Category Archives: Writing

The Power of Words

The power of words is a wonderful thing. How often do you get lost in a novel and some line or passage knocks the wind out of you and makes you want to read it again . . . and again?  Here are some of my favorite passages from some of my favorite novels. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do–and I hope you share some of yours with me!

Indigenous peoples in Brazil (Wikipedia)

“…The question is whether or not you choose to disturb the world around you, or if you choose to let it go on as if you had never arrived. That is how one respects indigenous people. If you pay any attention at all, you’ll realize that you could never convert them to your way of life anyway. They are an intractable race. Any progress you advance to them will be undone before your back is turned. You might as well come down here to unbend the river. The point then, is to observe the life they themselves have put in place and learn from it.” ~ Ann Patchett, State of Wonder.

“Babe could feel it as he wiped his bat down with a rag. He could feel all their bloodstreams as he stepped to the plate and horse-pawed the dirt with his shoe. This moment, this sun, this sky, this wood and leather and limbs and fingers and agony of waiting to see what would happen was beautiful. More beautiful than women or words or even laughter.” ~ Dennis Lehane, The Given Day

Robert Duvall as Augustus Mc Crae – Lonesome Dove (Pinterest)

“As was his custom, Augustus drank a fair amount of whiskey as he sat and watched the sun ease out of the day. If he wasn’t tilting the rope-bottomed chair, he was tilting the jug. The days in Lonesome Dove were a blur of heat and as dry as chalk, but mash whiskey took some of the dry away and made Augustus feel nicely misty inside–foggy and cool as a morning in the Tennessee hills. He seldom got downright drunk, but he did enjoy feeling misty along about sundown, keeping his mood good with tasteful swigs as the sky to the west began to color up. The whiskey didn’t damage his intellectual powers any, but it did make him more tolerant of the raw sorts he had to live with . . .” ~ Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove

“An old man’s palsy overtook his hands and they reached for her face. He kissed her forehead. In that extraordinary and unstoppable act he realized, not without a twinge of pride, that he loved her, and that he, Thomas Stone, was not only capable of love, but that he had loved her for seven years. . . Love so strong, without ebb and flow or crests and troughs, indeed lacking any sort of motion so that it had become invisible to him these seven years, part of the order of things outside his head which he had taken for granted.” ~Abraham Verghese, Cutting for Stone

Wuthering-Heights.co.uk

“And I pray one prayer–I repeat it till my tongue stiffens–Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living; you said I killed you–haunt me, then! The murdered do haunt their murderers, I believe. I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. Be with me always–take any form–drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh God! It is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul.” ~Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights

Tragic Beauty Olive Thomas

 

Olive Thomas
fanpix.famousfix.com

The ethereal beauty, Olive Thomas, is the inspiration for one of the secondary characters in my novel, Grace in the Wings, a Daphne du Maurier unpublished contest winner. The novel  is the first book in a mystery series that is currently being shopped by my agent for purchase.

Sophia Michelle is the older sister of my protagonist, Grace Michelle. Orphaned at 15, Sophia vowed that she and Grace would always have a roof over their heads, never go hungry and never live in an orphanage. She relied on the only asset she possessed at the time, her captivating beauty. She spent many nights “out” but always provided for her sister until she was discovered by the famous show-man, Florenz Ziegfeld, who took the girls under his wing and made Sophia a star. When Sophia is murdered, Grace is devastated and sets out to discover who killer her sister.

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Olive Thomas was born Olivia R. Duffy, October 20, 1894, to a working class Irish American family in Pennsylvania. At 15 years of age she was forced to leave school to help support the family.  At 16 she married Bernard Krush Thomas. The marriage lasted two years. After her divorce she moved to New York City, lived with a family member, and worked in a Harlem department store. In 1914, she won “The Most Beautiful Girl in New York City” contest and landed on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.

Having caught the public’s attention, and the eye of the famous Florenz Ziegfeld, Olive was hired to perform in his wildly popular Ziegfeld Follies. It wasn’t long before Olive had star billing in the Midnight Frolic, a show at one of Ziegfeld’s favored venues, the Roof Top Theater of the New Amsterdam Hotel. The Frolic catered primarily to well-known male patrons. The girls’ costumes, often just a few strategically arranged balloons, allowed amusement for the gentlemen who would pop the balloons with their cigars. The beauty of Olive Thomas became legendary and she was pursued by a number of wealthy men. She is said to have had “lovely violet-blue eyes, fringed with dark lashes that seemed darker because of the translucent pallor of her skin.”

Known for her beauty, Olive was also known for her wild ways. That free spiritedness became more pronounced when she became involved with Jack Pickford of the famous Pickford family. Alcohol and cocaine became part of her partying repertoire and it proved to be reckless. She had three automobile accidents in one year. After that, she hired a chauffeur.

