Archive by Author
Aside

How About a Slice of Papaya Bread?

18 Mar

Blue-Lizards-Papaya-Loreto-BCS-1-550x412

In my first novel, The Gate House, Nara laments the lack of tropical fruit as she prepares a typical English breakfast at her aunt’s bed and breakfast. I lived in Costa Rica for seven years, where I, too, learned to appreciate the huge variety of exotic fruits available year round.
 
Although Nara’s home, St. Clare, is a fictional island country in the Caribbean, the foods she enjoys are very typical of the tropics. I have enjoyed many fresh fruits, both whole and in smoothies (known as “refrescos” in Costa Rica) during my time there. One of the most common is papaya, and I don’t mean the small Hawaiian variety.
 
Papayas in Central American and the Caribbean can be as long as twenty inches, and their sweetness is indescribable. They are cheap and available everywhere, from supermarkets to small produce stands on the street. A main ingredient in a fruit salad or on a lunch plate, they also make a great smoothie with milk. Although not a traditional recipe, the following recipe for papaya bread is moist and delicious. It will work with either type of papaya, just make sure it’s ripe.
 

Papaya Bread

Cream together until light: 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup butter

Add and beat until fluffy: 2 eggs

Add: 1 cup mashed ripe papaya, 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, 1/2 cup raisins

Sift together: 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/4 tsp. baking powder, tsp. soda, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. allspice, 1/2 tsp. ground ginger.

Add flour mixture to butter mixture. Pour batter into greased and floured 9×5 loaf pan.

Bake at 325 degrees for about 1 hour 5 minutes.

 
 
In my new novel, Hotel St. Clare, which is due out in the summer, you will see what Nara was doing in the islands before she and her father moved to England. She was a girl of the tropics, walking barefoot on the beach and eating fresh fruits with rice and beans. No wonder she had difficulty adjusting to life in England!
 

A Good Book I’ve Read Lately

13 Feb

Every once in a while I like to post a review of a book I have enjoyed. Murder in Thrall by Anne Cleeland is in one of my favorite genres, a British detective novel, but with a twist. This is my review that was published in Suspense Magazine. I recommend it.

Rookie detective Kathleen Doyle is paired up with renowned Chief Inspector Michael Sinclair ( Lord Acton) in a Scotland Yard mystery that quickly becomes personal for both detectives. Doyle possesses an uncanny ability to detect when a person is lying, and Sinclair relies on her abilities even as he is falling in love with the red-haired Irish woman. He is something of an enigma himself, with a reputation for solving the most difficult of crimes while remaining aloof from his fellow officers. When one of their prime witnesses is murdered, Doyle and Acton find themselves increasingly in the eye of the killer, and the Chief Inspector endeavors to protect his partner for his own romantic reasons, while she struggles to do her job, and keep their relationship a secret from other members of the force.

Each chapter begins with Sinclair’s thoughts about Doyle, leading the reader to wonder if his interest is genuine, or if is he stalking her for nefarious reasons. As one murder follows another, Doyle struggles to prove her abilities as a rookie detective, but everyone in her department at Scotland Yard defers to Acton, and she can only follow his instructions, both to keep their relationship a secret from their professional associates and to protect Doyle’s life.

Author Anne Cleeland unfolds the story in an unexpected manner. The snippets at the beginnings of each chapter give insight into Acton’s mind and growing feelings for Doyle, and also increase the tension of the plot. As the author slowly reveals Doyle’s impoverished childhood in Dublin, she takes on depth as a human being with all the worries and uncertainties and life. When the killer is finally identified, it is totally unexpected. The test of a good book is always how much one thinks about the characters when the book is done, and I am still wondering what would happen next. I look forward to more Acton and Doyle Scotland Yard mysteries.

A Full English Breakfast with Variations

25 Jan

On the first page of my novel The Gate House, the main character, Nara, bemoans having to prepare a full English breakfast at her aunt’s bed and breakfast. If you have not had the opportunity tuck into one of these artery clogging delights, I will describe it for you.

A full English breakfast consists of thick British back bacon, eggs, sausage, baked beans, tomato, mushrooms and toast. Just so you don’t have the impression that the tomato and mushrooms add a healthy touch to the meal, these are cooked in the frying pan in the grease left from the bacon and sausages, hence another name for these concoction, the fry-up.

