Ciudad Perdida

Two days later, we hiked into Ciudad Perdida. The trip up to that point had been amazing: the cloud forest vegetation and flowers, the river, the indigenous dwellings, coca plants, and so much more.

The second day of hiking, we passed an elderly indigenous woman on the trail. She asked with hand signals for a hiking stick from a woman in our group, then with stick in hand, flipped a scorpion out from beside the rock at her feet, and proceeded to pound it to death.

Weird Catepillar

Weird Neon Catepillar

Another time, Quapak, our guide, told us that a snake had bitten a mule right there – and he pointed to the creek bank I was standing on. Two days later, when Quapak hiked back, the mule was still at the water’s edge, but it was dead. Needless to say, I crossed with exceptional care.

I was pretty happy to not see a snake close up, or a tarantula, but I was a bit disappointed that there were none to be seen from a distance. However, we did see this strange creature, which to me, looks like it could be related to a nudibranch if we’d found it underwater.

A few of the 1,200 stairs up to Ciudad Perdida.

A few of the 1,200 stairs up to Ciudad Perdida.


Finally, on the morning of the third day, we crossed the Rio Buritaca, and climbed the 1,200 stone steps into Ciudad Perdida, gaining 400 meters (over 1,300 feet) in less than a kilometer.  It was a brisk climb but not as challenging as that first day when we climbed 640 meters (2,100 feet) beneath the blasting afternoon sun. Now, trees, some with hundreds of pounds of epiphytes attached, towered over us, vines hanging to the ground.

At the entrance to the city, we made an “offering” to show respect to the indigenous culture. I gently tossed a leaf into the sacred circle, and after a shared minute of silence, we walked into the city, which consisted of stone walled circles, filled with earth, the platform foundations of the houses that had once been there.

The city was abandoned about 400 years ago, though the local people continued to use the site for ceremonial purposes. Only the Mamo (the medicine man) and his family continue to live there, a short distance from the main circles.

Circles and stairs.

Circles and stairs.

These days, thirty more people also live nearby – soldiers. An observation post is on the mountain above the highest circle, and the soldiers keep watch, fully armed and ready to protect the visitors.

The stone circles became bigger as we moved higher on the ridge. As in countless civilizations around the world, the more successful families had the biggest circles and the best views. When the rest of the group stopped at the biggest circle, the one reserved for community gatherings, Brad and I kept climbing, up and up, from circle to circle.

Finally at the top, with only the military post higher, we looked back to see our group grown small below. Oropendolas built hanging nests in some tall palms nearby, their tail feathers flashing yellow in the sun. A pair of green parrots flew by, and then a red bird, and one so blue it looked startling against the blue of the sky. Beyond the stone city itself, the expanse of mountains and valley stretched to the horizon, the first mist of the day starting to gather among the trees.

I was standing in a lost city in South America, something that a year ago I would’ve thought was impossible and, considering our financial situation, irresponsible. Okay, so maybe that part hadn’t changed.

A beautiful view.

A beautiful view.



But the sight before me, the almost audible hum of energy in the air, the cry of the birds as they enacted their eternal dance, the vines swaying rhythmically to the hot breaths of wind, even a hiker’s laugh from down below – they combined to make that experience far more “real” than the cost, and in that moment, the cost became permanently irrelevant.

So I guess at the end of my life, I’ll die a few thousand dollars poorer, but that’s okay, because I have no doubt that I became much, much richer during these few hours at Ciudad Perdida. And that’s what I call good value.

Epiphanies in the Night

Medellin, Columbia

Medellin, Columbia

A number of weeks ago, I promised a blog post outlining what I learned in Texas, and then I procrastinated. It’s not like I didn’t think about writing the post; I did, often. I also knew what I wanted to write.

The words came to me in the middle of the night after being in Dallas for about two weeks. I woke at 3 a.m., suddenly and completely, with an epiphany in my head. I grabbed my journal and wrote on what I hoped was an untouched page in the darkness. It was, and the words I wrote were mostly legible.

So why haven’t I put them here?

It’s not time. The epiphany is too fresh to share, too new in my life – so instead of telling you what I realized that night, I’m going to tell you how it has changed my life so far:

1. I am going to Columbia to teach English and do other social awareness projects for three weeks in 2016. Teaching: way, way, way out of my comfort zone!

2. I am in the process of becoming a member of the Sooke Sailing Coop. No, I don’t know how to sail. Yet.

3. I started a Facebook page for my writer persona. I know I should have done it long ago but it just seemed such a big step. Now it’s done. You can link to it here if you’re interested.

