Monday, July 21, 2014

LIVE ONLINE ~ Tuesday, July 22nd at 7pm Pacific!

Selections from MIRACLES: A TRIO OF ISLAND TALES Presented Live in Second Life (c) and on Stream.

I'll be sharing two of the three tales in this collections live online.  The session begins at 7pm Pacific time.  CLICK HERE beginning at 6:50pm to access the stream. Please note: you may need to make sure certain plug ins are equipped to listen to streamed media on your computer.  Check  the "Judy's Stories -  Live!" tab for some links that may assist you.

FIVE STARS for MIRACLES: A TRIO OF ISLAND TALES

"These three tales bring me in and make me one with the Pacific Islanders in the kingdom of Tonga. The stories of peace and faith are uplifting and inspiring. A pure joy to read!"  ~ Reader Review


Thursday, July 10, 2014

MIRACLES: A TRIO OF ISLAND TALES is Released!

Miracles: A Trio of Island Tales is now available for Kindle and in Paperback from Amazon!

Belief is crucial to life.  If there is a through-line to most of my work, it is the need for all of us to believe in something beyond ourselves. 


Belief is woven into all three of the stories in this collection. These stories are fictionalizations of Tongan history and family stories shared by my collaborator, Ilaisaane Filikitonga Tome.  She is a native born Tongan: an amazing Polynesian kingdom in the South Pacific known for the friendliness of its people, an exceptionally high literacy rate, and for devoutly faithful Christians. The power of her stories is moving and undeniable.  You may or may not share her belief system, and that does not really matter.  It is hard to hear her stories and not recognize the essential power of them.
Click Here to view the Book Trailer

“An Island Miracle – Earth” re-imagines “tuku fonua” and the journey of King Tupou I to this historic act of dedicating all of Tonga to the Christian God, rather than bow to pressure from colonizing foreign powers. 

“An Island Miracle – Water” recounts how a man of faith places himself, literally, in the path of ongoing sorrow for the residents of the small Tongan island of Falevai.

“An Island Miracle – Fire” faces the reality of life on a volcanic island, where life and creation vividly part of the same continuing cycle.  When a community of believers is charged with a task that seems completely insane, will they have the faith and courage to believe, when even the island itself seems to challenge them?

Interested in learning more about Tongan history and culture?  Here is one of the resources I used in researching this book and these stories - a fabulous video produced by the Brigham Young University Polynesian Center. It specifically deals with "tuku fonua", the act of dedicating the people and land of Tonga to God.  It also features the beauty of the Tongan language.


The “Trio Tales” series are “fiction monographs” featuring three short stories on a single theme, and are intended to be portable, enjoyable. They also make great gifts.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

THREE for SUNDAY Preview!

I'll previewing Miracles: A Trio of Island Tales this Sunday, June 15th a three different times (all Pacific time).

10am at the Seanchai Library on the Kitely Grid, and streamed live online.

Noon at DNA Arts & Music in Second Life, and streamed live online (this will be a mix of the book and some other essays).

4pm at Poesy on the Kitely Grid as guest of Freda Frostbite, and streamed live online.

Here's an excerpt from the Introduction to the story collection:

"My Christian friends and colleagues might be critical that I do not push a specifically Christian agenda (with these stories).  I most emphatically do not.  That has nothing to do with my own beliefs, and everything to do with my understanding of the nature of faith.  It is something that can be neither dictated nor legislated – you cannot make someone believe as you do.  Earnest belief must come from within, completely genuine and totally heartfelt.


"Belief is woven into all three stories in 'Miracles: A Trio of Island Tales.'  These stories are fictionalizations of Tongan history and family stories shared by my collaborator, Ilaisaane Filikitonga Tome.  She is a native born Tongan: an amazing Polynesian kingdom in the South Pacific known for the friendliness of its people, an exceptionally high literacy rate, and for devoutly faithful Christians. The power of her stories is moving and undeniable.  You may or may not share her belief system, and that does not really matter.  It is hard to hear her stories and not recognize the essential power of them."

CLICK HERE to go to the instruction tab about live streams.  Do not wait till the last minute!  Trust me.  The information on this site is not all inclusive of all the possibilities of every operating system or media software. Each session will be roughly an hour long, and will be simultaneously live in these virtual worlds to audiences there, and live on my stream.

Fell free to share your applause, comments, virtual snapshots etc here or on facebook or on Google + (Judy Cullen).

Friday, June 13, 2014

COFFEE FRIDAY: "Invisible Me"

Invisible Me
By Judith Cullen
© 2014

Is it just me?  Am I getting old?  I accept that with maturity come certain challenges with “data retrieval.”  I am starting to wonder if it is more than just the natural evolution from the laser-like certainties of your 20s and 30s to the accumulated wisdom of life at its median and beyond.  I have gained so much in 50 plus years in wisdom, patience, and knowledge.  Now if I could just remember it all!

