Friday, November 30, 2012

About Hospitals and Ghosts

Many of you know I was Physician back in Mexico and that I stopped because I didn't want to miss my kids' childhood. I dedicated my time solely to my two girls for four years and once they were a bit more independent, I started this trip of becoming an author three years ago. Still, I spent most of my youth between the white walls of hospitals and I remember those years fondly. It all felt like an adventure to me. I mean, learning insurmountably big books was not, as it wasn't dealing with somebody else's pain. But there was a lot of fooling around, too, because when you are twenty and sleep-deprived, trapping your friends inside the morgue's freezer sounds like a great idea.

Anyway, when we weren't hiding around to scare one another, we were talking. Most of it was about boys, girls, or sex, but sometimes we would tell ghost stories we had heard. And sometimes ghost stories happened to us.

The way it worked in my school, every six months or so the university would put us in a different hospital. In each one, we would do a rotation through every service during the day, but we would only work the night shift in the services that were the period's main subject like OBGYN, Surgery, ER. You get my drift. This story happened when I was about half-way through my surgery rotation.

Now, hospitals are inherently creepy. People suffer and die in them, so there's never a shortage of scary stories among the staff. Besides, what can be more fun that scare the crap out of the new student, right? So, anyway. In this particular hospital rumor said Basement 1, where all the surgery rooms were located, was haunted. The identity of the ghost varied greatly from a patient who had died thanks to the incompetence of his doctor, to Death itself who came looking for the souls of the recently deceased patients (the morgue was in Basement 2, beneath the surgery floor).

And like idiots that we were, we wanted to see. So, one night that work was low we decided to go into one of the surgery rooms, sit there, and chat until something happened or morning came. Something happened alright, and it wasn't the morning.

I was sitting on a chair, my boyfriend at the time next to me, and on top of the surgical table were my best friend and her boyfriend. We had been sitting there for quite a while and the conversation drifted to the plans for a weekend getaway, so no ghosts were in our mind at this particular hour. My friends sitting on the table were facing the only entrance which was closed (it's impossible to keep a surgery room open because the swinging doors are designed to always close). Each of the folding doors had a square window on top through which they could see the empty hall. It was then that, out of the blue, a person passed by. He did not walk along the hallway toward our room but side to side. Only problem was, our room was the last one of the hall. To our sides were only walls.

Needless to say, my friends cried bloody murder and we all jumped to our feet, confused and scared. Then, to my left, the Mayo Table (an aluminum table used to set the surgical instruments) spun on its little plastic wheels with force.

We all yelled and I didn't stop running until I saw the night sky out of the ER. We talked about it many times, trying to find a logical explanation but there wasn't one. It couldn't have been a joke because no one could get to our room without being seen walking down the hall, because no one--living, that is--can walk through walls, and because none of us moved that table. It was one of the scariest things ever and the following three months I spent in that hospital, I avoided the surgical floor like the plague.

Funnily enough, two years ago I found a video taken in the same hospital where something similar happened a couple of students. In the video they are on the hallway, talking and making jokes. The boy filming with his phone is facing the doors to the last surgery room, where we were that night. I don't know the people in the video and I don't know if they faked it, but it resounds so much with my own experience that I decided to add it to the post. Hope you enjoy being scared =)

Have an awesome weekend!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Is Katniss Really Better Than Bella? Feminism in Present Day Literature

In order to know what is considered hip these days all you have to do is take a look at what the social media is blabbing about. There will be haters and lovers to everything under the sun but when a fad sweeps by, the loudest side will be the one to direct the sea of opinion. With the final Twilight movie, Breaking Dawn, setting box office record, the fad sweeping the entire country is hating the Twilight brand. All of it. Movies, books, author, actors, not a soul gets out unscathed by the masses brought together in their common disdain.

There are pictures in Facebook, reviews in Goodreads, and punch lines with pictures in Pinterest (some of them are quite funny, really). And though Twilight seems to be at the butt of every joke, a few would argue that the joke's really on the haters, since none of Meyer's, Lautner's, Patinson's, or Stewart's checks seem to be bouncing. All part of the Hollywood game. 

I tend to agree. You see, I'm a Twilight lover (the books, not the movies AT ALL) but, as a long time horror fanatic, I see why Edward Cullen’s sparkling, lean, lovin' machine has made every hardcore vampire lover retort in disgust. Then, there's Bella. The pathetically insecure teenager that can't help but fall for the broody vampire has faired even worse in the court of public opinion, taken the blunt of the hatred. And what is it about this character, you may ask, that has offended the delicate taste of the crowds? Well, Kristen Steward's uninspired acting (let's call it that) hasn't helped, and her clearly uncomfortable stance against the media does nothing for her either, but it goes deeper. In fact, the character--even the actress herself--has come to equate everything the Feminist Movement fights against.

Fast forward to the release of The Hunger Games movie. As always, the books were widely popular way before the movie broke out, but the simple knowledge that a movie was about to be made drove thousands of new fans to the saga and soon the inevitable happened. Katniss Everdeen and Bella Swan were at forefront of every discussion, not jokes anymore, but true symbols of what our youth is and admires. Katniss, whose prowess with a bow was a long shot from the whiny starstruck Bella, became her the antithesis and, therefore, the image that defines Feminism for the present generation.

Now, I have a bone to pick with this. I get why Bella is such a nightmare for many women. She is whinny, insecure, and unable to stand for herself. I’m an unapologetic fan of Meyer's books and even I wanted to choke her sometimes.

But let’s check Katniss’ character through The Hunger Games Saga: 

The sole provider of her family in a post-apocalyptic world where you need to fight for every morsel of food.
Regular teenager trying to find her place in the lives of her divorced parents.
Katniss starts strong and, though Bella’s problems are much more relatable for our teens, I’ll give this to Katniss.
Knows how to handle a weapon and isn’t afraid to do so.
Irremediably clumsy. She can’t play ball to safe her live and constantly injures herself.
Once more, point to Katniss.
Unknowingly, becomes the symbol of rebellion; yet, she fights hard to show the world she is, in fact, in favor of keeping the status quo.
She falls in love with a vampire and fights hard to become one herself.
Here Katniss’ character starts to fall through. When the stakes are raised, she proves to be a run-of-the-mill, insecure, scared teenager. Bella is improving, though very slowly, she has made clear she will get what she want, even if those closest to her don’t approve.
Completely uninterested in having a boyfriend, first because she doesn’t want to have a family in that messed up world, and second because she isn’t sure if she would pick her best friend or the boy who saved her life.
Bella, too, is torn between the love of two boys. Oh, but she’s into it. Even though she says she isn’t.
Teenage drama, plain and simple. Both the same, neither comes above.
When it becomes clear no one’s stopping the rebellion, she not only doesn’t embrace the movement, but lets everyone use her image the way they please and becomes a puppet in the power struggle that ensues.
When the powers that be threaten the safety of her family, she decides to fight against them, even if it means her life. In fact, she and her immortal family lead a rebellion against the oldest, more powerful vampire clan.
Katniss becomes a sad figure, broken and damaged beyond repair by the third book while Bella has found herself. I will give it to the Twilight haters, it is merely a few thousand words in a four book saga and hardly the theme. Then again, Twilight is a Paranormal Romance, THG is a Dystopian Adventure. So I say point for Bella…

Fact of the matter is Katniss spends half of the saga breaking to pieces and most of the third book literally hiding in a closet. I fail to see how this is any better than Bella’s obsession with her boyfriend.

The problem when talking about Feminism is that getting married and tending a home was the only career path available to us back in the days, hence its present bad rep. We look for specific traits in our females in order to select them as our new standard of ‘Girl Power’ like physical strength and open disdain (or disinterest) for men. Katniss is both, lethal and uninterested in boys, but is she truly the incarnation of empowerment? I don’t think so.

