, etc. Why, you ask? Because palmistry and astrology have been linked for centuries. Each finger is associated with a planet. For example, the base of the thumb is associated with Venus, the outer edge of the palm with the moon.
(For myself, I became interested in palmistry when I read a man’s hand who had murderer’s thumbs. And he later murdered his friend. But that’s another story. The story, actually, of my book Angel Hero, Murder in Hawai’i, A True Story. But I digress.)
Originally, it was thought that the planets influenced the makeup of the hands. The traditional names of the various parts of a hand are linked to the seven visible planets—the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. However, palmistry can be understood without knowing anything about astrology.
The Public and Private Hand
Take a ruler or a pen and lay it down either hand, from between the two middle fingers down to the wrist. The side of the hand that includes the thumb concerns public life, so it has an “Ascendant” and “Midheaven” vibration to it, like in Astrology. The other side of the hand connects more closely to relationships and home life, having a “Descendant” and “Imum Coeli” (bottom of the sky) feel to it.
The Jupiter, Saturn, Sun, and Mercury Sections
In the diagram above, you can see that the index, two middle fingers, and little finger (and the mounts below them) are designated Jupiter, Saturn, Sun and Mercury, in that order.
Thanks for reading my post! Check back tomorrow for the letter B: A Brief History of Palmistry.
DARK PARADISE, Mysteries in the Land of Aloha, a compilation of 17 Hawaiian mystery short stories (one of them my short story Palm It Off On Murder), has been in the planning stages for two years. I’m thrilled to announce that, on Monday, April 3, the Facebook page DARK PARADISE goes live. Editor of the anthology, author Gail Baugniet, has arranged for a “Cover Reveal” on their Facebook page for this exciting new mystery anthology.
The anthology, with a Foreword by best-selling author Toby Neal, will be released in trade book and e-book formats at Amazon.com the second week of April, 2017. Each of the 17 mystery short stories is set in Hawai’i and all offer unique perspectives about living in Paradise (here’s a spoiler from Gail: it’s not all rainbows and Mai Tais!)
Plan to visit us on Facebook, Monday, April 3. Along with the cover reveal, we will share some of the short story plotlines, details about the authors, and tidbits of writing information we’ve picked up along the way.
Each participant blogging today has offered to reveal a tidbit about their short story . . . without giving away the plot. You can visit each site listed below to get a sneak peek at what is lurking behind the fabulous DARK PARADISE cover!
Here’s my tidbit; the question posed by my mystery short storyPalm It Off On Murder:
What happens when left-brained chiropractor Barry and his right-brained palmist girlfriend Aurora team up in a whole-hearted effort to catch a killer?
A little background: In 2016, my true-crime/romance memoir Angel Hero, Murder in Hawai’i, A True Story, was published by Kwill Books (my book trailer, accompanied by my song Angel Hero, plays at http://www.kwillbooks.com/lizbeth-hartz.) I’m proud to say I kept my promise to the true life hero, Vic, to tell his story or die trying.
Now, in this short story, I am showcasing a different hero, my fiancé Barry. Palm It Off On Murder is my first published mystery short story. In real life, Barry expertly fixes his patients’ backs, often in one adjustment. He truly is “The Doc Who Always Gets It Right”.
Lizbeth, who adopts the palmistry name Aurora in my story, believes love is stronger than death, and hands can reveal truths hidden from the conscious mind. Somehow Lizzy turned out to be somewhat like me. As my mama used to say, the fruit doesn’t fall very far from the tree.
A talented group of local authors have written short stories for Dark Paradise, including Laurie Hanan, Gail M. Baugniet, A.J. Llewellyn, Bob Newell, Alain Gunn, Gay Coburn Gale, Rosemary and Larry Mild, Michael Little, Doris Chu, D.W. Scott, David W. Jones, Shauna Jones, D.V. Whytes, Hannah Cheng, and Carol Catanzariti.
While wrestling today with what to write for Susannah Conway’s Blogging from the Heart assignment, the idea to write poetry pounced on me. So I pulled out some old poetry and spiffed it up, and scribbled down some new. And then, as is my wont, I edited and reedited, and now I hope it’s up to snuff. Would you please let me know what you like or don’t like about my medley?
I woke up this morning with this poem about my magnificent significant other, Barry, swimming through my mind.
