Donna's Blog

Personal happiness project: Day 1

March 31, 2015 by  

I’m going to explore the topic of happiness. Like love happiness is not simply a feeling. It has to have substance. What is it? Maybe it is the result of living as I am intended and doing as I am intended. Zen and the Art of Happiness talks about the importance of discovering what we do not know and rediscovering what we once knew. Being balanced, centered, living in the moment. Rediscover reading Gospel chapter before getting out of bed. Taking a walk to the beach every day. Eating healthy mainly fresh raw and steamed vegetables with some yogurt, milk, almond milk, fruit, eggs, whole grain bread, fish, nuts, peanut butter and a bit of olive oil for cooking. Brisk walking and crunches. Writing (one thing I want to write about are the parallels in the teaching of Jesus and Buddhist philosophy). The dogs. My small and furry critters, though I’ve been somewhat overwhelmed by them lately. Good films, reading books with a good story or learning. Sleep. Interesting discussions. Cold water. Visitors to the gerbil room.

These things do not make me happy: too much texting, web surfing, facebook, funny videos. Clutter, unhealthy food. Waking up in a sweat every few hours. Shopping, buying things, getting groceries. Cooking and cleaning up. Looking at junk. Walking around and over crap. Putting away stuff. Building shelves and filling bins and putting them on shelves. Stupid, pointless tv and movies.

People tend to think of happiness as a selfish thing, but it may well lie in losing ones self in selflessness.

There is an obscure YA/kids book called Cotton in my Sack. My life feels like that. I wake up in the morning with money in my pocket, excited to go to town, and the possibilities for the day is endless. Then it gets all used up and my money is spent, and I feel a bit off from the junk I’ve ingested, and I’m tired and dirty and heading back home and I didn’t get done nearly what I hoped to and I’m up way too late scrambling to get a few more things done. But the night wipes it all away and them morning is a fresh start. I’m much happier in the morning and in the day than in the evening and night-time. Are there strategies that would make the night a happier time? I’m hoping doing this blog will help. Maybe I need to stop and relax, wind down, and be nice to myself at night. There is a website called happify where you can play happy games, I don’t know though because I’d be on the computer. Maybe if I signed up to do something at night. Some things I’d like to do are agility with Roxy, French conversational class, Yoga. I also tend to forget at night all the cool things of the day.

Today: Stacy the dog groomer is an enthusiastic Oreo fan. Oreo is clean and soft and has a nice hair cut and a new pink bandanna. The dogs did random tricks for treats. It was warm and bright outside. I didn’t need a coat. Oreo wanted to go on the walk with me and Roxy today and was very peppy the whole way over a mile down the street and back on the beach. The ocean and beach was beautiful and I had it to myself. I went to the fish market and made a delicious dinner including muscles in white wine, lemon, muscle water and butter. I finished my interview for Rebecca/Wolfy on a story she’s doing on me on being a gerbil champion. That’s pretty cool. I got some bills paid. I read a cute note Katie wrote probably at about five or six and was able to interpret her sound-writing. I’m going to have a piece of harvest bread toast and vanilla chai tea.

Added to the dictionary

November 10, 2014 by  

One of my secret goals is to have “Spin the Plate” become a term in common use or in the dictionary. Today I came across the phrase in a google search “no matter how you spin the plate, it’s wrong to kill your child.” Clicking the link lead to a not-very-nice website so I didn’t pursue it further. Still, it was nice to see the phrase being used as in the book title :-)

Would “Spin the Plate” make a good movie?

January 8, 2014 by  


Given the Spin the Plate is in the process of becoming an feature-length indie film I thought it would be a fun to reprint a piece of the March 27th, 2013 interview by Jessica of Simply Infatuate blog site.

Would Spin the Plate make a good movie?

Yes! It would be an amazing movie. When the story first hit me it was like remembering a really great movie I’d just seen and couldn’t stop thinking about. It is a dream of mine to see this story made into a film. I can imagine myself sitting in the audience and experiencing the people all around me doing a collective “Plate Spin” as through the course of the film they go from feeling a revulsion towards Jo to a redefinition of worth and beauty, desperately wanting for her to succeed.

