Travel with Mona, visit Jerusalem and the Holy Land

Many trips to Israel and the Middle East had often been canceled or postponed because of political turmoil or instability. When a Canadian friend told us about a group from Montreal organizing a guided tourist visit to the Holy Land in March 2010, my husband and I found it an excellent opportunity to finally travel safely through the region.

We flew from New York to Amman, Jordan, where we met the eighteen people coming from Canada. The next day we boarded our comfortable bus and visited Petra that I described in a previous blog. From there we continued along the King Hussein Bridge between Jordan and Israel. The security was very tight with x-ray scanning, questioning and bag searches and passport control.

Monastery of the Temptation
 The sycamore-fig tree or  Zacchaeus tree

We stopped for lunch in Jericho, commonly known as “the oldest city in the world” (8000 BCE) and the world’s lowest city (1200 feet under sea level).” Jericho is a Palestinian city in the West Bank, an important historical, cultural, and political center located northwest of the Dead Sea. It is truly a place where the ancient past comes in contact with the immediate present and where the fragrance of oranges and citrus permeates the air.

After lunch, we spent the afternoon at the Dead Sea shore. The sea water is rich in minerals and salt, and so muddy. The mud is cleaned and sold as an anti-wrinkle facial cream at $90 the small jar. [Yes, I bought a jar. It didn’t erase a single line.]

The Dome of the Rock or Masgad El Aksa. A cabinet within the building houses a hair from the prophet Mohamad’s beard. Another tradition suggests it’s the mountain where Abraham nearly sacrificed his son Isaac.
A view of Jerusalem from Mount Olive

Finally we entered Jerusalem in the early night and checked in our hotel that was fully booked for the week. For our bad luck, millions of Christian pilgrims and orthodox Jews had flocked to Jerusalem to celebrate the Catholic Easter, Orthodox Easter, and Passover that all occurred on that same week in the year 2010. The hotel manager had programmed the elevators to stop at each floor in respect for the Jewish patrons who were not allowed to operate the lift. Imagine the slow traffic, going up and down.

In the morning we boarded our bus and headed to Nazareth where we visited the Basilica of the Annunciation and in the lowest floor an ancient house that tradition says is the site of the angelic announcement. Not far from it, we visited the Church of St. Joseph, the site of the Holy Family’s house and St. Joseph’s workshop. Later we had lunch on the Lake of Tiberias, and then drove through the verdant hills of Galilea, where we visited three more churches.

Lunch of fish on the Lake Tiberias known for its rough waves.

We spent the evening on the shore of the Jordan River. Many pilgrims wore a white robe to be baptized or renew their baptism vows in the Jordan River.

Sea of Galilee, also called Lake Tiberias, through which the Jordan River flows.

The next day, we stopped by St. John the Baptist Church, built over the house where he was born. We climbed 154 steps to the Church of the Visitation. Inside the church, 41 plaques, each in a different language, bear the Magnificat.

We visited the Museum of Jerusalem and saw the Dead Sea Scrolls, then admired a small model –maquette– of Old Jerusalem, with the Temple, Pilate’s fortress, Herod’ s Castle, and the walls of Jerusalem.

We continued to Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity.

The Church of the Nativity is built above a cave which may have been the place of Jesus’ nativity.
The church was built by Queen Helena in 329, and renovated by the Crusaders. The cave includes two lobes, one with a star marks the place of Jesus’ birth, the other marks the place of the manger.

We passed by the Shepherd’s Field where the sheep and goats used to grate.

Later the hotel offered us a tour of Jerusalem by night, with a stop at Mount Olive. We crossed some villages, stopped by Victoria Hospital and Masada. We saw a temple, built by an American philanthropist on the model of the initial Temple of Solomon. It is said that the Masgad el Aksa, the mosque with the golden dome, was built on the location of the former temple.

On Holy Thursday, we returned to Mount Olive, visited a Jewish cemetery, walked by the Eastern Wall, and the Wailing Wall.

