Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Writing Wednesday

                     Who is Roland Kemény?
WARNING: This is all fiction and part of my novel "Rubato".

Roland Kemény was born in Budapest in 1945 and was a musical prodigy as a young boy. His family suffered during WW2 but regained their status because his father invested wisely in the rebuilding of the infrastructure in Eastern Europe. Roland wanted to become a pianist from a young age. He studied at the University of Performing Arts in Vienna and began a career as a pianist after that. His musical hero was Vladimir Horowitz. He became a teacher at the Liszt Conservatory and received recognition for his efforts in acquiring autograph manuscripts for the museum. He was obsessive about buying back the autograph manuscripts of Franz Liszt held by the Library of Congress in the United States but has been unsuccessful. 
He has salt and pepper curly hair with a beard and mustache. His eyes are dark and the folds over his eyes create a downward slant giving him a sad but kind face. 

Roland Kemény stared at the computer screen. A colleague from America wanted to teleconference with him tomorrow morning. The last call he had with her was when he talked about his relationship with Judith Whitesides. Now he knew that Judith was dead. Would she want to talk about that? What additional information would she want?
   He went to the window and looked out at the fall leaves drifting down into the courtyard outside his office. Autumn was especially beautiful in Budapest. He could hear visitors downstairs going through the house on a tour. As one of the oldest tenured teachers at the Liszt Academy he was honored to have an office inside the home of Franz Liszt. Downstairs many of Liszt’s furnishings were displayed, including his carved wood Bechstein piano. At that piano Liszt taught many talented pianists for free.  The winged lion carvings on each end of the keyboard were Roland’s favorite reminder of his mission. He was the lion that fought to conserve Liszt's legacy. 
   His mind went back to the day he first suspected that Judith had found something important on her recent research visit to Budapest. They met here in his office and she teased about the disarray downstairs in the Liszt Museum. She told him the dust and mold were destroying some old forgotten relics. Her frivolous comment that he needed to hire help to organize the basement made him angry. It was just like an American to assume money was available whenever a project was proposed. Would she like the job? That made her laugh and she said something that was still haunting him. “I have enough to keep me busy for a long time." He reminded her that everything in the basement belonged to the museum. Defiantly she answered that Budapest did not have all the important documents related to Franz Liszt. 
    As it turned out she did have an autograph manuscript. Now with Judith gone where was it? 


A piano teacher is found dead and a lost autograph manuscript of Franz Liszt is discovered. Who wanted that document enough to kill? 

Monday, February 26, 2018

Consistency Versus Quality

Doing Something Every Day, No Matter What?

My meditation app had a sunburst circle in which the number ninety-seven was pulsing. Ninety-Seven days of sequential meditation. Then I got sick. I was so disappointed when that streak was disrupted simply because I forgot. The morning I started over with a new 'day one' I realized that my pride was caught up with that number. I was equating consistency with quality.

Although consistency provides more opportunity for quality it isn't the same as having a fully conscious meditation session everyday. My goal hasn't changed. I am just starting over. There is 'umkehr' to my meditation practice. I may start over again one day when I reach 150 days of consistent practice. That is alright. I am looking for awareness of what meditation offers to my sense of peace not just being one hundred percent consistent.

And, I thank-you for reading my mystery novel, Rubato. Judith, a piano teacher extraordinaire, makes a decision which, upon reflection, changes the lives of others and ends her own life. Detectives Stevie Dangerfield and Reggie Watts investigate her death and find musical intrigue that started in Eastern Europe.

Friday, February 23, 2018


Does understanding beauty take an educated eye or an educated heart?

Judith closed the lid of the Steinway piano. The light coming through the window was off-center. Her practice was suffering due to the disturbance of harmony in her room. She readjusted the vase of roses. She would have to wait a few minutes until the light shifted before she could continue playing.

Judith is a character in a book I am writing. Living in beauty is an obsession. Creating her gave me an opportunity to explore beauty under the umbrella of 'perfection'. Does something have to be perfect for us to find beauty within it? Can it be flawed and still be beautiful? Can there be perfection and we don't see the beauty?

