Maria V. Eyles welcomes you to
Eclectic Waves out of the Blue

Pismo Beach, California

Pismo Beach, California
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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Writing My First Novel: Finding and Exploring Ideas

Writing My First Novel: Finding and Exploring Ideas
Maria V. Eyles
(a.k.a Maria Christina Vidale)

“I want to write a novel someday” is a dream for many of us. I finally fulfilled my dream and have published my first novel, God’s Beautiful Dream by Maria Christina Vidale. (See article below for more about my novel.)

It sounds easy, but how do you start? Where do you get your ideas? Or maybe you have too many novel ideas and can’t narrow them down.

Starting your novel raises your chances of finishing your novel. You can’t finish what you never started.

Here are a few techniques to get your creative flow primed for starting. They really helped me, and continue to help me stay creatively healthy.

The Nugget. Search your mind and writings for a nugget that fascinates you. I started my novel, God’s Beautiful Dream, based on a description of a young woman standing in the sunset in Paris, soaking in the rays, while someone watched from a balcony above. 

Years later I came across this scene and it intrigued me. Who was that young woman? Who was watching her? A man, of course, who wondered what was happening to her. The idea evolved from there. The woman was on the verge of having mystical experiences (unbeknownst to her) and the man became a young priest struggling with his faith. There was a built-in story, with tension and possibly conflicting goals.
As Luke and Maya’s story evolved, it became too big for the short story I had intended it to be—and the novel evolved naturally on its own.

Start with a character who intrigues you. Maya spoke little, yet she stood there in the sunset hugging a story. But Father Luke was different. He talked to me quite frequently. Luke was the voice of my own spiritual conflicts. At the same time, he had his own struggles apart from mine. In the process of writing, we tried to work on them together.

Splice together different eras of your life. Experiment with your own story. What would have happened differently if you knew Person Q during Era 3? What if Person A had ever (or never) met Person Q?  What if you had made a different career choice? What if a major incident in your life turned out much differently? Take people and/or incidents from the distant past and put them together with others from the recent past. Ask “what if?” As with all fiction, make sure you create original characters and story lines based on a variety of people and contexts so that they are not identifiable as real people. Nor is it a good idea to write a novel straight out of your own life without doing a lot of disguising and reworking of the story. Remember, this is called fiction for a reason. 

Once you have your best idea, it’s time to explore it. For this, I find freewriting the most useful. For me, great ideas come out in freewriting more easily than they do while trying to painfully outline a story.

Peter Elbow developed this method. Take an empty pad and a pen. Write a key word on the paper, or start with a sentence about how you are feeling  (“I’m feeling blocked right now.”) Time yourself for five minutes. Then put the pen on the paper and write anything as fast as you can. You may repeat your key word or your sentence dozens of times if you want to, but keep your hand moving and the pen on the paper for five minutes. Don’t stop or go backwards and don’t erase; simply keep repeating your last word until something else shows up. If you feel like you’re going to stop, just keep rewriting the last word you wrote until something else comes along. At the end of five minutes, your hand should be sore, your paper should be messy, but your mind should feel clearer.

If your freewriting produces only one good idea, it hasn’t been a waste of time. It if produces nothing fruitful, it has started to unblock your mind or to clear out emotional clutter. Either way, you can’t lose.

This method is good for unblocking and for exploring. The pen moves fast so that your brain can unleash what it wants to say without your logical mind blocking or editing it. When you are done, read it. Then try to find at least one word, sentence or section you can explore again, either by freewriting or by normal methods. If not, throw the paper away and start anew. 

The beauty of freewriting is that you are writing without judging or censoring. “Just writing” is a good habit to get into.

Once you have one or more energetic ideas for your novel, you are on your way. The next step varies by person. You can just start writing or you can make an outline of your story or you can write out scenes. We can talk more about these steps in an upcoming article.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

God's Beautiful Dream

God's Beautiful Dream

I have just published my first novel, God's Beautiful Dream by Maria Christina Vidale (that's me)!

