Coney Island Siren: what’s in a title?

I was surprised when a few readers have asked me why I entitled my latest novel, Coney Island Siren. The question behind the question is the need for an explanation of why I use the word siren when maybe I wanted to use the word mermaid. That would have made the title Coney Island Mermaid.

The images of mermaids are of beautiful enchanted creatures with the bodies of women with fish-like half bodies and flipping tails. That reminds me of Ariel, the little mermaid. Lovable with beautiful flowing red locks. A mermaid will enchant a sailor to live a life of love and want and desire. A mermaid can enchant a child to love the sea and all the magic it musters. The child can wear a knitted tail and pretend to be stranded on the beach. A mermaid is on the safe side of things.

Ulysses and the Sirens by HJ Draper, 1909

A siren connotes a more dangerous type of sea creature. There are a multitude of myths about sirens. Sirens started out depicted as women with wings- almost angelic. In more modern day folk tales, sirens have tails of fish. Her song enchants sailors and men are doomed to become shipwrecked and stuck in lives they hadn’t ever planned to engage in but he had no choice because of the power of a dangerous woman, in this case- siren. After reading the various tales, that included storied of Persephone and Hades, Odysseus, and others, I decided to go into deep meditation to ascertain how siren really factored into my novel even more than the title.

Odysseus and the Sirens by JW Waterhouse, 1891

As a tool in private practice, my spouse utilizes GIM that is an abbreviation of Bonny Method of Guided Imagery in Music. She casually mentioned that one of the music pieces she uses is Debussy’s Nocturnes: III Sirènes: You can’t make this stuff up. I asked for a session to help me gain clarity on this issue. She’s been using this practice for some time now, but this would be my first session. I went in willingly and came up with a deeper understanding of the weaving of the title and the symbolism of the siren in the case of Maggie and Frank.

No bones about it Coney Island Siren is about domestic violence. Maggie Fuentes and Frank Ramirez dance a perilous and unpredictable dance. There is no way to cut in on their dance. It can only stop when one bows out. Maggie is a nurse and Frank is a police officer. Their days are filled with the sounds of sirens both in police cars and ambulances. That is a mere superficial layer to the title and its connections. There are so many layers to the choice of the title.

The story takes place in Coney Island. That part is easy. They work and live risky lives. Maggie is not portrayed as a victim such as we usually think when a woman is in a partnership where there is intimate partner violence. Maggie takes her chances as she looks for love and anything to fill that god-sized hole in her chest that is empty and in want. Frank and Maggie are intertwined in this dance of the sea. The waves collide and they roll back and forth never quite letting go of each other. It’s a devastating tale but it is their tale.

Frank says, “I’ve even tried to stay clear of you, but I always end up right next to you. I’m powerless when it comes to you. When you’re around, all bets are off.”

Maggie thinks, “His reassurance fed me like a baby and I was finally filled the way I longed to be.”

There are two parts here. Maggie calls to Frank as she sings her song of longing from the sea. Frank leaves his ship to be with Maggie and his life is doomed because he cannot resist her call of longing. That call and acceptance sounds terrorizing for those of us on the outside of this duo as we witness what takes place in their partnering.

In my meditation, I saw that these myths are basic fodder for the belief that men are loathe to give up what they believe is a life without worry or burden. A woman comes along and ensnares them. The men are doomed to live without the ability to go out and plunder other ships, find fool’s gold, or engage in adventures that are assuredly removed from them once they’ve been caught by a siren, I mean, woman. The woman’s objective of creating and procreating are looked at as an anchor that forces men to a terrible fate. Women are frequently blamed for being the downfall of men in our country and often even worse in other countries. These understanding and knowing of these connections became deeply powerful in my GIM session. There is also the expansion of a feeling of joy within me as I begin to learn more about my writings after the fact. I often share that my writings are mere channelings from the characters who ask that their stories be told. I, like you readers, learn more about the stories as I read and live with them.

My daily truth is that I sit with women who have left violent relationships, but frequently return to the people who have harmed them. I often hear health providers say that they much prefer to work with men because women are so complicated. That women are troublemakers and dangerous. Like sirens would you say? We’ve got a long way to go until we as humans stop blaming women for men’s unhappiness, lack of success, or being saddled where they don’t want to be. Maggie and Frank just happen to be a heterosexual cis-gendered couple. These violent relationships are also frequent in same sex, non-binary couples too. I’m not meaning to leave them out of this discussion, but we are talking about this particular novel here.

The answer to why I chose to use the term siren is a complicated one. Any explanation seems simplistic. I haven’t blamed the woman, Maggie, inadvertently, by naming the book Coney Island Siren. It’s time that we, as humans, begin to understand the severity of these tales towards women. Couple dance their dances. I can try to stop the music. I can try to cut in and tap one on the shoulder. At some point, one may look up and decide to make a break in their actions. Maybe with enough light on these situations, one will walk away.

I am sure that this topic will be continued. Until then!

Coney Island Siren, 2019, Theresa Varela


Palabras-Spiritual Oracle ©

Palabras: Spiritual Oracle©
Palabras: Spiritual Oracle©

You have all the tools that you already need in order to do that which you want to get done. I listened to this as I prepared for pulling this week’s card. As I lit the cigar, I thought about the many ways cigars are used. When I engage in spiritual readings, I often light one. For an instant I thought about the population I work with- many of whom sprinkle substances in cigars to ‘get high.’ This act is believed by many to be in touch with the Spirit. As we do have what we need to be in conscious contact with our Higher Beings, it is up to us as to how exactly we will use them. I smudged with sage, centered and shuffled the cards. I blew cigar smoke over the cards and asked what the message for me to share is. Along with Graciella, la Gitana, one of my spirit guides, I pulled The Celebration card.

Image: The image for the Celebration card is as follows: There are four figures sitting around a campfire. They are in the woods. A woman stands playing the flute. She is holding it lovingly against her body. A little girl with long hair and pleated skirt holds a harmonica to her lips. An old woman is seated clapping her hands. In the forefront of the card is a white haired gentleman with a lined face. He is playing the harmonica too.  The feeling is that he is very much in the music that the reader can almost hear.  All of the figures have closed eyes except for the barefoot girl who looks to be about six year years old. Her eyes are round and wide open.

Words: Celebrate! Take time from the daily routine to show gratitude and to enjoy the spirit of life. The coming together of generations helps us to remember our ancestors and to rejoice in what we have beyond the material world.

Read: It’s fun for me to pull this card. I’ve been at work creating the invitations for my book launch for Covering the Sun with My Hand. This fun is added to the years of work put into the creation of the book. The time is coming to share the actual creation in the world and to enjoy each moment of it. It’s all a mystery. Like life. How is that we find ourselves doing things? Do we say that we want to be writers and begin writing? Do we say we want to sing and suddenly we’re singing? There must be something deeper in us and our connections to our higher selves that bring us where we are. Hard work, perseverance and diligence bring us to the point, many times, of celebration. Look to see how you celebrate your creations with the tools you are afforded by your own hands and that of your Higher Power. Bring gratitude to the process; it may change your experience.


Palabras: Spiritual Oracle©

Palabras: Spiritual Oracle©
Palabras: Spiritual Oracle©

We are in the season of Spring and at the start of the new week. This means beginnings and the anticipation of growth, budding flowers and trees and newness. This morning, I shuffled, smudged the cards with cigar smoke and sage. I centered and fanned the cards out. I asked for Graciella la Gitana to merge her energies with mine. Today she feels like a mere whisper but is also definitive in her presence. We pulled La Espera card. The wait.

Image: In the foreground stands a young man whose dark wavy locks almost cover his eyes. He is leaning against a house and his sleeveless shirt boasts his muscular torso and arms. He looks off to the side nonchalantly. There is a little dog standing right behind him. Energetically, it seems the dog is waiting to play. His demeanor shows excitement not like that of the male. A barefoot woman, lithe of body, with hair blowing in the wind hangs wet clothing on a line attached to a tree. Her skirt is voluminous and petticoats are revealed.

Words: Patience is called for in this situation. There is seeming indifference in the face that is shown to others. The face that masks the long wait. There may be belief that one has arrived and the time is right but this is not so- it will be just a little longer.

Read: We are often off to the races. We cannot wait for the next great thing to happen. Working hard, playing hard, living hard is the way we often hurtle through life. But wait, what happens to the present? Do we miss it because we are so intent on the next thing? What are we doing right now? Are we relishing it or are we blowing it off until the next best thing occurs? Take stock for a minute. Look down at your feet and see where they are planted. They’re there for a reason. We are where we are because we’ve taken ourselves here. It may seem like a mistake or a disaster or a pause on play. Not a fact. We’re here because we’re meant to be here now. If you are viewing where you are as part of the greater fabric of going on to the next thing you may be surprised to find that you are here for a purpose. Take some moments and let the answers of what your true task is, what your “waiting” station means, let who you are in the now come to you. Do this while you  are in the supposed state of wait.



Fifth Avenue Girl

My friend, Farley, recently reminded me to “get over it” when a twenty- something at work called me by my first name and then expected me to call her “Ms.” His playful rebuke was that while I prefer to be addressed as “Dr.” that I would always be a Fifth Avenue Girl. In Brooklyn that is…not the famous Manhattan Fifth Avenue. Our family lived on Fifth from the late fifties to the early seventies. As Puerto Ricans we were strategically moved to the outskirts of America to faraway places like Flatbush and Pennsylvania. Park Slope was in its early years of making way for the gentry.


Exactly forty years and some marriages, children, degrees and homes later, my cousin, Mike, invited me to have lunch on Fifth with our Uncle Louie who I hadn’t seen in years.  After shedding a few tears, hugs and observations that we all look pretty much the same as we did forty years ago (ha!) we decided to pick out a restaurant on “our block.”

It suddenly occurred to me that the restaurant we were sitting in was the actual apartment my cousin grew up in. It looked different with the old plaster walls taken down to reveal exposed brick. The bedroom had long ago been turned into the chef’s area. The other customers enjoyed their seafood as we did. But they didn’t share the memory of my Uncle Louie in the room, standing in the spotlight of the Hanna-Barbera toy projector, pretending to be a cowboy with his gun stuck in his holster- ala Barney Fife.

We shared stories as we sat at the table in the backyard. My cousin reminisced about this area being the first “outside” he knew and about the rabbits that he couldn’t get too close to-you can imagine why. I took pictures of the fire escape we’d sat on eating pancakes as children during twilight summer evenings. Our parents had gone out dancing. Fireflies had danced around us. Our pancakes were sized in order. My uncle, Junior, made sure that he got the largest as he was the eldest- cooking for us as he babysat. As we sat in the glow of our memories, my phone rang and I ignored it. I didn’t want anything to break the spell.

They shared stories that I hadn’t heard of before. They spoke of my sister’s spiritual presence that they’d experienced over the years. She’d died at fourteen after a long illness. As an eleven year old I couldn’t know for sure, as they did, that she’d stuck around spiritually. I wasn’t able to feel that until years later. Mike told of getting jumped by a group of kids, of briefly inhabiting an abandoned brownstone and of almost getting his brains blown out by a drunk who made him “own” being a man. All at the age of fifteen- I shivered at those stories.  I felt warm when he told the one of falling through the ice at the Prospect Park Lake. He said that he’d felt my sister had somehow saved him. Mike updated me on our young thug friends- many of whom are sadly no longer living. We laughed when Mike told me that he’d brought his children around to Park Slope. They’d challenged him when he told them it used to be a dangerous neighborhood, “Yeah, right, Dad.”

At the end of afternoon they walked me to my car. When we hugged goodbye, I sat for a moment relishing the stories, my family and my life. I remembered that I’d missed a phone call. I listened to the message. It was an editor expressing interest in my novel. It was all so magical but true. Yes, I have changed a great deal but I will always be a Fifth Avenue Girl.





My mom was the godmother of my father’s brother and his wife’s first son. My little cousin. Sound confusing? Not as easy as Baby Daddy, is it? My mom and my aunt called each other “Coma’e”- the Puerto Ricanized short version of the word Comadre.  Comadre is the word that explains that complicated sounding but very close chosen relationship between women.

Summer evenings. A breeze flutters through the thin cotton curtains. Two women sit at a kitchen table drinking fresh cups of Bustelo. Laughter wafts through the railroad rooms. A little girl sits upright and puts her doll aside. Ears strain to make out the low voices. Stories being told.

My delight in stories told started out way back. Eavesdropping on my mom and her coma’e as they shared tales and listening to my mother read stories to us at the same kitchen table lit the candela of my own story telling. I started speaking through my beloved paper dolls and, eventually, through my research papers at doctoral school. Today, my voice weaves stories through poetry and fiction.

Most recently, I had the honor of attending the Comadres y Compadres Writers Conference in Brooklyn, NY.  Nora de Hoyos Comstock is the President and CEO of Las Comadres para las Americas, an international organization of Latinas. In conjunction with the Association of American Publishers, Las Comadres sponsors a national book club to promote the work of Latino authors.

Seeing Nora standing on stage with Marcela Landres, the author of the e-book How Editors Think: The Real Reason They Rejected You, and publisher of the award-winning e-zine Latinidad, and Adriana Dominguez, Literary Agent at Full Circle Literary, all blue jeans and smiles, let me know that I was home.

During the conference, well known authors, agents and editors sat on panels and in ‘one-on-one’s’ and spoke of their experiences in the publishing industry.  They did this with the hope of helping other Latina/o writers come to the forefront to tell their stories in the most creative and supported way possible. A slam-pitch brought the opportunity to share the compelling twists of one’s tale. The writing journey is rigorous and sometimes seemingly impossible. This conference, while realistic, also evoked the image of one person helping the other- the image of two women sitting across the kitchen table.

Aurora Anaya-Cerda, owner of La Casa Azul– an independent bookstore in Spanish Harlem- set up well stocked tables of books written from rich Latino-culturally based traditions. Many of the authors were available to chat and, yes, give autographs.

There’s no end to the benefits of sitting with like and unlike minded people sharing thoughts, experiences and hopes on the writing experience. I will be on the lookout for other events such as these. I suggest you be on the lookout too. There’s no turning back.






Palabras-El Baile- The Dance

I’m in the midst of training for the NYC Marathon; everything seems to take a great effort. Today, I’m in the afterglow of an eighteen mile run and that makes me want to shrug extras off. My legs feel as though they’ve been pummeled. My seventeen mile run last week went so well, that when I returned home, I made a sandwich and went to work for several hours. Go figure. So imagine my surprise when I pulled today’s card, with Graciella, la Gitana, and the Baile –Dance- card showed up. Fortunately, I don’t have to figure it out. Graciella gives me the information.

Image: The simple image for the Baile card is as follows: The focal point is a pair of Mary Jane shoes. The legs are crossed at the ankle and the wearer’s skirt ruffles seem to be lifted to show the ankles and shoes.  

Words: Olé! Skirt encircles your body. Head is thrown back. Arms reach up writhing, twisting, like a snake, teasing, ensnaring. Your shoes tap out the sounds of life’s destiny. In the world, brazen, like the rest who choose to dance and claim pride with certitude.

Read: It seems that whatever it is that you have been engaged in is ready to come to fruition. Like a snake- a metaphorical transformation takes place. Have fun with it. Many people reach out and chose to work on goals and creations that reach the inner core of sensuality. Art, writing, esthetic endeavors should be enjoyed and one may become entranced with the process. Enjoy the dream fulfilled. Take the time to feel the pride of a job well done.



Palabras: La Muerte

After a brief hiatus, I sat to pull this week’s general oracle reading. I was a bit annoyed with myself for having missed a couple of weeks. I thought about it and realized that I needed to take a break and did. There’s much to say about replenishing oneself. While I hadn’t been pulling cards and some of my other usual activities, I’m very happy to say that I’ve started a new novel. It isn’t the one I had in mind. That almost completed first draft, along with outline and running synopsis is sitting quietly in its folder. The new novel is flying out of my fingers at the laptop, on small pieces of scrap paper and on my iPhone. Its characters are telling me the story and I must write it. That’s where I’ve been the last two weeks. Tonight, I smudged with sage, grounded and centered my energy. I invited the energy of my spirit guide, Graciella la Gitana to come and share in pulling this week’s card. Together, our energies pulled the card-La Muerte.

Image: The image is that of a heavy browed male figure who is crouched behind a stone wall. His dark hair is covered in a bandana. In his right hand he holds a dagger ready to strike at whomever or whatever is coming around the corner.

Words:  Reflect on the actions you are about to make. They may bring discomfort and distress. You can stop what you are doing swiftly. Let you heart bleed into your brain and create a pure channel from which to work.

Read: La Muerte. When I saw the image a shiver went up my spine. I’d heard a song earlier this evening that reminded me of a dark time during my childhood when I experienced the death of a love one. That song was popular at the time and its promise was for a better time to come. Instead, I struggled with years of darkness and whenever I heard it another shoe dropped and sometimes a screaming siren came screeching round the corner. During these last few years, whenever it’s played on the radio, I remind myself that I am actually living the better times it promised but have yet been able to shake those little girl fears. My read is that, indeed, fear will make us react in a way that may not be most beneficial to us or the party who is involved in the situation. The man depicted in the card is waiting to make the first strike. Often, when someone is fearful of something they come to it in a defensive stance and, at times, quite offensively. Check your motives. As advised, let the compassion in your heart join with the intellect of your mind. There is no need to jump at shadows. We often see weird distortions when it comes to poorly lit areas and situations. Be ready to respond to what is coming, there is a transition of sorts on its way, but don’t kill it before it happens which is what you may do if you react in fear.


Interview with Author Sylvia Weber

Sylvia Weber is a consultant, therapist and a clinical nurse specialist in psychiatric and geriatric nursing.  She works in the psychiatric gerontology liaison program at The Miriam Hospital and is the Government Relations consultant to The Rhode Island State Nurses Association.  She is active in civic and professional  organizations.  Sylvia was a member of the American Nurses Association Congress on Nursing Practice and Economics and the Rhode Island Nurses Association Cabinet on Nursing Practice, board of directors and past president.   Sylvia is currently a member of the American Nurses Association – Political Action Committee Board of Trustees. She’s known as one of the pioneers for the introduction and integration of holistic health/complimentary healing modalities in the Rhode Island and surrounding area.

What was the motivating factor that started you writing?

My initial motivation came from the encouragement of family, friends, colleagues and clients/patients.  For many years they encouraged me to write and bring my knowledge and experience into the world on a more global level.  This was reinforced through my various meditative practices.  I knew from my experiences in life that there is information, a perspective, a way of being, that would be helpful to others.  I believe this book will bring greater peace, harmony and compassion into our world.

What is your genre and who is your intended audience?

At first I thought that the books focus would be for people who are involved in government politics.  As I began to write I realized the book was for all adults, to enhance their ability to address the political issues they face and are involved in throughout life.  I wanted it to be an easy read, packed with useful information and affordable.

What are you currently writing?

At this time I’m co-authoring a textbook with a friend, Zite Hutton.  The text book will be based on the principles and strategies in my book.  Our goal is to bring the information to college and university students.  Our vision is to give them a foundation for resolving issues with compassion for the good of many and the planet.

I’m also planning to write a children’s book.  My dream is that it will be a book that will encourage them to bring this way of being into their lives and relationships as they grow and mature.

How do you make time to write?

This has and is extremely difficult and takes a great deal of discipline for me.  Working full time and having family, professional and community responsibilities was challenging.  My home has always been open to the people in my life and it was an effort for them and me to set the needed limits.  I also had to deal with my own procrastination issues – a tendency to allow “things” to distract me, as well as other “human” issues.  I found it more productive to write while out of my home or when people were less likely to drop by.  Visiting family and friends who would help set up an environment conducive to writing was also effective.

What inspires you to write?

I’m inspired by my experiences in the world and a commitment I made when I was 6 years old.  While hearing the pain experienced by people involved in WW II, I vowed that I would do something each day to make this a better world.  I believe that my writing will increase the impact of this vow.

What would you have done differently in your writing life, if anything at all?

I would be more disciplined about setting aside time to write and not allow non-emergencies to interfere.  I would also be more patient and less critical with myself to prevent feeling overwhelmed.  To do what I could, when I could.

Tell us about your marketing strategy.

This has also been a challenge for me, finding the time during the usual business hours and selling myself.  It’s been an adventure in my growth and transformation.  I have contacted people I know who have radio shows and have been interviewed by them.  I’m arranging for book signing events.  Announcements have been sent out to various groups I’m involved in and I’m sending e-mails and letters to people who will not be reached by other means.  Many people I know are using their contacts to get the word out about my book, including this wonderful blog.  I’m also meeting with people, who have published, to share marketing ideas, eg: bookstores, libraries, organizations interested in the topic, etc.

Does your spiritual life influence your writing? If so, how?

My spiritual life, which is quite eclectic, is the main motivation for all I do.  I draw on many spiritual philosophies and practices which is the foundation of how I live my life.  Being human, I have the challenges we all have and believe it’s Creators way of saying, “Good job!  You are now ready for the next spiritual level.”  For me, my spiritual life is the core of my Being.

What’s your literary community burning desire?

I’m not involved in a literary community, even though I know several people who have written and published.  The burning desire for all of us is to create changes that will encourage a more peaceful, harmonious, loving and healthier world for all.

Thanks for visiting here today, Sylvia. All too often what I’ve read previously about politics has left me wondering where I, as an individual, fit into that arena in my life. What I find most profound is how you treat the subject in a personal and spiritual way that has encouraged me to find how I impact and am influenced by politics in the daily fabric of my life. –Theresa


Palabras: Pobresa/Poverty

Sitting here as an extremely hectic weekend winds down to a close I ponder the great many changes that I and many of the dearest in my circle are experiencing. I believe, as the Mayans have proclaimed, that life as we know it is going to change. Do I, as countless others fear, believe the world is going to end? No. There will be changes- some good and some I don’t want to personally experience. The question will be how I weather the storms. Will I sink my claws into the dining room table legs as would a cat? Will I howl with unhappiness? Will I be in pain as the people around me scurry to make decisions and take action? We had neighbors who tried to sell their house for two years. He traveled back and forth to his new higher paying job while she stayed at home tending to the children. He’d come in on the weekends to be Dad, hubby and take care of the endless chores around the house. They finally came to the decision to move closer to his job. The kids unhappily accepted the fact they’d be in a new school making new friends come September. They moved away about four weeks ago. Two weeks ago we noticed a new car in the drive. Today we finally met our new neighbors. They bought the house and are thrilled with the possibilities that they are gifted with. Right now they are sanding the beautiful wood beamed floor. Wow. The other family needed to let go and when they finally did the new one could take root. What a lesson. This same idea came through in the card I pulled today. I smudged with sage, grounded and centered my energy and then I invited the energy of my spirit guide, Graciella la Gitana to come and share in pulling this week’s card. Together, our energies pulled the card-Pobresa-Poverty

Image: The image is that of a woman standing in front of a pawn shop window. Her hair is covered with a kerchief and she wears a heavy coat. It seems like the weather is cold and winter is afoot. She holds what looks a beaded necklace in her hand. Behind the window stands the proprietor. His handle bar mustache hides whether he is smiling or serious. In the window are a guitar and several trays of rings. All are for sale. There is a sign that declares the shop is open.

Words:  Feeling the poverty; a sense of pride is in the air. What seems important may have to be given up. Sense the disarray in your surroundings that mirrors your inner life. Sometimes we have to do the thing we don’t necessarily want in order to move forward when the place we are in is no longer fruitful.

Read: Pobresa! Poverty! Scary state of affairs or is it. There are too many times when someone holds on to an item no longer needed or a set of circumstances that is barren. There seems to be no growth whether it is financial, personal or a relationship. We hang on because we are afraid of what will happen if we let go.  When I originally designed this card I believed that the woman was going to pawn a bracelet of emeralds. Today it looked like a beaded garnet necklace but my read is entirely different. What she holds is a set of rosary beads. The rosary in this case is a symbol of belief, faith and prayer that there is something higher in this life and if we trust in it that we will be able to make the needed changes without fear.  The rosary also tells a sacred story of life’s ups and downs. Saying this does not diminish the sacredness and power of the rosary but when meditating upon it one is allowed to see the changes of events over a lifetime and beyond. There are some things that we are not in charge of no matter what we think. It may not be the material things that we are so afraid of losing. That old saying- Let Go and Let God may be the thing we need to hang onto most.