4. I have two new script ideas. Yes, TWO!

5. I have committed to doing what it takes to break in to screenwriting. If this means traveling to Hollywood and meeting with producers, agents, or managers, I will do it. I’ve accepted and embraced this necessity, which for reclusive me is a very big thing.

Obviously, Texas was a game changer for me, and a testament to one thing I believe: don’t back off from change because it’s usually a good thing. Not that I won’t be doubting how good it is in Columbia when I’m standing in front of a bunch of people, wishing I was somewhere – anywhere – else.  🙂

Gratitude in Advance

gratitudeI’ve been doing something lately, totally spontaneously, and then today I find out it’s a thing!

Isn’t that the best experience ever, realizing that something that makes your day have more magic and meaning, is actually making a lot of people’s lives brighter around the world.

And what is this thing?

Advance gratitude.

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” G.K. Chesterton

Being grateful for your day, for your life, for an experience, for the beauty, for the people and animals and flowers in your life, for what you see, think, say, hear – all before you even experience it. All before it presents itself to you in all its wonder and glory, whether good or bad (which really is only a judgement call anyway, but that’s another blog post).

“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.” Buddha

Some people use advance gratitude to bring luck to their day, and according to them, it works. Some use it to turn difficult life events on their heads, to learn from them, to see the positive side these experiences have to offer no matter how small (an incredibly brave thing to do, but that’s another blog post too). Some, like me I suppose, just enjoy the rush of being more aware than I otherwise would be of the beauties around me and the experiences that bless me, again whether “good or bad”.

“Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy.” Fred De Witt Van Amburgh

If I could give any advice to anyone willing to try this, I’d say, look for the details. Instead of being grateful for something in general, notice and be grateful for the specific.

Instead of being grateful for someone you’re close to, think about how they smile when you greet them. Instead of being grateful for your garden, be grateful for that single glorious bloom by the fence, for the way the sunlight shines off a single leaf, the creative curve of a branch, the blue flowers bursting from the gumboot planter experiment you tried this year. LOL! Yes, I’m looking out my window right now. And feeling grateful, this time in the moment.

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” Robert Brault

Enjoy the beauty in this day!

A Fabulous Read!

Anthology 2I am so happy to announce that the 2015 Sooke Writers’ Collective anthology, Words and Imaginings, will soon be on shelves at various stores around Sooke, at the Sooke Thursday Night Market, and for those non-Sookites who may be interested, available online as well!

Nineteen writers are featured in the anthology, five of which are winners from our annual writing contest at the Edward Milne Secondary School. We truly enjoy encouraging these amazingly talented young writers, as well as making our own favourite creations available to readers!

On the down side, we’re a little short of immediate funds at the Sooke Writers’ Collective to cover the cash prizes for the winners, plus the advertising and printing – so if you’re planning to purchase a copy anyway, maybe buy one (or more) in advance. You can do so by clicking here – and thank you so much!

Most of all, please enjoy Words and Imaginings!

My Weirdness is My Strength

Weird happy huskyI had this realization a month ago. It came to me very definitely and strongly, like someone had reached into my head and manually adjusted my thinking. Then, just in case I didn’t get it or wasn’t paying enough attention or didn’t trust myself enough, someone I deeply respect told me the exact same thing about two days later.

We were walking the Roche Cove trail, the sun was sunning, the raindrops glittered like diamonds as they fell, and my walking companion said that she’d had a realization about my writing… I need to embrace my weirdness. No one looks at the world like I do, no one draws the same connections. She even said that I’m an original thinker, and instead of quietly just thinking my thoughts, I need to get them out there, let them be known. My weirdness is my most important asset when it comes to writing.

Sooo… these last few weeks, I’ve embraced that. Whenever I find myself getting stuck on a story, instead of researching or thinking of the “right” ways to solve plot or character or theme problems, I trust myself and write what I want. Oddly enough, the most difficult thing about the whole mindset has not been to come up with original solutions, but has been to stop myself from slipping back into old patterns of thinking.

I’m opening up, bit by bit, and I’m loving every step of the way – and I can’t help but feel thrilled that my weirdness is turning into my biggest, most unapologetic strength. Now that’s awesome!

Change Your Thoughts…

…and you change your world. Three things have happened lately that have taught me more about choice.

First, I’ve had to do lots of thinking about it, because “change your thoughts, and you change your world” is the theme of the screenplay I’m currently writing. It has been enjoyable thinking!

