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.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Bad Sister

We never liked each other that much from the beginning. It was always a love-hate relationship. If we had not been born brother and sister, we would have never crossed paths in a million years.

I can't remember when I became aware of my brother Scott. He was three years younger but he never registered on my radar until he was old enough to form a sentence or break one of my possessions. I remember his temper tantrums: he used to hold his breath until he started to turn blue and then my mother would put a cold wash cloth on his face. Actually, according to my mother, he was blue when he was born. Nurses held my mother's legs together to prevent him from being born before the doctor arrived. Obstetrics were a little primitive back in the 40s and 50s. I probably had a better birth experience than he did, but my doctor died the following day. I trust I wasn't the cause.

Scott was the middle child, the odd one. Parents pick their favorites no matter how hard they try to be fair. He was not cute or cuddly or funny. He was intelligent but in a wrong-headed sort of way. He did not have any of the easy-going charms of my youngest brother. Life was difficult for him, partially because he made it that way for himself. He was immature, shy, ornery, a poor student, and dependent upon my younger brother for social interaction. He taunted and tried to bully me all through high school, but I was a good fighter, a down and dirty fighter. I would have fought to the death before admitting defeat to him. He was forever proclaiming that one day he would beat the shit out of me, but I never lost a fight. To be sure, I was no innocent either. But I do recall him coming after me with a butcher knife one time and putting me in a strangle hold another time (he got a pretty good bite on his arm for that one). Of course, our parents were mostly unaware of our fighting. We tore the house apart the minute they stepped out of the door, and put it all back together before they got home. And we lived to fight another day.

By the time he was in high school, Scott had joined the Mormon church which provided some of the structure he needed in life. He later enlisted in the Air Force which provided even more structure and at some point his life successfully came together. He married, had a son, and years later retired from a successful military career. Maybe he had a few bumps in the road but the same can be said of anyone. There was a lull in our ongoing rivalry, a period of time when we had no quarrels because we were too caught up in our day-to-day lives in different parts of the country.

Flash forward to 2016. We are now both in our twilight years and the fighting has resumed. We live on opposite coasts and that's probably a good thing. I tell myself he must have some good qualities and on some days I actually feel sorry for him. But then he posts some racist, misogynist, bigoted statement on Facebook and I feel like sinking my teeth in his arm like I did all those years ago. He thinks it's funny to post a negative story about blacks that portrays them as thugs or lazy welfare queens. He loathes Barack Obama. He thinks it's hilarious to post a picture of Hillary Clinton with horns or a dog pissing on a poster of her. He posts stories from alt-right websites that accuse her of murder. He never has a bad thing to say about Donald Trump or the "deplorables" who support him. Of course, Scott considers himself to be an exemplary Mormon and Christian. I figure if there's any chance of him getting into heaven, I would just as soon be in hell.

I will never understand how two so opposite personalities could have the same parents. Neither of my parents were narrow-minded and self-righteous. They mellowed even more with age. I can't recall either of them ever going off on an insane rant against a person or institution. Whatever flaws and personal prejudices they might have held, they had respect for other people and they had respect for themselves. They had dignity. They could distinguish fact from fiction. Their minds were open. They held no hate in their hearts.

So I am the bad sister. I cannot love this thing that my brother has become. One minute I am full of pity, the next I am angry. I am still that fierce little girl, that indignant and defiant older sister. I think my parents and I went wrong somewhere. We failed to nourish that difficult child. Somehow he didn't get enough love and attention. I must have stolen his thunder. I never lost a fight.

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Emperor Wears No Clothes

Remember all those fairy tales from your childhood that seem so irrelevant to your life now? Perhaps because they were cautionary tales cloaked in the trappings of far away times, talking animals, and impossible scenarios, we easily dismiss these fables.

So this week naked statues of Donald Trump have been mysteriously appearing across the country in major cities in the U.S. It's tacky and disrespectful and yet the child in some of us is amused that this vain emperor has been exposed. He is bloated with evil, lies, and incompetence. Those who don't want to see who he is play along as if he is dressed in the most elegant clothes with the highest of ideals. They are tone deaf to the ugly innuendo and outright lies that come out of his mouth. They ignore the truth of the life he has lived...multiple marriages and affairs, multiple bankruptcies, racism, misogyny, and on and on. He is naked in his ugliness, the pursuit of money and celebrity, and the threat he represents to this country.

He has no clothes, Nothing. He can only offer fear in hopes that we will continue to cloth his arrogance.


It remains to be seen whether the Republican Party survives this craziness. More important, will the country survive this fairy tale, uh, I mean nightmare.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Frustration

I'm frustrated. Time keeps slipping through my fingers. Chaos seems to be creeping into my life. It's summer now and under a blazing sun the temperature heads up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit every day. Gardening needs to be done before ten o'clock; otherwise, it is just too hot. The garden has been somewhat decimated by heat and pestilence. There never is a drop of cooling rain because, well, according to that old song by the Mamas and Papas, "it never rains in Southern Californis." True. So I ration water the best I can and accept that some things must suffer. My beautiful May garden is now in scorched tatters.

By midmorning, I'm thinking what's next? To where do I escape? There are lots of places to go and things to do but, unless it's air-conditioned and doesn't involve bumper-to-bumper traffic, I'm not too enthusiastic. Besides, I have a pile of laundry on the the couch that needs to be folded. There is also a basket of laundry that needs pressing (I refuse to wear wrinkled clothes.)

My diningroom table is covered with books on watercolor painting, sketches, brushes, tubes of paint. On the floor nearby I've started a pile of things for an upcoming family outing--lantern, food items, suntan lotion, trekking sticks, and so on.

In another room are four yards of material and a pattern waiting for assembly. In the kitchen, there are paprika peppers and chili negroes that need to be cut up and put in the dehydrator. Then at four o'clock its off to the hair dresser for a two-hour session. I already know I'm not going to feel like cooking dinner--just leftovers and a glass of wine when I get home.

I'm making myself tired just thinking about all this. How did I ever manage when I had a full time job and kids?

And then there is the TV and the internet, the constant yammering about the presidential election. Talk about frustration. How did the Republican party end up with a nominee who is a mentally unhinged billionaire with an orange comb-over and a small-mouthed scowl that would scare any baby? How do I come to terms with the reality that one of my own brothers is a foaming-at-the-mouth troll for Trump? There's a story here, I'm sure, but do I want to go there?

Yup, I've got to get a grip. Be more disciplined.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Falling Out of Love with Social Media

With the exception of Pinterest, which satisfies my artistic curiosity, I have come to loath social media, particularly Facebook. Twitter I rarely bother with because I don't feel any necessity to limit communication to 140 characters. What for? But Facebook is an enervating addiction. It starts with a positive--the ability to main contact with friends and family and easily check in on their day-to-day activities. It does help hold far flung families and relationships together. But from that point on Facebook goes down hill. My first irritation is all the people who post endless selfies and other narcissistic trivia. After that comes people who post religious statements or who want to see how many people they can get to share a particular post. All the cute pet posts and the disgusting recipes are somewhat tolerable. The ads are annoying but I don't pay any attention to them. And then there are those of us who post political and social news (of which I am guilty). However, there is a difference between the back and forth of posting political/social statements and what really turns me off: mean-spirited, ugly comments devoid of any respect for the facts. Blinding hatred. I've reached a point where I can't take it any more. I don't want to know that people, particularly those I know personally, harbor such hate in their hearts.  Honest discussion is one thing but insane ranting is another. So I'm making myself a promise to swear off Facebook. I'm blocking all the most obnoxious posts and unfollowing those who regularly post annoying junk.  I'm wondering if I can reconfigure Facebook in the future so that it is a useful tool or if I should just discard it altogether. Can I break my addiction?

