Meaning and Entertainment

 

What are you seeking when you read?

Reading and Writing As Discovery

Roger the psychologist here. As I tread my way through the world of being a writer, I must confess that it stirs a lot of conflicted feelings and perceptions. I guess many of us may wonder why we write and may from time to time come up with some answers. I enjoy the process and find it one of discovery.

When it comes to reading, I’m not really there to pass time or just for entertainment. I have to be engaged and it has to stir something in me. And recently I had a curious discovery. A lengthy trip on a plane was coming up and I bought some books for my iPad. There was nothing to distract me on the flight.

From Out of the Past

The first book was Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I didn’t really know what it was about but I started reading. It turned out to be set in France during World War II. I was curious about the experiences of the people at the time and she drew me in and gave me their perspective. It was not a love story and was both difficult and engaging. And then something strange happened. I saw the face of a shop girl from when I was with my parents in France. I was ten years old at the time. She was in a bad mood but suddenly froze and looked off into the distance. The connection was instantaneous. As a ten year old I couldn’t understand that the Nazis had left only five years before. But something about that look stuck in my mind and then connected to the story I was reading.

Reflections of Our Personality

We harbor strange things in our brains. And in my brain, I search for connections. I’ve wrestled with a name for the genre I’m writing and have finally settled on choosing the term speculative fiction. I’m what’s called an intuitive personality type and the “what if” is always foremost for me. In Nightingale I think I was engaged with what ifs about how one endures such a terrible environment and then I found I had harbored someone else’s pain in the memory of a shopgirl’s face. I can’t prove that connection but we get stirred in interesting ways.

And There Was Meaning

In the end it was meaning and connection I sought. In Nightingale I found some elements of both. And, in my own writing, I am looking to understand why I chose to write the trilogy of Gaia’s Majesty. And recently I believe I’ve come to understand that it is about the empowerment of women. For decades, in my office, I listened to stories about people’s lives and one thing that came out again and again was the struggles women endured because they might be cherished on the one hand, but in other ways were pushed aside and told what they could not do. So, I chose to convey a story about talented women on an important mission. It was meaning I was seeking.

What are you discovering?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

The Wonder of Reuben De Santis

Seeking Character Diversity

In the first book of the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy, Gaia’s Majesty: Mission Called, our lead character, Chantia, refers to being among the fishies. Her use of the term reflects her ambivalence about the new life she has been thrust into in the world of the Tethyans.

Of course she has derived benefits such as finding the birth mother she didn’t know she had and the love of her life, Beck. But it is a complex world and she finds special appreciation of the man Reuben who helps guide her through the revelations and turmoil.

The Richness of Reuben

The world views Reuben as an extremely talented couture designer who works in Milan, Italy. While he is, indeed, talented and world renowned, he also is deeply embedded in the causes of the Tethyan people. And that means he offers special guidance and support for Chantia and Beck. It is he who designs their wedding and her wedding gown.

Why Reuben?

Where did this character come from and why was he brought into the story?

While at the beginning there was an outline of this series and it began with a lot of detail, the story had a way of developing itself. Things had to be explained, they had to have reasons for inclusion but some characters showed up insisting on inclusion.

From an author’s standpoint it seemed desirable to have diversity so long as the diversity enhanced the richness and meaning of the story.

Reuben’s Origins

In the world of this story Reuben had his origins in Project Runway on the Lifetime network. Tim Gunn from the series was the inspiration. In fact, that is him in the picture at the top of this post. He is with Heidi Klum who is also prominent in the series. I suspect she is secretly one of the Tethyans. In the series Tim is a man of impeccable élan and manner. He is ever so talented and supportive of the contestants. The man he is seemed perfect for the book and he would help guide Chantia just as he helps guide and support the contestants on the show.

The one problem is that I am pleased to have the character but I could not do justice to the man who inspired the character Reuben. Nonetheless I wanted his inspiration in the book and I feel he offers diversity to the setting and the people.

One Other Note

Another thing that Reuben brings to the story is that he is gay and has a husband in Milan. There had to be diversity in this series. The core Tethyans are mermaids who live in the sea. They can morph and come to land to form families but they also bond and have children in the cities in the sea. These women can reproduce diversely. Some birth children from heterosexual unions, they also have the capacity to form a union of eggs from other women or can clone themselves. These facets of the story symbolize the underlying diversity of the world of humankind. Too often we are sheltered and deny the diversity of possibility. This author felt the need to open the full possibility of this fantasy world along with underlying realities. And Reuben added to the diversity and wonder of this world. Especially because the inspiration for his character enriches our world as it is.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Part 4 : Our Nation in Crisis

Our National Turmoil

The People’s Business

Each morning when we turn on the television we are greeted with coverage of a pathetic and terrifying political scene of a Washington in disarray. Certainly there has always been a dark side to politics and inspiring leaders with wisdom are often not too common. There is an important question. “Would it be possible for us to have a representative democracy?”

There are ongoing hints of deeply rooted corruption and authoritarianism. The unwise Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court simply deepened the corrupting influence of money in government. There is a seemingly endless conflict about health care. Every other developed country has a more efficient and less costly system. Perhaps it’s time to get back to pursuing the people’s business and needs.

