Catherine Stine's IDEA CITY

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Friday, June 29, 2012

Advice from an old priest; fun times at Taxiarchis

Hangin' with the guys at Taxiarchis
A group of us from the Seriphos Writing Workshop took a side trip to the Taxiarchis monastery up in Chora, the central village atop a small mountain. He served us coffee and Loukoumi squares, a powdery, sugary confection similar to Turkish Delight. This is not a term that the Greek folks on Seriphos would appreciate as the Turks have invaded Greece at least once, and the Greeks have their own special version of this candy!
At any rate, first we wandered around in the tiny cemetery, where each gravestone was marked with a photo of the departed. Then we walked into the inner garden, filled with flowers of psychedelic-hued magenta, and intrepid evergreens bursting with spiky seeds. The old priest invited us in. We had questions for him. One person asked if he had advice for getting past bad dreams. The priest smiled and said, "Don't sleep!" He grew more serious when asked about what was most important to a family. "Love and respect."
Monastery flowers

Jack & Cooper with the priest
Priestly things
And about relationships: "No fake ones, stay only in real ones of the heart, and if you find the one, keep her/him."
Inside the church we lit candles and I was particularly taken with a painting of a saint fighting a black-winged demon. Back outside, more blessings and kisses were conferred, and we departed reluctantly. I am not Greek Orthodox, not even close, yet I felt, and the others did too, that this humble man's soothing vibes had fully restored us to our own humanity.
The author at the Acropolis
Jack & Dinkar ride the bald-tired dragon

Monday, June 25, 2012

First Theaters, Made Contemporary!

Odeon of Herodes Atticus
The cradle of theater is considered to be the theater of Dionysus, an open-air stage set at the foot of the Acropolis at roughly 432 BC. Later, during the Roman rule, around 161 AD, Herodes Atticus built a theater in remembrance of his wife Regilla on the other side to match the Theater of Dionysus. He named it the Odeon, or the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. Yes, there was an Odeon before the trendy watering hole in Tribeca NY.

Excavated around 1857, Athens has fully renovated this spectacular outdoor arena, and this week, I had the pleasure to see a production of the opera Il Trovatore by Verdi there.

The Hand and Eye stage set
Despite the upcoming elections and debt crisis, Athen's society was out in full bloom for this event. People dressed in their summer finest, and enjoyed drinks in the Odeon's outer courtyard before the event. This was almost an entire event in itself--to be seen and see others.

My favorite was one of the male leads, a Korean opera singer named Rudy Park. His performance was so heartfelt and emotional that I found myself crying. Be on the lookout for this rising star. Watch him in action on this You Tube clip. The Odeon's acoustics were spot-on. I'm not even sure that the singers wore mics, that's how perfectly the sound traveled. Above are some of the sets: a giant hand, and eye, a ball of tortured souls. As the sun set, the moon was reflected in the onstage pools.

This opera was a wonderful counterpoint to the day's visit to the Acropolis and its fashionable new museum, devoted to showing the painstaking renovation of the Parthenon's "lost" statuary and art.

I'm reminded of the great outdoor spaces like Red Rocks in Denver, Colorado and Tanglewood in Massachusetts. 
What other great outdoor entertainment spaces do you know of? 
Great summer performances?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Stephen Tremp's novel is on SALE, plus my first moments in Greece

I want to give a shout out to alert folks that fellow blogger and author, Stephen Tremp’s sci-fi novel Breakthrough, The Adventures of Chase Manhattan is free on Amazon, June 18 and 19. Be sure to grab your copy of this futuristic page-turner!

Praise for Breakthrough:

“In a world about to be radically changed by a scientific discovery that will trump for good or evil purposes, a power-play struggle unfolds with breakneck speed and riveting drama in Breakthrough. Filled with intrigue, romance, betrayal, action scenes that have you gripping, some spiritual contemplation and quandary, emotions that run deep and strong, and packed with a multi-faceted cast of varied and multi-dimensional characters, Breakthrough is a novel you will find next to impossible to put down once you start reading” - Marvin Wilson, author and editor.”