You can go to the following link and find out all about it and read a long excerpt to preview the book :

God's Beautiful Dream

The story takes place in Paris in 1972 when a young priest falls in love. Check it out!

My novel is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Kobo, etc., in paperback and in e-book form (e-books are only $2.99!)

You may post comments and feedback to this site or to

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

No Fun Sunday

Copyright Maria V. Eyles 2014                               July 01, 2014         

No Fun Sunday

Maria Vidale-Eyles

The Pismo Beach Car Show is dismantling its tents and concessions at 6:30 Sunday evening. The bulging attraction, held yearly near Father’s Day, makes Coney Island in July seem bare and spacious. But the Pismo tourists and fair-goers, just two hours ago shoulder-to-shoulder, now trickle out singly, squalling children in tow.

Back near the Addie street lot, Raphael and I are the sole bodies to show up for my SOS Beach Clean-Up. Not a surprise, I sigh lightly. Like a friend quipped over his Starbucks latte, “Who would want to go do that, when they could stay here with friends, or go home and watch The Amazing Race, or otherwise have fun?”

Raffy and I descend the stairs behind the old Pierside, a 5-6 block walk on the boardwalk from where we parked. Sinking into the sand up to our ankles, our steps spew chutes of sand up our legs as we walk. The sand’s too talc-like to leave footprints: no proof of our presence here. No one caring about it either.

But we do. Some oddball things are fun for us OCD people, like cleaning up messes even if they get your back sore and your ire up.

If nothing else, the theater for this event is unsurpassed in beauty, yea even by whatever they want to show you digitally on an Amazing Race rerun. Here is living joy in color, light, sound, feel and smell...the lowering sun, highlighting the magical contours of beach and ocean, as if with a Waterman fountain pen. The cobalt breakers foaming rapturously ashore. The sea breeze cooling the skin and playing with one’s hair. The briny, vaguely shell-fishy scent. The mosaics of seaweed clumps resembling vegetables—carrots, onions, and kale. As your foot steps on the sea carrots, they explode with a satisfying pop. And, as a bonus, most of the tourists have left the beach.   

Of course, there is the diabolical side of the heavenly theater: the inevitable debris from “having fun” the American way: “Drop it on the ground and let someone else clean it up! After all, they pay someone to do that, don’t they?”

No, my friends. Ocean and beach clean-up depends not only on volunteers, or members of great organizations like Surfrider Foundation and Greenpeace, but upon every single living person who is not seriously disabled. As someone wisely said, no matter where you are on earth, you are still near an estuary to the ocean, where all the trash ends up.

Looking around, I’m feeling like the movie theater cleaning “crew” going down the rows after the main feature has ended. Plastic trash bags, doggy bags, and protective gloves flap out of my every pocket (though I am lacking a broom and dust pan). My hands fumble with dog leash, dog and trash picker. Like the movie usher, I even carry a flashlight in my pocket for when the light fades and everyone else has gone home.

As the breeze buffets my trash bag, I fill up most of it before I reach the strand: plastic bottles, bottle caps, plastic cups, plastic bags, spoons, and forks; Styrofoam plates and cups pecked into art by the seagulls, so all the tiny pieces, too; toys, pails, shovels, and sharp plastic shards of same; baby diapers (yeeew!); beer bottles, soda cans and straws; kites, netting, string, balloons, chapsticks, wipes, shoes, socks. Add a zillion cigarette butts which I have no time to remove while I’m alone.

By the time I reach the waterline, the tide is rambling in. I take out a second bag and decide to concentrate right there on the waterline. I’m dismayed at how many plastic bottles are already floating out to sea; how many plastic bags are already half buried under wet sand; how many plastic straws and bottle caps are already intertwined in the wet sea plants as if a part of nature now.

It’s getting later and I have to concentrate, so I let Raphael off the leash. He’s been on his best behavior, demonstrating his training by helping me or staying out of the way. Ecstatic to run free, he chases the gulls making his kangaroo-like hops. He checks into rest stops formed by abandoned sand castles where he seems to daydream. Yet he prances gracefully out of the way of the incoming waves hurtling toward us, ready to drench everything in their path.

Yes, who would want to come out and do this on a Sunday evening? Some kind of no-fun nutcase, I guess. What compels me to come out here? It is not anger; I could never do this in an angry spirit. It is the thought of those one million sea animals who die annually from ingesting plastic, of which our oceans are inundated. It’s the thought of a bottle cap going down the throat of an adorable baby seal, or seagull, or otter, or even some ugly fish, and strangling him. This thought keeps me awake at night. This thought also makes my job more painstaking because I try to pick up every tiny straw and bottle cap, even those half buried or hidden in the seaweed.

As I do this—concentrate on removing as much plastic as I can—my mind slowly stops grinding with worry over my own life and problems. I stop mentally berating the Pismo beachgoers for being slobs with no conscience. All annoyance ceases, and suddenly I gain a focus of attention, a spiritual awareness. With just myself, my dog, my picker, and this plastic, a new resonance invades me and I feel connected to all beings and all things.

And with that connection comes a flowering sense of gratitude. I fantasize that maybe, just maybe, I might be helping the beautiful ocean and the mysterious life it enfolds. Like me, it may live one more day. The feeling of serving and caring—whether it is true or not— sometimes allows this force field of peace to descend on me, that rare, loving peace that is not of this world.

Wet, dirty, sore, and alone but for Raphael, I slog back up the sand—much slower this time— dragging a heavy trash bag, two pails and the dog leash. The fog is rolling in with the twilight and the Technicolor beauty of a half hour ago has turned to black and white.

Unloading the trash, and re-leashing Raphael, I turn back and look at the Pacific Ocean. Its vehement beauty is undimmed by nightfall; I am overwhelmed by the gift of it.

Again, there are no footprints showing we had been on the beach, but a smile deep in my heart tells me there would have been three sets of footprints, not two.

And now: How glad I am to report to you that I had no fun on Sunday night.

The End

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Sunday, April 7, 2013

Embalmed in Plastic: You, Me and the Synthetic Sea

Embalmed in Plastic Pollution: You, Me and the Synthetic Sea

Maria V. Eyles

A seagull cocks his head toward a treasure glinting in the sand. His dive off the pier railing, though noiseless, alerts dozens of other gulls to materialize. They chase after him, circling, remonstrating with angry caws. Swarmed to the sand, the seagull rallies: he shoots straight up through the frenzied cyclone with the precious morsel gleaming from his beak. Darting under the pier and weaving through the columns,  he tries to elude his flying posse
The chase turns uglier. From my sandy perch, I begin to fear for this seagull’s life as his fellow gulls attack him, honing in scattershot, pecking furiously. What could be so delicious, so worth his life? A strip of surfperch? A crab leg? An open clam, French fries, a carcass of some kind?

Abruptly, he sheers off the pier again and soars above me. The fought-over food fragment still dangles from his beak and I gasp.

The food frenzy is not about food. It’s about a plastic zip-lock sandwich bag half-filled with dirt.

Bask in the Trash


Pre-sunset and twilight are the times my dog Raphael and I prefer to walk Pismo’s shoreline. Cool sea breezes and room to walk are the advantages of strolling well after the crowds have left the beach. One Sunday June evening after a huge weekend fiesta, I saw the revelers had left the beach alright—they had left it a plastic and trash waste dump.                     
Pismo Beach near sunset April 2013
Plastic  litter to the waterline; seagulls raiding
the styrofoam from trash cans
Photo by Maria V. Eyles

            Bad enough that the trash left a sordid blight on Pismo Beach, this despite the many aware beach-goers who are normally protective of our stunning environment.

Worse was the pain of seeing all the plastic and Styrofoam litter next to the waterline where the night’s high tide would suck it into the ocean. The thought of scenarios like the seagull’s above—of birds eating Styrofoam cups and plastic bags; of fish, seals and otters swallowing bottle caps or getting entangled in plastic netting, and dying miserably—all this impelled me to attempt to clean as many non-biodegradable products  as I could beyond sunset.

For this reason—the night’s tides washing over the shore and the plastic waste —I knew I could not wait until the beach clean-up crews arrived in the morning. My concern was (and is) the ocean. So that first evening I picked up some abandoned pails and started filling them with plastic debris along an 800 yard area of the shoreline. The filled sand pails were very heavy, and I had to drag them. It got dark, so I came back the next evening with a large garbage bag and a flashlight.

Raphael guards the last of many hauls that
second evening. Pails could not fit in bins.

Plastic removal from the strand is now my mini-mission in the name of protecting our beautiful ocean from more damage. For hundreds of years, as Jacques Cousteau lamented, the sea has been “the universal sewer.” In addition, for five or six decades now, due to (all of) our nonchalant trashing of beaches and coastlines, the seas have been reduced to lethal plastic gumbo.

And so I collect. Even Raphael senses my seriousness: either he runs ahead and shows me “plastic!” as I call out to him, or he digs a cool burrow in the sand and relaxes patiently while his mum does all the heavy lifting.

And heavy lifting it is. May through September, each evening along a few hundred yards, I can fill three or more tall kitchen bags so heavy they take a long time for me to drag up to the trash cans one by one. I long for help because I’d rather be recycling the plastics than stuffing them in our landfill, another nightmare-in-progress for future generations.

A quick list of plastic products I scavenge will give you an idea of what we are up against along a very short strip of Pismo Beach: plastic bottles, bottle caps, cups, lids, spoons, knives, forks, baby bottles, sippy cups, pails, shovels, molds (for making figures and castles), toys of all kinds, kites, netting, shoes, baby diapers, chairs, squeezy juice containers, candy and cigarette box wrappers, balloons, boogie boards, thongs, kiddy jewelry, flashlights, lighters, infinite plastic and Styrofoam containers, bags of all sizes (This is how I knew the gull’s sandwich bag was full of dirt or worse, because I pick up so many identical ones), and, finally, assorted unmentionable products for adults, some used.

Due to the latter and to dirty baby diapers, I now wear protective gloves as I clean up to prevent my coming down with those strange viruses and rashes.

Unplanned Plastichood: Forever times Eternity

Plastic in paradise is a lethal hazard not because the beach won’t look pretty for the next cavalcade of Pismo tourists. I (and several like me) do not clean up the beach: we pre-clean the ocean, with the prayer that it doesn’t suffocate and die in plastic stew.

The concern for all living creatures, including humans, is dire. Statistics vary but they get worse each time you look at them. Concerned scientists apparently agree that worldwide in one year, industrialized nations produce enough plastic to make one to three freights train to encircle the globe. The shocking photographs of the North Pacific Gyre, a plastic island nearly as large as the Continental US, are heart-breaking. That island was “built” from plastic trash that most often “accidentally” finds its way out to sea.

 For a local example, just last night I had to chase a Styrofoam cup as it was being sucked out by the tide. It took me ten minutes, and though it was well worth it, it would have taken the cup’s user less than a minute to properly dispose of it.

Nearly all of this plastic is non-biodegradable. Plastic and Styrofoam take longer than forever to break down. In other words, they don’t. Ever.

Man-made Manna Equals Death

Unfortunately for our oceans (and rivers and lakes), plastics are photodegradable but only to a degree. These plastics actually never degrade completely: they become microscopic plastic dust particles invisible to the naked eye. Two tragic facts about the plastic dust: As a plastic bottle, for example, photo degrades, it not only emits toxins but also attracts other toxins. Worse, the toxic plastic dust is often mistaken for plankton—and actually outnumbers plankton in several areas of the Pacific. So not only are our oceans and waterways being poisoned, so is all marine life, whose food chain begins with plankton.

Tragically, the marine food chain is ours too. The human food chain starts with plankton and grass.  All life on earth is seriously threatened by the plastic pile-up.

Even if the plastic microdust were not enough to stamp out life, marine animals are being mercilessly slaughtered by the presence of visible plastic. Referring to the North Pacific Gyre, or Plastic Continent, Matt Ransford, a writer for Popular Science, states in his article “Why Trashing the Oceans is More Dangerous than We Imagined”: 
Turtles mistake bags for jelly fish and birds mistake floating chips for prey. Animals have been discovered starved to death because the entire contents of their stomachs were plastic fragments.  

Fish Caught in N. Pacific Gyre; stomach contents plastic
Photo courtesy of Marcus Eriksen

Those of us who would never dream of harming a dog, cat or horse are unknowingly condemning perhaps dozens of marine animals to a cruel death by tossing away one plastic bottle and bottle cap. Animal lovers must be in the forefront in the fight for all of our survival.

One times 4 billion: worldwide plastic blight

Moreover, just the shards of one plastic sand pail—made from “PETE,” #1 of 7 grades of plastic, will live forever. Not only can these shards kill countless animals, they also leach antimony trioxide into the liquids, skin, and lungs in contact with it. Forever!

The number of these dagger-like shards I pick up in the summer on Pismo Beach is staggering, not to mention the plastic netting the pail set came in, netting which invariably gets shoved into the sand and abandoned there. When I see this, I have to wonder, who would want their toddler playing with anything so dangerous, a toy that not only leaches dangerous chemicals but also shatters with ease into little plastic switchblades and needles? And imagine what these shiny fragments would do to an adorable seal or sea otter’s belly.

Indeed, it takes seeing this pernicious plastic and consciously thinking about its deadly nature to combat the problem of our programmed bad habits.

Hawaii Beach 1, Plastic Pile-Up,
 photo courtesy of Anna Cummins and

Thus, one moment of thinking, “I’ll just leave this bottle (toy, candy wrapper, cup) in the sand this one time,” times one billion similar thinkers on the shores of China, Australia, the US, Canada,  or Central and South America equals one billion more plastic fragments. And if all billion thinkers think this way 4 times a year, you have 4 billion more bottles/fragments per year choking the life out of the oceans.

And when a dolphin mistakes that plastic for food then washes up on your shore; or when a lab technician puts your fish dinner under a microscope, you will know that the problem is neither remote nor invisible. It starts—and it can end—with people like you and me.

Planetary Survival Means Serious Self- and Other Education and Activism

I plead with you to familiarize yourself with the plastic waste tragedy. We've buried our heads in the sand so long that the sands of the Pacific coasts contain alarming amounts of polystyrene flakes and other plastic fragments.

Hawaii Beach 3, Plastic Chip Sand (Photo Courtesy of Anna Cummins,

The plastic problem affects all our waterways, including lakes and rivers, not to mention the landfills. The oceans, however, are extremely threatened. According to National Geographic, scientists recognize that our oceans produce at least 50% of the earth’s oxygen supply. When they die, we die. Yet we can pull back from the brink of self-destruction.

One way is to form or join local volunteer and/or community action groups if you are able. You and your family and friends are the best places to start. Local chapters of can help you find ways to act and educate on ocean preservation. Those who live inland can combat bad landfill practices as well as work to preserve our fresh water supplies.

Moreover, as stewards of our planet, we must all learn to take personal responsibility for the items we take onto a beach or into nature all the time. We should be sure to pack plastics and other trash out as carefully as we brought them in. Three nights ago, I saw a family pack up all their plastic toys and bottles—then, as an afterthought, their mom tossed the netting and a broken shovel into the sand and left. This is what she taught her children by modeling this behavior.

Author's Photo of Plastic litter woven into the seaweed reflux after
a February storm, months after crowds had left the beach.
The plastic returned with the high waves.

Let us instead teach others about the beauty of the sea and its wildlife, and its vital importance to personal and planetary life. Let us encourage our children to pack out their toys. That way when today’s toddlers bring their kids or grandchildren to Pismo Beach or any other beach, those yet unborn children actually might be able to swim, play and surf in living waters—instead of in a tragic replica of a giant bounce-house filled with toxic plastic debris and dust.

The dangers plastics pose to consumers are rampant. In self-defense, it is a good idea to educate oneself on the types. Baby bottles, for examples, are sometimes made from very noxious plastics that disrupt hormones and can cause brain wave or developmental problems. Manufacturers may not care about your baby, but they will listen seriously to the pitter-patter of informed adult feet running away from their products. An excellent list of common plastic types and their harmful possibilities is contained in the article “Be Plastic Aware—Dangers” by the LFT Group (see References below).

I beg the people of San Luis Obispo County and the City of Pismo Beach to become a part of the solution to toxic plastic waste that is killing our ocean.

Please consider volunteering to help with beach and ocean clean-ups, for a few random people cannot do this alone. There is too much trash, and some late afternoons we plastic grabbers must be elsewhere. Dedicated evening ocean clean-up should never stop because of that.

I make the following recommendations to the City of Pismo Beach:

The city has signs regarding doggy doo clean up and heavy fines for violators.Yet, unbagged doggy doo constitutes less than 4% of my pickings. Those signs must be working! So, now. Where are the signs for plastic bottles, Styrofoam cups, seventeen layers of plastics type baby diapers, and blankets’ full of meal containers and papers?  Signs don’t need to start off sounding threatening. But if they can direct attention to the plastic problem, that would truly help. In fairness, most people need to become aware of a problem before they become motivated to fix it.

Encourage ocean preservationist organizations to have talks and displays along the boardwalk.

Add more and larger trash bins, maybe in seaside pastels, that are more easily accessible to all beach-goers, including those closer to the water.

Consider adding a few more recycle bins on the beach itself.

Secure existing trash bins so that the shorebirds cannot shred and scatter the Styrofoam food containers inside them.  Conscientious people usually toss their containers into the trash cans. But what good does that do when the birds ravage them? These Styrofoam confetti bits scatter all over the beach and the strand, and are hard to see and sift out. If no one picks them up again, they will remain there in one form or another—yes—forever.

To go a bit further, might the city think about eliminating Styrofoam in restaurants or as packaging containers? Styrofoam contains one of the worst toxins, styrene, which is linked to cancers and a host of other medical problems. It’s a hard one, but it’s doable—after all, the county has successfully eliminated plastic shopping bags in stores. Many California cities and several counties have already eliminated Styrofoam packaging, including Laguna Beach and Santa Cruz. 

“People protect what they love,” said Cousteau. Do you love the beach? The ocean? Kayaking? Marine animals? Fishing?  Making bonfires? Surfing? The sound of the waves? Show your love! Come out and pick up some bottles. Join a beach clean-up group. Pester your city councils. Above all, self-educate and spread the word.

Awareness of plastic dangers could be as critical as your next breath. It definitely was for that poor seagull’s.

“It is a curious situation that the sea, from which life first arose, should now be threatened by the activities of one form of that life. But the sea, though changed in a sinister way, will continue to exist: the threat is rather to life itself.” –Rachel Carson

Coursey, Blair. “Plastic Waste—More Dangerous than Global Warming,” Ethical Corporation’s Magazine and Business Intelligence Resources.  
 LFT Group. “Be Plastic Aware—Dangers.”
Learn, Scott. “Seaside Activist Tracks Waves of ‘Microplastic’ Washed onto Oregon Beaches,” The Oregonian.
Ransford, Matt. “Why Trashing the Oceans is More Dangerous than We Imagined,” Popular Science.
Roach, John. “Source of Half Earth’s Oxygen Gets Little Credit,” National Geographic News.

PS TO MY READERS: The Comment function does not seem to work, so please feel free to contact me at my email,
All civilized comments will be answered. Thanks for reading!