Let me tell you it was hard to come across a female character in modern literature that met my idea of Feminism, which is very sad and goes to show you why it is that our teen girls hold so hard to the few outstanding female characters they have available, however faulted these might be. But I finally found it: Hermione Granger.

Think for a moment. She is intelligent, determined, strong, and she might not be able to take a life with her magic wand, but she is powerful nonetheless. Her power comes not from magic, but from within. She is strong because she knows what she wants, what is good for her, where her weaknesses are, and she has a great moral compass. All these traits make her, in fact, a much better symbol of Feminism. A role model for our youth they can actually hope to become.

When we decide to bash a fictional character such as Bella Swan because of its interest in having a boyfriend, we are sending the message that worrying about boys is a sign of times past and a weakness. When we sing praises to characters like Katniss Everdeen for her physical strength we tell our teen girls that this one trait is so positive, it actually compensates the clear shortcomings the character shows in other areas.

Do you think I am being ridiculous? Giving way too much importance to fake and clearly fantastic novels? Well, yes! And therein lies our main trouble. We read too much between the lines. Teenage girls will worry about boys, that’s just how it is, very few of them are the actual providers of their household, and even fewer know how to shoot a gun, forget about a bow. Let’s not make the mistake of confusing physical prowess with strength of character. They like Bella? Sure, why not. Then, show them a book where the female character is worthy of being emulated and talk about it. That will take you a lot farther that trashing the latest fad. Communication is the ultimate way to empower our youth and help them travel the murky waters of adolescence and external influences. It is the final weapon that trumps even books and that’ll make of our kids true Feminists.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Ring Series. Spiral Book Review

Some time ago I reviewed Koji Suzuki's novel The Ring, the first of a four book series immortalized by the movies. I won't go into much detail about the first book, so you may want to follow that link if you're interested in the whole series. I'll just say I loved the book and reading it was a much more fulfilling experience than watching the movies. And that the ending has a twist you will never see coming. I double dare you. If you manage to tell me Sadako's secret, say, by page 220--out of 286 because I'm generous like that--I'm buying you any book you want. And that's a deal.

Now, back to the review. The Ring Series are different from most series in that they don't have many of the same characters from book to book; it also moves between genres, slowly going from horror in book one, to Sci-fi in book three.

In SPIRAL, book two in the series, Sadako is an important piece of the story, of course, but that's pretty much it. The rest of the characters are new. Time-wise, SPIRAL starts right after RING finished. It follows Mitsuo Ando, a man who lost his kid in a drowning accident and whose life has become unhinged as a consequence. Unable to cope with his loss, he hides behind his work as a Coroner. That's when he's faced with the corpse of his previous nemesis Ryuji Takayama, the professor who helped solve the mystery of the tape in book one. The mysterious circumstances of the professor's death intrigue him, and guided by what seems to be Ryuji's ghostly presence, Ando will find himself facing a horrific reality that threatens the future of mankind.

Suzuki's talent for setting the mood, creep you out of your sleep, and crazy-imaginative storytelling are evident once more. The characters grab you from the first page and make you feel their pain, flaws, and their terror as it becomes clear to them that the monster has just begun exerting her vengeance. Once you finish the book and think about it, you realize just how far the author has gone from the original premise and how deep he is getting into craziness. You can also call it Sci-fi, if you want to legitimize it. Truth is, many will find the story in this second book too far fetched and might hate it, but if you are tired of vampires, zombies, werewolves, and witches; if you are looking for out of the ordinary stories, then you can't miss SPIRAL.

If you ask me, I did like it. I thought Suzuki did an amazing job changing everything he made classic with RING and spinning a new different tale from it. I can't stress enough how neither of the subsequent books to Ring have anything in common with the movies. Not even with the japanese ones. SPIRAL will shock you once more and leave you with a very uneasy feeling under your skin.

Soon to come to this blog, a review of LOOP, book three of The Ring Series.