No Paucity of Vital Issues

We have come to the point where we are seeing everything through partisan political views. But before us are numerous issues needing to be solved and they should not be partisan.

One frequently mentioned issue is the plight of what we call the Left Behinds. In fact, we have many groups of them. Most often mentioned are the people of the Rust Belt. There are many other groups.

When I came to Maryland, Baltimore was a city approaching a million people and now it is a city moving down toward six hundred thousand. People moved out, jobs disappeared and the population suffered from a multitude of issues.

In Appalachia the coal era has been coming to an end. No, we can’t bring coal jobs back. The reasons are numerous and inevitable. Among them is the fact that clean, renewable energy has become economically viable.

We say we are having a heroin epidemic. The problems are much deeper and broader but rarely do we hear clear statements. It is a complex issue and requires complex answers. It is not merely addiction, there are societal and economic roots.

I’ll leave the list there for now.

The Need to Debate Responses

Instead of evaluating responses to our needs, we seem to be focused on political turmoil. Political parties serve useful purposes but are not an end in themselves. The keys may be found in representative government. Perhaps we need to be representing the needs of constituents and working to make compromises born of an understanding of complex and competing interests. We have found solutions and agreements in the past and its time to do it again. And that process takes debate and compromise.

And representing the needs of the public is found in getting out there and knocking on doors to gather constituent views and information. Certainly it helps to have candidates do some door knocking but trained volunteers can also gather information.

In Gaia’s Majesty

This is an unsettled time in the world and raises the specter of another major worldwide conflagration even as we face significant climate change issues. It is a time in which we need to explore our response to our future. In that environment I decided to explore thoughts and possibilities in the realm of fantasy fiction. And so the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy was born.

But this time on earth is new. At long last we are looking at a worldwide movement to empower women. The potential of half of our population has too often been stifled. That process appears to be changing and the idea that a greater role for women might just be a decisive factor in the challenge developing before us.

Enter the Tethyan people including the Andromeda defense force working under the vision and conviction of an earth goddess. This goddess is not merely a reflection of a facet of human conflict but rather a being who oversees the development of a promising population of animals.

We will see how decisive this time is and how important a role women will play in the outcome. For now we can enjoy a fantasy exploration and the view of enticing possibilities.
Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Speculative Fiction – Inspiration, Personal Growth and Authenticity

 

Focus on Our Personal Meaning

Here is a difficult but intriguing question. What is your personal meaning? In the end the meaning of how the world is must be less important than our exploration of our own reality and meaning. In doing so speculative fiction may aid us. And that fiction may involve a search through ancient mysteries that may be intriguing as we attend to our own growth and inspiration. One viewpoint is that such a focus is too self centered but if we don’t guide ourselves through self exploration, then we may have no direction at all. Maybe we won’t achieve a transformation but certainly we have to move beyond ourselves at some point and as we do we have to hope we have not lost our way.

The Core of Authenticity

It was very hard for me not to consider existential philosophy while I studied psychology. I found them intertwined. Early existential philosophers believed that their thinking began with the human subject. Woven in were concerns about disorientation if we did not examine ourselves. And, of course, there was the matter of authenticity. But they wondered if it all was merely absurd and at the same time wondered if considerations were too abstract. It helps if there is a direction or an object and that may mean validating our own personal meaning and giving it some substance.

Confession

Now a confession. These decades later I can’t summarize the works of the existentialists. I frequently felt lost in the depth of their thinking and the subtlety of presentation. I’ll leave it to you if you want to pursue the thinking of people like Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Sartre. But, in the end, the takeaway almost has to be the dedication to building our own view of an authentic self which leads to productive dedication and development. And it is that dedication that is woven into the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy.

A Little Closer to “Reality”

I think we’ll stay a little closer to ordinary reality which is difficult enough because it can be quite confusing and ephemeral. At one level, though, considering how authentic we are in our daily lives is worth considering. And, in fact, I can’t completely detach psychology from existentialism. Some of us run into more trouble than others as we try to make our way. And some of us turn to literature to do our exploring. Certainly vast areas of literature are helpful and fulfilling. Again it is probably psychology that leads me to science fiction, fantasy and speculative fiction.

The stories writers create are ways of sharing among people the explorations of ourselves, humanity and what our future might hold. These considerations help guide us.

Have you seen works of fiction have large impacts? If so, what works were they?
Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

The Context of Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power

 

Childhood Innocence

One day in 1945 I was standing on Fifth Avenue with my aunts. Before us marched troops returning from the terrible world conflict which had just ended. Above us were flights of planes also proclaiming victory.

Five years later my family visited Europe. I recall the streets of London cleaned of rubble now to the side in seemingly endless piles. In France there were the faces of people haunted by the horrors of the Nazi occupation.

Only later did that child come to understand what had happened. America was rejoicing and building long hoped for prosperity after a punishing depression and war. The past haunted us even while we built a glorious future.

Something Felt Fundamental

Then came another demarkation I did not understand at the time, but it took the heart of a young man. Birth control was liberating women and they arose in the Women’s Liberation movement. I could feel the flowering of promise.

