Archive | September, 2012

Giving Birth to “Lydia’s Story”

25 Sep

My newest novel, Lydia’s Story, is now available all the major book sellers.

If you are a writer, you know what a wonderful rush comes along with writing those words. If you are not a writer, just think of any major project you have embarked on in your life — giving birth to a child, completing a college degree, running a marathon. And as with any major project, the work isn’t done yet. I want people to read my book!

I describe Lydia’s Story as a sequel/prequel to my first novel, The Gate House. I took the main character, Nara Blake, and moved her forward in time by about a year, but then I gave her a challenge. I placed a stack of her great-grandmother’s diaries in her hands, and posed a dilemma. The family has always held that Lydia and Allan Roberts died in the London Blitz in 1940 or 1941, but the diaries go up to 1942. As Nara reads and learns more about her ancestors, she finds that she is on a collision course with a brother and sister from France who are also looking for their lost heritage, but theirs are valuable works of art that were lost during World War II.

I loved the research into how the British worked to preserve their precious art works and cultural heritage as well as protect their island from invasion by the Germans. I loved putting the pieces of the novel together, melding past with present, and tying the sections together with Lydia’s diary entries.

My “baby” is out in the world now. I wish her the best. I will support her as best I can, and at the same time, I am ready to start something new.

 

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Why Set My Story in World War II?

16 Sep

My newest novel, Lydia’s Story, is a sequel/prequel to my first novel, The Gate House. It is a sequel because the same main characters, Nara Blake and her family, continue their story of life in a small English town, where too much seems to happen. It is a prequel because the book also tells the story of Nara’s great-grandparents, who died in World War II under mysterious circumstances.

I decided to tell this partially historical narrative because I wanted to bridge the family history in Nara’s family, as I try to bridge that history in my own family.

My dad was an American soldier in World War II. He and my mom married in 1942, and after three weeks of marriage, he went overseas to North Africa and Europe and did not return for three years. I have always considered this one of the greatest love stories I have every heard. At the same time, I am fascinated with British history, and the heroism of the British during World War II is beyond remarkable. We in the United States do not know what it is like to have our country bombed consistently for months on end. We have never had to send our children away to the country to be safe from the bombing, as Londoners did during World War II.

I put together my thoughts and feelings about that remarkable period of history, and the result is Lydia’s Story.

Coincidentally, my own great-grandmother’s name was Lydia, and she was half Welsh. But that’s another story.

 

Writing Honest Book Reviews

10 Sep

There is a lot of criticism these days about biased book reviews and writers reviewing each others books in order to post glowing reviews. I write reviews for Suspense Magazine, and I also occasionally read a book by a fellow writer and post the review on Amazon and GoodReads. I never write a negative review. And I have read some books that I did not enjoy at all.

Even if I don’t like a book, there is probably someone out there who will. There is no reason to trash someone hard work. I describe the plot and characters in the novel, and try to place to story in a category. If it is a story of zombie aliens rampaging the countryside, I make that clear. It’s not a story that appeals to me, but it appeals to some readers.

If I really believe some parts of the book are badly written, I may just question those aspects and try to put it in perspective. If a writer uses an expression that is regional, but doesn’t fit the character, I will mention it. If a writer makes a small error, as in a recent example when I reviewed a book in which the “French press was whistling in the kitchen,” my antenna for errors goes up, but I won’t mention it. Everyone makes mistakes.

I  have seen reviews that criticized the use of swear words in a novel, and either too many sex scenes or too few. As a reviewer, I want to be as honest as possible without dwelling on the weaknesses of the book or the author.

As a reader, I want to read reviews that tell me what to expect, but I always take extremely negative reviews (of anything, not just books) with a grain of salt. Long, negative rants just sound like the reviewer had a bad day, or dislikes the book or author for some other reason.

Check out some of my reviews on Amazon or GoodReads and tell me what you think. See if you can tell if I liked or dislike the books.

Too Many Ideas

1 Sep

Writers are often asked, “Where do you get your ideas?”

I believe most writers would answer the same as I do — it’s not a matter of coming up with ideas, it’s a matter of weeding out the ideas and deciding which ones I really want to develop in a short story, a novel, or maybe even a series.

My first two novels both center around the main character Nara Blake, who is loosely based on the daughter-in-law of a friend of mine. Once I had the character, I took her from a Caribbean island to England, and after solving the mystery of a ring of art thieves in The Gate House, she moved on to discovering her great-grandmother’s secrets in Lydia’s Story.

Along the way, I have considered writing a mystery series set in Monteverde, Costa Rica. I am still toying around with something historical, and maybe involving magic, centering around the treasure King John supposedly lost in the Wash on the coast of England. Since I am a teacher, I have come up with many unused plots involving teachers. And after talking with a friend who is starting a business staging houses for sale, I think that might make a good base for a story. And then there are my mother’s letters from World War II. I would like to do something with those.

I am not the kind of writer who can sit down and write for eight hours every day. I am too restless. I need breaks. So most of my ideas will never be more than ideas. But it’s great to have this mine of inspiration. When it’s time to start something new, I just need to pull out one of the plots or characters and start developing a story.

What kinds of stories do you prefer to read? Something close to home? In a different geographical or historical setting? Do you choose a book for the plot or the characters?

Whatever the reader’s choice, at some time a writer has dreamed up an idea, and carried it through.