Friday, November 16, 2012

On Wishing a Dream and Baring my Soul

I'm a very nostalgic person and tend to fall into daydreams of things that will never be. When I was younger, I wrote many poems and stories under these sad spells; now that I'm a bit--just a tiny bit--older and have kids, thinking about them growing so fast will make me cry, happy and sad at the same time. I'm also an irremediable insomniac, and it is during these sleepless hours that I give up to my nostalgic side and shed a tear or two, content that everybody is asleep and I don't have to explain my foolish state of mind. 

So, back a few weeks ago, my little one lost her fist tooth. She was ecstatic and I was so sad, realizing I no longer have babies in my house. That night I gave free reign to the feelings inside me and I came up with this little poem. I think many of you will understand what was going through my mind. Hope you like it. By the way, it still doesn't have a name, so any ideas are welcome.

This summer. Little One to the left, Big Sis to the right. But I bet that t-shirt gave her up.

I've got a pair of treasures I've taken care of for many moons now.    
These treasures I envelop between cotton layers every night.            
Tonight I remember the sleepless nights that will never be back,        
I toss and turn with memories of happiness and sadness long past,     
And I give thanks for the time spent--May it never end, I ask my stars.              
Time, the eternal equalizer, I can never stop it in its path                                    
if at least you could promise me my treasures will never wither and die.            
Take my soul, paint my hair all white, mark my skin with your steady hand,      
but never, oh, never take my treasures away from my hands.                              
Weeks turn into months and years inevitably pass by,                      
one day after another, relentless like the tide.                                      
When winter turns to spring in a never-ending cycle of life,               
Promise me one day I'll hear the echo of small new treasures' laughs.                
I have a pair of treasures I know one day will no longer be mine,                       
when the time comes for their happiness to lay in some one else's path,              
I hope they remember the worth inside their minds,                            
I hope they remember I can live forever in their hearts.                       

Just a couple of years ago, the offending tooth still in place.

My husband will kill me, but the three of them were snoring. 
Now you know why I can't sleep.

Monday, November 12, 2012

I Did it! Check Out my New Look

Just a few posts ago I shared with you my plans to change the look of this site to reflect the new place I am in this road to become a successful writer. Well, this is the look I came up with and let me tell you: I'm damn proud of it! I know it won't fool anyone to think it is a web, but I think it does look more professional and I did it all by myself.

Now, allow me to tell you I'm not computer savvy at all. I remember how it all started in 2010, I didn't even know what a URL was! This time around I did my banner on Photoshop, added custom media icons, a favicon (that you may not see yet, but trust me, it'll be there when Blogger gets its s**t together), and opened a contact page. Hey, it may seem like much ado about nothing for some, but I could design electronic circles around the old me, and that's reason enough to make me happy.

The new look is as far as I can go without extensively tweaking the HTLM code--which I'm considering taking classes, by the way. So please, let me know what you think about it. Do you love it or hate it? Do you wish I went back to the previous look? Any suggestion, tip, or commentary is welcome, as always.

I'm also considering writing a tutorial on how to design your own banner, designing your blog (with the aforementioned limitations), and adding custom media icons to your site. If it is something you might be interested on, please let me know and I'll be happy to put that up first.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Mina's Resurrection Blogfest. Crossroads

Well, today is Mina's Resurrection Blogfest where we celebrate her blog's anniversary, by reviving one old post we think was kinda lost because our, may I say null, readership. Partaking in the spirit, I went ahead and looked through my first year posts. Let me tell you, there wasn't much to be re-shared... I realize now how much more I know about blogging and why on earth no one was reading me back then. I have a much better appreciation for those who stuck with me and for the new followers that have found something half interesting to read here. Thanks to you all, really. You are the best!

Ok, so back to the celebration. Here I repost, as I wrote it in late 2010, my first post about my writing. A strange little piece that fits nowhere but in a blog. And it is so unlike my present writing... Whoo! Talk about changes!

Cograts Mina!

