Wednesday, April 30, 2008
The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae.
The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!
Monday, April 28, 2008
Lately in the mornings on my days off from work I've taken to sitting in my recliner, enjoying my first cup of decaf for the day and just taking in the silence around me. Usually hubby has the news on but I asked him one morning, don't you just like to sit in silence sometimes and enjoy the peacefulness? He turned the TV off and we sat quietly until conversation took over. A conversation that probably wouldn't have happened had the TV still been on. It was nice.
During these peaceful mornings I began to reminisce about the good ole days. I'm only 52 but it occurred to me that I have a lot of unique memories from my childhood. It's funny how certain things stay with you, the good and the bad, all through your life.
Today I thought I'd share a few of my memories with you.
using the old water pump in my grandmother's kitchen sink
using the outhouse
collecting rain water for baths
milk delivered in glass milk bottles and grandma skimming off the cream on top
watching Lawrence Welk every Saturday night
my dad wearing Old Spice
the hood ornament on his car
catching fire flies with my cousins on a hill top
my cousins bringing me a May Day basket
rolling down a grassy hill
making mud pies in the old barn with my sister
swinging between two giant maple trees
ice skating on the little pond next to my grandmother's farm
the cast iron stove grandma cooked on in the kitchen
the wood burning stove in the dining room
eating fresh veggies from the garden
jumping off a hay loft into a mountain of hay
looking up into the sky at night and actually seeing the stars
Thank you for letting me share some of my memories with you:)
Friday, April 25, 2008
Thursday, April 24, 2008
I am very attracted to covers, if you see a host of books in the book store what attracts your eye? If you're looking for a specific favourite author, then you have only to look for their name, but if you are browsing for something to read, your eyes have to be attracted to a cover that is colourful. That is why the Illustrator is, to my mind, vital to the process. I know that David Young the illustrator of my cover, had to have dipped into the book, or read it, because he has captured two very different aspects of the story!
Covers that I don't really like are those that picture "real people" I am put right off the story because in my mind I can imagine what the hero or heroine look like, with a real life picture half the magic is gone. No, let the artist do his or her magic...that is what I like. I wonder what you think?
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
We I's often become writers. We aren't the show but we're thoroughly observing it. We are good listeners and remember conversations and can accurately capture rhythms and nuances for our stories. Being an I is not the ideal personality style for marketing a book, but that's another story and another blog. Today I want to talk about role models. We I's don't have many because most celebrities and politicans are E's.
There are a few exceptions. Abraham Lincoln was probably an I as was Henry Fonda. The country and western singer Alan Jackson is a gifted lyricist but an interviewer's nightmare. He's both reflective and reserved. And that was about it, until a quiet German academic became Pope. Pope Benedict XVI was advised not to visit the United States. The contrast with his charismatic predecessor would be too profound. The visit would not be a success.
Luckily for us, he ignored the advice. He came and charmed us without a booming voice or a line of easy banter. He had empathy in his eyes and love in his heart and we responded. During his short visit, he taught us all something. The personality style doesn't matter. If you proceed with kindness and love, any endeavor will ultimately be successful.
Monday, April 21, 2008
Friday, April 18, 2008
Yesterday I freshened up the side bed where this crocus blooms. There are orderly lines of crocuses, with daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and perennials primed for their moment of glory. All are waiting, ready for the unspoken signal that their turn has come.
The flowers look like planes lined up on a jetway. Motorists in traffic on the Expressway. Children playing Follow the Leader. All so organized, tidy and controlled. They reminded me of a plot outline I wrote recently. Everything in its place, all expectations clear and easily met.
You know what? It made me want to sweep my hand over the bed and disrupt the order. Introduce some chaos. Bring the unexpected to the serenity. I didn't do it, but I was tempted.
This afternoon I'm going to re-examine that chapter outline. I think it may need some tweaking, a twist or two or a non-conforming character. I'm actually pretty jazzed about the prospect, excited to introduce a disruption or two into the sanity my characters think is their due.
Who would have thought a complete plot readjustment could be found among the weeds? I wonder what else lurks there? Hmm...