Jack Pickford & Olive Thomas
Broadway Scene

Screenwriter Frances Marion later remarked, “…I had seen her often at the Pickford home, for she was engaged to Mary’s brother, Jack. Two innocent-looking children, they were the gayest, wildest brats who ever stirred the stardust on Broadway. Both were talented, but they were much more interested in playing the roulette of life than in concentrating on their careers.”

The marriage to Pickford caused much trouble for both parties. For Jack, his high-brow famous family did not approve of Olive’s work in the Frolics, and for Olive, her employer Florenz Ziegfeld accused Jack of taking her away from his entertainment dynasty. There were rumors that Flo and Olive were also romantically involved.

The relationship with Pickford could even have been said to contribute to her sudden death in 1920.  After a long night of dancing, drinking, and drugs, Olive and Jack went back to their hotel room. Suddenly, from the bathroom, Jack heard Olive scream, “Oh God!”  According to Jack’s account, Olive had accidentally drank from a bottle of something marked “poison”.  After a trip to the hospital and having her stomach pumped three times to no avail, Olive Thomas died. The autopsy stated that she died of a mixture of mercury bichloride and alcohol. Mercury bichloride was the prescribed tonic for Jack’s persistant and cronic syphyllis.

Olive Thomas had a short, but successful career. She worked for the Ziegfeld Follies and Midnight Frolic and she starred in over twenty motion pictures. She was also one of the first actresses to be termed “a flapper,” along with Clara Bow, Louise Brooks and Joan Crawford.

Writing A Book: What Does it Take?

If you have always wanted to write a book but haven’t started yet, you might wonder what does it take?

One of the things you have to ask yourself is WHY you want to write a book. Is it because you have a good idea or have a message you want to share with the world? Is it because you want fame and fortune? Is it because you think it is easy and fun, but you just haven’t taken the time to do it yet?

Coming to terms with your reasons for pursuing such a time consuming task is important. As I mentioned in my article “Why Do You Want to Write?” writing is an emotional endeavor. “Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, want to educate or entertain, the end goal is to stimulate an emotional reaction or response from your readers. The fastest and easiest way to do this is to understand your own emotions and what brings you to the computer or the notebook to put your thoughts, emotions, knowledge and stories on the page.” [https://karibovee.com/why-do-you-want-to-write/]

Most successful writers write because they have no choice. It is a part of who they are, part of their identity. It is  their chosen way to communicate their ideas, messages, and dreams to the world. For most writers, writing is a PASSION. They pursue writing and a career in writing as a life-long commitment and cannot imagine a world in which they don’t write. Other people feel that they have a book in them and want to write and publish that one book. In either case, each type of writer’s reasons are not to be diminished or taken lightly because writing a book, and more importantly finishing a book, takes a lot of planning, discipline and commitment. To write a book and write it well, you must be completely invested in your project until it comes to fruition. Completing a book can take a few as several weeks (yes, I know people who have written and finished their books in a matter of weeks) to several years, even decades in some instances.

Whether writing is a passion for you, and you do it every day of your life, or if it is the means to an end for getting your particular story or message out to the world, writing a book takes a certain kind of fortitude that doesn’t come easily to everyone.

Most successful writers are avid and voracious readers. They have a love of the written word and can’t wait to get lost in a story or a message or a particular method or philosophy. They also know the importance of reading genres or books that are much like the book they want to write. Successful writers also know the value in reading and learning from books that are not in their particular genre, or even in books that highlight a topic they have no interest in—books that stretch their thinking, their learning, and their area of expertise.

One of the most important factors in writing a book, finishing a book, or pursuing a lifetime of writing books, is for the writer to give himself/herself permission to pursue their craft. A writer must first take themselves seriously as a writer and give themselves the time and space to work on their book.

Finding both physical and mental space to write is supremely important. Seek out a place where you can be undisturbed and focused. It can be a corner of your room, an entire office, the family’s dining room table, or your local coffee shop or book store. Pick a place that makes you feel good, inspired, and productive.

Finding mental space can be a bit more challenging. The writer must allow himself/herself time to write. Many writers write every day, but it isn’t always necessary. You must find time where you can, and I would suggest making a date with yourself to write or schedule a time in your calendar to write and treat that time as you would any other appointment. Canceling or not showing up would be rude, right? Don’t do that to yourself!

Sometimes it is too easy for us to put our writing on the back-burner or to make it the last thing on our to-do list. Until you become a professional writer, you generally aren’t getting paid to produce, so it can be difficult to make it a priority. But, to write and finish a book, you have to make yourself and your project a priority. You work hard at your day job, hard for your family and friends, hard at your volunteer efforts. Why wouldn’t you work hard for yourself? Treat writing as your reward for all that you do for others. After all, you deserve it!

So, what does it take? There are many components that go into producing a good book like understanding why you want to write the book and then allowing yourself the time and space to do so. In the next several months I will be writing more articles like this one to help you on your journey to writing and finishing your book. I hope you join me and I look forward to your comments!

 

 

Skyline Drinking

In my last blog post “Returning to the Past,” https://karibovee.com/returning-to-the-past/ I wrote about attending  the San Francisco Writer’s Conference last week. I came across this post that I wrote after my first SFWC and visit to the Mark Hopkins Hotel in 2014. I hope you enjoy it!

First Posted February 21, 2014

A stay at the Mark Hopkins would not be complete without a visit to its penthouse bar, the Top of The Mark. While at the San Francisco Writer’s conference at the hotel, two of my writer friends and I decided to take in the views while sipping our wine and talking shop. Two of my favorite pastimes!

In 1939, George Smith, owner of the Mark Hopkins converted the large 11 room penthouse suite on the hotel’s 19th floor into a cocktail lounge. Famed San Francisco journalist Herb Caen wrote that while it was being built, Smith  said to his colleagues, “I don’t know what to call the top of the Mark.” They told him, “That’s it.” He asked, “What’s it?” They replied, “The Top of the Mark,” and that’s how the now famous bar got its name.

The Top of the Mark features gigantic glass panels that were designed to withstand the seacoast’s gales which can reach up to 125 miles an hour. The panels also offer a breathtaking 360 degree panoramic view. Visitors from all over the world come to enjoy the lounge whether or not they stay in the hotel. It is perfect for special events like birthdays, anniversaries, retirement parties or just to celebrate the end of the day — which shouldn’t be too difficult as the bar offers a menu of over 100 different martinis.

During World War II, San Francisco was a stop off point for soldiers going out to war in the Pacific. Servicemen would gather to share a farewell drink and take in the sunset before shipping out. A tradition of the “squadron bottle” was started. A serviceman would buy a bottle of spirits and leave it with the bartender so the next visiting  soldiers from his unit could enjoy a free drink upon their return. The only rule was that whomever had the last sip must buy the next bottle.

When it came time for the soldiers to depart, their families would gather in the lounge’s northwest corner where they could watch their loved ones in their ships sail out to sea beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. This corner became known as “Weeper’s Corner.”

Today, hopefully, there is not much sorrow associated with the lounge, only relaxation and celebration. If you are ever in San Francisco, a visit to the Top of the Mark should definitely climb to the top of your to-do list! I guarantee you won’t regret it.

Why Do You Want to Write?

Writing is an emotional endeavor. Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, want to educate or entertain, the end goal is to stimulate an emotional reaction or response from your readers. The fastest and easiest way to do this is to understand your own emotions and what brings you to the computer or the notebook to put your thoughts, emotions, knowledge and stories on the page.

So, I challenge you: What is it? Why do you want to write?

dreamstime_m_17667455For me, from a very young age, I loved hearing and reading stories. Some of my earliest memories are of my father reading to my brother and me before bedtime. Once I learned to read on my own, my dad made sure I had a number of books to keep me occupied. The Nancy Drew Mysteries, The Orphalines, Black Beauty, and The Black Stallion were among many. I read biographies, books about art, history, and world events. I fell in love with immersing myself in another world, living other people’s experiences and realities, and traveling to different settings, either real or imagined. I found myself wanting to provide that kind of experience for others through my own creative imagination and started writing stories and poetry as early as the third grade.

My favorite things to write are historical and contemporary mysteries, along with my own blog, because I want to educate and entertain. I also want to lose myself in a world of my own creation with characters I’ve created from my imagination, or from people I have met and known, or from famous people in history.

My agent, the wonderful Paula Munier, once told me that people love to read and write mysteries because they love puzzles. They want to create and make order out of chaos. She also wrote this in her book, Plot Perfect. I had never thought of it before, but when she said it, it made perfect sense to me.

Once I started to understand what emotionally motivated me to write, my passion for it grew even more. Sometimes we need to sit down and think about what really makes us tick before we can take the big leap and commit to such an ambitious endeavor. Writing a book can be many things. It can be liberating or healing, it can be exhilarating and fun, and it can be daunting and overwhelming, all at the same time. But for whatever reason it is that you want to write, it helps to understand why you want or sometimes need to be married to a project for weeks, months or even years. I use the word “married” because writing takes the kind of commitment required for such an emotional experience and sometimes life-long journey.

In February, I am teaching an online course called, “So, You Want to Write A Book?” along with clinical psychologist Dr. Benjamin Perkus at The Aroma Freedom Academy. The class uses the Aroma Freedom Technique (AFT) to help people break through the emotional blocks that are preventing them from achieving their goals and dreams. The course is presented as a workshop to help people who want to write a book but don’t know where to begin, or those who have started the process, but got stuck somewhere along the line, or for those whom, for whatever reason, have not achieved their goal of writing a book. The first lesson we will take students through is discovering why they want to write a book. We will also be working on a non-fiction book in conjunction with the course and are looking for people’s stories of transformation, either with writing or other life experiences, to include in the text.

If you are interested in the course, have a story of transformation, or just want to discuss why you want to write, please feel free to contact me!

I look forward to hearing from you!

 

 

Can Using Essential Oils Really Help You Write A Book?

dreamstime_m_41746526Oh, if only it were that easy—kind of like taking a pill to lose weight or making money without really working for it. Essential oils can’t do the work for you, but they can certainly help with the emotional process of writing a book.

Have you ever wanted to write a book? Many people do, but many people often don’t know where to start, how to go about it, or how to finish. Like anything else, the first thing you must do is educate yourself. Take writing classes. Do workshops. Go to writer’s conferences. Like playing piano or creating a piece of artwork, you aren’t going to sit down and create a masterpiece – no matter how much natural talent you have been blessed with. First, learn something about the craft.

Reading what you want to write is also paramount to becoming a good writer. If you decide you want to write an historical mystery, but only read romance and have never done any kind of research, you are going to have a problem. The same can be said for writing to the market. Paranormal might be selling well, but if you’ve never read one, why would you write one? Writing from the heart and from your passion is never a bad idea, and if you can find a way to make it fit to what is selling—well done, you!

dreamstime_m_63202754Once you have done your homework and know why you want to write, what you want to write and how you are going to write it, then you must face the music—or rather—the page, and sit down to write it. But what if you don’t know enough? What if you don’t know how to start? What if no one would want to read it? These, and more negative, useless thoughts are all thoughts writers have experienced at one time or another. This emotional tug of war between feeling like you are brilliant and have pearls of wisdom to share with the world and feeling like you are stupid and no one cares what you write, can be exhausting and defeating. That is where essential oils and the Aroma Freedom Technique (AFT) can help.

What are essential oils? As I mention in my blog article “A Brief History of Essential Oils,” (https://karibovee.com/a-brief-history-of-essential-oils/) essential oils come from the liquid extracted from flowers, seeds, leaves, stems, bark and/or roots of trees, herbs, bushes and shrubbery that is also referred to as the “essence” or “life blood” of the plant. The liquid is steam extracted or cold pressed and then distilled to produce the oil.

Essential oils have been used for medicinal and religious purposes for centuries. Hieroglyphics and manuscripts found from the Egyptian, Roman, Greek, and Chinese cultures indicate that essential oils were used to heal the sick and promote health. There are over 150 references to essential oils and anointing oils in the bible. “Anointing” which means “to smear with oil” was to make a person sacred and elevate them to a higher spiritual purpose.

The aromatic properties of oils can be just as effective as absorption into the skin or ingestion through the mouth in treating many physical and emotional ailments. Our sense of smell is the most primitive sense we have and our reaction to smell is immediate and uncontrollable. The aroma of the oils penetrates deep and fast into the limbic system, the area of the brain where we process emotion. The sense of smell can also trigger memories, good and bad. As clinical psychologist, Dr. Benjamin Perkus, the creator of AFT, mentions in his book: “The experience is so well known it has been named the ‘Proust Phenomenon’ after the literary example given by Marcel Proust in Remembrance of Things Past.”

imagesIt is this integral relationship between smell, memory, and emotions that is the basis for the Aroma Freedom Technique. Through the 12-step process of strategically designed memory exercises and smelling a unique mix of oils, negative thoughts, belief systems and inner blocks are interrupted causing a shift in our mind set. You might be wondering how in the world this applies to writing a book. It can apply at any point of the process from coming up with ideas, to freeing up the creative process, to developing discipline and goal setting strategies enabling writers to actually finish their books. I often use AFT if I am stuck in a scene or trying to figure out how my protagonist solves the crime.

Essentially, AFT is one more tool that enables us to more effectively control our own destiny. Like the old adage says, “If you put your mind to it, you can do anything.” The only person who is stopping you from living your dream of writing and finishing a book is you. AFT can help you find the courage, the drive, the discipline, and the direction for sitting down and writing your masterpiece. Dr. Perkus wrote his book The Aroma Freedom Technique, Using Essential Oils to Transform Your Emotions and Realize Your Heart’s Desire, in a staggering 15 days using AFT every morning before he sat down to write. It’s not something I would recommend, but it is certainly impressive and gives me great hope of becoming as prolific as I can possibly be.

If you have dreams of writing a book, what is stopping you?

If you’d like some help and like to learn more about the Aroma Freedom Technique (AFT) and how it can help you live out your dream of writing and finishing a book, join me and Dr. Perkus at the Aroma Freedom Academy for our 12-week intensive course “So You Want to Write A Book.” You can learn more by clicking here: http://aroma-freedom-academy.thinkific.com/courses/so-you-want-to-write-a-book

C’mon, I challenge you to write that masterpiece! I look forward to seeing you in class.

 

Interesting Facts About “Black Beauty” – A Timeless Classic

My father traveled a lot for business when I was a child. This created a great deal of anxiety for me as I feared the plane would go down and I would never see him again. To ease my angst, he always told me he would bring me something from his trip. It worked because instead of worrying about my father, I had something else to think about. Of course I prayed every night he was gone that he would come home safe and sound, but I would go to sleep with positive thoughts on what he would bring me when he returned. To my delight, it was usually a book. One of my favorites was Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. This may have started my life-long passion and love of horses and writing, something that I am sure my father did not intend, but that he and my mother ended up wholly supporting during my youth and beyond.

First Edition Black Beauty (Wikipedia)
First Edition Black Beauty
(Wikipedia)

I was so young when I read the book that some of the lessons it provided were forgotten. We also moved several times during my growing up years and my copy of it must have gotten lost along the way. It wasn’t until I started researching books about horses that I happened upon Black Beauty again. I’ve just ordered a new copy and look forward to scouring it from cover to cover.

Here are some interesting facts about Anna Sewell and her book:

  • Anna Sewell spent six years writing the book. It was published in 1877 when she was 57 years old, 5 months before her death.
  • It was her first and last book.
  • It was an instant best-seller and has to date sold 50 million copies.
  • A signed first edition sold for $18,133 in 2015. The copy she signed for her mother sold in 2006 for $50,693.
  • Anna’s mother Mary Wright Sewell was a best-selling author.
  • Anna and her family were Quakers and believed in kindness to animals.
  • Black Beauty was the very first novel ever published written in an animal’s point of view.
  • It was based on her childhood horse, Bess. The Sewell’s considered Bess one of the family—not a very common philosophy in those days.
  • Anna’s ankles were injured in an accident at age 14 and she never regained full use of her legs again. She spent much of her time in a horse-drawn carriage where she thought about the plight of the working horse.
  • The book was never intended for children, but for adults to reconsider the treatment of horses.

    (http://www.lexiqueducheval.net/images/attelages/checkrein_AAdam.JPG)
    (http://www.lexiqueducheval.net/images/attelages/checkrein_AAdam.JPG)
  • Sewell’s description of the “check rein” or “bearing rein” caused its demise in Victorian England. The “check” or “bearing” rein is a rein extending from the bridle to the harness of a driving cart that is used to pull the horse’s head up and back. In Victorian times it was fashionable to have this rein pulled tight, causing an unnatural backward bend in the horses’ neck, making it difficult to pull correctly and even to breathe. This caused detrimental effects to the horse and many had to be retired early or actually died from the effects. There are varying opinions on the use of “check reins” still today. Natural horsemanship adheres to the idea of a horse being able to move “naturally” without any bodily limiting devices.
  • The social practices regarding the use of horses in Black Beauty also inspired legislation in many states of the U.S. during the Victorian period that would condemn abusive practices towards animals.
  • The novel has been compared to Uncle Tom’s Cabin in its influence on social outrage and protest action in society.
  • It has inspired many other books concerning animal cruelty.
Anna Sewell (Wikipedia)
Anna Sewell
(Wikipedia)

We live in a time when in order to be a successful author, one must be incredibly prolific. Anna Sewell never had the opportunity to be prolific, but Black Beauty, her one and only novel, did the job. More than just a story about a horse in Victorian England, the novel is about treating all of God’s creatures with kindness, empathy and respect. A theme we can all relate to and want to read about.

I rarely worry about my dad going down in a plane anymore. Time and age have added other, different concerns for both of us, but my dad still gives me books. And rarely a birthday or Christmas goes by without me giving him one in return. It is something we have always shared. If you haven’t come up with a new year’s resolution yet, maybe you should consider giving loved ones a good book on gift giving occasions or just because. Maybe one of the classics like Black Beauty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Born Rebel – Belle “La Rebelle” Boyd – This Month in History

There is something very endearing about women in history who defied social norms and stepped outside of the boundaries the world imposed on them to fight for their causes, their faith, their family, or their beliefs.

Belle Boyd is one such woman. This month in history, on December 1, 1863 Belle Boyd, Confederate spy, was released from prison in Washington, D.C. She was only 19 years old.

Belle Boyd Education & Resources - National Women's History Museum - NWHM
Belle Boyd
Education & Resources – National Women’s History Museum – NWHM

I am always scouring the internet for interesting stories about empowered women in history. Belle’s story caught my eye because I also write about a confederate spy in my novel, Dead Eye Dame—the fictionalization of Annie Oakley as an amateur sleuth (now being marketed by my agent for publication.) My spy is not as crafty and endearing as Belle, nor is he female, but he shares the same rebellious and cause-driven nature.

Belle’s story begins in 1844 in Bunker Hill, VA (now West Virginia) where she was born to Benjamin Boyd, a tobacco farmer and shopkeeper, and his wife Mary Boyd. In 1855 the family moved to nearby Martinsburg. The oldest of 8 children, Belle seemed to come out of the womb a rebel. At the age of 10, Belle defied her social status—and the law—by teaching Eliza Corsey, one of her family’s slaves, to read and write. Belle and Eliza had become fast friends growing up together, and Belle wanted Eliza to enjoy some of the rights denied to her because of her color. She later states in her memoire Belle Boyd, in Camp and Prison, published 1865, “Slavery, like all other imperfect forms of society, will have its day, but the time for its final extinction in the Confederate States of America has not yet arrived.”

Always quick witted and bright beyond her years, at age 11, it is reputed that Belle, in rebellion to being denied attendance at one of her parent’s parties because of her age, rode her horse into the family’s living room during the party. She is said to have stated, “my horse is old enough, isn’t he?”

At 12 years old, Belle’s parents sent her to the esteemed Mount Washington Female College of Baltimore. After graduating at 16, Belle enjoyed a life of dancing and parties as a debutant in Washington, D.C. This must have been when she honed her skills as a flirt and expert communicator. After a season, she returned to her life and family in Martinsburg.

Martinsburg was a town supported by the Union cause, but Belle’s family were true southerners and devoted to the Confederacy. Her 45-year old father enlisted in the Virginia Infantry under Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. Belle and her mother supported the cause by sewing clothing and raising funds for the Confederate soldiers.

In July, 1861, Union soldiers captured Martinsburg, invading homes and businesses. When a group of drunken Union soldiers tried to hang a Union flag over the entrance to the Boyd’s family home, Mary, Belle’s mother, intervened. When one of the soldiers accosted Mary, Belle grabbed a Colt pocket pistol and shot him dead. Thus began her career as a “rebel spy” at the tender age of 17.

Realizing her feminine power, and having mastered the art of flirting, Belle knew that she could fly under the radar of suspicion and through family connections began gathering information from Union soldiers. With the help of Eliza, Belle would send the information to the Confederate side. When one of her letters was intercepted, Belle was arrested, but managed to get off with a warning for a crime that was usually punishable by death.

belleboydcivilwar.weebly.com
belleboydcivilwar.weebly.com

Undaunted, Belle ramped up her support for the South by becoming a messenger for Confederal generals P.G.T. Beauregard and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. Belle used her feminine wiles to steal weapons from Union camps and smuggle precious quinine, a medicine used for malaria, across the Potomac River to secessionist towns in Maryland. One of her most significant missions was to obtain crucial information that would allow Stonewall Jackson’s forces to recapture the town of Front Royal.

In society, Belle became known as the sort of girl a boy wouldn’t want to take home to mother. She worked at seducing both Confederate and Union officers and was considered the lowest form of “camp follower” around. Not a beautiful woman, Belle had a confidence that made her looks secondary to her charms. She also had no qualms about impersonating Confederate soldiers to further garner information from Union officers.

Whether dressed as a man or a woman, Belle never wavered from her devotion to the Southern cause and that transparency became a part of her persona. It was only a matter of time before Union officials saw Belle as a potential threat. Shortly after her contribution to the recapture of Front Royal, Belle was again arrested and sent to Old Capitol Prison in Washington, D.C. where she spent a month in prison, and then subsequently spent another five months in prison after yet another arrest. After several more arrests, Belle met and married one of her Union captors, an officer named Samuel Hardinge. The two were married and had a daughter. Although unable to completely convert Hardinge to the Southern cause, he did serve time in prison for giving aid to Belle.

Belle eventually made her way to England where she wrote her memoir and launched a career as an actress. Several years later, Belle returned to the United States and married twice more, had four more children, became estranged from her oldest daughter, and spent time in a mental institution. She died in 1900, during a performance on stage in Wisconsin.

Although Belle’s life did not end on a happy note, in her later years she learned that her efforts had not been in vain. Women all across the South had taken to impersonating her, claiming to be Belle Boyd, the “Siren of the Shenandoah” or the “Cleopatra of the Secession.” She had become a symbol of feminine empowerment and an inspiration to future generations.

Sources:

National Women’s History Museum https://www.nwhm.org/education-resources/biography/biographies/belleboyd/

Bio. http://www.biography.com/people/belle-boyd

“The ‘Siren of the Shenandoah'” by Karen Abbot, New York Times, May 23, 2012 http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/23/the-siren-of-the-shenendoah/?-r=0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Brief History of Essential Oils

dreamstime_m_79528864This time of year makes me want to hunker down in my office with my essential oils diffuser, a delicious pot of loose-leaf herbal tea, my cats, and my latest writing project. Some of my favorite oils to use while writing are frankincense, lavender, and a blend from Young Living Oils called Envision that really helps me to focus.

I got into essential oils about a year ago. I learned about them through some of my equestrian friends who use them with their horses, their other animals, and on themselves. I started using the oils on my own horses and was so impressed with their reactions both emotionally and physically that I decided to take this new wave of essential oil popularity seriously, and of course, started to research the history behind the oils.

First, I wanted to know exactly what essential oils are and where they come from. The oils come from the liquid extracted from flowers, seeds, leaves, stems, bark and/or roots of trees, herbs, bushes and shrubbery that is also referred to as the “essence” or “life blood” of the plant. The liquid is steam extracted or cold pressed and then distilled to produce the oil.

dreamstime_m_18598290Pure essential oils are highly concentrated and very little is needed to reap the benefits. To produce 1 lbs. of rose oil–one of my absolute favorites–5000lbs. of rose petals are needed. It is no surprise that a 5 ml. bottle of pure rose oil can cost up to $200. In my research I have found that for inhalation, ingestion, and absorption of the oils into the skin, it is extremely important to use products that are 100% pure therapeutic grade. According to Cynthia Foster, MD (drfostersessentials.com) many of the oils sold in grocery stores and health stores today are useful for aromatic purposes and perfume, but are commonly adulterated with solvents such as propylene glycol, acetate or alcohol. Only therapeutic grade oils are the purest and can help with physical, mental and emotional ailments, without harmful side effects.

Essential oils have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. Hieroglyphics and manuscripts found from the Egyptian, Roman, Greek, and Chinese cultures indicate that essential oils were used to heal the sick and promote health. When the Egyptian Tutankhamen’s tomb (carbon dated 1500 B.C.) was opened in 1922, 50 alabaster oil jars were found. The oils had been emptied from the jars some time ago, thought to have been stolen. The fact that gold jewelry and artifacts had been left behind and only the oils stolen indicates the extremely high value of oils at that time.

dreamstime_m_70847963Oils have also been used for spiritual purposes throughout the centuries. As a practicing Catholic for all of my life, I’ve always enjoyed the aroma of incense during certain spiritual celebrations, and have participated in sacraments where oils were used, but never really understood why they were used or where the tradition came from. After researching I’ve learned there are over 150 references to essential oils and anointing oils in the bible. “Anointing” which means “to smear with oil” was to make a person sacred and elevate them to a higher spiritual purpose. Many religions use frankincense in its resin form and burn it to release its aroma to encourage deeper spiritual contemplation and liberation. Many cultures use oils for meditation to promote emotional and mental calmness and to reach heightened states of enlightenment.

In Christianity, the Bible tells a story of preparing a sacred temple with aromatic oils to help stop a plague that was infesting a city. In the New Testament the story is told of the three kings coming to visit the Christ child with gifts of frankincense and myrrh—both oils—and gold. “Gold” in this case, according to some historians, was actually balsam oil and was referred to as “liquid gold” during that time period.

In my own experimentation I have found that many of the oils are wonderful for physical ailments such as pain, allergies, sore muscles and skin irritation. I have also incorporated essential oils into my skin care regimen and diet. A few months ago I became a certified practitioner of the Aroma Freedom Technique (AFT), a new energy technique that utilizes the aromatic properties of essential oils to release inner blocks and resistance we have built in our minds that prevent us from moving forward and realizing our goals and dreams. Since I have been using essential oils and practicing AFT on a regular basis, I notice that I approach life with a little more calm, a little more joy, and a lot more confidence. I’ve gained clarity in how I want to proceed in my career and with my relationships.

Essential oils and AFT will not cure all your ills or magically give you everything you want in life, but they can have an effect on how you see things, and can help you to be more proactive in your own health, career, and quality of life. If you haven’t already gotten on the band-wagon of using essential oils, you might give them a try. You never know what goodness life might offer you!

dreamstime_s_79374916

If you are interested in learning more about the Aroma Freedom Technique or essential oils, please feel free to contact me. Happy oiling!

The “Gentle Ghost” of Santa Fe

Halloween is again upon us and so closes my series of ghost stories for October. I hope you have enjoyed reading about some of the ghosts of Hawaii and New Mexico. I have saved my favorite ghost for last.

Julia Schuster Staab was the wife of Abraham Staab, a Jewish German immigrant, who came to New Mexico in 1846 to establish himself as a merchant on the Santa Fe Trail. After Abraham became a wealthy businessman, he went home to Germany to find a bride. He found Julia Schuster, the daughter of a wealthy merchant from his home village of Ludge. Having come from the same small village, it is thought that perhaps Abraham knew Julia’s family before he left to find his riches in America. With great expectations he brought Julia back to his new home in the high desert of Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1865.

Young Julia Staab and Julia & Abraham
jwi.org

Completely out of place in the village of Santa Fe with its mud houses and arid landscape, Julia had been accustomed to more a more elegant lifestyle and grand home. Eager to make his wife happy, Abraham built Julia a beautiful white mansion. The Staab House, a Victorian masterpiece with a large ballroom on the third floor, suited Julia’s excellent taste.

Original Staab House Jewishbookcouncil.org
Original Staab House
Jewishbookcouncil.org

The couple had seven children, but at the death of their eighth, Julia changed both physically and mentally. She became sad, depressed, chronically ill and inconsolable. It is said her hair turned grey overnight. Her grief took a toll on the couple and they slowly grew apart. This did not help Julia’s situation and some say she went insane. She spent most of her latter days locked in her bedroom until she died in 1896, under somewhat mysterious circumstances. Rumors of Abraham’s extramarital affairs and Julia’s possible murder or suicide were never proven.

In the 1920’s a fire burned through the Staab house, destroying the third floor. When the house was rebuilt as a stuccoed, Pueblo-style hotel, the builders simply built around the remains of the mansion and then added charming casitas across the 7-acre plot as additional guest rooms.

Although she died in 1896, Julia’s ghostly presence had not been reported until the 1970’s. A janitor at the hotel stated that he saw a translucent dark eyed woman in a white Victorian gown, with white, upswept hair standing near the fireplace. From that moment on, more sightings of the same woman were reported. Staff and guests alike saw her wandering the hallways, lounging in a chair in the downstairs sitting room or standing near the fireplace.

The excerpt below is from the book American Ghost by Hannah Nordhaus, great-great granddaughter to Julia Staab. The book is an enthralling read and I highly recommend it.

“Strange things began to happen in the hotel. Gas fireplaces turned off and on repeatedly, though nobody was flipping the switch. Chandeliers swayed and revolved. Vases of flowers moved to new locations. Glasses tumbled from shelves in the bar. A waitress, not known for her clumsiness, began droppings trays and explained that she felt as if someone were pushing them from underneath. Guests heard dancing footsteps on the third story, where the ballroom had once been—though the third floor had burned years earlier. A woman’s voice, distant and foreign sounding, called the switchboard over and over. ‘Hallo?’ ‘Hallo?’ ‘Hallo?’”

One guest decided to test Julia when he and his wife requested to stay in Julia’s room. Hearing that Julia’s ghost was very particular about things in her room, he purposely left the top dresser drawer opened. Later that night, he and his wife were awakened by the sound of the drawer being slowly closed.

Entrance to Staab House from La Posada lobby www.10best.com
Entrance to Staab House from La Posada lobby
www.10best.com

I became fascinated with the story of the La Posada Hotel after our daughter decided she wanted to be married there last year. She, her fiancé and I took the hour long drive to Santa Fe to stay the night in the hotel and speak to the event planner who worked there. As luck would have it, the engaged couple was put up in one of the casitas, and I was assigned to a room on the second floor of the mansion—the room right next door to Julia’s. I had heard some stories that the hotel was haunted, but at the time, I didn’t know Julia’s story. Which is probably a good thing. Fortunately, the only thing that kept me up that night was the rowdy party in the bar at the foot of the stairs to my room.

La Posada Hotel today View from the garden
La Posada Hotel today
View from the garden

Months later, after our daughter and her new husband’s stunning wedding, I wandered into the lobby and saw Nordhaus’ book sitting on the concierge’s desk. When I asked the woman sitting at the desk about the book, she proceeded to give me the highlights and told me some of the fascinating stories other staff and guests had told about Julia’s ghost. I asked if she had any similar experiences and she said she hadn’t, although she wanted to. After her last chemo treatment, she and her daughter decided to celebrate with a weekend stay at the hotel. They requested Julia’s room in hopes they would get a visit from the familiar “gentle ghost” and sat up all night waiting for her. In the wee hours of the morning they fell asleep and slept undisturbed. The concierge believed that Julia was too shy to make an appearance when someone was expecting her. She said she’d rent the room again sometime.

That concierge is braver than I am. Now that I know the story, I’m not sure I’d request to stay in the main house again. In fact, I would definitely request one of the casitas.

If you ever get to New Mexico, a stay at the La Posada Hotel is a must. Even if you don’t get Julia’s room.