Do you ever get the feeling that no one is paying attention?  People seem so overcome, overwhelmed, and overexposed in the Digital Age that they cannot fully take in all the information buffeting them 24/7.  It seems like daily I send a communication and the reply makes it clear that the person did not entirely read or comprehend the message.  Sometimes it is in conversation.  Sometimes it happens multiple times. I end up replying and restating (or copying and re-pasting) the same thing again.  I start to wonder if I am losing my grip on language.  I want to scream, “Pay Attention!”  

This is not wholly about getting older. I expect these sorts of still-frustrating communication glitches with my 83 year old Mother.  In the natural course of things, some misunderstandings are inevitable. I also think that the near epidemic frequency with which this seems to happen to myself and others these days is a product our times in general. 

We are so bombarded with IMs, tweets, posts, plurks and blurbs that it all becomes a mess and, in our rush to try and keep up, we sacrifice comprehension.  There are so many people out there “communicating” – just firing their messages into the ether like so many poorly aimed arrows - that it all becomes the intellectual equivalent of packing peanuts.  Remember when a 30 second news flash was a rush?  These days it is a leisurely stroll when compared to 140 characters, including the spaces.  

I do it myself, I admit it.  I react or respond to something and then go back and take a second look only to realize that I completely misunderstood. The capacity of the human brain is infinite, taken as a whole.  But at any given moment, there’s only so much you can effectively take in.

So I share the invocation I have begun for myself with you: Slow down!  Life is not passing you by if you take a moment to absorb it.  Be thoughtful. The older you get the more doubt becomes a constant companion, so be generous in giving the benefit there of. Asking clarifying questions is okay.  But in the mean time, be sure and give attention to the important stuff and the people that matter in your life.  And when the inevitable misunderstanding happens (where two or three are gathered together, someone’s going to not get it the first time around) be gracious. 

Maybe we should spend less time “communicating” and more time just talking and listening together.

No one likes to feel like they are howling to the wind.  No one likes to feel invisible. 

##

 NOTE:  Looks like Sunday I will be streaming at three different times: 10am, Noon, and 4pm.  Look for a post Saturday to confirm this.

(COFFEE FRIDAYS = my weekly trip to a local coffee shop with my laptop to get a change of scene and refresh my literary batteries with multiple large mochas, no whipped cream.)

Monday, June 9, 2014

PREVIEW of MIRACLES: A TRIO OF ISLAND TALES live Sunday!

Sunday, June 15th at 10am Pacific, I'll be reading from this collection which will release come hell-or-high-water this month.

If you are a metaverse traveler, I will be live in voice in #kitely.  You can drop into the Seanchai Library homeworld (http://www.kitely.com/search?q=seanchai) and click on the volcano panel in the main landing zone to take you to the story site. 

I have also been asked to present from my works at Noon that same day in #secondlife at DNA Arts - contact myself (Caledonia Skytower) or Luna Branwen to get the location. I may or may not be reading from this collection, but I will be reading from my original works.

For those of you who are determinedly corporeal, I'll also be streaming BOTH sessions live online.  So you can tune in and listen to "Radio Judy" which will either add to the serenity or the hilarity of your Sunday.

To get info for listening via my stream, Click Here


Be sure and check out my first ever book trailer/teaser !

Saturday, May 31, 2014

MIRACLES: A TRIO OF ISLAND TALES Is Finally Coming!

This collection has been a journey, and not always an easy one.  Delayed painfully and repeatedly by "life happening" it is now ready to release in the coming weeks.  How fitting that my very first book trailer should be associated with this particular journey.

I'm sure I'll look back in a few years at this first produced trailer and cringe a bit, but right now it is the first and I am incredibly proud of it (and grateful to Shandon Loring for his assistance).
video

Belief is essential to life.  If there is a through-line to most of my work, it is the essential need for all of us to believe in something beyond ourselves.  It does not matter what.  Simply believe.  By believing in something beyond yourself, you learn to better understand your world: to believe in yourself.

Belief is woven into all three stories in Miracles: A Trio of Island Tales.  These stories are fictionalizations of family stories shared by my collaborator, Ilaisaane Filikitonga Tome.  She is a native born Tongan and devout Christian. The power of her stories is moving and undeniable.  You may or may not share her belief system, and that does not really matter.  It is hard to hear her stories and not recognize the essential power of them.

Meet King Tupou I of Tonga.  He was the first in a line of Tongan Kings that has remained unbroken to the present day - through nine generations!  He is  part of Miracles: A Trio of Island Tales.

During his near century-long life he transformed Tonga from a collection of bickering, war lords to a unified Kingdom.  He is the King Arthur of the South Pacific.  He was smart, ambitious, and he saw that the only way to combat foreign colonialism in the 19th Century was with one Tonga, under one ruler.  He knew that otherwise, the atoll and the people would be picked apart by outside interests.