New Life Guide by Survivor Marc Schiller

April 9, 2013 by  

Just reviewed and recommend a wonderful and inspirational life guide from an amazing plate spinner Marc Schiller who survived kidnapping, torture, and attempted murder through his sharp survival skills and the hand of God.

Pain and Gain: How I Survived and Triumphed

My review and recommendation:

I re-read March Schiller’s new book this morning. It is a beautiful life guide and beautifully written. Today is the anniversary if a personal tragedy of 30-some years ago, one of those impossible to put into words events and the one more than any other that I’ve shed the most tears over. The words in this book helped me to more easily not dwell in the sorrow piece and more clearly recognize how it has shaped me and taken me on a path I might not otherwise have pursued.

The book begins with the phrase: “Although we believe that we are born and die only once, the truth is that throughout our lives we die and are reborn many times.” So true. I have a friend with whom we’ve always referred to these event-based stages which transformed us as our “different lives.” Whether through tragedy, opportunity or some joyful event, a lifetime well and fully lived is one where we experience many lives. This book is part how-to guide and part inspiration on how to move from tragedy into opportunity for growth and not allow the bad times to define or stifle one’s life.

The book begins with the story (without any graphic details) of Schiller’s abduction, torture, and extortion during which time all of his belongings were stolen and once all his assets were spent attempts were made to murder him for his life insurance. The conclusion to this story is nothing short of miraculous. Then the book breaks down how the power we all have through mind, emotions, body and soul can enable us to survive tragedy and experience a self-transformation rather than self-destruction. The book concludes with a chapter on inspirational wisdoms combining all of these facets of self.

This is my newest personal go-to guide for inspiration, and I’ve just ordered extra printed copies to give as gifts.

“A 4-star elegant complex coffee with this elegantly constructed novel”

April 9, 2013 by  

Check out Sheila Deeth’s review of “Spin the Plate”


Jo’s not like everyone else. She’s big and wears baggy clothes, so stranger’s think she’s lazy and fat. Then she stands up to them, sumo-wrestler strong and perfectly balanced, and strangers flee. It makes her feel good. It’s what she wishes she’d done to her abuser when she was a child.

Francis is not like everyone else either. “Jesus love you, you know,” are his first words to Jo, which probably confuse the both of them. But Francis’ secrets are different, and he hides them very well.
An odd mix of shy determination, wounded sincerity, and genuine love brings these two characters together, and the reader learns slowly who both of them are… more


Ending of Life of Pi Explained

March 21, 2013 by  

Are you sick of all the ambiguous writings on the ending of Life of Pi? “Viewers can make up their own mind,” “There is no ‘correct’ answer.”  Well I’ve made up mine and here’s what I think the correct and logical answer to be based on the evidence with some faith mixed in. Here you go…

I believe the character Pi to be devout and truthful; he is neither a liar or a lunatic. Here is a synopsis of his story, including the ending to it explained.

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!! Don’t continue if you haven’t seen the film & plan to…

The life of Pi starts out with a young boy living in India who is humiliated by classmates and even teachers because he has an unusual name. He is named for a French swimming pool that sounds like the word “Pissing” – so the kids call him that derogatory name and beat him up regularly. He renames himself Pi, and the nickname sticks after he shows a talent for memorizing an extraordinary numbers of digits in the unending numeric sequence of pi.

Pi is a faithful Christian, (and Buddhist, and Muslim), despite his father (an atheist and realist) and brother both ridiculing his faith.  Pi’s family runs a small zoo within a botanical garden. Pi sees the beauty and magical quality of the animals and his surroundings, especially a tiger named Richard Parker. His father is blind to it; he ends up squashing the wonderment Pi holds by making him witness the tiger killing a live goat.

Due to financial troubles, the family ends up having to move to Canada and the father plans to sell all the animals once they get there.

On the journey there by ship, Pi, now a teenager, survives the ship wreck that kills all of the people on board, including his parents and only brother. He gets into a lifeboat, and five animals that were also on the ship make it aboard as well – a tiger, a rat, a monkey, a zebra with a broken leg, and a hyena. The animals kill one another: the hyena kills the zebra and the monkey, and the tiger kills the rat and the hyena.