Second, the Have-Do-Be argument (below) came from reading a book called Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, by T. Harv Eker. Though Mr. Eker’s book deals mainly in attitudes toward money, many of the principals can be turned to other things.

Nasa BridgeMost important of all, I read a Facebook post from my daughter, where she wrote:

“Eight months ago I drove over this, the NASA Bridge in Cape Canaveral, a Mars One candidate on her way to check out the Kennedy Space Center. Yesterday I sailed under it, a vagabond living on a boat on her way to the Bahamas. Oh life, what are you gonna come up with next?”

So, Have-Do-Be?

Like many, I used to think this was the proper order to accomplish things. If I have this, I can do that, and then I can be what I want to be. For example, if I had a boat, I could sail around the Caribbean, and be an adventurer.

The truth, however, is closer to be-do-have. If I am a certain way, I will act according to who I am, and then will have the results of those actions. If I accept that I’m an adventurer at heart, I’ll choose to combine my boating safety course with something new and different and take the course in Florida instead of at home. Because of that decision, other opportunities will arise, and I will make the choices right for me, knowing I am an adventurer, and at one point, I’ll be sailing the Caribbean.

Of course, she didn’t know what would happen when she signed up for that course. No way could she have guessed that trip would give her such opportunities. But she made the first and second steps. First, she recognized and accepted herself as an adventurer, and then she acted accordingly.

And that makes me ask: what can I achieve, what can any of us achieve, if we just accept who we know we are, and then act true to ourselves? Definitely, food for thought.

Morning Writing

SunriseWhat a luxury and privilege it is to wake up, get out of bed, walk into my office, breathe deep, turn on my writing music, open my document, and fall into a storyland of my own making. And to do it every morning.

I am grateful for my work for so many reasons.

I am grateful for:


  1. The magic that I feel in each story and each character, even the antagonists. They just want to be happy too!
  2. The months I had away from writing. That time away helped me appreciate being a writer on a whole new level.
  3. A family that is extremely patient with my oddities.  🙂
  4. Writer buddies, who are also very odd, who understand. You know who you are.
  5. Non-writer buddies, who teach me so much about being more than an observer, but to get out there and experience LIFE!
  6. Alone time in my office with a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door, where I feel safe enough to let my imagination soar.
  7. Peaceful writing music, the score to my stories.
  8. Years of awesome story ideas just waiting for me to write them. I pray I’ll have enough time for you all.
  9. Sunshine out my window, and the garden hat that shields my eyes as I write. Who needs blinds?
  10. And there’s so much more, far more than I want to write here since there’s a story waiting for me right now – so I’ll sum them up in six words: I’m grateful to be a writer!
Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid

Decisions, Decisions…

Tough Decisions Ahead Road SignLast night at the Sooke Writers’ Collective meeting, Doni Eve of Saseenos Communications gave a presentation on marketing, and one of the many insightful topics she touched on was blogging.

Regular blogging.

I really should do that, I thought, as I slid down in my chair. Maybe I’ll think more about it tomorrow.

This morning, to my surprise, the thought was still there.

In an effort to dissuade myself from committing to blogging regularly and then failing miserably as I have in the past, I told myself all my usual stories: no one cares about the disjointed thoughts that tumble through my head, I don’t have a lot of followers, blogging takes valuable time away from my other writing. But then I was struck by an important thought.

It’s good for me to think things through enough to write a coherent blog.

Well! What do I do with that? Commit to writing regularly? Heaven forbid! Maybe “regular” means once a year. It surely can’t be the once a week that Doni suggested. How does anyone do that? How can I do that? Can I seriously make myself write a new post every week, week after week after week after week…

That’s when I realized the flaw in my thinking. This wasn’t about making a decision every week. It was about making that decision ONCE, and then not deciding something different later on. Blogging can become a habit, just like brushing my dog or washing my dirty dishes. I don’t think through all the pros and cons every time the sink gets full. I don’t re-decide to brush the tangles from Cedar’s fur every two weeks, no matter how much she wishes I’d reconsider. I just do these things. The decision to have a brushed dog and at least one clean plate in the kitchen was made a long time ago.

MiracleAs of this moment, I don’t feel quite ready to make a decision to blog every week but I’m considering it, which means I’ll be tormenting myself by revisiting the question every week for a while. However, I feel I’ve learned something of value today. When I want to make a change, decide on the change once. Don’t revisit the decision time after time. Period.

And maybe after a few weeks of considering, I’ll find it’s just a lot easier to decide to blog regularly. Miracles do happen!

Wedding Bands, River’s Sigh B&B #1

EvBishop_WeddingsBands_800pxA friend of mine, Ev Bishop, has just released a new novel and so I thought I’d help spread the word for her. 🙂 Of course, I had to read her book first, so I could honestly recommend it, and I’m very happy to say that I very heartily do recommend it! I’m not a huge reader of romance, but I have read some, and her story, Wedding Bands, is one of the best I’ve read. Her characterization is fantastic; I felt like I knew these people. Even more importantly, the story seemed real – something I’ve had a hard time finding in romance. It’s also fun and funny and heartwrenching and warm and well, romantic!

So please, give it a try. You’ll find links and info below.




Wedding Bands, Book 1 in the River’s Sigh B & B series.

Ditched by her high school sweetheart, Callum Archer, on the night they’re supposed to elope, Jo Kendall casts out on her own, brokenhearted.

Over the years, Jo reels in a life she loves, centered on the outdoors, fishing (favoring a lucky wedding band lure), and her fine dining restaurant—a life that crashes away when her husband and business partner cheats her, leaving her bankrupt and alone.

Then her uncle dies, bequeathing Jo and her sister, Samantha, his rural property. Jo returns to Greenridge, determined to build a new business and permanent home—without the help of a man. Unfortunately Samantha wants her inheritance in cold, hard cash and hires a lawyer to get it for her, a lawyer who turns out to be none other than Jo’s long-lost love, Callum.

Jo’s fledgling plans—and her heart—are at risk once more.

If Jo can fight her insecurities, she might end up with a wedding band that doesn’t come with a sharp hook. But should she risk everything she’s worked for, yet again? Before she can decide, she needs to know: can a lost love truly be reclaimed?

You can buy Wedding Bands in eBook here: ~ ~

KOBO ~ For your NOOK at Barnes & Noble ~ Apple/iBooks ~ Page Foundry ~ Scribd

Don’t have an eReader and/or prefer print books? Wedding Bands will be out in paperback at the end of the month, available for order at your favorite brick and mortar bookstore.

A bit about Ev Bishop . . .

She’s a longtime columnist with the Terrace Standard, and her other non-fiction articles and essays have been published across North America. Her true love, however, is fiction, and she writes in a variety of lengths and genres. If you’re a short story lover or read other genres alongside Romance, visit to learn more.

Some short story publications include: “Not All Magic is Nice,” Pulp Literature (forthcoming), “The Picture Book,” Every Day Fiction Magazine, “Riddles,” 100 Stories for Queensland, “On the Wall,” Every Day Fiction Magazine, “My Mom is a Freak,” Cleavage: Breakaway Fiction for Real Girls, “HVS,” “Red Bird,” and “Wishful,” (available through Ether Books).

Women’s Fiction novels include Bigger Things (Winding Path Books 2014), which is available in digital or paperback wherever books are sold, and Mosaic (forthcoming). She also writes romance under the pen name Toni Sheridan (The Present, Pelican Book Group, 2012, and Drummer Boy, Pelican Book Group, 2014).

Ev loves to connect with other readers and writers, so please consider subscribing to her newsletter and/or visiting her on Facebook and Twitter.

Profundity of Story

Lately, my thoughts have been turning toward the value of writing from the heart, writing deeply, writing profoundly. While I think many a worthwhile book has been written because of commercial motivations, and while I’ve written my fair share of novels plotted with monetary considerations in mind, that little voice inside my head, which seems to think I should be writing from my own heart, my own passion, just isn’t so little anymore.

Years ago, that passion was all that fueled me. It was at the core of the first books I wrote, but bit by bit, my writing turned from a passion and a desire to create something beautiful into a business, a job. While I still loved the stories I wrote, and still thought they were worthwhile and beautiful and of value, I chose my stories by the commercial potential they might have. Even worse, I wrote them with the imaginary reader looking over my shoulder.

I eventually struggled with burn out because of this. The last few years I’ve forced myself away from that burn out brink, and regained some of the joy of writing by following my “gut” feelings. With effort, I’ve come far enough from that commercial mindset that I can see, relatively clearly, that I’ve lost touch with the deeper truths in my own stories.

Today, thanks to a wonderful conversation with a patient and kind friend (thank you, Barb!), I feel as if I’ve made another significant shift from that commercial mindset. I have a very long way to go, but that’s okay. I see where I am now, as well as the first steps I need to take to get to the heart of things.

I think I may record my journey here in the next little while. If you feel like coming along with me, please share! I’d love to hear how you embrace the profound nature of your own stories. Maybe we can even help each other along. 🙂 I’d truly love that!

Happy Writing!