There are many regional variations in England itself, before moving on to Scotland and Ireland. Every region has its own sausage and bacon, and chips (French fries) are often included. In the north of England, as well as Scotland, you will likely find a slice of black pudding on your plate. The Irish prefer white pudding (same as black pudding but without the blood), and a slice of thick brown bread. The bread is the best part of the whole deal in my opinion.

In my travels around the British Isles, I have learned to order only a part of an English breakfast, if at all. Scrambled eggs, toast, maybe a sausage. Or eggs, toast, tomato and mushrooms. I first encountered a Scottish breakfast in a bed and breakfast in Lincolnshire. It was the original Gate House, for which my book is named. The proprietor, who was Scottish, prepared the whole meal for us, including the black pudding, which I passed on. By the time I reached Ireland, I had learned to order only portions of the meal, but I do love that brown bread. I also learned that in Ireland, and probably Scotland too, I could order porridge (oatmeal) and clean out my arteries once in a while.

My character Nara, who grew up in the Caribbean, craved the fresh fruits of the islands. She has my tastes.

 

In my

 

The “Nature” of Setting

17 Jan

Image

I have always wondered how a person’s surrounding affect they way they live. How is it different to grow up on the flat land of Illinois in the midst of corn fields and soy beans, compared to a city overlooked by an ancient castle (Edinburgh, Scotland), or the lushness of tropical trees and flowers. Different people react in different ways to their childhood environment, and I am not sure it has anything to do with whether or not a childhood was happy. I had a very happy childhood in Illinois in the midst of the corn fields, but I have no desire to go back there, and neither do my brothers. We were always taught to think big, dream big and explore the world, and we have done just that. Illinois is where I am from, not where I am.

In my latest Nara book, tentatively titled Hotel St. Clare, which is actually the beginning of her story, we go back to the island country of St. Clare, where she grew up, and will see how her island upbringing helped to shape her personality and character. At that time, and at the beginning of The Gate House, Nara had very strong ties to St. Clare and life on the islands. But circumstances and people change, and perhaps if she returned, it would not be the same. By the end of Lydia’s Story, how would she feel?

What do you think? I would love to hear how other people have been shaped, or not, by the place where they grew up.

 

One Strip of Lace, Ninety-six Years Old

15 Oct

I consider myself an organized person — make that very organized. I usually plan menus for the week and go to the grocery store with a list. I make daily to-do lists. I keep up on car maintenance (and don’t you dare leave trash in my car), go to the dentist twice a year, and make detailed lists when I am getting ready to travel. But like everyone, I have numerous projects lying around the house, or floating around in my consciousness, that I would like to do. I am much better at checking off things like “pack up Hawaiian shirt and mail to brother” than I am at tackling the giant ongoing projects, although I have a list of them, too. Some of the residents of that list are: organize photographs (most unpleasant task I can think of), scan Dad’s old slides, do something with Mom’s letters from the 1940s, practice piano, clean butcher block counter top, put things in frames that should be in frames. Ouch! Too much! And that doesn’t even include writing.

I have not solved this problem, although part of the problem may be that I try to do everything. I like to bake. I grow herbs on my deck. I knit. I read — a lot. But when I feel overwhelmed, my solution is to to knock off Imagesmall bits of things. I just wrote 100 words. That isn’t much, but I wrote. Even a small bit of an important project will bring me back to it. I will think about it as I go about the rest of my day.

This brings me back to the ninety-six year old strip of lace. This strip was the bottom of my dad’s christening gown in 1917. I have no idea what happened to the rest of the gown, but the strip of lace was in my parents’ house after my mom passed away a few years ago. It is now in my house, hanging over the back of a chair in my office, where I can see it and remember I need to do something with it. My goal is to buy a floating frame for it and hang it on the wall. I just have to get to a store and buy the frame. It’s on my list.

 

Keeping in Touch

2 Aug

However much we may complain about FaceBook and other social media, for someone who has moved around as much as I have, it has been a Godsend for keeping in touch, and reestablishing contact, with old friends, and especially former students.
I have taught high school English and social studies in four states as well as international schools in Costa Rica, and I have former students and colleagues around the globe.
Recently two former students, one from the US and one from Taiwan, posted articles that were so great I had to pass them on. I am providing the links here, in case you missed them on FaceBook. And thanks again to Summer and Ping-Ya!
It always pays to keep in touch.

10 Myths about Introverts
The Only 12 1/2 Writing Rules You’ll Ever Need

17 Jul

headywriting19:

I just came across this blog, and this quote, which I love, and thought I would share it.