Barry bares his kind heart
This healer, this hunk
Of a bad ass, of a good guy
My love for him high
As the sapphire sky
He makes my lows less low
Less scraping the ground
My world better all around
And brighter and lighter
Look up at the sky, angels flying
Like me, taking themselves lightly
I love the Haiku form. Last night’s restlessness was the impetus:
Night but I can’t sleep
Though peace lies thick as midnight
Ghosts walk in my mind
Watching an Oceanfest competition on TV where gymnast couples and a dad with his small son surfed in tandem inspired me to write this poem:
Blue-green tiers of waves
Feathering in the Oceanfest
Gymnast couples like balls on boards
Balance, bowl over
Papa surfs in tandem, small son teeters
Dad slings boy
Over steady shoulder
A boulder on a board
Gliding to shore
This poem was inspired by the memory of heartache when I was an unwitting and unwilling side of a man-and-two-women triangle:
Let Me Pretend
This time he’ll stop and he will see me
Really see me, and he’ll wonder
Why he tears my heart asunder
Question why he could not see
The love that grows in him for me
He’ll beg me not to let us end.
Let me pretend.
This time I’ll say, “Why must you lie?
If you love her, let me go,
If you love me, tell her so
I don’t believe your alibis
Every time she calls, I die.
I’m strong enough to see us end.”
Let me pretend.
Hawai’i Changes the Law on First-Degree Murder Again – Part 1
While attending a Sisters (and Misters) in Crime meeting during May of this year, the topic of first-degree murder in Hawai’i raised its grisly head. Actually, I raised it. My intentions were good. I wanted my fellow SINCs (Sisters in Crime) to get their facts straight when they wrote about murder. Since I’m the only author in the group who’s written about a killing that really occurred, I volunteered to talk about the penalty for the murder described in my true crime memoir Angel Hero.
“That murder took place in 1985,” I told a dozen or so writers as we sat at round tables in Makiki Library. “Twenty-eight years later, in 2013, the law changed. The conviction for first-degree, premeditated murder that occurred in 1985 could not have happened in 2013. The new rule for a first-degree murder conviction in 2013 was that a police officer or judge had been killed. The murderer in Angel Hero would have been convicted of second-degree murder instead of first if that murder had occurred in 2013.”
A woman in the group frowned and shook her head. “A conviction for first-degree murder has to do with premeditation, not whether you kill a cop or a judge.” She looked something up on her smart phone. “The law agrees with me,” she added. “Better get your facts straight lest you embarrass yourself, Liz. If that’s what you say in your novel, better change it.”
“It’s not a novel, it’s a true crime romance memoir.” I gritted my teeth. My heart races when someone tells me I’m wrong about something that I’m sure as shooting I’m right about. I have to breathe deeply for a bit before I speak.
So I breathed in and breathed out. As world renowned peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh recommended, I did my darnedest to rejoice in my breathing in, and smile at my out breath.
“I never said premeditation wasn’t a factor in a murder conviction.” I smiled. “And I’m sure I’m right about the change in law, but I’ll Google it and get back to you.” I could hardly wait to surf the net and find some facts that proved her wrong.
What did my research reveal? I was correct. Back in 1985, the gunman I write about in my book was convicted of first-degree, premeditated murder. He was sentenced to life in prison (20 years,) but the parole board set the minimum at less than half that time.
In 2013, however, the law changed. Even if a killing was premeditated, the gunman could no longer be charged with first-degree murder unless a judge or police officer was fatally shot. Had the gunman I wrote about in Angel Hero murdered someone in 2013 instead of 1985, he would have been charged with second-degree murder.
The woman was correct that first-degree murder is premeditated. Defined as an unlawful killing that is both willful and premeditated, the latter means it was committed after planning or “lying in wait” for the victim.
An author friend of mine, Laurie Hanan, got me a gig speaking at a local library recently. Because my book Angel Hero is a fictionalized memoir, the librarian asked me to talk about writing one. I worked long and hard on my 15-20 minute speech before I came up with this version, which I’ll post over the course of four posts.
Writing a Fictionalized Memoir, Part 1
In this age of “reality” TV, there’s a huge audience for shared real-life experience. Readers are hungry for true stories. We want to listen to a voice that says, “I really did this, and this is what I learned.” A voice speaking the truth and touching our hearts.