Isaiah 53:2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

As the spirit of the Lord touches and educates our heart, He becomes more attractive. His beauty lies in his constancy, in his tenderness, in his submission to justice, in his focus, in his mental strength, in his open heart, in his mercy. I could go on but I have a time limit. He is beautiful to me not because he is perfect but because he sees beauty in my imperfection. I know, it shouldn't always be about me.

Praise be to Him.


And, I thank-you for reading my mystery novel, Rubato. Judith, a piano teacher extraordinaire, makes a decision which, upon reflection, changes the lives of others, not for the better.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Writing Wednesday-

New Edits to "Rubato"
Introducing Harry Watts, retired homicide detective, father of Reggie Watts

Included in chapter 10

Rubbing his eyes he pushed the vision of Stevie out of his mind and turned over. He had a dream last night. It was about his father. They were working a case together and Reggie was very frustrated that the suspects all seemed to be lying about one thing or another. His father, also a homicide detective, was pragmatic in his approach to interviewing people. In the dream he said very calmly, “Every person tells their story as if they were the hero. Even if they are innocent of any wrong-doing, they are always going to spin the tale to justify their actions. You must learn to ask questions that challenge their story. The questions often reveal the parts they’ve made up to protect themselves.  Between their story and the truth, a gap develops. A smart detective excavates the gap to look for motivation.” Reggie pondered his father’s words and how well they applied to this case.

Included in Chapter 15-
   Reggie went to church on Sunday, too. His worship was really a gratitude session each week at the care home where Harold Watts lived. Harry, his preferred name, had been a  resident since his stroke a few years back. The retired detective went from decorated officer to being wheel chair bound in just a few moments. The first year after the stroke Reggie despaired at seeing his father fight to regain mobility. Harry felt his life was over and he would never be of use again. When it felt that Harry needed more help than his daughter and son could give him, they started the process of looking for a home that might keep his spirits up and his physical body from deteriorating. They found just the place. It took Harry longer to feel comfortable than it did his children.
   Once a week Reggie sat with his father and talked. Sometimes it was Harry doing most of the listening. He liked knowing how Reggie’s homicide cases developed. He asked really insightful questions, many of them used later in the interrogation room. Today he asked about the new case. 
   “I can’t tell you much, Dad. It involves people visiting the United States from eastern Europe. The issue is over a lost and found manuscript of music by a composer named Liszt, like…. shopping list.  Stevie has been most helpful because believe it or not she studied to be a concert pianist.”
   Harry’s bushy eyebrows raised in surprise.
   “Yup, that little tidbit of information was astounding to me, too.”
   Harry began mouthing words which Reggie couldn’t understand. The stroke had affected his speech. “See…. there?”
   “That man, over there.” Harry pointed to a man sitting with his head down across from them. “He,… he is a musician.”
    “Okay. What about him?” Reggie asked.
    “He needs help.” Harry looked expectantly at Reggie as if he would know what to do.
    “What kind of help?”
     “He needs music. Ask your partner to help him.” Harry was very serious.
     “What do I ask her?”
      “She can bring him music.” They were interrupted by a nurse with a wheel chair asking if they might like to go to the solarium. Harry changed the subject back to the case and Reggie dodged questions that he shouldn’t answer. He thought about what Harry had asked. What would Stevie make of that request?

