Archive for Books
I’ll be running this giveaway for one week, from December 2nd to December 9th, 2014. The giveaway is for one signed copy of Stories from the Other World. To enter to win, leave a comment here, or on Facebook. Bonne chance!
(Update: The giveaway is over, and the winner is…Ann Sutton! Thank you to all who entered and for all your support.)
Visit me at Willowgait Farm’s Artisan Festival on Sunday, Oct. 26th, 2014, from 10am t0 4pm on beautiful Knotts Island, North Carolina. I’ll be signing copies of my new book, Stories from the Other World and holding drawings for free yoga classes and book copies.
I’ll also be selling paintings by Ethel Barritt, baby spider plants and aloe veras, and homemade hot pepper vinegar. The Knotts Island Ruritans will be there selling barbecue, too. Come on down and enjoy the day!
November 18. The Anniversary of Marcel Proust’s death day in 1922. In Honor of Remembrance of Things Past, here are two madeleine recipes:
2 large eggs
½ cup sugar
5 T. butter, melted & cooled slightly
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
Grated zest of ½ lemon
¼ t. vanilla extract
In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk or blend the eggs and sugar until frothy. Add the cooled melted butter, blending well. On low speed or with the whisk, add the flour, baking powder, lemon zest and vanilla until blended. Cover the bowl with a towel and set aside to rest for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 375*. Butter and flour the madeleine molds. Whisk the batter for a moment to remix, then spoon the batter lightly into the molds, filling them three-quarters full. Bake until the cakes are risen and golden, 10 or 11 minutes. If the madeleines start to brown before the crown has risen, open the oven door slightly and continue to bake until they have risen.
As soon as the madeleines are done, carefully remove them from the tins onto a wire rack. Serve immediately. The madeleines can also be cooled on a rack and stored for several days in an airtight container.
Makes about 15 madeleines (25 minis).
From Paris Boulangerie Patisserie: Recipes from Thirteen Outstanding French Bakeries, page 74
½ cup sugar
¼ t. vanilla
6 T. butter, melted & slightly cooled
3/8 cup of flour (the mark just above 1/3)
¼ cup cocoa
- Melt the butter & allow to cool slightly.
- Whisk eggs & sugar until thick & lemon-colored. Add the vanilla & salt.
- Fold in the flour & cocoa, then the melted butter.
- Allow the batter to rest for 1 hour.
- Heat the oven to 425*.
- Butter the madeleine pans then spoon in the batter to 3/4ths full.
- Bake the madeleines about 7-9 minutes; immediately turn out of molds onto cooling racks.
“And suddenly the memory returns. The taste was that of the little crumb of madeleine which on Sunday mornings, when I went to say good day to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of real or of lime-flower tea…And as soon as I had recognized the taste of the piece of madeleine soaked in the decoction of lime-blossom which my aunt used to give me, immediately the old grey house upon the street, where her room was, rose up like a stage set…and with the house the town….the streets along which I used to run errands, the country roads we took when it was fine…the whole of Combray and its surroundings, taking shape and solidity, sprang into being, town and gardens alike, from my cup of tea.”
(Adapted from Swann’s Way, In Search of Lost Time, by Marcel Proust)
Click on over to my Madeleine Moments blog and read about the 100th anniversary of Marcel Proust’s first novel, the 6th year anniversary of my blog, and leave a comment to possibly win prizes, including a signed copy of my novel, Parisian by Heart, which features Marcel Proust himself.
To be entered in the giveaway, leave a comment here, or on the Madeleine Moments blog, or like my Parisian by Heart Facebook page. Contest ends Feb. 18th, 2013.
(Now that the contest is over, find the winners here.)
Saturday, November 17th, 2012 a friend and I went to the Association for Research and Enlightenment in Virginia Beach, VA., to hear Dr. Eben Alexander III, author of Proof of Heaven, speak of his near-death experience. I had first read about Dr. Alexander in Newsweek and, as I read about Dr. Alexander’s vision of “Heaven” that included fluffy white clouds, a lush green valley, masses of butterflies and a beautiful girl, I thought sounds like the Western white Christian version of Heaven. Bah, humbug. Then this friend asked me if I had seen the article; she had read the book and was so overwhelmed by it that she had bought it and wanted to loan it to me. I read it and ended up having a lot of questions about the whole thing. But let’s hear a little bit about Dr. Alexander’s experience:
Although I considered myself a faithful Christian, I was so more in name than in actual belief. I didn’t begrudge those who wanted to believe that Jesus was more than simply a good man who had suffered at the hands of the world. I sympathized deeply with those who wanted to believe that there was a God somewhere out there who loved us unconditionally. In fact, I envied such people the security that those beliefs no doubt provided. But as a scientist, I simply knew better than to believe them myself.
In the fall of 2008, however, after seven days in a coma during which the human part of my brain, the neocortex, was inactivated, I experienced something so profound that it gave me a scientific reason to believe in consciousness after death.
Very early one morning four years ago, I awoke with an extremely intense headache. Within hours, my entire cortex—the part of the brain that controls thought and emotion and that in essence makes us human—had shut down. Doctors at Lynchburg General Hospital in Virginia, a hospital where I myself worked as a neurosurgeon, determined that I had somehow contracted a very rare bacterial meningitis that mostly attacks newborns. E. coli bacteria had penetrated my cerebrospinal fluid and were eating my brain.
When I entered the emergency room that morning, my chances of survival in anything beyond a vegetative state were already low. They soon sank to near nonexistent. For seven days I lay in a deep coma, my body unresponsive, my higher-order brain functions totally offline.
Then, on the morning of my seventh day in the hospital, as my doctors weighed whether to discontinue treatment, my eyes popped open.
There is no scientific explanation for the fact that while my body lay in coma, my mind—my conscious, inner self—was alive and well. While the neurons of my cortex were stunned to complete inactivity by the bacteria that had attacked them, my brain-free consciousness journeyed to another, larger dimension of the universe: a dimension I’d never dreamed existed and which the old, pre-coma me would have been more than happy to explain was a simple impossibility. (From the Newsweek article, Oct. 8th, 2012)
One of my questions was, if this guy’s “higher order brain functions were completely offline”, how, after he came out of the coma, did he remember what happened while he was in the coma? And how did he know that this experience happened while he was in the coma, and not right before, when he was having convulsions as the bacterial meningitis attacked his brain, or right afterward, as he was coming out of the coma (he also says that at this time, he had psychotic delusions in which his wife was chasing him in a hospital and he was rescued by Ninjas)? And that this experience constitutes “proof” of a real place called “Heaven”?
Then this friend tells me that Dr. Alexander is coming to the A.R.E. and asks if I want to go with her. The Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.), for those unfamiliar with the place, is described thus on their website: “Edgar Cayce (1877–1945) founded the non-profit Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.) in 1931, to explore spirituality, holistic health, intuition, dream interpretation, psychic development, reincarnation, and ancient mysteries—all subjects that frequently came up in the more than 14,000 documented psychic readings given by Cayce.” So you know the audience there for Dr. Alexander is going to be sympathetic, as is my friend, and, with reservations mostly involving the questions above, so was I. Let me explain.
I believe in what Dr. Alexander (in a playful and affectionate manner) calls “woo-woo”. I believe in reincarnation, in near-death experiences, in the existence and persistence of the spirit after the body has expired, in other worlds and multiverses. If you know me or have read my book Parisian by Heart, you know that I have seen ghosts, including my maternal grandfather, my husband’s father, and a woman who lived in our house many years ago, and have spoken to them and heard them speak to me. I have not had a near-death experience, although my friend’s mother has; she herself has had an out-of-body experience- but I am a self-taught lucid dreamer who always knows when I am dreaming and have traveled through space and time in my dreaming body.
I believe in a Divine Creator who brought into being all that there is and that we, and everything we can experience in this world and beyond it, carry sparks of the divine within. I do not believe in a god who gives his creations one shot at life and then consigns good folks to a place called Heaven or bad folks to a place called Hell, for all eternity, which is a very long time. I believe in a creator that has sent us, and continues to send, teachers, like Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, the Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa and Edgar Cayce, to help guide us and show us the way. And sometimes, maybe even an ordinary joe like Dr. Alexander gets to bring back a little piece of the divine to share.
So on this Saturday, Dr. Alexander speaks to the standing room only crowd in a conference room at the A.R.E. From 10a to 12p he stands before an Apple computer while beside him, a large screen projects the PowerPoint presentation that outlines his NDE (near-death experience) and how it affected his life. There is also a question and answer session. The presentation and Q&A’s continue in an afternoon “workshop” the same day from 2:30-4:30p. Then, of course, there is a book-signing. My friend has brought her copy of the book to be signed.
As my friend helps explain to me, and as is discussed in the presentation and answers, Dr. Alexander can remember his NDE because of, and as proof of, the existence of one’s consciousness outside of the brain and body. Memories, information of all kinds, remembrances of past lives, etc., can be accessed from that other realm, through psychedelic drugs (not recommended) or in trance states, like Edgar Cayce did, or through deep meditation, Dr. Alexander’s preferred method. As he talks, remembering and relating his experience, he shuts his eyes for many moments, as if watching a movie inside his mind. His time in that other realm was more real to him, he says, than anything he has ever experienced. It has not faded with time, as a dream or nightmare would have.
And what about the fluffy white clouds, the green valley, the butterflies, the beautiful girl…? Dr. Alexander believes that our personal perception of this world and the constructs of what we perceive as “Heaven” color and overlay the translation and transmitting of that other realm he visited, a place of peace that is suffused with the divine and to which we, after many lifetimes here, will eventually return to spend eternity.
But still….”Proof of Heaven”? Turns out the book’s publisher, Simon and Schuster, chose the title, and Dr. Alexander objected to it vehemently. His experience, he argued, did not constitute proof, and the “place” he went to was not Heaven as Christians would define it. The publishers also asked him to remove nearly 3/4 of the book as he had written it, in order not to overwhelm the readers at first. It could serve as an introduction to him and his NDE and subsequent conclusions and reflections on it, and if it was well-received, a second book could contain the removed material. Much of that has to do with quantum physics/string theory/frequencies and vibrations and its parallels with all that “woo-woo” stuff.
One more thing- the beautiful girl. Dr. Alexander was adopted after his 16 year-old, unmarried mother gave him up a few months after his birth. As he got older he searched for his birth mother, off and on, occasionally working with a social worker, but it wasn’t until after his NDE that the social worker called him to say his birth family was ready to make contact with him. His birth mother had ended up marrying Dr. Alexander’s father, her childhood sweetheart, and they had gone on to have three more children. When he finally went to meet them, there was his mother, his father, and two siblings. After the emotions of the meeting had died down, he asked them where was the third sibling? She died two years ago, they said, and handed him a picture of her. Two years ago was before the doctor’s near-death experience. He looked at the photo. It was the beautiful girl.
…is the title of my second novel, which I have just finished on May 28, 2012. This book required lots more research than my first one, Parisian by Heart, even though, like that novel, it is a work of fiction. But also like that first book, it is based on historical events. In Father We Go, I have written about the early attempts at colonization, from the first failed English attempts at Roanoke to the eventually successful one at Jamestown, to attempts by French Huguenots and the Spanish. The time period spans from the 1500’s and 1600’s to the Depression years to the present, in a bit of time-skipping. The voices of the narrative include colonists, lost and otherwise, a few of the multitudes already living on this coast before the colonists arrived, Native Americans, the man who named Knotts Island, Eleanor Dare’s daughter Agnes, and stones that sing.
Here’s a snippet:
His wife woke again when she heard the trunk open. She got out of the car and walked around to the back. Louis was there, pulling a wire brush out of a toolkit they had back there in the trunk. At his feet on the ground was a dirty brown-ish rock. He gave her a quick look, his eyes shifting away from hers quickly as he bent and picked up the rock and carried it and the brush over to the bank of the river. She stood with her hands on her hips, waiting for him to speak and give her some sort of explanation, but when none came she let her breath out in a whoosh, yanked her purse off the car seat and headed into the woods. Regardless of whatever tomfoolery Louis was up to now, she had to pee. When she came back out of the woods, he was back at the trunk of the car. He’d wrapped the stone in that burlap bag he kept for gathering what he called “specimens” and was placing it carefully in the trunk, making room for it among their one suitcase that they shared, the toolbox, and the other junk he’d picked up on this trip. Well, if he wasn’t going to speak, she was.
“What is that, and what do you think you’re doing with it?”
That glancing look again.
“Can’t look me in the eye, huh?”
Now he turned to look her in the face, his eyes on hers for so long that she almost spoke again before he did. But then he spoke.
“It’s a rock. It’s got some kind of writing on it. I’m taking it because it might have some kind of value, maybe we can find someone who can read the writing. It might be Indian.”
“Louis Hammond, you listen to me. That there rock is a tombstone, and what you’re doing is illegal. You put that rock right back where you found it and let’s get moving.”
“It’s not a gravestone, it’s too small and why would there be a graveyard out here? There’s nothing else out here and there’s no other gravestones.” He slammed the lid of the trunk closed and moved toward the driver’s door and got in. She stared after him for a moment, then went to her side of the car and yanked the door open.
“I’m warning you, Louis, if you take that rock you’re going to be in trouble. If you show it to anyone, they’re going to call the police and you’ll go to jail. And I’ll tell you another thing, I’m not going to get in trouble with you. Do you hear me, Louis?”
She straightened up from settling her purse on the car floor at her feet and looked at Louis. He was just sitting there, staring out the windshield of the car at the river.
“Louis, I said, do you hear me?”
He turned his eyes toward and gave her that long stare again. What is the matter with him? She shivered a little, despite the heat inside the closed car.
“I’m taking the rock and I’m going to find someone who can read it. If you don’t want to do this with me, you can go home, we’ll call your folks next town we get to and get them to cable some money for you to take the train home.”
Now it was her turn to stare at him, her mouth open.
“You would do that? You would send me home and go on without me, over some stupid rock? Why, Louis?”
He looked back at the river and leaned forward to turn the key in the car’s ignition. The car started up but Louis didn’t put it in drive and begin to move. He just sat there, staring at the river.
“Because the rock told me to.”
Now the hard part begins; editing, proofing, formatting…it took us nearly two years to do these things for Parisian by Heart, I hope it won’t take that long for Father We Go.
This post also marks the Fifth Anniversary of this blog. My thanks to my readers who have stuck with me all this time!