Tag Archives: Ellis Nelson

The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin by Stephanie Knipper

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This is a special book about healing and what it means to heal. At its core are two sisters who’ve had a falling out. The separation is painful for both of them. With the backdrop of a Kentucky flower farm, Rose is raising a severely disabled child alone. Ten-year-old Antoinette appears to have a form of autism that requires constant care but along with this disability comes a gift. Antoinette can connect to the vibrations of life and heal. A dead bird is raised. Flowers bloom before their time. Neighbors heal. When Rose becomes ill herself, she reaches out to her sister to come and help with Antoinette and the farm. But Lily has her own secrets and going back means she’ll have to confront them. Why does one little girl frighten her so much?

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I enjoyed the backdrop of the book reading it in a time when Belgium was dark, rainy, and in its pre-spring gray. The promise of a new cycle of life and healing is powerful. Can old relationships be healed? What does healing look like? What sacrifices will love allow? The descriptions of Antoinette’s abilities were intriguing as were the insights into the world of autism. Although I didn’t like the ending because the author took the easy way out, I’m sure many will find comfort in it.

 

 

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Well…life in Belgium

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I keep pushing this blog post off into the future hoping that with the passage of time some kind of perspective would give way to a new way of seeing things. I didn’t want to project a bunch of negativity, especially if what is happening is short-lived. It’s been two months now so obviously my feelings and impressions aren’t fleeting. Time for a check in blog and if you were hoping for a sunny, happy go lucky piece- abandon hope here. Once you read this, I won’t be anyone’s envy and you’ll all be glad you have not forsaken your Lazyboy recliner positioned comfortably before your hundreds of TV channels ALL IN ENGLISH!!!! Not that everything is TV. But how many of you can shrug off not having a phone or internet access for a month? My TV options are limited to BBC, CNN Europe, and a few channels that run old American movies. Nothing begins on the hour. We have no idea why. My husband jokes that it’s tied to the bus schedule (and it may be).

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I live in a French quarter on the east side of Brussels that is centered around a Catholic Church built in the 1930s. There’s a quaint town circle that holds a market every Wednesday morning. No joke- that is where I’m supposed to do my grocery shopping if I were living as a Belgian. I think this is a hold over from a bygone era because some of the young families sure seem eager to make use of the handful of VERY NEW supermarkets coming in. I do see a lot of old people at the village markets, but dual income families don’t have time to shop mid-day in the middle of the week. One of the major problems we have here is that stores are not open a lot. Many things close by six or seven on the weekdays and virtually nothing is open on Sunday. Remember the Blue laws (if you’re old enough to remember back to the 70s)? If you’re an American who hasn’t lived like this in forty years, it’s quite an adjustment. From what I understand, Germany and the Netherlands are not like this.

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The house we’re in dates from the 1950s. It has many odd features that have been eye opening. Every room has a door, every door has a key- each unique to the door. The basement has three interior keys and a locking mechanism designed by a former security official for the state of Belgium (absolute truth!). The windows have a tilting mechanism that allows “air from the garden.” Since they have no screens, we can’t even try them because the two cats would be out in an instant.There are heavy privacy shades that roll down over the exterior of the front and back windows. These are like those inner city store security systems you see in sketchy neighborhoods. Since I couldn’t bring my weight machine, these provide my upper arms with a daily work out routine. The staircases in the house are narrow, uncarpeted, and treacherous. Probably the most unique feature (?) to the whole house is the WC (water closet) on the main level. Upon entering the house, to the right (after climbing two stairs) is a small closet- like cubicle that houses a toilet. It is the only bathroom on the main living level and it means that all your visitors get to wash their hands in the kitchen sink. Now this would be okay if this house was a 1600s Dutch canal house before modern sanitation, but really?  The house was built in 1951!!!!

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Anyway, this blog has gone on and could go on rambling over eight weeks of hard earned experience. But I’d better give you all a break.

Here are some  of the things I’d give my eye teeth for (after weeks of searching here’s what we still can’t find):

breakfast sausage (for my husband, any kind)

chicken gravy (any form)

a plastic pitcher (to make iced tea)

ice cube trays

baby oil- gel

81″ length, sheer curtains

a shower curtain

raw hide chews (for the dog, no way am I giving him pig’s ears!!)

loose leaf paper

(all found at your local Walmart)

Future Blog Topics:

Laundry: The Persistent Nightmare

And You Thought You Knew Meat (why something labeled hamburger contains only chicken)

Who is Madam PeePee & Why Do I have to Pay Her?