Included in Chapter 16-

   Now that he was sure he was forgiven, he ventured into a longer conversation with Stevie. He looked over at her, watching her maneuver through evening traffic. It was unusual for him to bring up a personal subject. He waffled.
   “What is it?” she said quietly.
   “I’d like to tell you about my father.”
   “Okay, go ahead.” She sounded encouraging.
   “My father, Harry Watts, was a homicide detective for thirty years. Some years ago he had a stroke which left him unable to walk and paralyzed on one side of his body.” Reggie stopped and had that recurring feeling come over him of deep despair. He knew if he felt it instead of squashing it down it would subside sooner.
    “That’s terrible for him. Where is he now?”
     “In a care home which he likes fairly well. When I saw him Sunday he asked me the strangest thing.”
     “What did he ask?”
      “He wanted me to help a new patient who seems very depressed.” Suddenly Reggie felt stupid going on with his request. What could Stevie do?
       “How could you help him?”
       “Actually, my father thought you could help him.” He watched her expression to see if he detected any annoyance.
        “What can I do?” Her tone sounded like she was asking sincerely with real interest.
         “The man is a musician and my father thought he needed music. I mean I don’t expect you would go there and play for him, or anything like that.”
        “That is an interesting request because my mother coordinates musicians to volunteer at nursing homes to go and have a singing, listening experience. She has told me how effective it is with Alzheimers and Parkinson disease. I will certainly ask her about it.”
      “Really? That would be great. I would like to know more. I apologize for being awkward. It wasn’t an easy thing to talk about.” 
      “Well, we are around people all the time who tell us awkward things. You are a pro at reading between the lines.” She laughed. 

Included in Chapter 22
   “Is that you, Stevie?” her mother called from the kitchen.
   “It is. I’ll be right there.” She walked through to the kitchen and gave her mother a hug. “I’ll change my clothes and come back down.” Upstairs in her bedroom she changed her clothes wishing she could take off the heavy emotional memory of the interrogations. The case would be in the hands of the prosecutors now. It was possible she would be called to testify but her responsibility was over. She washed her face and hands. Downstairs she heard her mother playing Liszt. The sound replaced her frustrations almost immediately. On the way through the kitchen she gathered up a snack of cheese and crackers, then settled herself onto the sofa and put her head back. She closed her eyes. The music slowed as the thirds cascaded down into the bass clef. Tears dropped off the edge of her chin. Stevie did nothing to stop the flow.
   The music stopped but neither Stevie or her mother broke the silence. After a while Stevie straightened up and looked at her mother. Angelika was still sitting quietly on the piano bench. 
   “Reggie has a father.” 
    Angelika moved to join Stevie on the couch. “Well, most people do.”
   “He told me about him yesterday. Harry Watts is in a care home recovering from a stroke. He has asked for my help.”
    “Doing what?” Angelika asked.
    “There is a patient there who is very depressed and he wanted Reggie to ask me if I could bring him music.”
      “Are you still in touch with the people from California who started Music Mends Minds?” Stevie asked.
      “Yes, there are two facilities here in Seattle who have volunteer musicians come in once a week to do music. I could query my friends and see if that could happen in Mr. Watts’ facility.”

       “I’d like to help with that. You taught me that music heals.” Stevie walked over to the keyboard and started the same Consolation by Liszt that her mother had played. Their touch was almost identical but it was even more nurturing to press into the keys and feel the vibrations through the wood. She felt renewed.


And, I thank-you for reading my mystery novel, Rubato. Judith, a piano teacher extraordinaire, makes a decision which, upon reflection, changes the lives of others, not for the better.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Returning To Past Successes

Some practices, oft repeated get stale
Bring them back...

Like many people I have occasional bouts of insomnia. I found relief in sleep stories. My Calm App has stories, recorded by various popular personalities, made to lull you into peaceful slumber. The stories aren't boring but they become slower and quieter as the narrative progresses. I rarely hear the whole thing. 
  Somewhere along the way I forgot about the success I had falling asleep. This month I'm working on meditating everyday and coming back (Umkehr) to sleep stories is such a good idea. 
  What do you use to fall asleep?


And, I thank-you for reading my mystery novel, Rubato. Judith, a piano teacher extraordinaire, makes a decision which, upon reflection, changes the lives of others, not for the better.

Friday, February 16, 2018


What Is The Back Story?
We are all wondering why? Why would that man kill those students? I am sitting with that question this morning even as I am in the editing process of my own murder mystery. Why am I writing a story about murder?

   I don't read murder mysteries to glory in death or because I am fascinated with the act of taking human life. It actually repels me. What draws me in is the story of "why". What brings a person to take the life of another? 
   That story is in the first book of the Old Testament. What brought Cain to kill his brother Abel? Was he overcome by evil or did his narrative need evil to be realized? We are all the hero in our story. It is when we stop questioning the truth of our tale that deception finds a foothold. I can usually tell when I'm spinning a yarn. The need to rationalize my actions is the clue. "I had to do it." "I saw no other way out."