King Tupou I of Tonga outside his Palace
In the 1830's he was baptized as a Christian, and he used his faith and beliefs as a tool in building the sovereign kingdom of Tonga.  He was a formidable man, and one of the few Polynesian rulers that was dealt with as an equal by other world leaders.  The Tonga he passed on at his death in 1893 was radically different from the one he was born into. Not only did he build a sovereign nation and develop a constitution, but he made serfdom illegal, secured the land of Tonga for Tongans forever by making it illegal for anyone other than native Tongans to own land, and he built a Christian Church that took its roots from the Wesleyan Church, but was essentially Tongan.

Learn more about this remarkable man and the paradise he dreamed of in Miracles: A Trio of Island Tales.

Friday, May 30, 2014

COFFEE FRIDAY: Coffee Shop Talk

Coffee Shop Talk
by Judith Cullen
(c) 2014

Coffee shops predate the proliferation we think of as the Starbucks explosion.  Coffee shop culture goes back well into the 19th century and, like cafe culture, has existed seemingly forever in Europe.  Like pubs and taverns, even the most corporate places strive for a certain “local watering hole” quality.  The best of them seem to have the same successful ambience: clean, friendly places where the really good baristas know the customers by name and favorite beverage.  It’s a mix of the familiar, the intimate, and the anonymous.

Restaurants are not the same.  In a restaurant a bubble of privacy forms around your table, intruded upon only by the wait staff.  Depending on the class of the restaurant, conversation is uttered in lowered voices, even leaning in to one another.  It is outrĂ©, a gross violation of manners, to have a boisterous conversation that bursts into other diner’s bubbles. While acceptable volume levels vary by establishment, it is most assuredly not good form to be a bubble breaker.  Pay attention!

In many coffee shops, especially in locally owned stores, there is a unique blend that comes from more than the roaster.  It can be both treacherous and invigorating. Like the public house, communities of acquaintance spring up.  Customers not only are known, but come to know one another: greeting each other with warmth, asking after family, inquiring about projects.  Voices are raised in greeting, much like the mythical bar of 1980s television fame, “Norm!”

Yet, at the same time, intimacy exists like subtext: an undercurrent skimming beneath the more public surface.  People lean together, having very personal, very private conversations.  The coffee shop is neutral territory where the public-private combination allows for revelation in a controlled, somewhat calm environment.  I am sure that it happens, but when was the last time you saw someone toss a cup of coffee at someone and storm out the door?  In the coffee shop, when the dial skews to “private,” we invoke our “restaurant manners.” 

Coffee shops become ad hoc conference rooms.  Recently, I observed two leggy blondes walk in with a tall, impeccably suited gentlemen.  They’d arrived in separate vehicle. After the pleasantries of beverage purchasing, the meeting was called to order with all the decorum of a corporate convocation.  Websites, branding, and strategy being pointedly and rapidly reviewed, discussed, and recorded before moving on.  The shop had been fairly empty at the time.  Had it been busier, the meeting would have been absorbed by the public-private anonymity of the shop.  I don’t believe that Roberts’ Rules were being observed, but if they had, Mr. Roberts would have been blowing on his low-fat cappuccino before sipping it, along with the others.

Listening in is rude, I admit it.  But sometimes, when one “goes for coffee” and works solo, it is hard not to hear snippets of the life teaming all around you, breathing in and out, repressing and expressing - mostly expressing.  The coffee shop is safe. 

“Man, I lived here in the 90s.  I’m not afraid of guns.”

“I don’t know how to manage her negativity.”

“You know, we’ll be sending out invites and I’d love for you to come.”

“Oh yeah, I worked on your house!”

“Hey!  World of War Craft!  That was you!”

“She was so cute this morning, she almost cried.”

There are unspoken rules in the coffee shop.  If you come to work, or use the Wifi, it’s polite to buy something – a cup of coffee, a bagel.  It’s also considered polite to clean up your mess.  Pick up your newspaper, bus your debris.  The staff is rarely in a position to wipe up after the volume of lives, known and unknown, coming in and out. 

Above all, observe and learn.  Open yourself to understanding the diversity of intent surrounding you, the differences between the public and private moments in a coffee shop.  Learn to discern the distinction between something that could include you, where you chime in as a member of a joyous community of stimulant drinkers, and a moment between individuals which is not inclusive. If it feels it might be an intrusion, it probably is. Mistakes are inevitable.  Smiling in polite acknowledgement is always in the best taste.  People will forget a blundering comment, but a smile enriches their day long after they’ve moved on.

Above all, respect the life around you: loud, soft, communal, intimate, sensitive, and completely clueless. It’s not a substitute for living your own life, but it is a marvelous sampling.  It is a great opportunity to gain perspective. 

“Mocha no whipped cream, please.”

By Judith Cullen © 2014