Have a great weekend!
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Last Saturday we celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary - the two are connected. If it had not been for John I would never have tried to publish anything. I would still be writing but I would be shoving the stuff that I wrote into a suitcase that lives in the attic. It is connected that I married John in 1972 and published in 1978, for he made me start to take myself seriously. Encouraging me, reading my work and coming up with good suggestions.
If it is true that there is a good woman behind every successful man, then the reverse is true too. John truly is the wind beneath my wings.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Memoir of a 31-year-old woman who, after a divorce, sets out on a year’s journey with three main stops: Rome, for pleasure with an emphasis on food; an ashram outside of Mumbai, for spiritual searching; and Bali, to find balance between the two. Funny, inspiring, and well-written.
Opposite of Fate by Amy Tan
In this collection of sometimes humorous and occasionally wrenching essays, readers will come to know the person and the creative energy behind such remarkable novels as The Joy Luck Club and The Kitchen God's Wife. These previously published pieces often detail the author's troubled relationship with her quick-tempered, superstitious mother, but they also reveal the intuition and knowledge she gained from that relationship. Tan recognizes her mother's part in her reliance on faith, fate, and hope, as well as the tendency in her writing toward the inexplicable, such as a ghost who whistles the Jeopardy theme.
And now the FICTION:
The Whole World Over by Julia Glass
Hired as the personal chef to the governor of New Mexico, Greenie Duquette leaves behind her Greenwich Village pastry business and her husband to head west with her four-year-old son, prompting a period of upheaval and reflection for herself. In Glass’s sprawling follow-up to her award-winning novel “Three Junes,” a dozen or so characters are plunged into the tumultuous dissatisfactions and challenges of middle age, their paths crossing and recrossing with a pleasing mixture of chance and inevitability. Even as we watch these characters’ dramas unfold in the shadow of 9/11, the potential horror of irrevocable choices eludes us.
Fluke by Christopher Moore
Just why do humpback whales sing? That's the question that has marine behavioral biologist Nate Quinn and his crew poking, charting, recording, and photographing very big, wet, gray marine mammals. Until the extraordinary day when a whale lifts its tail into the air to display a cryptic message spelled out in foot-high letters: Bite me. Later, when a roll of film returns from the lab missing the crucial tail shot -- and his research facility is trashed -- Nate realizes something very fishy indeed is going on. By turns witty, irreverent, fascinating, puzzling, and surprising, Fluke is Christopher Moore at his outrageous best.
Private View by Anita Brookner
Brookner explores the changes wrought on an aging solitary man by his growing obsession with a brash young con artist. George Bland appears to live a dull and uninteresting life, but the author's examination of why he does so makes for heartily provocative perusal. Some of the usual Brookner appetizers and entrees are on offer here: the intense internal monologue; the snake oil placebo of tea for what ails; the visits to the shops when boredom constricts; the useless days of people who have nothing to do and no one to do it with. But it is the author's vivisectional analysis of what makes such people tick, that makes for such riveting reading.
Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards
In Edwards's assured but schematic debut novel hinges on the birth of fraternal twins, a healthy boy and a girl with Down syndrome. When Norah Henry goes into labor during a storm, her surgeon husband delivers their babies himself, aided by a nurse. Seeing his daughter's handicap, he instructs the nurse to take her to a home and later tells Norah that their son’s twin died at birth. Instead of institutionalizing the child, the nurse raises her. The husband’s undetected lie warps his marriage, and the child’s absence corrodes her birth family's core over the course of the next 25 years. Norah mourns her lost child; and the son not only deals with his parents' icy relationship but with his own yearnings for his sister as well.
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Jacob Jankowski hops a train after walking out on his final exams at Cornell, where he had hoped to earn a veterinary degree. The train turns out to be a circus train, and since it's the Depression, Jacob soon finds himself involved with the animal acts—specifically with the beautiful young Marlena, the horse rider, and her husband, August. Jacob falls for Marlena immediately, and the ensuing triangle is at the center of this novel, which follows the circus across the states. Jacob and Marlena are attracted to each other, but their relationship is fairly innocent until it becomes clear that August is not merely jealous but dangerously mentally deranged. Old-fashioned and endearing, this is an enjoyable, fast-paced story told by the older Jacob, now in his nineties in a nursing home.
The Reading Group by Elizabeth Noble
When five women get together to start a book group, they never envision how their lives will change, become intertwined, and be reflected in their books of choice. Their meetings draw them into a surprising sisterhood as they work through a year of caring for an aging parent, unexpectedly becoming a grandmother, marital infidelity, a marriage gone stale, and infertility. Each chapter opens with the group's reading pick and uses it to frame the chapter, mirroring the plot and character development along a particular theme. Fast paced and funny, this is women's fiction worth staying up past your bedtime for. Noble's portrayal of each character remains steady throughout, and readers will readily relate to these women.
Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris
Harris presents a beautiful tale involving misfortune, mystery and intense family relations. Framboise Dartigen, grew up in a gossip-ridden hamlet on the banks of the Loire. Striving for attention and power, nine-year-old Framboise took to playing nasty tricks on her headstrong, mentally vulnerable mother, Mirabelle. But despite Framboise's girlish pranks, Mirabelle's maternal instinct was strong. When her children befriended German soldiers who occupied the village during WW II, things went awry, and mother and children were forced to flee. As Framboise tells the tale, she's in her 60s and has returned to Les Laveuses, posing as a widow named Franoise Simon. When the cafe she owns is reviewed in a national food magazine, her cover is blown and the past resurfaces. Harris has constructed a multilayered plot, punctuated with scrumptious descriptions of French delicacies and telling depictions of the war's jolting effects on one fragile family. This intense work brims with sensuality and sensitivity.
Swimming Lessons by Mary Alice Monroe
Monroe's novel redefines the beauty and magic of the Carolina lowcountry. Single mom Toy Sooner has two loves: her daughter and sea turtles. When sick sea turtles wash up near Charleston one summer Toy is tapped by the president of the aquarium where she works to land a grant for setting up a turtle hospital. This means long nights of work alongside aquarium director Ethan Legare, stirring Toy's dormant emotions. Meanwhile, Toy's friends wrestle with their own issues—aging, infertility, money problems, postdivorce blues. After Toy's grant is approved, she is put in charge of the turtle hospital and things go well until her daughter’s father suddenly reappears, intent on playing a role in the girl’s life. Toy is torn, and trouble is in the offing. This is a deeply satisfying work with keen insights into the connections between women.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Change in our personal lives is the same way. Not always looked forward to eagerly, I think we try to convince ourselves that change, especially when we can't control it, is for the best. For one thing, we can't control everything that shapes our lives and well being because it's beyond our scope of control.
In July my Mom will have been gone a year. It doesn't seem possible. Most of the family has accepted her passing and keep her in our memories, but we have adjusted and continue on. My Dad has not. Just last night he broke down and said, "I can't let her go, Deb, I just can't." You see, my Dad lived for my Mom. As long as I can remember he placed her on a pedestal and during her last year of life he never left her side. He was truly devoted to Mom and making her happy.
The house has stayed the same. Other than cleaning out her closet nothing has been given away or moved. Dad spends his days sitting in the TV room, looking out the window at the beautiful landscaping in the back yard, barely eating or seeing to his own needs. He refuses to go anywhere, declines our invites to dinner. He's surrounded by pictures of him and Mom and the rest of the family, drowning in depression and a loss he can't live with.
Then three days ago I got a call from him, he needs my help. He's decided to move to North Carolina to live with my sister and her husband. The last thing I expected. He wants to sell everything that the rest of the family doesn't want and needs my help with pricing and later, the estate sale.
I brought him dinner last night and we sat and talked for hours. He realizes he needs a change and can't go on like he has been. Over the months he's received several invites to move in with people, even my ex-husband offered him a place to live, but Dad decided moving in with Lois was the best choice for everyone involved. My Dad is a smoker, he'll never give that up, and my sister and her husband smoke. No one else in the family does.
