“A Matter of Latitude” by Isobel Blackthorn

Published December 2018 by Creativia Publishing

Reviewed for Close to the Bone Publishing

Reviewed by Allison Constantino

If you enjoy a “cozy mystery” like I do, this book fits the bill. Set on the island paradise of Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands off the coast of West Africa, this is the perfect setting for a disappearance.

Paula, the main character, left Britain to follow her heart and marry Celestino, an artist and environmental activist on Lanzarote. “Like so many others, I came to the island to escape my hum-drum life and Britain’s dismal weather.”

When Celestino disappears without a trace, Paula can only guess which politician her husband confronted about his or her corrunption, or illegal environmental activities on the island.

Paula’s frantic search continues for days revealing more about herself, her husband, her friends and enemies and the island paradise she chose as her new home, than she ever imagined.

I love these quotes!

Describing how she feels after finding her husband missing, “He appears to me now as an absent presence.”

Describing Lanzarote, “This is the kind of place where it’s better to be a tourist rather than a resident, unless you were born here.”

Describing the island’s corruption, ” It isn’t so much that the developers and local councils are breaking the rules, they’re ignoring them completely,

These quotes give the reader some special insights into the dark underbelly of the island’s burgeoning tourist industry, probably more than your average tourist wants to know.

As a reader, don’t ask me how I did this, but somehow I confused the two main characters. I thought Paula was having flashbacks, until a third of the way through the book, I realized I had been reading about Celestino, not Paula!

Once I had that realization, things made a lot more sense, but I couldn’t help thinking, “I wish Paula would hurry up and put all the clues together and find Celestino.” I felt like the book could have moved much faster than it actually did.

Isobel Blackthorn, originally from London obviously loves Lanzarote where she lived briefly, renovated an old stone ruin, taught English and mingled with the locals. She learned from the locals about the corruption on the island, involving illegal property development impacting adversely on the environment. She promised herself she would do what she could to raise awareness of these illegal activities through her writing.

How to Find Inspiration in Unexpected Places

“Goblin Market Restaurant Tree” https://allison-constantino.pixels.com/featured/the-goblin-market-restaurant-tree-mt-dora-allison-constantino.html

As an artist, I think I look at things differently.

I see things that completely stop me in my tracks, while others might walk right on by! I’m always amazed at how differently each one of us sees and processes the world.

A case in point is one of my recent trips to Mount Dora, Florida with my husband.  We love to visit Mt. Dora. We walk around the quaint downtown area, treat ourselves to a great meal, take a hike, go for a boat or train ride or just hang out.

This particular day, after a walk around the downtown area, we headed to one of my favorite restaurants, “The Goblin Market Restaurant.” (http://thegoblinmarketrestaurant.com/)  for lunch. It’s been there since 1996. This particular day was a perfect spring day and the hostess asked us if we would like to dine inside or outside on the patio.  We both said, “Outside!” So the hostess takes us to this table outside under this huge oak tree! She gives us the menu.  I glance at the menu. We already know what we want, so we order. We hand back the menus, then I look up!

I’m totally blown away! There is this plant that has wound itself completely up the side of the tree. The plant is being lit by the sun and seems to be sun lit from behind all the way up the tree. Even the tree leaves seem to be back-lit! I can’t believe how beautiful it is!

The beautiful bright green plants are contrasted against the red tones of the tree bark and the bright lime green tree leaves are highlighted against the brilliant Easter egg blue sky!

It completely takes my breath away! I take my phone out and start snapping photos – from every angle imaginable! Snap, snap, snap, snap, snap.

Now people are starting to stare at me. I’m sure they’re thinking, “What could she possibly be taking a picture of? All we see is a HUGE tree! What is she doing?”

I keep snapping photos, hoping that the pictures will do the image justice.

I couldn’t wait to get back home so I could start my painting of the tree. I knew the painting would present a few challenges, like getting the perspective right and the most important thing, getting the “sun lit” quality of the plants and leaves “right.”

I really wanted the plant and the leaves to “pop.” So, since I’m painting the image in acrylics and they dry darker, it means multiple coats of highlights.  Lots of applications of pure color on top of pure color.

After all was said and done, I was really happy with the results.

You can judge it for yourself. Can you feel the spring day? Can you see the sunshine beaming down on the tree leaves and plant?

If you can, then I’ve done my job of sharing my world with you and how I felt on that pristine spring day on the patio totally arrested by the beauty of the moment!

Inspiration comes from anywhere! Be sure to look up! I’m not sure we’re always thinking about looking “up” for ideas. Maybe it just means we should spend more time each day with our head in the clouds!

Two-minute stress relievers you can do at your desk!

A two-minute meditation can help you increase your concentration, help you overcome personal and professional challenges and give you an overall more optimistic feel about yourself and the world.

Meditation works because the process quiets the clutter of your conscious mind allowing you to connect directly with your subconscious mind. Your subconscious mind is the combined knowledge of everything you know, although you don’t know you know it!

To reduce stress at work and create a better sense of well-being, just sit at your desk and close your eyes. Take in a couple of deep breaths, slowly inhaling and exhaling.

Visualize yourself sitting comfortably on a beach. The sun is shining bright and the sky is Easter egg blue and disappears into infinity. You feel the sun warming your whole body and you begin to relax.

You smell the salty air and feel a warm breeze. You hear the gentle waves lapping onto the beach, one-by-one. You hear children laughing and music playing in the distance.

A feeling of well-being rushes over you as you enjoy being fully in the moment. You feel happy, healthy, relaxed and more aware of yourself and everything around you.

Enjoy being in the moment and stay there as long as you desire. When your’re ready, bring yourself back to being fully in the present moment, then open your eyes. After your two-minute meditation, you should feel the benefits of your mini-stress reliever.

According to verywellhealth.com meditation shows promise as a means of keeping your blood pressure in check. https://www.verywellhealth.com/meditation-for-high-blood-pressure-can-it-help-89622

The nice thing about mini-meditations is that you can do them quickly, quietly and without having to – if necessary – leave your desk!

Are you a blocked creative? Try these 5 exercises for 5 days to “creative emergence.”

Do you need that great idea right now? Does your mind feel like it’s in a fog that’s not lifting? Try these 5 exercises for 5 days and watch the fog disappear and the ideas appear!

Step #1 – “Stream-of-consciousness” exercise

Put pen to paper. Yes. Real paper and a real pen or some kind of writing device. Prepare yourself. You’re going to write 3 pages about whatever you’re thinking about – right now – on paper.  Pen and paper work better than the keyboard, so find some paper and start writing!

Doing this the first thing in the morning is the very best thing! If you commute on mass transit, this is the perfect time!

This is a great time to write down what’s been on your mind, lingering there, just below the surface, annoying you. Yes. Write that down. Write down everything and anything that comes to mind.

If you get stuck, start writing a to-do list. I’ve found just by writing my list of “must-dos” other things surface.

This exercise should take 5-10 minutes, at best.  Do this exercise every day for 5 consecutive days.

“Moonglow”  By Allison Constantino

Step #2 The “what if” exercise

You’ll need another piece of paper to write down whatever comes into your mind when you ask yourself the question, “What if?”  This is the big question and you need an answer!

This exercise allows your mind to take a short vacation by imagining the possibilities of anything without being censored. Yes. The sky is the limit! No editing!

You’ve got a problem. You’re looking for a solution. Try to fill the page with as many “what ifs” as you can! This should take 5-10 minutes at best.

What if I tried this? What if I did this, instead of that? What if I called “Joe” and asked his advice on this. What if I did nothing? What if I tried that again?

What if? What if??

Do this exercise once –  on day one.  If, on days 2-5 you think of something else to add to your “what if” list, add it!

Keep this list somewhere you can see it. (Nobody else has to see it, just you!).

Pick up your favorite book!

Step # 3 The “read something” exercise

Do you have a book you’ve been meaning to read? You know the one. The one sitting on your desk (or Kindle) that you look at and say, “I need to read that!”

That’s the book I’m talking about! If you don’t have a book already, find a book you’d like to read.

I want you to read your favorite book every day, for 5 consecutive days, for 20 minutes every day, preferably in the morning. This will help you stay focused the entire day!

Reading heightens your brain connectivity. It actually rewires parts of your brain. Reading helps you solve problems, understand things and detect meaningful patterns.

Reading makes you emotionally intelligent, increases your attention span, focus and concentration.

Step #4  The “explore” exercise

You only have to do this exercise once in the 5 day period for this to work, but you must do it!

Have you driven by someplace and thought to yourself, “That place looks interesting. I need to check it out!”

This exercise requires you to “explore” something new.  What are you curious about?

If you can’t think of anything you’d like to explore, just try something different like taking another route home from work.

You won’t need more than an hour’s commitment to this exercise, but it’s essential for your creative emergence.

What kind of place qualifies, you ask? I drove by this crazy place all the time called “Skycraft.” It has some kind of rocket on the front of the building. I kept on asking myself, “What in the world is that place?” Finally, I took some time and went inside! I couldn’t believe my eyes! It was like finding buried treasure. Yeah, I had to hunt a bit, but it was so much fun! I can’t tell you how many “treasures” I’ve found there!

That’s the kind of exploring I want you to do. Just once. This week. Take an hour. Go explore somewhere new. It will be fun. You’ll thank me later!

Step #5 The “get outside” exercise

Central Winds Park at sunrise

This will only take you 20 minutes and can be done on a lunch break. You need to do this 20 minute exercise for all 5 days.

I want you to go on a walk by yourself for 20 minutes.  Just allow yourself to “be” 100% in the moment with your thoughts. Just take in everything around you.

You need to be by yourself for this exercise to work so your mind can “process” everything you’ve thrown at it!

As my acting coach told me over-and-over again, “Just be!” (In the moment).

“Creative Emergence”

Hopefully, these 5 exercises in these past 5 days have opened up your mind and let those creative ideas come out of the fog into reality.

The ideas that have come to me, after doing these 5 exercises for 5 days, are seemingly, out-of-the-blue!

I’m never expecting the insights and ideas that come to me! I’m always completely blown-away, actually shocked at the ideas that hit me.

I’ve recognized – previously un-recognized patterns. I’ve come up with creative insights putting two disparate ideas together to make new ones. My list of “ah ha” moments go on-and-on.

I know! I can’t believe it works, but it does!

You might recognize part of this process from author Julia Cameron’s book(s) written for “blocked creatives.” She initially worked with blocked Hollywood script writers, then expanded her reach to include anyone who needed a creative boost.

I’ve taken Julia’s exercises and added a few of my own. I know this has worked for me over-and-over again. As an artist, I create 2 paintings a week, so I need to be constantly filling up my creative well.

If, for any reason, you didn’t get “the big idea” you needed, you can repeat the exercises for another 5 days. Usually this works fast, but occasionally, I’ve run into a few friends who had just completely shut down their creative side and it took longer than 5 days, but it ABSOLUTELY DOES work, so don’t give up!!!

I want to hear from you, so let me know how this worked for you and what happened!

Where Do You Go To Get Out of a Creative Rut?

Spot Set
“Spot Set” by Allison Constantino   Allison-Constantino.pixels.com

When you’re stuck in a creative rut, where do you like to go? What floats your creative boat? Do you hang out at Starbucks? Do you go for a walk around the block? What about visiting the gym, or visiting a friend?

When I’m stuck in a creative rut, one of my favorite places to visit is an electronics surplus store! Yes, I know this is an unusual place for an artist to visit, but it works for me – every time!

Picture this! This hole-in-the-wall surplus store is tucked into a side street less than half-a-mile from the interstate. The only identifying feature of the store is an iconic red rocket mounted onto the side of the building facing the street.

What a red rocket has to do with surplus electronics, beats me! Anyway, they buy all these surplus electronics parts and “other” surplus items from a multitude of companies.

When I’m stuck in a creative rut I always enter the store with an air of anticipation as to what I might find, because I never know what I’m actually looking at!

Last week, in a creative “funk” because my disparate shapes and colors were’t “blending” the way I wanted them to blend, I went to “Skycraft” with an open mind, which is the only way you should visit!

One of the first things that jumped out at me, was this silver metal grid system laying on its side as I came in the front door. I looked at the grid and thought, “Wow! This would make the coolest table ever! I’d need to add a piece of glass on  top of the grid, but this is incredibly cool and industrial looking.” Upon further inspection, I realized I was looking at a grid system from an overhead lighting fixture! I’m not used to seeing the fixture torn apart sitting on the floor, so my brain identified it as the perfect table top – not the perfect light fixture!

This is what visiting an electronics surplus store does for my brain – it makes me see ordinary items in a completely new light!

I also found some pretty cool chrome “feet” for the shelving unit I’m putting together. As I’m looking at these “feet,” I can’t for the life of me think what the real purpose for these chrome items might be, but I know for a fact they will work for me!

That’s the completely amazing thing about this place! Since I don’t have any idea what I’m actually looking at, I can envision all kinds of uses! It really puts my grey cell to work! It’s a fun place that always challenges me and totally takes me out of my creative funk – every time!

When I got back to my painting and was able to look at it with “fresh eyes,” I made my blending transitions effortlessly!

So, the next time you’re stuck in a creative rut – think “surplus”!