I hope to be such a voice for you today as I tell you a little bit about the grisly crime I survived and the love I experienced, as told in this second edition of my fictionalized memoir Angel Hero. It’s a memoir because the story is true. I call it fictionalized because the names, dates, and places have been changed to protect the innocent.
Remember how angrily readers and Oprah Winfrey reacted to writer James Frey, who passed off A Million Little Pieces as a memoir rather than a novel in 2006? Frey broke a contract with the reader, that if you call your book a memoir, you don’t make up new events, or change the old ones, or embellish too much, or invent dialogue. Since he fictionalized events and dialogue, he should have called his book a novel based on a true story.
Is anyone here writing a memoir? If you are, and you want to get it published for a larger audience than your family and friends, be careful not to write anything false or damaging about anyone. If you do, even if you’ve disguised who they are, you could be sued for libel, or even thrown in jail.
If you’re seeking a publisher, you’ll want to tell a page-turning story. You’ll need tension, conflict, and a story arc to drive the action. You’ll need a story people will want to read, perhaps something like, “A timid dispatcher who’s been denied love throughout her lifetime finds the courage to stand up to a murderer when she finds true love.” At least, I hope people will want to read this, because this is the story arc of my book.
In Chapter 1, I write that I transferred from the Army Fire Department to Whaler Air Force Fire Department. People ask me, “Why didn’t you call it by its real name instead of Whaler?” My answer: “For the first 29 years of writing my book, I changed the names and descriptions of people, and the dates, and the names of places, and called the book a novel inspired by a true story. I changed these details because I agreed with my writers group and friends who said, since the gunman still roamed the streets of Honolulu, it was dangerous to use real names and dates lest he find out what I’d written about him.”
Last month, after discovering the gunman had passed away, I changed the genre from a novel to a fictionalized memoir. I don’t need to pretend this is a made-up story anymore.
Knowing I would be one of four mystery authors to participate in a panel discussion at a Sisters in Crime meeting at Makiki Library in September, 2015, I’d done my research. In a small hot area enclosed by bookcases, twenty or so of us Sisters (and Misters) in Crime pulled our chairs close to round tables.
I sweated, fanned myself with a red round fan courtesy of the library, and glanced at my notes about the two questions I’d agreed to answer. Which author, living or dead, would I choose to do lunch with and why? What height of accomplishment did I reach when my book Angel Hero was published last year?
My immediate choice of authors was Ray Bradbury, famous fantasy writer. As a wide-eyed child nurtured by fairy tales and magic, the no-nonsense diet doled out by my just-the-facts-ma’am dad left me starving.
Ravenously, I devoured Bradbury’s enchanting short stories and novels, shouted “Yes!” to battling witches’ sinister spells, felt my thumbs prickle when Mr. Electro sizzled and embryos in bottles haunted dark carnivals, rode a rocket to the murmuring canals of Mars where gray-eyed Martians seeped into my bones, got sloppy drunk on Dandelion Wine and thirsted for more.
In his book Zen and the Art of Writing, Releasing the Creative Genius Within You, Bradbury recommends writers write about what they love and what they hate. “What do you want more than anything else in the world?” he asks. “Find a character like yourself who will want something or not want something with all his heart.”
In Angel Hero I, like Bradbury, wrote about a character who wanted something with all her heart. One big difference between this fiction master and me is that, while his characters are a little like him, they are also a whole lot different.
In my book, however, the main character is essentially me, and the other characters are essentially them. And my story is true except for names, dates, and locations, whereas Bradbury’s are as fictional as fiction gets.
In 2004, when I was writing song lyrics, I had the good fortune to hook up with talented singer/songwriter Shelley Miller. On a shoestring, without the aid of a recording studio, she transformed my lyrics into a medium-tempo folk song, created the music, and sang my Resurrection song beautifully. In less than two weeks, she polished off the recording so I could submit it in time for the 2004 Songwriting USA contest. Shelley’s talents have continued to grow; you can check out her website at http://www.shelleymiller.net/shelleynew.html
Followers of my blog know this is the second Resurrection song I have posted here. I wrote the lyrics of both to honor my dear late friend Vic Lazzarini, the hero of my memoir Angel Hero.
Lyrics by Lizbeth Hartz/Music and Vocals by Shelley Miller