Originally posted on A Small Press Life:

“All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man’s life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom.’-Albert Einstein

View original

Enjoy Lopsided

12 Jul

photo(44)

Could you live in a lopsided house? We are accustomed to straight lines, parallel sentences, and the value a sense of uniformity. But is this the best way to live, or to write?
Some writers recommend using outlines, and have many valid reasons for doing so. I was always the kind of student who wrote my outline after I finished my research paper or essay. How else would I know what I was going to say until I wrote it down?
As a writer, I am what is know as a “pantser.” I write by the seat of my pants. I have a vague idea where my story is going, but I don’t know for sure until I start writing it. For me, the most fun part of writing is the surprises, when a character jumps into the story when I didn’t know he was going to be there, or when a character encounters a situation that I did not plan, and the writing just seems to flow. That is exciting.
So what would you do with a lopsided house? Straighten it up? Or change your life?
And just so you know, the lopsided house in the photo is a “goblin house” at Tyler Arboretum, outside Philadelphia. It is great fun for the imaginations of children and adults. I play there whenever I have the chance.

Have you read this one? Killer Ambition by Marcia Clark

8 Jul

     Besides writing my own books, I read constantly, both because I have had a life-long love affair with books, and because I like to see what other writers are saying. I review books for Suspense Magazine, which gives me an opportunity to dip into titles that I might not have picked up otherwise. In this process I have discovered some new favorite novelists.

One of my recent favorites is Marcia Clark, best known for her role as a prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson trial. Ms. Clark has authored three legal suspense novels that show not only her legal experience, but also a talent for tense, intriguing suspense dramas.

The following is the review I wrote for her latest, Killer Ambition:

Marcia Clark scores once again with a taut, suspenseful and intelligent legal thriller. In the third Rachel Knight novel, the teenage daughter of wealthy Hollywood director Russell Antonovich is kidnapped. After he delivers the ransom money, one million dollars in cash, the girl is found dead in the trunk of a car at the Los Angeles airport. DA Rachel Knight and her friend Bailey Keller, a detective from the LAPD, believe the case to be a kidnapping gone wrong, until the suspected kidnapper is also found dead in a shallow grave on a remote mountain road.

As the investigation proceeds, the prosecution’s evidence points toward Ian Powers, a former child star, now high profile manager and close family friend of the dead girl, Hayley Antonovich. Although the police find strong forensic evidence, they are unable to identify a motive for the killing, until Rachel and her associates dig deeper into the backgrounds of Antonovich and Powers, as well as the would-be kidnapper and Hayley’s boy friend, Brian Maher.

The criminal trial begins, and Rachel is pitted against a defense attorney who does not hesitate to use any dirty trick available to discredit the prosecution’s evidence. And as well as proving her case, Rachel must deal with the members of the press who hone in on a great celebrity story, no matter who is guilty or innocent. Eventually the truth comes out, illustrating the lengths to which will go in order to achieve success in a cut-throat industry.

Ms. Clark’s strong female characters and insight into both the motivations of the criminals and those who surround them, as well as the lawyers and police who search for the truth, make this an exceptional novel. Her personal experience as a prosecutor make her uniquely qualified to write about the investigations and courtroom proceedings, but her strong writing makes the novel entertaining and satisfying.

 

History Is Real

28 May

One of the challenges of studying or writing about historical figures, real or fiction, is imagining them to be as real as we are. Somehow people of the past lose their reality as flesh and blood, and seem to reside only on the printed page or in the flatness of a photograph.

It takes a leap of imagination to understand that the past is just as real as the present. Only the surface of life has changed. People felt joy, fear, anticipation, sadness just as we do. They worried about the future. The worries may have been different; they were not concerned about global warming, whether someone would hack their email account or if genetically modified foods were safe. But concerns about family never change, and the joy of a celebration and sadness at misfortune are the same century to century.

My book Lydia’s Storyphoto(43) is set partially doing World War II, an era that fascinates me. I think part of the fascination is that my parents were young during that time. They met and married in 1942 and were apart for three years before my dad returned at the end of the war.

I look at their photographs and imagine their feelings. I once asked my mom how they did it, not knowing day to day when they would be together again, when the war would end, who would come home and who would not. She said that all they could do was live day to day, as if everyday was closer to the end, although they didn’t know when the end of the war and separation would come.

The photo of my parents that I am posting today was taken in 1945, after my dad returned home. The joy and hope for the future is clear in their faces — as clear as if it were taken today.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 718 other followers