And now has come an era with an aura of fear. I’ve heard it said that what we are seeing is an era similar to what presaged World War I. Out of that prior era came the march to the terrible world conflict and the beginning of nuclear threat. Humankind has a history of waves both terrible and promising.

Direction Unknown

For a time there seemed to be more promise than threat, but now we see Europe trembling, Asia in fearful potential and even our beloved country reeling from an unexpected instability. We can only wonder if we may descend into another terrible era of conflict. Human history has repeated these kinds of errors.

Renewal of Hope

But like an echo, from a period decades ago there is a revolution which is occurring. And it is a revolution unexpectedly happening across the world. This time we call it the Empowerment of Women.

When I scan these recent decades I can feel my dreams and fears but now a special hope. All of these things came together in their own way to create the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy.

A Context of World Crisis

The context of the trilogy begins with many of the essential issues we see before us. In spite of the denials, the threat of climate change is upon us. A great variety of social crises are occurring. We also see oligarchs threatening the economic viability of countries and contributing to the failing of economic futures for so many people.

Center stage in the series is a movement with powerful women. Women were asserting their rights and place before World War I but could not turn the tide of war. But today women are rising up and may well be central to preserving our future. And, of course, in this trilogy a central force had to be a goddess.

We will see won’t we? What is before us deserves our attention and support.
Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

The Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy – Book 1 is Here!

 

At Last! – Publication

It is my pleasure to announce that book 1 of the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy has been published. Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called:Women in Power is now available in paperback and Kindle editions at Amazon.

To me it feels that it has been so long in coming. What began as an idea for a story took on a life of its own. The story began to take on shapes not expected with characters showing up and demanding inclusion.

A Guiding Force

The guiding force was my belief that the movement to empower women is of unparalleled importance for the future of humankind and I thought fiction might be one way to explore and illustrate its significance and potential. And in an exploration truth of an emerging movement was inevitably illusive. Symbolism was essential.

We open with a couple ordained by our Earth Mother Gaia to find each other because their partnership was essential to a larger purpose. We don’t have to wait for them to fall in love. Their loving partnership begins early and is a harbinger of what may be found for the fulfillment of all of us but it also is a core around which the developing crisis of the world swirls.

A Heritage

In the end it is not a simple story alone. This couple has a heritage of people set aside to be stewards of the future of humankind and our planet. And among these people are the warrior women of the Andromeda. They fight for our future but not wantonly.The world these people lead is rich in potentials of so many kinds.

A Story of Our Future

Now we begin to unfold the exploration of our future and study its implications in the first book of the trilogy.

Join us in the exploration of this grand adventure. There is,the story itself, but also, in the reading, the possibility of the creation of a personal exploration. But above all, it is time to consider the meaning of the growing empowerment of women.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Expressiveness in Men and Women

 

How are your feelings manifested?

For most of my writing on the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy the story and the characters seemed to flow out of my brain. Well, actually I did do an outline first but then the waves of details and change started to flow. For the outline I chose to use the tools found in Inside Story: The Power of the Transformational Arc by Dara Marks. It is actually aimed at creating scene plays but works wonderfully for novels as well.

Even with an outline I often felt on autopilot. Looking back it seems though that my right brain was dominant with a little assist from the left.

I wondered where my characterization of Avery, my lead female protagonist, came from. And I also had to look at how I characterized her guy, Beck. What I saw was that it came directly out of my work with couples in therapy of various kinds.

Recognizing Origins

Avery came out as a bright, dedicated woman but she could seem immature at times particularly when she was under stress. Of yes, having your life suddenly bombed and strafed and finding out you were part of an almost mythological body of humanity is stressful.

Certainly I wanted her to be interesting and to show emotions as she was swept out to sea as it were. But in working with couples I saw a characteristic difference overall between men and women. Women were more expressive of their emotions and the men seemed to be feeling less. Of course, what I learned over time was that they weren’t feeling less, but merely showing it less. And, in fact, there is actually research supporting that observation. When physiological indicators are measured it becomes clear men are feeling just as strongly as women, but contain it, often without tears.

So I was giving Avery free rein to show the emotional states she had to be having and Beck was more studied at least on the surface. The fact that she had a range of feelings, including some which might seem immature, was indicative of strength and not weakness. And the fact that Beck seemed more studied didn’t mean he cared less.

Our Truths Displayed Broadly

What was conveyed was human truth and we see it in places such as corporate or organizational meetings where women may show more depth of expression and, yes, be what we call emotional. When it occurs, the men often take it as a sign of weakness. Got it wrong guys. In fact, their own lack of expressiveness or muted expressiveness may be getting in the way of their homing in on the issue at hand. In some ways, with appropriate structure, laying out what we feel forthrightly helps us assess the matter at hand. Then we can move on to do the focused work needed.

The lesson is that, in writing, we might be less judgmental and more accepting of the flow which occurs. It displays how we are as people and the diversity we bring to our interactions. We can always redirect and hone our work later on. I’m sure Avery and Beck loved each other just that much more because of what they brought to the emotional table.

Where do you stand on the emotional landscape?

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon Page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt