Technical writers or non fiction writers scribble to pay the bills and for the love of the analytical or the exercise of truth or deception.

Fiction authors write to illuminate their world or escape it.

Whichever kind of writer, it's all about staying alive and helping or entertaining others.

The Writing Life

Like most writers, I have a love of reading and the power of words. When I was younger, I read everything I could get my hands on, but I don’t consider myself well read. I consumed books like a starved person, so quickly I hardly knew what I had read. By some strange process of osmosis, I learned from everything I read, but I cannot give you an erudite discussion of characters, plots, or authors. I can only tell you it’s lodged some where in the core of my being and informs my writing.

In addition to reading, I’ve spent a life time writing---from that first elementary school composition to my college days when I studied French literature and wrote explications de texte. Along the way, I fell into technical writing--to put food on the table and pay bills. In the 90s, I had the good fortune to take a dialog class with Sol Stein, former owner of Stein & Day publishers in New York and a prolific author. That led to his California-based writers’ group, Chapter One. It was a rigorous, ego-bruising experience, but I was intent on learning everything I could about fiction writing. A few years ago, I also had the good fortune to study with another writer, Louella Nelson, an experienced romance writer and teacher of fiction writing. She provided a different perspective and balance to my writing.

My novel, DREAMING OF LAUGHING HAWK, a mainstream, Sixties era novel, is available on Amazon in print and ebook (also available in Canada, Europe, Japan, and Brazil). Download a free sample. If you like it, I hope you'll download the book and post a review on Amazon.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Book Review: Olive Kitteridge

I read a review of the movie Olive Kitteridge recently and decided to download the novel before seeing the film. I think I'll skip the movie.

I admit I am not being fair to the book and I am prejudging the movie, but I have always hated stories of ordinary. I consider myself to be ordinary, but the last thing I want to do is read a book or see a film about ordinary lives of quiet desperation. I confess I pushed through the book too rapidly, not bothering to keep straight the cast of characters and their complicated relationships. I already know people like this. I skimmed through the dialog; it wasn't anything I haven't heard before. I kept hoping for a little unexpected excitement to show up, something awesome or unpredictable, some great revelation. I live for the moments of extraordinary and, if I can't find enough of them in my own life, then I'm quite happy to vicariously experience someone else's extraordinary moments.

Nevertheless, I am not a lover of fantasy. I'm all for a strong dose of reality in literature or film, but I want that magical joust with the confines of ordinary life. Break out. Transcend. Overcome. Bust up. Take off. Blow it away. Since childhood I have hungered for extraordinary when I first read King Arthur and His Knights. Give me an adventure.

Oh, Olive. Just because you've lived and stumbled through your life like the rest of us and ended up learning a thing or two doesn't mean you've got an interesting story to tell. I don't want to hear it.

Tell me if I've got it all wrong.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ghosts

This month's challenge at Write...Edit...Publish is ghosts. If you have a good ghost story or poem, drop by and submit your entry or check out the entries of others. Feel free to critique my entry.

* * *

Most of us have an uncomfortable, hidden belief in ghosts, but who can see them and who can’t? Well, apparently, not me. I’ve never had a ghostly encounter until one Christmas my oldest daughter Tonya informed me that our house was haunted.

Seventeen years ago, after my mother died, my stepsister packed up a box of items and mailed them to me. In the box were some items that belonged to my maternal grandmother who had preceded my mother in death. There was a bell pull and a needle-point of a Rembrandt painting that my grandmother had made. I hung them in my dining room where they still remain.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Watercolor: Painful Lessons

Watercolor is a very tricky art. I like watercolor because it is unpredictable and nothing can compare with the the complex colors and textures. I hate this painting, but I learned a lot from doing it. Probably the most important thing I learned was I need to splurge and get good quality paper that can handle multiple washes and scrubbing. Ordinary 140-pound paper eventually gives out and starts to pill. The paint doesn't go on smoothly. The death knell for this painting was when my instructor suggested mixing watercolor with titanium white acrylic (Liquitex Heavy Body) to repair the paper in the area of the man's right arm. You can then paint on top of it. I was not happy with the results. I think I would never use this method again except on a very small area.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Movie Review: Kill the Messenger

In 1996, Gary Webb, a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News, gets a tip from the exotic girl friend of a drug dealer that links the 80s CIA to cocaine smuggling in Nicaragua. Sounds like a Hollywood movie, right? It’s a true story of an idealistic journalist who tenaciously follows the story, putting himself and his family at risk. The story he uncovers links the crack epidemic in the U.S. to drug dealers who were using their profits to fund CIA-backed rebels in Nicaragua. Because the Reagan administration was unable to get the backing of Congress to support the rebels in Nicaragua, the CIA supposedly took it upon itself to fund operations by allowing cocaine into our country. Nice, huh? And they wonder why Americans have become so cynical over the years.