A Jewish crowd
A Christian crowd

We spent Good Friday walking through the Via Dolorosa and visiting old churches, and spent Friday evening and Saturday in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre .

Strolling along the narrow lanes of Via Dolorosa
A view of the Church of Holy Sepulcher
from Mount Olive
The Chapel built on top of Christ’s Tomb in the center of the Holy Sepulcher

It would take ten blogs to describe all that we’ve seen and learned during that week spent in Jerusalem and its surroundings. An amazing trip that will remain imprinted in my memory forever.

My latest published books are part of the Love Plans.

SAILING AWAY PLANS ; DATING PLANS ; RESCUE PLANS ;

WEDDING PLANS ; BABY PLANS

The importance of a Mental Break for me

Like many of you, I normally took a yearly vacation with my family, and of course, the events of last year kept me locked up in my own house. It’s hard to take a much-needed mental break when you are walking the same halls and sitting in the same chairs that you always sit in while working.

If you don’t know me well, you probably aren’t aware that I live and breathe my characters. They are with me all day, all night, no matter what I am doing. I talk through scenes while I’m cleaning, dressing, or cooking. I contemplate plot twists while I drive, and stare at nothing, or while I eat. My mind is usually going a hundred miles an hour, all the time.

In order to shut my mind off and let it relax, I need to put my entire body in another place. At home, I can attempt to stop working, but I’m always just a few steps away from my computer, and the emails, and marketing, and manuscripts that constantly need my attention.

I am so thankful that we were able to get away this year for a much-needed break. Not just for me, but for my husband who works so hard, and my daughter who is off to college very soon. Plus, this year we took our almost five-year-old grandson with us for the first time to Disney. It’s our family’s magic place.

My family in front of the Millenium Falcon at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

This year for the first time since I started writing, I put my computer away for almost the entire trip, and I focused on myself and my family. I was rather proud of myself. It was only toward the end of the vacation that I got on the computer for a little while in the afternoon, but that was generally when my grandson was resting and we were relaxing at the resort during the rain.

Now after almost two weeks away from the computer, the emails, the marketing, and my sometimes relentless characters, I am ready to come back and jump back in. In fact, on the ride home, I went through 200 pages to edit, and today I will jump back in to get at least another 100 done so I can get this book off to my editor and start writing the last three books required for this year.

After almost two years without a break, I finally feel like I can breathe without all the weight on my shoulders. Now, once I get my daughter off to college, I’ll have a nice quiet house and I can really start blasting out the words!

Origins of Writing by @KatyWalters07

Writing is actually a fascinating concept. I often ponder on how and why it evolved. What are the origins of writing? Why did we start? Was it to facilitate trading? Did authorship develop from that same source? Or was it an entirely different avenue? How did the two separate avenues of vocalization and sign language evolve? Did people listen to the trickles of a steam or the raging of a volcano and try to mimic them, and in so doing, built up a language? Did signs, the separate consonants, and vowels evolve from vocal sound of a whistling wind? A raging storm?

Writing

When I was writing my latest novel it began as an historic suspense romance but changed to comedy which I’ve never aspired to write but did when faced with illness. The point is, in my story, an Immortal appears in the later chapters. As authors know full well, characters have a habit of just springing into a novel without any prior warning and the writer, if being true to his or her muse, does not delete it. So I came to the point of this character’s language. Yes, he did have one, but how would it sound?

How would immortals or even our earliest ancestors exchange goods or ideas? Would they vocalize the sound of a raging wind, the crackle of thunder, the howl of a wolf? Further, how would they put it down in writing? Would they use signs that literally describe the wind? If one looks at the letter ‘W’ it does actually give the initial sound of the wailing of the wind. Now it’s the same interpretation in German – interesting.. So in portraying the language of an immortal, I imagined how he or she would vocalize the sound of space, nature, the elements and animals. It was thought provoking and made for  interesting writing but then I realized my reader would be nonplussed with the variation of description and use of vowels. I know I was.  So I deleted hours of the painstaking adaption of our language to the renderings of the Immortal.

Getting a Glimpse of the Origin of Writing

I do appreciate the system of writing varies; the Egyptian symbology is different to the Chinese, and so on. So I thought, maybe if I did a little research on each writing system, I might glimpse the source or origin of writing if not vocalization. Maybe with a fleeting thought might come some enlightenment? So for starters. The letter ‘O’ simulates the howling of a wolf, the ‘o’ has facets of the howl as does the ‘w’ as it carries on the wind. How did these vowels come about?

Thereagain, did singing come first? The high notes of the soprano emulating birds or raindrops or the base/baritone vocalizing the thunder of the storm. If I was just starting out I might have opted to research these fascinating concepts.

Another reason for the above is my interest in the history of the evolving presentations of the modern novel. I was fascinated with the presentation and language of the first novel in our literary history, entitled ‘Pamela ‘created by Samuel Richardson, 1740. He used the epistolary style form which was quite absorbing.

At university, amongst other subjects, I did study the etymology and formation of our modern language from two main roots of our Western language, the soft poetic lilt of Latin languages and the harsh pragmatism of the Teutonic; of course there are the softer tones in the Germanic language, but that is another area of debate.  We were instructed to write one short story using the Teutonic roots and then another from the Latin. I had to work through dictionaries for nearly every word.  It was not tiring at all, it was fascinating.  It appears a crime novel benefits from the use of the Teutonic – Germanic languages whilst a romance needs the Latin.

I see I’ve written enough for now but will return next time with more ideas and hopefully you will have some as well, I would welcome your input and comments.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

If you love Regency Romance with a bit of suspense, I invite you to take a look at A LADY’S PLIGHT, Book 1 of my Lords of Sussex Series.

A Lady's Plight

 

How Baking is like Writing #WritingTips #writingcommunity #amwriting @jacqbiggar @mimisgang1

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Do you like to bake?

I’ve had my share of ups and downs when it comes to the world of cooking. It’s long been a standing joke in my family that all they have to do is follow the smoke to our house and they’d know I was cooking.

And the thing is, I actually kinda, sorta, enjoy working in the kitchen.

There’s nothing better than the aroma of fresh baked bread, or peanut butter cookies, or chocolate cake, or…well, you get the idea.

I always connect those aromas to my childhood. We walked home from school and never thought twice about seeing my mom busy baking for the family. Often, there would be warm, gooey chocolate chip cookies on the counter waiting for our grubby little fingers, a roast in the oven tempting our taste buds, and a welcoming smile on her rosy cheeks.

She made it look so easy.

Then I grew up and realized just how much work went into those tasty treats we took for granted. My efforts were much more like Lucy’s:

You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this.

I equate baking to writing.

How, you say?

Some people are naturals. Anything they put on the page comes out sounding fresh and entertaining—perfect.

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But when you cut into the heart of it, the center may seem underdone, lacking in flavor—mediocre.

How do we overcome this to become true culinary chefs in our writing instead of merely cooks?

Maybe if Lucy had admitted to being overwhelmed, her boss might have offered her a few tips and a little guidance.

I’ve found the writing community to be kind and generous with information, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.

I think one of the things that helped me the most is my critique group. I belong to a local group of ladies who are invaluable. We meet once a month (pre-Covid) and share chapters by email the rest of the time. Their insights and editing have made my books shine!

You have to be a little bit brave. Just like when you put the ingredients of your baking together and nourish it to completion, you have to send them out to be consumed. Your book is waiting for hungry minds to give it a taste.

It’s not always easy taking criticism, and yet, it’s so rewarding when that pan comes out of the oven and your family’s eyes light up with joy.

If you never try, how will you know what you can accomplish?

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Shh…it’s a SECRET BABY…

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