My sister is very happy and already building on an addition to her house so Dad can have his own place to be alone when the need arises. They're going to add lots of windows so Dad can sit and look out at the garden he'll create. That's the only hobby he has, he loves working outside.
I don't know how I feel about his decision. I know he needs to be around people, something to keep his mind busy. But not being able to visit with him whenever I want will be tough. The next few weeks will be spent cleaning out the house, selling stuff, seeing memories and familiar things go with strangers. It's going to be very hard on Dad and we all plan to be there to help him through it. To help us through it.
Since Lois and her husband are making a trip to Florida the the end of May to attend a wedding, Dad will go back with them, taking with him a little U-Haul filled with only what he needs.
A few memories to see him through the changes.
Friday, April 11, 2008
Summer is the season I read the least. I struggle to squash reading into days filled with hiking, gardening, lawn mowing, rowing...ah, the list is endless! Summer? Long, empty hours? Not here.
Here, winter, with its howling winds and snowy days, is the time when I read the most. That's when hours stretch and I sit beside a roaring fire and lose myself between the pages of a good story. When darkness falls early but no one notices because we've all been cozied up inside all day long. My husband carves or reads beside me, and we sip tea and eat chocolate chip cookies. Yes, winter is definitely my best reading season.
So while I'm thrilled to see bluebirds in our birdhouses and buds on the daffodil stems, I'm a bit saddened to see my premier reading hours draw to a close. Between staking tomatoes, deadheading flowers and pottering in the greenhouse I'll manage to read but it won't be the same. I won't inhale books. Instead I'll read them in snatches, greedily devouring stories one stolen moment at a time.
Sounds like fun, doesn't it? Any time is a good time for a story if you're a book lover. But reading, like everything else, has its seasons. My dry spell is around the corner, but I'll still enjoy myself and I'm sure I'll get a bunch of great books read. Still, it will be a game I play, sqeezing a book in between an activity.
What about you? Do you have a time of year where you read more than others? Or are you one of those constant, even readers who's not really affected by the seasons? I'm curious, so please share.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Chefs are supposed to be the new sexy but I don't think I would feature one in one of my romantic novels, although I might have a lady chef. The male chefs seem to be so temperamental! A bit too "prima donnerish" for my taste.
Food in film comes across well, those cosy little scenes where the protaganists hold hands and raise their glasses to each other. However, for raw sexiness I think back to "The Adventures of Tom Jones," with our own Albert Finney (I always think of AF this way because he comes from Salford which is the city that sits side by side with Manchester my home town). Albert was young and so beautiful in that film, and there is a scene where he is sharing a meal with Joan Greenwood, a lady who has amorous intentions on the lad. It is wonderful, as they nibble and devour their food, taking long sips of ale in-between and you just know that pretty soon they are going to be tasting one another! Oops is that a too spicy image? I loved that scene. Must do for I can remember it now and it must be at least forty years ago!
Yes food and drink are the staples of the art world be it film or novel and think of all those lucscious painting of fruit, the sensual rounded apples, the succulent grapes. Mm...
Ta ta, Margaret.
Monday, April 7, 2008
My daughter, niece and I were traveling buddies and we started out by taking a ten day cruise to Alaska. I say were, because they now have significant others in their lives. But that's okay, I love their significant others and since they make the girls happy, I'm happy. Anyway, as I was saying, we took a cruise to Alaska.
We crammed as much as we could into the land excursions which included dog sledding, a helicopter ride to a glacier, a go-cart ride into the wilderness and a train ride through the mountains. Coming from Florida we were prepared for the cold, and looked like Eskimos the day we flew to the glacier. That, however, turned out to be the only real cold day we had. Would you believe they were having unusually warm weather for that time of year?
Our adventure the next year took us on a two week cruise to Europe. We flew to Spain and boarded the cruise ship there. Our sights included Croatia, Italy, Greece, France and Rome. Some of my personal favorites were Santorini Island in Greece, where all the houses were stark white with brilliant blue roofs. I also loved Croatia. Wasn't too impressed with Athens, but the ruins were spectacular.
We did a wine tasting on Santorini Island. Took a gondola ride in Venice, the water taxis amused us there. Visited sites like the leaning tower of Pisa, Gothic churches in Spain, the Vatican, where my hubby's grandson is a Catholic priest. We went to the castle in Monaco and walked the nude beaches in France. Of course, we kept our clothes on! There were gypsies everywhere, dressed in old world garb that quickly identified them for who they were.
I literally walked a hole in a pair of new sneakers, purchased just for the trip. Everywhere we went were cobbled streets and stairs.
It was all very interesting, but I enjoyed Alaska more. Europe was for the girls. Our next planned cruise was to Ireland, only we didn't make it. My daughter found out she was pregnant and Alivia was due around the time we would have gone. Since then a lot of things have changed, all good. Our little family has grown.
I'm looking forward to our cruise in November. We're planning a week in the Carribbean. I don't even care if we get off the ship! LOL
Friday, April 4, 2008
So there I was, slaving away on the lappie while those hard-hatted, handsome hunky men hovered in the treetops. Pulling heavy lengths of wire, shoulders and muscles straining, those guys really caught my eye. Really. Caught. My. Eye. Did I say I was captivated? Well, I was. Totally.
Let's just say it was hard to concentrate on conflict, goal and motivation when all I wanted to do was gaze out the window. My gaze kept straying...
Bird-watching--yeah, that's it. I was looking for, um, sparrows. Crows. Robins. Uh huh. Um... You don't buy that, do you? Good. I'd hate to think you were that gullible. I was watching the hunks outside! Yes, my eyeballs were peeled and I couldn't look away! And, all right, I'll admit this too--I enjoyed myself. There, I've said it. I had fun watching the guys working on the power lines.
Then I wondered what it was about certain professions--electric lineman in that scary-but-thrilling bucket thing being on the top of the list--that make even an ordinary male seem super hunky. What turns a "regular guy" into a superhero? Any ideas?
These hot, sexy men people romances, of course. But if we take a closer look we'll notice (at least I did but I could just be trying to purge myself of the memory of the hard-hat hottie!) that a lot of heroes aren't particularly extraordinary. Some are even guy-next-door types. Often these guys next door have "manly" professions, like construction worker, cowboy, mechanic...the list goes on and on.
Makes me wonder...do the professions make the hunk, or does the man make the profession more manly? And is this one of those great mysteries of life? Hmm...I wonder...
I couldn't help but smile when I read Margaret's post from yesterday about the professions not usually considered for heroes. How funny is that? Margaret and I were sharing a wavelength, sort of. I am so tickled by the thought I was even close to one of Margaret's wavelengths!
And she's right, of course, about choosing professions for heroes. It has never, ever occured to me to make one of mine a dentist, although I love my dentist. He's a darling man, kind and smart, funny and gentle and makes my teeth feel like a million bucks. I wonder... Do you think he'd consider getting one of those bucket thingies to hold the dental chair? And maybe, I don't know...maybe wear a hard hat while he works?
Have a great weekend!
Thursday, April 3, 2008
When I lived in the States, I had a dentist who was a real dream boat, he was so handsome but even he would not make it into any of my books!
Are there any other professions that don't get into romance? In the show Fraiser, Roz meets this dashing and handsome doctor, she really wants to date him until she finds out he is a gynecologist, even Rox can't stand the idea of where his hands have been all day!
I wonder if anyone has any other pet hates. I have tried to think hard but perhaps a funeral director would not make it, although in the film My Girl the girl's dad was a real sweetheart and that is what he did for a living.
Perhaps there are lots of dentists and gynecologists in novels, do let me know if you have come across them. Then I will really have to revise this point of view.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
My story 'Dear One' was written five years ago when I lived in Connecticut. Last year I dusted it off and took it to my writer's group. My friend Maggie encouraged me to send it somewhere. At about the same time someone in the Short Fiction Mystery Yahoo Group mentioned the online journal, Breath and Shadow.
Chris Kuell, the acting editor, who gave me a contract for this story lives in Connecticut. Not just anywhere in Connecticut either, he lives in Danbury not far from where our house was. So I call this the story that truly went home. You can read the story at http://www.abilitymaine.org/breath/