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Movie Review: Free State of Jones

These days you're likely to have seen several of the Lincoln auto advertisements featuring Matthew McConaughey. They're kind of weird in an intriguing way. McConaughey is one of those actors who lets his quirky self shine through.

And so it is with the Free State of Jones which is based on the true story of the Civil War in Mississippi. Newt Knight (McConaughey) is a Mississippi farmer who is a medic in the Confederate Army. When his nephew dies in battle, he returns home to Jones County to bury the body and protect his family. He is soon branded as a deserter and on the run.

Knight does not believe in slavery and is angered by the fact that the Confederate troops confiscate the livestock and grain of local farmers to provision the army, leaving the local people in danger of starvation. He is angry that wealthy slave owners are exempt from serving in the Confederate army, but the small land owners are expected to give their lives and property for the cause of defending slavery.

With the help of Rachel, a domestic slave, he flees to the swamps and soon finds himself the leader of a band of small farmers, fugitives, and escaped slaves who eventually organize an uprising. Jones County secedes from the Confederacy.

Intertwined with this story is the modern day story of Davis Knight, a descendant who some 85 years later finds himself on trial for breaking the state law against interracial marriage, even though by appearance he looks to be white.  It's a delicate but true story of interracial sexuality in a state that banned marriage with people who were one-eighth or more Negro descent. It is the tale of white supremacy and the Ku Klux Klan that still figures in the fabric of American life today.

The film gives a fascinating perspective on this period in our history and McConaughey does a good job of portraying the scruffy radicalized Knight.  It is not a joyful story but nevertheless it is uplifting as only an American story can be by defying evil against all odds. Go see it.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Utah: Embracing Mother Earth

Most of us live in a crowded, fast-paced environment where we scramble to keep body and soul together. Our lives are preoccupied with acquiring the necessities of life: food, shelter, meaningful work, supporting our family and friends, and juggling all the complexities of modern life. It's easy to lose ourselves. We feel disconnected, frustrated, overwhelmed.

Perhaps this explains why people turn to nature. There is something about nature that touches us and refocuses our mind. A walk through a neighborhood park, a day at the beach, or a hike in the mountains can restore our equilibrium and change our perspective. We slip into Mother Earth's embrace.

Recently, I made a trip to Bryce National Park and Arches National National Park in Utah. I think Bryce was my favorite. It was a jewel of colors and bizarrely-shaped rocks. On the other hand, Arches with it's massive rock formations and sprawling desert lands was overpowering. It swallowed you whole. Intimate Bryce trails allowed visitors to wend their way through the crimson hoodoos down to the floor of the canyon. There is something magical abut losing yourself in nature because it allows you to find yourself.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Papa: Hemingway in Cuba - Movie Review

It’s the late 50s and Ed Myers, a junior reporter at Miami Herald, writes a fan letter to Ernest Hemingway. A week later, to his complete disbelief, he receives an invitation from Hemingway and his fourth wife Mary to join them in Havana.

The movie was shot during the economic embargo at Finca Vigia, Hemingway’s actual home. It is based on an autobiographical script by Denne Petitclerc. The story is told from Petitclerc’s point of view through the character, Ed Myers.

So here’s the story. Abandonned by his father as a child, Ed Myers is in need of a father figure, and well, perhaps Hemingway was in need of an admiring son. It’s a rather tedious movie about Hemingway’s dark genius and his preoccupation in his later years with his sexual and creative impotence. Throw in the Cuban revolution for a little spice and the pursuit by an FBI agent who has it in for Papa. It’s still a rather bland stew punctuated by bouts of rage, paranoia, and alcoholism. The story has an uneven weave to it, like it was just swatches of dull dialog and actions patched together. I think there was more to Hemingway than this. While the locale is authentic and actor Adrian Sparks looks like Hemingway, something is definitely missing in the telling.