For more info, a synopsis or reviews go to Stephen’s website here or his Goodreads author page here

I am in an obscure location in Greece, teaching for a few weeks and it's no small miracle that I found an Internet spot that works. I'm glad I got this post up and running for Stephen's sale. Now that I know which cafe is the place, I plan to connect a bit more. The Aegean sea is spectacularly blue, and the sun is sci-fi bright. I'll be posting about some of my experiences here, so stay tuned.
I'll leave you with some English words that come from the Greek:
agoraphobia= agora (marketplace) + phobia (fear) literally means fear of the marketplace, or fear of crowds!
polis= an ancient city state such as Athens-in America, think Indianapolis, metropolis, etc.
Know any more good ones?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Summer Workshops & The Lovely Blog Award

I've been busily preparing to teach a creative writing workshop in Greece. More precisely on an island there. I'll be taking the ferry out on their day of elections. Yikes, I hope that the election doesn't turn into a riot. Great timing, eh? But I'm excited to teach this group of very smart Missouri U students, and I've picked out some cool stories, including one from Ray Bradbury.
Yes, I'll be hooked into the Net, and will be reading and posting on blogs as usual. Perhaps by the azure ocean. It's a hard life.

On another note, I am flattered and delighted that Lucy Adams gave me a Lovely Blog Award. The rules state that I should link back to hers, so take a look and maybe follow her! Then, I reveal seven facts about myself, and award a few other blogs the Lovely Award. So here goes:

1. I have a phobia about flooding so I could never, ever watch the film Titanic.
2. I used to design watch faces, children's fabrics and solar-heated swimming pool covers!
3. Logic puzzles are cool, and that's why I love plotting.
4. If I weren't an author, I might be a psychiatrist. I am fascinated with aberrant behavior and how that can be used to create interesting villains in fiction.
5. I like my fictional leading men to be quirky and even a bit tortured. No vanilla hotties for me.
6. Ever since reading Bradbury's Martian Chronicles, I've been obsessed with Mars.
7. I love to travel to non-euro places. So far, I've been to China, Russia & India. Tashkent, Astana and Marrekesh, here we come.

Okay, now to grant the Lovely Award to three well-deserving blogs:
Lexa Cain and her mystical, Egyptian blog
Elizabeth Twist, Writer, Plague Enthusiast
Helen Mallon's WritingNurture

What are you up to this summer for vacation? Any inspired vacation writing spots?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

RIP, Mr. Bradbury, How You Still Light up the Stars for Us!

The young Ray
I am so very sad to hear that my favorite writer, mentor and inspiration died today. Ray Bradbury and his stories lit up my world so many years ago when I bought Martian Chronicles at a school book fair. Not just lit me up, but exploded my mind into a million synapses of burning delight. 
Part poet, part magician, and ever the inventive plot-meister, Ray wrote some of the best science fiction around. He was also an illustrator, and did cover art and interior spots for some of his own books. Something Wicked This Way Comes was a deliciously dark book about a carnival coming to town that was more sinister than the usual. (Don't you always suspect that clowns are perverse little demons? Think Killer Klowns from H*ll). His short story, "Fire Balloons" proves that not all summers are the same-old, same-old, but can transport young adults to a place of dreams. In Ray's words: "It's a story in which a number of priests fly off to Mars looking for creatures of good will. It is my tribute to those summers when my grandfather was alive. One of the priests was like my grandpa, whom I put on Mars to see the lovely balloons again, but this time they were Martians, all fired and bright, adrift above a dead sea." To read his whole piece, click here. It's in the June issue of The New Yorker, all devoted to sci-fi! Pick this issue up, it's totally worth the $.

One of Ray's Illustrations
Ray's list of classics is way too long to list here. But mention the title Farenheit 451 and you know how influential he was, and still is. This book is a cautionary tale about how important it is to protect books, and intellectual thinking. It's read in high schools across the country.