This leaves only the tiger and the boy. The two survive for 272 days at sea with one stop on an island overflowing with vegetation and meerkats, but when the tide rises in the evening it had deadly acidic levels and kills anything in the water or ground. So everyone takes to the trees in the evening. After stocking up with food, Pi and the tiger get into the lifeboat and head back into the sea. The tiger is critical to the boy’s survival. Because of having to maintain a truce with the tiger, not get eaten, and keep them both alive, the boy has a reason to live, company, and a challenge that saves him going insane from boredom and isolation. In the end they make it to the mainland, the emaciated tiger staggers into the jungle, and Pi collapses on the beach.

While Pi is recovering in the hospital, two representatives from the sunken ship come to get information from him to fill out their report. They ask him to tell them what happens, and he does.

This should be the end of the film. But it is not.

Why not? Because they scoff at his tale and say they can’t write what he has told them in their report. Pi has just shared a most intimate, magical, miraculous experience: the blessing of God sparing his and the tiger’s life, untold beauties, and a most incredible adventure. So what are Pi’s choices?

1)      Stick to his story – this means more helpings of ridicule, accusations of being a lunatic or a liar, and having to tell and re-tell it

2)      Come up with a good lie – a story they want to hear – and claim this as the truth. He simply needed to say “I was on that lifeboat alone.” But this means lying and it is not in Pi’s nature to lie, or to deny the miracles he witnessed.

What would you do? Think about it for a few minutes. What are the options here? Jot down your solution.

Here is what Pi chooses to do…Pi is, as we know from the origins of his name, brilliant.  He comes up with a brilliant solution to this dilemma. His eyes become dull with a storminess behind them and he says – Okay I’ll tell you another story. Pi uses the story he just told as a framework to fabricate another one, a dark and depressing tale. (Note in the book he is annoyed as he tells another story; in the film he sheds some tears of sadness as he speaks about losing his mother). In the second story, he puts people in the place of animals: “There were four of us on board and a rat  - A Japanese sailor had a broken leg, the cruel blind French cook killed and ate first the rat and then the sailor, next the cook killed my mother who was also in the lifeboat, I went into a rage and I killed the cook.” Note that unlike the detailed-filled first story no details are provided on how a blind man executes these killings or a mere boy manages his revenge.

Then Pi tells the authorizes – “You have two stories, pick the one you prefer.”

The two-story-approach is absolutely brilliant. It puts a screeching halt to the questioning, it creates doubt in the authorities minds as to what happened, they go from ridiculing Pi to feeling rather ill about this macabre scene (as the viewers will too, if we fall for it). Now the tables are turned. Now they become the ones with a dilemma – do they really want to use story #2 in their report? It makes Pi a murderer and will require at best a lot of paperwork and at worst an expensive and long drawn out investigation. Besides neither story has anything to do with their goal of determining how or why the ship sank. So they pick story #1 – and that story, the true story, goes into their report. Pi gets to go on with his life, marry the girl of his dreams, and settle down and raise a family in his new country.



Well, okay, but what about the narrator/now adult Pi’s blathering throughout this film about making the listener believe in God? And why after Pi tells his stories to the ship’s authorities does he say, the bizarre and seemingly out of the blue phrase – “and so it goes with God.”??

Pi’s story also serves as an allegory for another incredible story. This one is the story of God who so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son. Jesus came into the world as a man and very plainly told people who he was. All we have to do is believe the fantastic story to be elevated out of our wretched state.  This is all the ship authorities needed to do: believe the story, be filled with the wonderment and joy, feel privileged just to have heard it firsthand.

But instead, people on earth reject the story, we demand another. Many prefer a dark, depressing story that fills mankind with doubt and despair. “Jesus wasn’t who they said he was,” “he was simply a great man,” “he was a lunatic,” “he was a liar,” “he never existed at all.”

You have two stories, which do you prefer? Perhaps more to the point…Which is more plausible? Which do you believe?


From the author: “Life of Pi tumbled into my imagination. The whole novel came to me in twenty minutes, half an hour, story, theme, incidents, everything: the family, the zoo, the ship, the sinking, the blind Frenchman, the island, the Japanese, the two stories, the idea that life is an interpretation, that between us and reality lies our imagination, which shapes our vision of reality and why not believe the better story, etc. I spent the next four years doing research and writing the novel.”

My Newest Short Story

February 23, 2013 by  

In Gods Name book cover imageThis short story is even edgier and more intense than “Spin the Plate.” I hope that it will bring awareness to troubling new trends being promoted by some Christian groups that can lead to repressive child rearing and even child abuse, all done “In God’s Name.”

“In God’s Name: A Short Story” is free from iTunes, on  Smashwords and as a Barnes and Noble Nook ebook.


Akiane is a real-life child prodigy who was born to tolerant, accepting atheists who allowed and encourage her paintings of heavenly visions. Hana Williams was a beautiful child, one of a quiverfull of children who was “trained up” by conservative Christian parents. She later died at their hands.

“In God’s Name” imagines what might happen if a child like Akiane was raised in a household like Hana’s. This is a short story about a fictious child prodigy “Hanna” and the depth to which her parents sink in God’s name.


Katie Beer’s Story

January 15, 2013 by  

“I try not to be sad about what happened, because ultimately it made me who I am today, and I’m very satisfied and happy with my life.” — Katie Beers

At ten years old Katie Beers was kidnapped and chained inside a coffin for 17 days. During the investigation they found out about terrible abuse she was suffering at home. She was found and started a new life with a new family. Now at thirty she writes about her experience and how it changed her life in her new book Buried Memories:


Book really spoke to my heart

December 4, 2012 by  

Latest Review on Spin the Plate Short Story (the story in its original short form and profanity-free!)

“This book really spoke to my heart. It spoke of endurance, journey and the light at the end of the tunnel. Right now so many of us are scrambling to keep one step ahead and survive in the world today. This book reaffirms that a strong faith, endurance and the willingness to take that journey can speak of a new beginning and a healthy recovery from one’s past and the damage that we bear daily. The author showed amazing insight and truthfully reflected that while the journey can be uncomfortable or scary, the destination is well worth it. The book was well written and captivating. The story and it’s more profound meaning is something I’ll definitely carry with me for a long long time. To the author, I thank you for a bright light in these dark days.”

See the “Reviews” section of this website for more reviews.

Get your FREE copy on Amazon, B&N, or Smashwords

Naming Characters

March 10, 2012 by  

This excerpt is from an author interview with Michy who asked whether naming characters was a difficult process:

Though I find that writing in general is a difficult process, I love the naming of characters and places. This is the one piece of writing that comes quickly and naturally. Poorly named characters will take a reader out of a story when either the name doesn’t fit, e.g., “Judith” for a trampy character, or it is too obvious like “Trixie.” My somewhat trampy character was named “Deidra.” Using appropriate-sounding names augments realism and helps the reader remember who is who. It can, as well, be a way for an author to honor some of the favorite people in his or her life (if their names fit the characters). Lauren Green (the first tattoo customer) is a merging of two of my sister’s names (Laurie Green and Ellen). The gardener’s physical description and name (Valerie) is from my mother who is a gardener and wrote the tour-through-the-garden scene for me, by the way.

I wanted the main characters of Spin the Plate to have gender-neutral names, as challenging preconceived notions of what it means to be feminine versus masculine is a strong underlying theme of the novel. The heroine’s name is in part from a work acquaintance whose name was Juliana Orsiano, but who signed all of her emails JO. It made me think that if I had a beautiful name like that I’d use it and made me wonder why she didn’t. I also have a long-time friend named Jo, a real-life professional horse whisperer, who is very private about her past. I still have no idea what her given name is.

As for the animal characters, Muzzy and the rest of the rattie boys are named after a boy rat-pack I once had. “Titan,” the street name for Jo’s enormous Rottweiler-mix, is the name of my pug (who is that size/dog in his own mind).

The café – “Teedo’s Outdoors Café” – was named for my brother Steven who we called Teedo when he was very young. I’m not sure why, perhaps that is how he said his name?? And I called it “Outdoors” café because my little Italian nana would always add “s” to words that should be plural but aren’t in English, for example, “shrimps.”

Anyway, I could go on and on because there is a story behind every character’s name as well as his or her description, but will stop here. Can you tell I love naming things?

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