Gary Webb was an award-winning journalist. In 1990 he won the Pulitzer for general reporting for his coverage of the Bay Area earthquake in 1989. He was a good writer looking for the big scoop and then he stumbled upon it and it split his world wide open. He doggedly pursued the story whether it took him to Nicaragua or Washington D.C. In 1996 he wrote a series of articles entitled the Dark Alliance about cocaine smuggling which was published in the San Jose Mercury News to much praise. Within a very short period of time, however, he was in trouble. He received threats from drug dealers and CIA operatives. His story made a lot of people uncomfortable. His editors suddenly demanded on-the-record sources. Of course, he could not produce any drug dealer or CIA operative source willing to go on record. His newspaper backed away from him. Other major newspapers viciously attacked his writing. As a result of his unwillingness to back down from the assertions of his story, he was banished to a small bureau and eventually he resigned.

He paid a very heavy price for his stubborn dedication to his story. He was never able to find work as a journalist again. The movie does not delve into the examination of his facts or the nature of the threats against him or the final unraveling of his life, but it’s a very exciting, eye-opening story. Actor Jeremy Renner does an excellent job of portraying Gary Webb. The movie is based on Webb’s book, Dark Alliance, and a book by Nick Schou entitled Kill the Messenger. Go see it.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Mirror, Mirror

The September challenge at Write...Edit...Publish is Changing Faces. Submit your poem, art, or flash fiction September 24-26 and add your link at Write...Edit...Publish. Following is my submission. Feel free to offer your full critique.

* * *

It is late Saturday afternoon and I am waiting for my husband to return from his golf game. I am looking forward to a glass of Merlot, dinner out, and maybe a movie. Sunlight slides through the shutters and illuminates the room as I am seated on the floor, trying to bring some order to the bottom drawer of my taboret. There is a strange kind of solace sorting through brushes and tubes of paint, the tools of my imagination.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Columbia River Gorge: Thoughts & Impressions

I recently made my first trip to Oregon, spending a couple of days on the coast at Cannon Beach and the rest of the week on the Columbia River Gorge. It was awesome scenery. Thank God Oregonians have struck the right balance in preserving this area. Yes, there are bridges across this river and dams have tamed what was once a treacherous body of water. Yes, there are mile-long freight trains going up and down both sides of the river all day and night. Nevertheless, development along the river is not overwhelming and intrusive: Mother Nature reigns supreme. Lewis and Clark would immediately recognize the river that they explored back in 1806. It is still majestic and I hope it remains so far into the future. It is a gift to be able to hike through the woods and cliffs overlooking the Columbia. I’m sure if this river was in California, it would be fully developed beyond recognition and we would be sucking it dry. (It was 106 degrees Farenheit yesterday in southern California and no sign of relief or a drop of water.)

So here are a few pictures. It’s easy to imagine what a challenge this region was to early settlers and explorers. We should all be thankful for those who have strived to preserve this beauty for all of us.

Stevenson, Washington

Friday, September 5, 2014

Almost Always a Lady

My father died in the Spring of 2012 at the age of 90 of gangrene in a nursing home. It was a tough way to go, but my father humbly put up with the indignities of old age--dementia, diabetes, and general infirmity. A few years before he lost control of his mind and body, he set himself in front of a computer and patiently tapped out his memoirs, short stories about his life and experiences that he wanted to share with his family.

Recently, I was thumbing through his stories and I found one about the pony we had as small children. It's interesting to compare his recollections as an adult and mine as a child about the pony we called Lady. According to my father, she wasn't always a lady, whereas I always recall her as my friend and protector. She kept a protective eye on me as if I was her own colt.

So here are my father's recollections about Lady: