Bali’s Nyepi & the power of silence : 90 spontaneous, inspirational days around the world


I first learned about Nyepi while touring around Ubud last year. As I motored though village after village, I spotted boys and teenagers constructing huge demons that rivaled any Hollywood creation. I began to film what captivated me.


Each village funded the construction of demons, called Oguh-oguh monsters. I mean, is there anything better to most boys than making larger-than-life demons? It was like they took the doodles off their school papers and gave them life. The Oguh-oguh monsters represent Bhuta Kala, malicious spirits that inhabit Bali on Nyepi to turn people toward evil. In days gone by, night was considered the time for supernatural beings. Malignant spirits, bhuta kala, and witches filled the darkness of the night. Older Balinese see the night as a dangerous time for traveling outside the house compound, though gamelan is held in the evening but it never lasts until late at night on Bali like it does on Java. Even to this day, my Balinese friends told me that I will not see a Balinese family out with their young children at twilight. They see twilight as the time when evil spirits can take control over people’s lives.


The designs of the Oguh-oguh spoke to their creators’ incredible imaginations and their craftsmanship spoke to how seriously villagers take their monsters. Most were big-breasted ghouls with fangs, some with blue skin, some with very long hair and nails. It was surreal motoring the streets of Ubud, passing demon after demon after demon in varying states of construction. Seeing their creative process was as fascinating to me as seeing the finished creatures parade down the streets of Ubud on Nyepi. The actual day of Nyepi is determined by when the “Tilem Kesanga” falls, the darkest moon.

I had taken a trip to Gili Air to go remote for the weekend right before Nyepi. I just couldn’t wait for the silence, I guess. Gili Air gave a great respite from the frenzy of Java and bustle of Bali as there are no mobiles or motors there. I traveled by horse-drawn carriage when I wasn’t walking. In fact, I could walk around the tiny island in under an hour. When I returned to Bali to celebrate Nyepi, all the tourists were crowded on the docks of Bali ready to party on the Gilis instead of getting “trapped in the silence” of Nyepi. I happily sailed the nearly empty boat back to Bali. I wanted silence. I needed silence. On the eve of Nyepi, Bali was anything but.


Gamelan and clanging filled the air. The Oguh-oguh monsters, great ghouls, paraded down the streets of Ubud while hundreds lined the streets watching the fan fare. All along the parade route, beautiful sarong-wrapped girls carrying torches kept a vigil with pieces of tape placed over their mouths. Some of the passing demons had dozens of boys animating them, holding large bamboo platforms. They raised the Oguh-Oguh up and down battling other demons in the parade. Since it’s believed village crossroads are where evil spirits linger, the boys spin the Oguh-Oguh monsters counter-clockwise to confuse the evil spirits. People bang pots and pans, cans, and honk horns to force the evil spirits to leave. Later the effigies are burnt in cemeteries as a symbol of purification. Cock fighting is permitted on the eve of Nyepi, because the spilling of blood is necessary for purification.

And then, Bali went dark and quiet. The moment otherworldly.

3/31/2014 – Pondock Pundi Village Inn

I’m not supposed to be outside, but I have to look at the stars. While I stare at the kind of darkened sky most people will never see in this light-filled world, the silence bathes me. It’s more than a moment of “unplugging,” it’s freeing. Nothing needs to be done or thought about or planned for in the next twenty-four hours. Outside my door meat and alcohol offerings are left in the streets for the evil spirits to feed on in the hopes that they will pass deserted Bali by. 

When I reached The Pondock Pundi Village Inn earlier this afternoon—only a few inns were open for tourists as most left Bali for Nyepi—I was asked for my meal preferences for the entire next day. It was explained to me that I was to return to the Inn before midnight and afterwards I was not to go outside. I was not to use the electricity. The staff would bring my meals to me. I was to observe the four abstinences:

“amati geni” no lighting fires or using lights

“amati karya” refraining from working

“amati lelanguan” refraining from indulging in leisure activities

“amati lelungan” refraining from traveling outside the house

Bali hopes that in the silence all the evil spirits will fly over their island. As they sit inside, they reflect on how to purify their minds and their bodies with yoga and meditation. My experience of Neypi is life-changing. Never have I spent a twenty-four hour period in silence. Those that know me would be laughing right about now. It’s the perfect time to reflect on where I’ve been and where I’m headed. 

How to smile when you get a speeding ticket

While I was sitting in my seat, waiting for the CHP (California Highway Patrol) to give me my speeding ticket, I thought about this experiment I just read about the other day. I’m surprised it slipped by me as the story won the Pulitzer about seven years ago. Joshua Bell, one of the world’s premiere violinists plays a Stradivarius made in 1712, a three million dollar instrument, in the D.C. subway only  to have a few ladies stop and listen.

If you want to read more about Joshua’s Bell experiment click here and find out why he felt the need to repeat it last September.

Are you too busy to notice what’s around you? Do you rush? I do. Why? I just feel the need sometimes. I don’t even know I’m doing it until the universe slows me down. The other day when I got pulled over, I felt the sun warm on my back, gave the universe a big smile and said thank you.

The making of a book trailer

It’s a very rainy day here on the central California coast, and I haven’t had a heart-to-heart with you in a while, so I thought I’d wrap up in the afghan and hope you have time for a chat as I’m putting the finishing touches on the Shadow Slayer (Shadow Series #2) book trailer. You can read all about The Shadow Series here. The book trailer will debut on The Shadow Slayer book tour that’s coming up next week Dec. 3-15, put on by the fabulous SupaGurl Books. (Every day of the tour be sure to check here on Laurasmagicday for an additional daily giveaway.) Anyway, back to the making of a book trailer. I’ve blogged about the nuts & bolts of trailer making before, and if you want to check out how you can make your own book trailer, you can click here for the article I wrote for Bubble Cow called How To Make Your Own Book Trailer. My process has stayed pretty much the same.

Today, though, I want to talk about the heart of my books’ trailers. I love making them. Maybe it’s because of my fabulous movie debut….LOL! Continue reading The making of a book trailer


Congrats to @SarikaP8! Squeee! She’s won an ebook of TRANSFER STUDENT! All ebook winners will receive their copies [kindle or Nook] on St. Patty’s Day, 3 days before the official release:) Squueee! Good luck to today’s tweeters.


To enter to win your ebook of TRANSFER STUDENT, TWEET [and leave a comment here or at CIDNEY SWANSON, AUTHOR OF THE RIPPLER SERIES with the link]: Cn’t wait 2 rd #TransferStudent by @Laurawriting Blog Tour & Gveawy! Whos Ur fav alien? #teenreads #scifi #romance #ya

Winner announced here tomorrow!

So in the excerpt on Cidney’s fabulous blog, if you haven’t read her RIPPLER series check it out! It’s a great read for curling up by the fire:) She and I are in The YA INDIE CARNIVAL & THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST YA AUTHORS too! Both a great groups of YA Indies. Swing by and check us out sometime 🙂

In today’s excerpt we read about Ashley’s obsession with Yuke. Yuke has wings. He’s from planet RETHA. Ashley and Yuke are just about to compete in the Tri-Village Airboard Finals. That’s right, on Retha the most popular sport is that of surfing the wind, or soaring as they call it. I got the idea from snowboarding. Rethans use the suction in their frog-feet to adhere to thier boards in the same way we use snowboards and their moves in the air are similar to the tricks snowboarders use. Reathans “feel the beat of the wind in their peds.”

And I  got to thinking about my favorite aliens. Apart from Rhoe, his mom, Yuke, Ziggy, & Xanny these are mine! I’d love to know yours:)

Star Trek Trouble With Tribbles

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Congrats to @fredalicious who tweeted yesterday!!! She’s won an ebook of TRANSFER STUDENT! All ebook winners will receive their copies [kindle or Nook] on St. Patty’s Day, 3 days before the official release:) Squueee! Good luck to today’s tweeters. And don’t forget to leave a comment to win the weekly swag.

Today I’m over at the amazing Putting Pen to Page Blog hosted by my fellow YA Indie Carnival bud, Heather! *waves* She’s got an excerpt from Transfer Student that revolves around Ashley’s obsession for Rhoe’s best friend, Yuke. Go check it out and leave a comment here or there to enter in the swag giveaway. What swag? Pic at the end of this post!

Here on Laurasmagicday it’s all about the music. Like lots of writers music is a big part of my process. And since LA is one of the centers of music, there’s lots of amazing clubs in town. One of my favorite memories was attending the E! Entertainment Christmas party at The Key Club, where Macy Gray sang and I was right up front. AMAZING. What a voice!

Early on in the novel, Ashley talks about this legendary venue, The Whiskey a Go Go:

Here’s the music that inspired TRANSFER STUDENT. I hope you enjoy listening to the songs!