My favorite, forever is The Martian Chronicles. I have a version in Russian and French and wherever I travel I pick one up. (MC in Turkish, here we come!) This is the one that first lit my head on fire. His prose poetry still reigns supreme in passages like this: "Mr. and Mrs. K had the fair, brownish skin of the true Martian, the yellow coin eyes, the soft, musical voices. Once they had liked painting pictures with chemical fire, swimming in the canals in the seasons when the wine trees filled them with green liquors, and talking into the dawn together by the blue, phosphorous portraits in the speaking room. They were not happy now." Why? They sensed the coming of the humans from Earth is why!

I could go on and on but I'll leave you with some great links:
For a book containing his illustrations, Bradbury, an Illustrated Life, by Jerry Weist.
For more on Ray's life and work, read today's article on io9, the coolest online SF mag. Click here.
New addition, Obama weighs in on Ray here. Who ever said Obama wasn't a smart guy?!

Mr. Bradbury, I just know you can hear us crying down here, and you're probably saying, "Don't sweat it, folks, I'm having the time of my life in the stratosphere, drinking up virtual Dandelion Wine." So, let's all toast to invention, to Ray Bradbury and his wonderful works.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

M Pax's Guest Post "Evolution in Our Hands"

Thank you, Catherine for having me on your great blog today.
I'm delighted, M. Pax.

Catherine asked me to write about bioengineering. Seems we’ve written stories about the same intriguing branch of science. There have been so many fascinating breakthroughs in the discipline.

Unlocking the key to DNA and what individual genes do brings on the next wave in evolution: alfalfa that’s spider silk, crops that grow more nutrient rich food with less land and less water, people who thrive on less with the ability to maintain optimum health so that there is less stress on the environment.

There are many great and beneficial uses for manipulating biology and evolution on our planet, and off it. Already the population on Earth requires the resources of four planets this size. Stresses on our world, will push us to find ways to survive, including colonizing other planets.

Over the millennia we’ve become so adapted to this planet, it may be necessary to change ourselves so that we can adapt and thrive. I envision our first settlements off Earth as versions of ourselves, people bio-engineered to quickly adapt to the world they land on.

At first, I think the changes to our biology will be small. Over time they may become more radical. That’s what I based The Backworlds on, when the alterations start to stray farther from the basic, current human.

The main character, Craze, can hibernate, has more sensitive hearing, has living hair, and irresistibly soft skin. These traits often come into play to hinder and help him.

His friends, the aviarmen, have birdlike qualities—strong and delicate, quick and agile, but they don’t fly. There’s a character who is a Jix, a race that can change genders, and another that is squat and strong created to live on a planet with higher gravity.

What differentiates the Backworlds from the Foreworlds is how changed the humans are from the original Earth model. If you could change your genes to gain a special trait, what would you do? I think I’d opt for longer spurts of energy.

Here's the novel synopsis: After the war with Earth, bioengineered humans scatter across the Backworlds. Competition is fierce and pickings are scant. Scant enough that Craze’s father decides to hoard his fortune by destroying his son. Cut off from family and friends, with little money, and even less knowledge of the worlds beyond his own, Craze heads into an uncertain future. Boarding the transport to Elstwhere, he vows to make his father regret this day.

Available as an ebook from: Amazon / AmazonUK / Smashwords / Barnes & Noble  For other outlets such as iTunes and Kobo, see M. Pax’s Backworlds Page.

Sign up for M. Pax’s newsletter for discounts on sequels in the series and notifications of new stories.

M. Pax with a Telescope
About the author:
M. Pax’s inspiration comes from the wilds of Oregon, especially the high desert where she shares her home with two cats and a husband unit. Creative sparks also come from Pine Mountain Observatory where she spend her summers working as a star guide. She writes mostly science fiction and fantasy, but confesses to an obsession with Jane Austen. She blogs at her website, and at Wistful Nebulae. You’ll find links there to connect on Twitter, Goodread, FB and other sites.

For Catherine's review on The Backworlds go to Amazon and look for the title: Craze is the newest, coolest anti-hero for the space set!