How to Fry 2 Computers in 8 Weeks: (hey-the IT guy is here and speaks only French)

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The Book of Lost Fragrances by MJ Rose

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I wanted to read this book immediately after I read the premise.

Jac L’Etoile is a successful author and TV personality who hosts a show about myths. She comes from a long line of famous French perfumers, but she’s walked away from the business. It’s not until the business is in trouble and her brother goes missing in Paris that she returns to confront her past. Her mother’s suicide, a father suffering dementia, and troubling visions all connected with scent threaten to derail Jac from finding her brother.

Jac learns her brother has resurrected a family legend tied to an ancestor who discovered a scent created in Cleopatra’s time that could induce memories of past lives. Of course, Jac is highly skeptical of the idea, but as her own visions intensify bringing her closer to her dead mother, images of ancient Egypt and the French Revolution begin to emerge all calling her sanity into question. Evidence comes light that forces Jac to consider whether her brother may have been killed for Cleopatra’s secret scent. An esoteric society along with the Chinese government all have designs on the powerful perfume her brother was protecting. Interestingly, the brother’s only wish is to get the scent into the hands of the Dalai Lama who can use the memory tool as possible evidence for reincarnation.

I found the idea of scent as a possible device for unlocking past life memory original and irresistible. The visions/past life memory segments of the book were well done. The book reads like a thriller and that’s a plus for me. There is a romantic element woven in that’s kind of cliché but necessary for Jac to resolve her karmic past. I appreciate the author’s research into scent and the history of the perfume industry and did not find it distracted from the plot. I love that kind of detail! Unfortunately, two little details irked me. The Dalai Lama wears burgundy robes not saffron (saffron is worn by Southeast Asian Buddhists). There is also a lot made out of the Dalai Lama being inaccessible and unreachable by Jac’s brother which is not true. His Holiness travels and has a full calendar. He meets groups wherever he goes and he holds meetings in Dharamsala. I know people who have met the Dalai Lama so he is far from unreachable.

Overall, this is an interesting book that moves fast and keeps the reader’s attention while introducing a little known industry. While I didn’t realize it at the time, this book is part of a series on reincarnation by MJ Rose. Some of the reviews for this book indicate she’s hit her stride with this one.

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Visionary Fiction Writer Margaret Duarte

Duarte’s new book is based on her research in “… paganism, holistic theory, quantum mechanics, and transpersonal psychology, which takes readers deep into the depths of consciousness to the unified field underlying physical existence, where separateness is an illusion.” Definitely my kind of thing and maybe yours too.

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Please welcome Margaret Duarte, who has a brand new book out just for us to read.

dsc_0195Please tell us a little about yourself.

I’m the daughter of Dutch immigrants. I’m the sister to seven brothers and two sisters. I’m a wife, mother, and grandmother. I’m a former middle school teacher and ceramicist. I’m a housewife and bookkeeper. I’m the daughter, niece, sister, sister-in-law, aunt, cousin, friend, wife, and mother of California dairy farmers. And I’m a writer.

How did you become interested in Visionary Fiction?

My “Enter the Between” novel series welled out of me with no consideration to genre. When the flow slowed to a tickle and I began the revision process, I was forced to eye my work through the viewpoint of editors, publishers, and marketers—which led to a brick wall with a sign: No admittance without genre ID. I went on a hunt, using a new lens…

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Arrival 6 Days!

Brussels.

(photo: Paul IJendoorn)

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FINAL DAY: Get Your FREE Book

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Download from Amazon:  https://goo.gl/O6Bvxq

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Grab Your FREE Book:

Time’s running out! Tomorrow is the last day.

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GRAB IT HERE:  https://goo.gl/r9vxAj

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FREE: Into the Land of Snows

This is the only time I will be doing this promotion. Get your FREE Kindle copy from Amazon (now through Dec. 10th). Snuggle up by the fire and join Blake as he treks in the Himalayas. Happy holidays to everyone! (We have a house in Brussels and we’re moving in Jan. I’ll join you from Belgium in the new year.)

GRAB YOUR FREE COPY HERE:   https://goo.gl/O6Bvxq

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NOW IN PRINT! Elephants Never Forgotten

 

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Just in time for the holidays.

Order through Amazon: goo.gl/EKcVDB

What’s it about?      Jurassic Park meets Micro😉

A hundred years in the future, twelve-year-old Nigella receives a shipment from her deceased grandfather. Her inheritance is a herd of micro-elephants. While a lot of her friends have micro-pets, Nigella is at a loss on how to care for them. Why are her micro-pets so different from everyone else’s? What was her grandfather up to? With the help of her best friend, Kepler, the girls set off on an adventure to discover the truth.

Also available as an ebook.

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RATIONAL MYSTICISM by John Horgan

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This is a book I thought long and hard about highlighting. I expected great things and was overall disappointed. Unfortunately John Horgan is a reductionist materialist and despite the access he had to various spokespeople on mysticism, he remains thoroughly unconvinced. He is a science writer who holds the dogmatic party line through the entirety of the book. That said, I think some valuable perspective can be gleaned from the people Horgan talks to. It’s worth the read to get an overall feel for the modern history of the topic and hear from some of the players.

Horgan begins with a definition of mysticism within the historical context. He interviews Huston Smith who discusses mysticism as a cross-cultural, cross-religious experience. Smith represents the notion of the perennial philosophy. The author’s search next takes him to a two day conference in Chicago where mysticism is treated as a literary phenomenon. These scholars know in great detail the texts left behind by Eckhart, St. Teresa of Avila, Shankara, etc. But sadly, none of them has any personal experience with anything remotely mystical. The journey continues with an interview of Ken Wilber dubbed ‘the weightlifting Bodhisattva’ by Horgan. Wilbur stands behind Smith adhering to the perennial philosophy but also embraces science as a way to explore and define mystical experience.

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Photo: Thanabadhi

Important information is raised in the chapter called Can Neurotheology Save Us?. Horgan visits with Andrew Newberg, the doctor featured back in 2001 in Newsweek’s article, “God and the Brain: How We’re Wired for Spirituality.” Wouldn’t it be nice if brain scans could prove mystical states and help us to understand them? Unfortunately, a review of data collected on all sorts of meditation doesn’t support any nice clean conclusions according to Jensine Andreson, a theology professor at Boston University. And that in turn brings into question all the benefits touted for meditation. A review of the studies looking at meditation and its benefits Andreson believes, are poorly designed and won’t hold up to scrutiny. Of course, as it relates to mystical practice, mystics don’t meditate to lower their blood pressure but I would concede that a whole lot of Americans do increasingly view meditation as a health practice. Should they?

Continuing the scientific pursuit of mystical states, Horgan interviewed Michael Persinger of Laurentian University, Canada. Starting in the 1980s, Persinger began studying the brain’s response to electro-magnetic pulses to certain areas of the brain. 40% of Persinger’s test subjects experience a presence. The Canadian magazine Mclean’s called this device, “the God machine.” Persinger maintains that he has not addressed the God question with his work, rather his interest is in understanding the electrical pattern of the brain that leads to religious belief. But does the machine produce mystical experiences? No. Apparently, no one tested has reported the typical sensations of bliss, unity, or ineffability commonly reported by mystics. Scientific attempts to link temporal lobe excitation or epilepsy to mystical experience do not hold up either.

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Horgan next turns to practitioner of Zen and neurologist, James Austin who penned the book, Zen and the Brain. Austin calls his approach perennial psychophysiology. Instead of gaining metaphysical insight, Austin thinks the mystic undergoes deep changes in personality. Someone who has had these experiences becomes more stable, more compassionate, and more selfless. As a specialist in brain disorders, Austin attempts to separate healthy mysticism from other illnesses. His approach relies on the idea that mystical experience releases excitotoxins which cause the loss of neurons. This in turn, allows us to get rid of those things that distort our view of reality. This is as scary as it is fascinating. For me, it makes mystical experience similar to brain damage. Can that really be?

No book on mysticism would be complete without a foray into drug induced mystical experience. Horgan looks at the history of LSD, DMT, and ayahuasca. He visits Stanislov Grof, who is involved in the transpersonal psychology movement. Grof believes that we must move into a new paradigm where mind has primacy over matter (the book was published in 2003, not a unique idea now). There’s an interesting discussion of Rick Strassman’s work as outlined in DMT: The Spirit Molecule. The colorful Terrence McKenna makes an appearance in a later chapter where he advocates the use of psychedelics.

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Photo by: vishwagna.com

The book is a nice romp through lots of questions with little in the way of conclusions. I often had the feeling that the author was totally out of his depth. Why did this topic appeal to him? He remained a science writer who attempted to fill pages. Most of them are interesting. I wonder what the book would have looked like with another author or even what the book would look like if updated.

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