Archive | Uncategorized RSS feed for this section

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

Advertisements
17 Jul

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

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 post

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.

Seeing a Project Through to the End

19 May

I am currently working on finishing a writing project that I began at least nine years ago. Yes, nine years. It was the project I was working on before my trip to England and the inspiration for The Gate House, my first published novel. After that I wrote Lydia’s Story, a follow-up to The Gate House. But I have always felt that I needed to go back to the first story, tentatively titled Nara of the Islands. This is the Nara who appears in both of my later books. In The Gate House, Nara has recently arrived in England from a fictional Caribbean island called St. Clare, and her boy friend back on St. Clare has stopped calling her.

I thought it was important to finish telling the first part of Nara’s story because it shows who she is and where she came from. Her background is half British and half islander. She never knew her mother. Her father kept secrets from her. Telling the beginning of her story is important to the development of Nara as a character. When I wrote The Gate House, I took the characters from this earlier piece and simply placed them in a new situation. Now is it time to finish the beginning of the story.

And there is something satisfying about finishing a project. I have a knitting project I began in January and hope to finish in another month. And I will finish both of these projects. Completion is difficult — everyone has unfinished projects of one kind or another lying around — but the satisfaction of completion is worth the work.

Forward to the Past

27 Apr

Writers never throw anything away, or at least they shouldn’t. This week I pulled out an old “almost novel” that I wrote before my first one, The Gate House, was published.

This one, tentatively titled Nara of the Islands, is really the original story of my protagonist who appears in both The Gate House and Lydia’s Story. This book tells of the years just before she and her father moved to England, and her life in the fictional Caribbean island nation of St. Clare.

It is interesting to read something that I wrote almost ten years ago, and to see how my style has changed, and the images of my characters. It is a very different book from the last two in some ways. Although it is somewhat a mystery, there are elements of magic that I let go of in the later books.

I think it is a story that needs to see the light of day, for better or worse. I plan to polish it and at least self-publish on Kindle later this year.

If you are a writer, do you sometimes “resurrect” old pieces to rework them? And readers, what about other types of old projects? Is it fun or frustrating to go back something you worked on in the past?

What have you appreciated lately?

23 Apr

As I was reading a novel set in early twentieth century China, I was struck by a line in which a character and her friends went out into the garden to “appreciate” the plum blossoms. We admire, find joy, look at beautiful things in our world, but how often do we simply appreciate what we see or hear? Somehow the concept of appreciation is different from all of these. Appreciation contains a sense of taking time to savor, as well as a sense of gratitude. Appreciation forces you to stop for a moment.

I attended a coffee tasting on Sunday, and learned something about appreciating a fine cup of coffee, with notes of flavor as complex as any wine. I appreciate the fine job that two repairwoman did in replacing our basement ceiling yesterday. It is amazing how much brighter the room looks. And I appreciate the sight of a fox who took a walk through our back yard yesterday morning. The bird seed attracts the squirrels, and the squirrels attracted the fox, although I don’t think he has much of a chance of catching one!

So next time your senses encounter something wonderful, take a moment to really appreciate and savor. It is part of the gift of being alive.back yard visitor

 

Do You Want to Hear about My WIP?

25 Mar

Sometimes people ask me, “What are you working on now? Can you talk about it?”

It is always a difficult question to answer. On the one hand, I like talking about writing. And it does help sometimes to bounce ideas off someone else. But on the other hand, it’s kind of like talking about the baby early in a pregnancy. It’s too soon. There are too many unknowns. And both pregnancies and writing are very personal, especially in the beginning stages.

One advantage I have found to talking about my work in progress, otherwise known as WIP, is that it motivates me to keep working. If I tell you that I am working on a young adult novel set in thirteenth century England, and that it has magical elements in it, you have a perfect right to ask me next month, “Hey! How’s that YA novel going?” I need to at least be able to say, “It’s coming along.” Of course I can say that even if it’s not, but I would feel terribly guilty.

My advice to myself and other writers is: Don’t say too much. And don’t bring the subject up, unless you are in a critique group and really looking for suggestions and help. And just like that baby, remember that it is personal. You don’t have to talk about until you are ready. But when the writing, like the baby, is ready to make its debut in the world, shout it from the rooftops!

 

Image

Life Is in the Details

20 Feb

Life Is in the Details

We tend to look at trees from a distance, admiring the beauty of the whole tree, with branches reaching to the sky. But take a closer look at the artistry in the bark. Look closely at life and see what you’ve missed.

Fiction Meets Real Life

8 Feb

 

In my latest novel “Lydia’s Story,” the main character helps a group of Jewish children escape France during World War II. I just came across this website, “Ariege Pyrenees,” that shows the real life route across the Pyrenees that many people — Jews, downed RAF and American airmen, and others in danger from the Nazis — followed to reach the safety of Spain.
I found it humbling to read about the dangers faced along the way. The Pyrenees are no easy mountains to cross even today.
My fictional characters exist to honor those people who risked their lives to escape, and especially those who helped others escape.