PS. For those looking for my IWSG post, I didn't forget. Please, scroll down. =)

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A few months ago I was writing what was supposed to be a short monologue from one of the older characters in my novel who was sharing some words of wisdom with the younger generation. Somehow that little monologue grew out of proportion and I had to cut it out, but I just couldn't part with it. I kept it, floating around without a place to be. It doesn't really reflect the story of the novel, since it is kind of a little essay in its own right. However, I share it with you today. I titled it 


Life is a crazy ride. Most of the time it's full of uneventful days, sometimes even boring. One day after another of the same occurrences and hard as you may try you end up sucked into the enormous momentum that is “routine”. Life goes on with its ups and downs and at some point we’re bound to find ourselves in a crossroad where we’ll have to make a choice that we know will affect the rest of our life. Usually we come across this kind of decisions maybe once a year every odd number of years, but certainly no more than 10 or 12 in a lifespan.

It's kind of astounding when you think about it: These are the moments that shape a life. When you are 70 and look back, everything you are and have is a direct consequence of merely a dozen crucial moments and most of the times you don’t feel as old as your body tells you.  

You don't think one decision a year every now and then would be hard to keep up with? Well, think again: College or no College? Get married or keep single? Take this job or that one? We don’t come across these questions that often but when they come, boy, they’re hard.

As you may have noticed before, life has a way of confounding us even more so when men in our usual arrogance think we have it all figured it out. “Lets send them a curve ball to spice it up!” And so it happens that one of those 'one-decision-year' turns out to be a 'several-decisions-year'; or even no decisions whatsoever but a series of events that are completely out of your hands and that end up not only defining the future but changing the whole ballgame. Then, at the end of those 12 months you find yourself looking in the mirror with a few more crowfeet and a bunch of new white in your hair but felling like a thousand years older. Those eyes looking back at you in the mirror look somehow wiser and you’re not yourself anymore but, if God was good to you, a new improved you. And you wonder, how is it possible that you suddenly caught up with your age when only 12 months ago you felt so much younger?

So here’s what I think. Had it not been for those “curve balls” we'd wound up at 70 feeling like a 5 year-old (which most 70 year-old men are, anyway). We need the uneventful years to help us process those life-changing years where we find ourselves growing wiser and older; then we use some of the boring times to carve a comfortable place in the new life that was thrust upon us to rediscover ourselves in a wiser state, so we are able to keep moving forward when life knocks on our door again.

After all the things you’ve gone through, when you turn 70 and look back to your life thinking: How the hell did it all go so fast? When the reflection in the mirror is that of an old man that somehow doesn’t seem to reflect who you really feel you are, look real close to those eyes looking back at you and you’ll recognize the wisdom in his eyes even though you don’t feel the years in your skin.
* * * *

There you go. Share your thoughts, any criticism is welcome and I can't wait to hear what you think of my little piece. I hope you liked it!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Growing up, Moving on, And Believing in Myself

A new IWSG is here and it catches me as I've decided to get to the next phase of my life as a writer. When I started this blog, almost two years ago, I was unsure about my talent as a writer or blogger. It was after many years of my husband's and father's insistence to give it a try, that I finally decided to toss the coin for my future.

A lot has changed since. Today, I believe I'm a writer. Heck, I even introduce myself as such! I know there is a lot of space for improvement and I can't hardly say I'm as good as I will ever be--certainly, I hope not, 'cause that would suck--but I'm sure I'm on the right track. Writing makes me happy. I've even found out I'm a decent reviewer, who would've thunk it?! I now have published a couple of my works and have many more looking for a house. You could say I'm growing up; maturing.

Now I feel it's time to take those experiences, that self-assurance I didn't have before, and project it on to all of my endeavors, like this blog. As a celebration of my new-found certitude, I've decided to change the appearance, and even the title, of this blog. The IP address will remain the same, since I do not wish to loose all of you, as the posts and vein in which I write. Think about it more like a facelift in an attempt to look more professional and attract more readers to my books. Isn't, after all, that what we all want?

I'm no designer or programmer, though, and my knowledge of computers and programs is very limited, so it might take a few weeks. But rest assured, next month you will find same old me under a newer, hopefully improved, facade. Do not miss the grand unveiling!

Belated Happy Halloween to all, and I hope you are having an excellent NaNoWriMo for those of you with a taste for torture. ;)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Goodbye Halloween and Coffin Hop Winners

I had originally planned for four posts in this Coffin Hop but as my mother used to say: "Do you want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans." Hurricane Sandy made a quick visit to the East Coast and my plans were thwarted. I missed half of my posts but I won't just let it go. With the announcement of the winners, I will share with you the last piece of Halloween Monsters and Urban Legends. I hope you  enjoy it enough to keep stopping by my humble electronic abode.


Doppelgängers are an uncommon image of literature, yet a very grim one. It is the double image of one self, usually not witnessed by others, and believed to be the harbinger of death. The word is German for "double walker" and the portent can be found in Norse, German, Finnish, and even Egyptian folklore. Though it can be defined as a darker form of bilocation, based on reliable accounts of both events, there are clear and marked differences. In bilocation both images of the same person are exactly alike and seem to be located in the same space-time continuum, there are several witnesses to both images, and usually one of them seem to be drained of energy or catatonic. There are no deaths related to bilocation and it tends to be seen with religious undertones. Doppelgängers are commonly reported by the only witness: The original self, they can be a future image of the person, and most frequently will silently point to the form of death the person will experience in a somewhat close future.

Famous reports:

  • Guy de Maupassant, french novelist and short story writer, reported to have seen his double image several times towards the end of his life. On one occasion, while writing, this 'second self' took a seat opposite him and began to dictate what de Maupassant was writing. The experience served as inspiration for his short story "Lui."
  • Percy B. Shelley, the famous poet, saw a ghostly image of himself in Italy. The doppelgänger pointed quietly to the Mediterranean Sea. Shortly before his 30th birthday, the poet suffered a deathly sailing accident, drowning in the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Queen Elizabeth I of England encountered her Doppelgänger laying out on her bed. She passed away a short time after the event.
  • Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, the German poet, was confronted by his Doppelgänger while riding out of Drusenheim. His double was riding toward him and wearing a gray suit trimmed with gold. Eight years later, Goethe found himself traveling the same road but in the opposite direction. He realized then he was wearing the very gray suit he'd seen on his double eight years before.

I had a friend whose great-grandparents were so in-love; after a little over fifty years together they still looked at each other with sweet, loving eyes, and sometimes they could finish each other sentences. One day, as they were driving to visit their son in another state, they got in an accident with a drunk driver. As fate would have it, the lady suffered massive damage and ended up in a coma, while the old man came out with just a few scratches. Weeks later, her state deteriorated and one sad afternoon the doctor declared her dead. As soon as the husband was informed, he became very agitated and claimed it was impossible. He yelled at the doctor saying he was wrong and refused to calm down, so he had to be sedated. On the very day of the funeral, such scene was repeated and, once more, the poor, grieving man was sedated again.

Days passed and the husband's conviction never faltered. He pestered the family to force the doctor to ok an exhumation and make sure the woman was death. He claimed nightmares plagued him of his wife clawing at the insides of the coffin, fighting to be freed. The family feared for the man's state of mind and decided to go forth with the exhumation in the hopes that it would bring him resignation. Finally, the doctor agreed and the coffin was opened one gray morning. To everyone's surprise, the woman had her nails turned backwards and the linen inside the coffin was shredded to pieces, covered in blood just as the man had claimed.


So, the time has come for me to announce the winners. Thanks to all who visited and commented, it was a blast to read all your ideas and now I have a few more monsters to write stories! Without further ado...

  • Third prize and winner of a copy of Perpetual Night and a set of Tim Burton playing cards: Heather Powers, who presented me with the idea of the Ozark Howler. Quite a scary one!
  • Second prize and winner of a copy of Perpetual Night and The Halloween Tree paperback: Milo James Fowler, who brought to my attention the African version of the Chupacabra, the Popobawa. 
  • And the first prize goes to: Kim. For sharing with me the South African Mamlambo. This one is so utterly cool and bewildering... yay!
I hope I will keep seeing you and hasta la proxima! Hail to Samhain!