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When Authors Must Stay At Home

Most of us are staying home or limiting where and when we go out.

Stay Home, Save Lives Order in Oregon

This is an important part of caring about each other and joining together to limit spread of Covid-19 and its harrowing toll of sickness and death. Life as we knew it is suspended for a while. There is much uncertainty about when things will return to any semblance of normal. We’re not able to see our family and friends face-to-face. We keep in touch by social media and phones. Many of us are expanding our comfort with virtual interactions and learning new tricks.

As an author, this “stay at home, stop the spread” reality is both familiar and oddly unsettling. It’s familiar since I already stay home a lot, especially since I’m retired (from a day job) and don’t need to go anywhere regularly. Many of my days were already spent facing my computer screen, doing research and writing. Days could pass without going out anywhere. But when I felt the need to take a break, get some physical activity, go shopping, or socialize with friends, these options were available.

Working at home, as usual.

Now they are not. For physical activity, I can take a walk being careful not to approach any other walker closer than six feet. I can do yoga or calisthenics at home—you know just how much appeal that has. For socializing, I can call people or engage in online messaging. That’s OK but not nearly the same as in person discussions. I can do some shopping, but need to put in an online order, hoping what I want is in stock, and set a time for pickup where the clerk puts the groceries inside the trunk. Or else, have things I’ve ordered online dropped off on the porch.

Order groceries online

Brave New World indeed!

Now you’d think that an author forced to stay at home would become wildly productive. You envision authors glued to their computers, keying out thousands of words. That new project should be a breeze with so much time. Take on new challenges and spiff up all your social media platforms. Finish those stories. Write amazing blogposts. Submit to awards and contests. Write book reviews by the dozens.

The funny thing is how hard I find it to get motivated. The national crisis has a way of sapping my energy and concentration. I try to avoid watching too much news, but there’s a dreadful fascination with how this pandemic is wreaking havoc across the world. My heart is heavy over such suffering and loss. Silently I urge on the leaders and health workers who contend with the worse of it. Serious concern wells up about workers and families upended as the economy takes a nose dive. We are all affected. We are all—as a planet—in this together. May we find our way through to a more cohesive and caring tomorrow.

See more of my writing.

Sunset behind island mountains
Sunset heralds a new sunrise.

Chanticleer Book Reviews Semi-Finalist 2020

The Prophetic Mayan Queen is a Semi-Finalist in Contemporary & Literary Fiction

Book cover The Prophetic Mayan Queen top half

The SOMERSET Book Awards recognize emerging talent and outstanding works in the genre of Literary, Contemporary, and Satire Fiction. The Somerset Book Awards is a genre division of the Chanticleer International Book Awards (The CIBAs).

Chanticleer International Book Awards is looking for the best books featuring contemporary stories, literary themes, adventure, satire, humor, magic realism or women and family themes. These books have advanced to the next judging rounds. The best will advance. Which titles will be declared as winners of the prestigious Somerset Book Awards?

At the Authors Conference in Bellingham, WA, on April 18, 2020 the winners of all divisions of Chanticleer Book Reviews will be announced. It’s very exciting for my latest book to reach the semi-finalist stage! There are 16 semi-finalists in each division. I’ve long thought the names given for these divisions are humorous and entertaining, such as Chaucer Awards for Early HIstorical Fiction, Chatelaine Awards for Romance, Ozma Awards for Fantasy, Cygnus Awards for Science Fiction, Dante Rossetti Awards for Young Adult Fiction, Litle Peeps Award for Early Readers, and more.

Semi-Finalist Badge for Authors

Within a division such as Contemporary & Literary Fiction, authors need to choose among subcategories. After pondering this choice I selected two subcategories: Women’s Fiction and Magical Realism. The first is obvious, since the protagonist is a talented and strong girl who develops into a powerful, wise queen with a mandate to preserve her people’s heritage. The second was selected because the Mayan culture has deep themes of mysticism and inter-dimensional realities. Rulers, priestesses, shamans, and healers had frequent interactions with spirit beings such as goddesses and gods, elementals, and ancestors. To the Mayas, this was part of their normal world, so this kind of magic was very real to them.