“We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the neverending contest in ourselves of good and evil. And it occurs to me that evil must constantly respawn, while good, while virtue, is immortal. Vice has always a new fresh young face, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world is.”
                                                                     ― John Steinbeck, East of Eden


And, I thank-you for reading some of my mystery novel, Rubato. Judith, a piano teacher extraordinaire,  makes a decision which, upon reflection, changes the lives of others, not for the better.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Spring Is Umkehr

Spring is definitely a return or 'ein Umkehr' to balance out Winter and Summer

Winter drives me in and summer drives me out. In between are the seasons where I feel more balanced. I look more intently at my meditation practice in the Spring. Can I focus on the sounds outside by cracking the window open? What are the birds singing about? Can I hear the trees moving?

I hope to deepen my practice not so much in length of time but in the quality of mindfulness I can bring to the moment. Often my mind uses my time to sort out the grievances I have with life. I bring myself back but then find it returning to issues beyond the moment. 

I intend to do better. Coming back to intentions from the past is not a setback but a reset.  Last Spring I found a better balance. I had sessions of real joy which sustained me throughout the day. I can remember the smells of the morning, how they wafted in the window and then distilled into other sensations. 
Welcome Spring! I'm so glad you are returning.

  February is destined to become a more mindful month. Click here to see some other Umkehr challenges from the past.


And, I thank-you for reading some of my mystery novel, Rubato. Judith, a piano teacher extraordinaire,  makes a decision which, upon reflection, changes the lives of others, not for the better.

Friday, February 9, 2018


                  I Don't Speak Much English

Shh....let us tell you about our great-grandmother. We didn't know her on earth but it may be we met in heaven. She lived to the ripe old age of ninety two. We missed her by fourteen years.

We know just a little about her. Our Oma told us. She didn't speak much English when she came to America. She was a fast learner, though. Thirty years in America improved her speaking and writing. However, she claimed one privilege. When she didn't want to admit something, like where the chocolate was hidden or when her taxes were due, she proudly exclaimed, "I don't speak much English."

We think we get it from her. We don't always want to say things either. 

And, I thank-you for reading some of my mystery novel, Rubato. Judith, a piano teacher extraordinaire,  makes a decision which, upon reflection, changes the lives of others, not for the better.

Monday, February 5, 2018

A Vision Of Umkehr

February will bring me back to meditation and prayer

My vision for how 'Umkehr' will unfold this year is still in flux. I am committed to staying in balance with my January return to healthy eating. 

   During February I want to return, or Umkehr, to a deeper practice of meditation and prayer. My memories of the dawn song of the birds outside my window are sweet. Last Spring I used my art studio as the meditation and prayer space but I've stopped going there first thing in the morning. I shall return this month.

And, I thank-you for reading some of my mystery novel, Rubato. Judith, a piano teacher extraordinaire,  makes a decision which, upon reflection, changes the lives of others, not for the better.

Friday, February 2, 2018


Give me the portion of goods that
 falleth to me.

It is common among families to have disagreement. God's own family is not in agreement. Daily we feel the resistance to goodness originating with one of the sons of God. I find it telling that often those that leave when the disagreement gets most intense want that portion of their inheritance before they set off on their journey. They want now what they haven't earned.

Luke 15:
11 And he said, A certain man had two sons:12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. 13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.

I am humbled to realize that God did not deny our inheritance when we were sent to earth. He didn't say you are on your own, good riddance. We came to earth with gifts. One  very essential one being the ability to choose right from wrong. No matter how we frame our story, that still small voice reminds us what is right. I feel very much like the Prodigal Son. I have wasted some of my precious time on earth. I am intensely moved by the father in this parable. 

Will I have any grounds to expect an inheritance? My Heavenly Father and I can agree on one essential thing, it will be grace that brings me back into his arms.


And, I thank-you for reading some of my mystery novel, Rubato. Judith makes a decision which, upon reflection, changes the lives of others, not for the better.