Photo of Maya mural from San Bartolo, Guatemala
San Bartolo Mural Interactions with Gods Maize God is Central Figure (photo by author)

The Prophetic Mayan Queen: K’inuuw Mat of Palenque has garnered other acknowledgement, such as a 5-star review by Seattle Book Reviews and several praiseworthy editorial reviews. Here’s hoping she wins the Somerset Award which comes with a great Prize Package with lots of publicity!

2020 Tucson Festival of Books – March 14-15

Photo of UA hosting Tucson Festival of Books
Tucson Festival of Books University of Arizona, 2018

The Tucson Festival of Books is a community-wide celebration of literature. Offered free-of-charge, the festival exists to improve literacy rates among children and adults. Proceeds that remain after festival expenses have been paid are contributed to local literacy programs.

Started in 2009, this gathering of authors and publishers, marketers and sponsors, receives up to 135,000 visitors and features around 500 authors and presenters. Each year event typically includes special programming for children and teens, panels by best-selling and emerging authors, a literary circus, culturally diverse programs, a poetry venue, exhibitor booths and two food courts. Featured authors give talks in various buildings, while in the university mall there are booths for indie authors to meet fans and sell books in 2-hour time periods over the weekend. This year’s festival is March 14-15. You can see the schedule at: http://tucsonfestivalofbooks.org/

Flyer for 2020 Tucson Festival of Books
2020 Tucson Festival of Books

Friends have mentioned this book festival, but this is the first year that I’ll be participating. Just needing some warmth and sunshine after one of the most wet, cold, and grey winters in recent Oregonian memory. My books will be featured at the Indie Author Pavilion – Adult Fiction on Sunday, March 15, 2020 from 10 am-12 noon. If you’re in the area, stop by! I’ll be offering discounted book packages on the Mayan Queen series.

Thumbnails of 4 Mayan Queens book covers
Mayan Queens Books Mists of Palenque Series

Ebook and print books available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and your local bookstore by order.

Leonide Martin Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

My last trip to Palenque was in 2012. Went to celebrate the 12-21-12 Winter Solstice when the Mayan Calendar ended a great cycle (Mayan Sun or Era) moving from the Fourth to the Fifth Sun. At least, that’s what many said . . . note that the world didn’t end as some predicted. The Mayas of course never said that–to them it was simply one great cycle ending and another beginning.

From Copan to Area 51

Intriguing sci-fi mystery begins in Copan Temple

Book cover The Coordinate

This book caught my eye because of the Chamber of the White-Eyed Star God deep inside a major temple at Copan. With this Maya connection, I was drawn to read it, although slated genre was YA. I’m really glad I did! It’s the most enjoyable science-adventure-thriller that I’ve read in a long time. Below is my review.

Sitting on top pyramid with ancient Ek Bahlam below

The Coordinate                                                                                 12-15-19

By Marc Jacobs                                                                                        5*

High school seniors Logan and Emma are assigned a history project to explore the “how and why” of one of the great archeological mysteries of the world. Other student teams are assigned to Stonehenge, the Great Pyramid of Giza, and the Gate of the Sun in Tiwanaku, but Logan and Emma get the obscure Chamber of the White-Eyed Star God in Copan, Honduras. Immediately drawn in by the sequestering of data about the site, they launch on the adventure of a lifetime that takes them to Italy, The Vatican, Europe, and the Norwegian fjords. Unraveling the cues and threads of Columbus’ connections with the Copan temple and its astrological mysteries places them squarely in danger’s path, as other agents are also seeking these answers. The teenagers become entangled with U.S. Intelligence agents, international espionage information dealers, and two hapless professors who initially discovered the Star God’s chamber. Their efforts to solve the mysteries propel them into the highest levels of U.S. government and military secrets.

This is the best scifi thriller that I’ve read in a long time. It grabs you and immerses you in the teenager’s brilliant detective work to sort out connections and meanings between astrological clues, ancient sites, and historical figures. Some of the happenings may be far-fetched, but the author provides enough science to make them plausible. There are captivating descriptions of the ancient sites and contemporary places visited during the teen’s quest, along with background material that adds perspective. Just when things are getting obvious, totally unforeseen twists take place setting up more layers of intrigue. With exciting action and mind-bending theories, the plot engages our inner sleuth and challenges our problem-solving abilities.

The main characters are engaging and well-developed, the bad guys well-portrayed and hard to figure out at times. There is a sweet budding romance between Logan and Emma, though we are left with mysteries at the end, especially regarding Emma. Though given the genre of YA, this complex story will be enjoyed by most adults. A sequel is coming soon, and I’m getting it as soon as it’s released.   

My review on Goodreads.

Photo of Leonide Martin at El Mirador, Guatemala
Leonide Martin at El Mirador, Guatemala

Virtual Author Book Tour – Your Time, My Space

Join me in cyberspace for a book tour!

February 5 – 28, 2019.  Come whenever you have time, you don’t need to dress up.

Visit each blog stop, even those already scheduled, read interviews, guest blogs, reviews, and excerpts.

Comment to enter book giveaway.

Doing book tours the easy way.

With the launch of the fourth and final book of my series about ancient Mayan Queens, I decided to take the easier route. For each of the previous three books, I scheduled brick-and-mortar bookstore tours. Doing these took a huge amount of time, energy, coordination, and publicity. Physical tours are also quite expensive, with travel costs and presentation materials. For the most part, my bookstore tours were decidedly not cost-effective. Of course, I really enjoyed my interactions with bookstore event coordinators and staff, and the usually small number of interested readers who attended. Traveling to Seattle allowed me to visit family and friends, and my Oregon stops were equally congenial. This time around, however, I just wanted less hassle. Virtual book tours were the answer!  Now I can stay at home, doing my book event via my computer, and even while enjoying a glass of wine.

Organizing a virtual book tour is no small task. I did seek out a few book bloggers for the earlier books, but didn’t have the bandwidth to create a real tour. So, I decided to use Virtual Book Tour (VBT) organizers for my new book. Having a professional VBT organizer certainly makes everything flow better. It’s a real pleasure to work with Teddy Rose of Premier Virtual Author Book Tours.

What you can expect when you join in my VBT.

Ten different book bloggers are hosting during this tour. They were selected because they have interests in my book’s genres, which span historical fiction, historical romance, fantasy, and paranormal novels. When bloggers and books are matched, the results are optimal. The bloggers are scheduled during a set time period, and can elect to send the author interview questions, request a guest blog post on a subject they choose, post an excerpt from the book, or write a book review. Some bloggers do more than one of these. The author receives everything in advance and sends responses to the tour organizer by a set date. Then the tour host forwards it to the blogger, who posts it on the set date.

Tour organizers advise authors to offer a book giveaway or gift certificate to readers who visit the blogs and write a comment. It’s an enticement for participation and increases visibility on the web. In my present VBT, I’m using a book giveaway, either ebook or paperback. You can enter at each blog stop for a chance to win.

Virtual book tours are a great tool for authors to get their books read, reviewed, and noticed. They help create buzz around a book release.

Schedule of VBT for The Prophetic Mayan Queen: K’inuuw Mat of Palenque.

Visit each blog stop, enjoy reviews, interviews, guest posts, and excerpts. You can make comments at any time, even after the scheduled dates, and enter for a chance to win the book giveaway.

Feb. 11    Infinite House of Books    https://shannon-muir.com/
Feb. 12    Indie Review Behind the Scenes    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_C6Z-GkNlU&feature=youtu.be
Feb. 15    StoreyBook Reviews     https://storeybookreviews.com/
Feb. 17    International Book Promotion     https://internationalbookpromotion.com/category/book-reviews/
Feb. 20    Rockin’ Book Reviews    https://www.rockinbookreviews.com/adult
Feb. 21    Celticlady’s Reviews    https://celticladysreviews.blogspot.com/
Feb. 28    (Susan) review on Amazon        https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1641463651/ref
                Link to Prophetic Mayan Queen

Blog Tour – The Prophetic Mayan Queen

Join the Blog Tour for The Prophetic Mayan Queen: K’inuuw Mat of Palenque

Mists of Palenque Series Book 4.

Blog Tour Dates January 7 – 11, 2019.

Drawing of K'inuuw Mat Name Glyph

K’inuuw Mat Name Glyph

Journey back 1300 years to the splendor and intrigue of Mayan civilization, the most advanced in the Western World. K’inuuw Mat, a royal girl who wants to dedicate her life to serving Mother Goddess Ix Chel, instead finds her destiny is marriage into the Palenque royal family, overlords of her region. With her skills in scrying and prophecy, she seeks a vision of her future husband. But, upon arriving at his city, she realizes the face she saw is his older brother, Kan Bahlam. They are immediately attracted, though she resists and follows through with marriage to the younger brother. As family conflicts, regional politics, and high court dramas play out, K’inuuw Mat shares astronomical interests with Kan Bahlam while keeping her distance. He schemes to fulfill his passion for her, assisted by fateful events that bring them together in most unexpected ways. The Goddess gives K’inuuw Mat a mandate to preserve Mayan culture for future generations, as their civilization begins the decline her prophecy foresees. She rises to meet the challenge, aided by mystical connections with ancestor women rulers who give guidance through visions. Her children help carry out the mandate through surprising links with Kan Bahlam.

K’inuuw Mat was a real Mayan women who lived during the late 7th and early 8th Centuries CE. Her portrait appears on a panel in Palenque (Tablet of the Slaves),

Drawing of Tablet of the Slaves

K’inuuw Mat on right, her husband Tiwol Chan Mat on left, offering rulership symbols to their son.
Tablet of the Slaves

seated on the right, where she offers a symbol of royal status to her son. Her husband, Tiwol Chan Mat, is seated on the left. Not much is recorded about her life, but there is a lot of information about the men surrounding her–the ruling family of Palenque and their magnificent architectural and artistic creations. Many characters are from this family, their courtiers and warriors. Fictional characters help fill out the complex relationships and intrigues.

To the Mayas, spirituality merged with everyday life. They moved between dimensions to meet with star ancestors, sky Gods, Underworld demons, shamans, tricksters, and deities who influenced every aspect of life. Rulers and priests were trained as shamans, did vision quests, and used hallucinogens to alter consciousness. They interacted with deities, cast spells, and had visionary powers. During trance rituals where they offered their own blood, the most precious substance to the Gods, they saw incense smoke turn into the Vision Serpent. From its huge jaws they saw an ancestor or God’s head emerge, giving predictions or answering questions.

I hope you’ll want to read this book, and plunge into the Maya’s exotic, advanced, and astonishing culture full of passion, pageantry, and mysticism.

BUY BOOK

Pre-order now!  Ebook available Jan. 13, print book Jan. 22, 2019

The Prophetic Mayan Queen: K’inuuw Mat of Palenque.  Mists of Palenque Series, Book 4.

Each book in the series stands alone and tells the story of a real ancient Mayan Queen.

Mists of Palenque Series

BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE   January 7 – 11, 2019

Learn some little-known trivia about the Mayas, and find out some things you never knew about me.  On the blog tour I’m answering a variety of interview questions, and writing some guest blog posts. The interviews were lots of fun, asking such questions as “What made you want to be an author,” “What is your favorite part of this book.” ‘Which character would you go drinking with,” “What should readers expect from this book,” “Tell about the cover and the inspiration for it,” “What part of the book’s world would you want to visit for a day,” “If a dwarf challenged you to a duel what would you do,” and details about my writing habits and quirks. My answer to the last question might surprise you, and it gives insight into the Maya world.

Visit each blog on the date listed below.  Be sure to enter Rafflecopter for a chance to win an Amazon or Barnes&Noble gift certificate!

Tour by Goddess Fish Promotions.

January 7: Mythical Books – review only
January 7: Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews
January 7: Candrel’s Crafts, Cooks, and Characters
January 8: Bookaholic
January 8: T’s stuff
January 9: Fabulous and Brunette
January 9: Edgar’s Books
January 10: Paranormal and Romantic Suspense Reviews
January 10: Kit ‘N Kabookle
January 11: All the Ups and Downs
January 11: Let me tell you a story – review

Guest Blogpost by Amanda Jayne

I’m delighted to host Amanda Jayne, intrepid author of Close Encounters of the Traveling Kind, stories of her near-death travel adventures in some of the world’s most exotic and unusual places. Jayne was inspired during her youth by a teacher, and always yearned for far-away places. She began these travels in the late teens-early twenties, and had much to learn about staying safe and well in foreign lands. In this humorous and gripping book, Jayne gives vivid descriptions of hair-raising escapades and provides wit and wisdom through “lessons learned” and”tips on how not to die” should other travelers be brave enough to follow her steps.

Below are Jayne’s thoughts about why she sought travel around the world and what traveling means to her. My review of her book follows. —Leonide Martin

Photo of Amanda Jayne

Amanda Jayne

I’ve been fascinated by other cultures and countries since I was young. I’m not sure what it is inside me that draws me to them but it’s some kind of magnetic power that pulls at me. I remember pouring over the atlas we had on the bookshelves in my home. It was bigger than I was at the time, at least that’s how I remember it. I would follow the lines and contours of the countries wondering what and who they held inside them. One Christmas I received a large book of mysterious places of the world. Inside were photos of places like Machu Picchu, the Nazca lines and Easter Island. I traveled the world in the pages of this book, from England to Australia, Peru, Mexico, China and beyond. I could feel the energy of each place as I pored over the pictures and read about the countries and I knew that one day I would travel and see them. At school, some of the kids laughed at my idea of traveling and told me I was going to be the first to marry, settle down with 2.4 kids and abandon my travel plans. “Anyway,” they said, “There’s no way you could do it, it’s too difficult.” Then I met Mrs. Joseph.

In my book I have written about Mrs. Joseph in the introduction. She was my English teacher, originally from Myanmar and had lived in several countries that seemed so exotic to me as a teenager. She taught me that travel was not only possible, but that experiencing other countries and cultures was an essential part of life. The stories she shared with me were of strange animals in India making impossible leaps across wide roads in the dead of night, or of her friend who was cursed by an Indian man and told he would die at 22 – and he did (“this was simply because he believed her, the man was not magic”, Mrs. Joseph would say, “your mind is strong, you can use it to help yourself or hurt yourself.”) She spoke casually of her countless miraculous escapes from death, mostly at the hands of cars that ran her over in different ways but also of other strange co-incidences in which her life was saved.

As I look back now, her strongest influence on me was her causing me to begin to see the world around me differently. She wasn’t sharing her strange stories for the drama or to provoke a reaction, she was genuinely concerned that I see that there was more to life than the school walls and learning facts. Mrs. Joseph was a strict teacher, not impressed by nonsense and prone to giving out detentions to those who used the words, nice and a lot in essays (“they are not real words; they don’t say anything to me. Use a word that means something!”). Outside the classroom though, she taught me there is more to life than meets the eye, that the things you need in life will turn up at the exact moment you need them (if they don’t, you didn’t need them) and that the magic and mystery is all around us, right here, in the natural world and in the way we can interact with it, if only we are willing to see. I say ‘she taught me’ but really she told me and encouraged me because these are things you can only learn from experience, and travel is one of the best ways to learn because it tends to put you in unusual places and situations that make you look more clearly and deeply into the world.

Armed with all I’d learned from my favourite teacher and all I’d dreamed of from my books (pre-Google days!) I started traveling. The first thing I noticed was that it is easier than it looks – like anything in life, the thoughts and fears about doing something are most often the toughest part. Once you commit and start, the way opens up for you. I didn’t intend for anything to be ‘adventurous’ travel, I simply wanted to see and explore the world. I’m not an adrenalin junkie and even refused to bungee jump when I was already in the queue at the famous bridge in New Zealand where it all began – I am afraid of heights, can’t swim and when I saw people returning with burst blood vessels in their eyes I felt ok with backing out. However, I am happy to take risks when there is an encounter I really want, a place I long to see or I know I will grow and learn from the experience.

Any travel outside of resorts and hotels is going to bring strange circumstances and adventure primarily because we are in an alien environment. I find that being in foreign cultures where I don’t have a clue what people are saying and I have no idea what is going on makes me feel alive. It stirs something within that wakes me up and causes me to look differently at the world and the people around me. I am more in the present moment during those times, I have the kind of wonder a child must feel when she sees a flower for the first time and is in awe of it. I love that, and I adore the feeling of expansion that comes over me when I am in the presence of a place or creation that has enormous energy.

Mostly, the experiences I write about in the book simply come from exploring places that were fascinating to me. I have worked in an orphanage and an English school in Bolivia, lived in Japan for five years and walked 1,200km alone around the 88 temple pilgrimage on Shikoku. In India I’ve been stalked by a man who shouted at me wherever I went for several days (“You are crap madam, crap!”) and given a bunch of grapes by a Sadhu (wandering holy man) when I had my pack stolen. It was his only possession in the world and his selfless compassion reached out to me as I cried over the loss of my backpack and helped me see clearly again. I’ve nearly come a cropper in Peru, Bolivia, Japan, Thailand, Nepal and South Africa. All of these experiences have taught me valuable lessons about who I am, how I want to be and how I can live more fully and peacefully in this wonderful world.

Now I understand that just living each day, no matter where you are, can be an adventure if you approach life with wonder and awe. It’s true I’m not being attacked by snakes in my bedroom in Kent or chased out of a makeshift drinking tavern by several angry tribesmen, but there is magic and adventure to be found in life wherever you are. And there are always more countries and cultures to explore… I’d better start packing. — Amanda Jayne

Close Encounters of the Traveling Kind  by Amanda Jayne

Review by Leonide Martin

Hair-raising travel adventures told with wit and brevity.

For those who love traveling, Close Encounters of the Traveling Kind will provide both uproarious amusement and cautionary tales. Inspired by a teacher, Jayne seeks out some of the world’s most exotic and unusual places for adventurous travels. She narrowly escapes death from altitude sickness on Mt. Fuji, getting lost in the Amazon, a vengeful snake in Thailand, freezing on the way to Machu Picchu, typhoid and salmonella in La Paz, and falling down a ravine bicycling the Death Road in Bolivia. From each near mishap, she culls wisdom and humor, leaving lessons learned for those daring enough to follow her steps.

Her mishaps in South Africa while taking local native buses to Lesotho to ride mountain ponies are downright terrifying. Only a naive 20-something would attempt such dangerous travel alone. A solo white woman in a sea of black faces during the upheaval following the fall of Apartheid, Jayne is nearly kidnapped, assaulted, and threatened with death. From these she learned to listen to her gut, mistrust local advice, take food and water, and watch for the “guardian angel,” a large native woman who took her under a wing to safety.

The last adventure proved to be truly numinous. Rafting the Bhote Kosi River in Nepal, Jayne is thrown from her raft into Class 5 rapids and sucked into a whirlpool. In the near-death experience, she entered a divine calm, her mind stilled and everything crystal clear. But the whirlpool released her to live for yet another adventure. Her lesson learned there perhaps sums up Jayne’s approach to travel close encounters: “Let go, life has got me.” Written with brevity, wit, and gripping description, any adventurous traveler will enjoy—though probably not emulate—these travel stories.

Enter this Giveaway for a chance to win a print copy (U.S. only) or ebook (worldwide) of Close Encounters of the Traveling Kind.

An Author’s Appreciation

Leonide MartinIn the writing process, an author comes to realize that readers are an invaluable part. We may write due to internal compulsions, and our books are fulfillment of the creative process, but without people to read those books, something very critical is missing. As we move into 2018, I’m reminded of how blessed I am to have your support and friendship as readers.

In appreciation, I’m giving you a gift. This is a nonfiction booklet I wrote bringing together material about Mayan Queens and women rulers in several cities in Mexico and Guatemala.

Magnificent Mayan Queens:

Native women of Power and Vision, Maya Preclassic to Late Classic Periods.

Magnificent Mayan Queens_V2Booklet on Mayan Queens

Why do we read?

Storytelling has been part of  human society as long as anyone can remember. Before writing, primitive people gathered around a campfire to listen in rapt attention to the local storyteller weave tales of adventure or mystery. Now we sit down with a good book, e-reader, tablet, smart phone, even the TV or DVD for the same experience. Why is reading or listening to stories so compelling for humans? Psychologists who study the “Theory of Mind” say we’re always trying to guess what other people are thinking and feeling, even though we do this unconsciously. Why is this something people universally do? Because this helps us learn which people we can trust and which we cannot. It also provides basic foundations for social interaction; without this we would be in a quandary about how to respond to others.

Not much has changed in this quintessentially human trait in thousands of years, except the way we engage with stories. Researchers at the University of Liverpool found that social topics make up two thirds of people’s conversation through public media, regardless of age or gender. We continue to be fascinated by other people’s stories, one reason why gossip columns and celebrity cults stay popular.  There’s no doubt a voyeur element here, but researchers believe the key value underlying this is empathy. A University of North Carolina psychologist reported that people with high empathy characteristics more easily engage in stories. However, this characteristic varies greatly among people. Some are easily touched emotionally while others seem unaffected by even the saddest or most miraculous stories.

Empathy is “the ability to identify oneself mentally with a person or thing and so understand the other’s feelings or meaning.”  Native Americans described this ability as being able to walk in another person’s moccasins; the proverbial “walk a mile in my shoes.”An interesting research finding is that people who read more have an 83% chance of forming excellent relationships, while those who seldom read have only a 14% chance.  It seems that when you can see the world through another’s eyes, you have more ability to form good relationships. Research suggests that this drive to seek understanding about the experiences and perspectives of other people is deeply ingrained, perhaps even instinctive.

So keep on reading! 

Reading fiction is good for you. It opens a world onto other people and places, where you learn and have vicarious experiences. It goes beyond providing entertainment and diversion, and helps you develop social skills that enhance your relationships. Of course, I’ve got a few good books I can recommend:

Mists of Palenque Series
Four Great Mayan Queens

The Visionary Mayan Queen: Yohl Ik’nal of Palenque

The Controversial Mayan Queen: Sak K’uk of Palenque

The Mayan Red Queen: Tz’aakb’u Ahau of Palenque

Guest Blogpost by J. Mitchel Baker

Guest blogpost by J. Mitchel Baker

It’s my pleasure to host a guest blogpost by J. Mitchel Baker as part of his blog tour. He is featuring his book Journey Within, a lyrical mix of memoir, adventure, and philosophy as he follows his soul’s call to search for the higher design in his life. He embarks on a personal journey into the wilderness, encountering raw nature with its survival challenges and potential for spiritual revelation. This is the true story of a man whose career involves nature and animals, yet whose inner voice called him into the wilderness. After years of postponement, he embarked on his personal quest into the unknown. In raw nature, he encounters unexpected challenges and finds courage through his animals to forge onward. The book highlights “the duality between both the physical and the spiritual. It carries a message of courage and inspiration to connect with life and the inner self, taking the road less traveled, and living authentically.”

Below are Baker’s reflections on the mystical powers inherent in nature. My review of his book follows. — Leonide Martin 

 

J. Mitchel Baker

J. Mitchel Baker

The mystique of the wild

I rage over the discourtesies shown by other drivers on an overfilled urban stretch of road. I stress over the relentless looming of debt. I obsess with the needs of my children. My hypertension rises with the vagaries of office politics and oppressive timelines. This is an ordinary day, played over yet again and again. But is this the life we were truly meant to live? Oh how I wish I were back in the wilds. The wild is often in my dreams; memories acute with wisdom learned.

Find a place in nature: the ocean, the forest, a river, or a mountain top. Sit and simply listen.

It begins with absolute silence. An ear accustomed to too much input will resist the auditory vacuum. A body learned in the ways of constant motion and a full agenda will fight for purpose. But be utterly still. Do not speak. Breathe deeply. Allow the ego to quiet itself. And be mindful of all things internal and external. There you can find your true self. There you can hear your true inner voice. There, in that setting devoid of space and time, is where you find awareness.

The listless flapping of leaves and the slow sway of the trees in the breeze naturally aligns our rhythms to the earth. The colorful grandeur of a mountain range as the sun settles demands we feel small and insignificant, yet happy to be alive. The vastness and brilliance of the stars on a cloudless night remind us we are part of something greater than ourselves. Sacred moments such as these give us pause to reflect on what is truly important in our lives.

The mysticism of these singular moments is the self-realization that the separation between each of us and nature is an illusion. Everything in nature is connected. Her millions of component parts contribute to create a perfect whole. We are part of that whole. She guides us toward something larger than ourselves, forces us to exist in the moment. Not yesterday. Not tomorrow. Now.

“There came to me a delicate, but at the same time a deep, strong and sensuous enjoyment of the beautiful green earth, the beautiful sky and sun; I felt them, they gave me inexpressible delight, as if they embraced and poured out their love upon me.  It was I who loved them, for my heart was broader than the earth; it is broader now than even then, more thirsty and desirous. After the sensuous enjoyment always come the thought, the desire: That I might be like this; that I might have the inner meaning of the sun, the light, the earth, the trees and grass, translated into some growth of excellence in myself, both of the body and of mind; greater perfection of physique, greater perfection of mind and soul; that I might be higher in myself.”

–   Richard Jefferies, The Story of My Heart 

The mystique of nature is neither measurable nor empirical but rather a deep experience that heals and inspires; an understanding all indigenous people across the globe have acknowledged for thousands of years; each embracing the earth as their mother. The emotional connection is there if you sit and simply listen. But perhaps we have travelled too far into our urban sprawls.

 

A Journey WithinA Journey Within by J. Mitchel Baker

Review by Leonide Martin

This first person account of the author’s quest for his destiny and personal truth is both lyrical and intensely vivid.  Driven by an inner vision to seek the fullness of who he is, Baker plans an adventure on horseback into the wild country of New Mexico. With his dog and three companions, he braves uncharted mountain terrain along the Continental Divide, taking few supplies and depending on nature to provide most needs. The congenial group of men, horses and dog faces unforeseen obstacles and must use wits and instinct to surmount flooded rivers, steep craggy paths, and disappearing trails.

Weaving through scary accounts of close calls with disaster are Baker’s inner reflections, revealing a profound philosophy and dedication to following his spiritual path. These deeply felt considerations are infused with an appreciation and honoring of nature that borders on the mystical. His love for animals and the natural world shines through. He is a man capable of enduring heart rending loss and yet remaining open to the richness of life’s experiences. Quotes at the beginning of each chapter frame the issues he grapples with, or provide inspirations drawn from a surprising range of teachers, from Jung and Freud to Mark Twain and Thoreau, Leo Tolstoy, Yogi Bera and modern mystic Caroline Myss.

Baker must make choices toward the journey’s end about following his own goals or keeping solidarity with his companions and ensuring safety. His selfless decision truncates the quest and he ponders what more might have been forthcoming had he continued. Feeling that the journey is incomplete and spiritual revelations remain, Baker ends the story setting off on another nature encounter with his horse, dog and one friend. The journey continues as he seeks to discover a greater design for his life.

Preconceptions commonly held about “cowboys” and outdoorsmen in the southwest are dismantled by this sensitive, eloquent memoir.

Continental Divide

Continental Divide

 

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