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.

Monday, December 15, 2014

To Believe or Not to Believe in Santa

When I was a child Santa Claus was a big deal. I was a true believer. It was important to be especially good at Christmas time or Santa might just fly over and not stop. Come Christmas Eve, I was amazed at how presents somehow mysteriously appeared under the tree after returning home from a drive in the country. The treats left for Santa were half eaten. The huge footsteps in the snow were Santa's.

I remember being eight years old when my mother sat me down for the Santa Claus lecture. Apparently, I had committed the sin of being a too ardent believer in ol' Kris Kringle long past the age of innocence. My mother tried to explain that Christmas was about the spirit of giving and that Santa Claus wasn't actually a real person just a symbol of that spirit. I remember being very angry with my mother. "What? You couldn't wait until AFTER Christmas to tell me about all this spirit stuff? You had to ruin Christmas?" The truth is I'm still mad about that after all these years. I forgave her for a lot of things, but I never forgave that.

When I had my own children, I certainly encouraged the Santa myth. When my oldest daughter was four, we celebrated Christmas at my parents. Looking out the window, my daughter started to jump up and down and squeal. She had spotted Santa running through the snow in his bright red suit. She was beside herself with joy. Her cousins laughed. "That's not Santa. That's Uncle Bob." Their cynicism could not spoil the moment for her. She was a true believer. I let her sort out the truth on her own when she was ready for it.

Fast forward and I now have grandchildren, six-year old Jake and four-year old Kylie. My grandson is a true believer; my granddaughter is somewhat cynical. Jake has an "elf on the shelf" named Bennie, a sort of scout elf who checks things out for Santa to make sure who is naughty or nice. Bennie mysteriously changes his location in the house every day. You're not supposed to touch him, according to Jake, or he might lose his power. Kylie doesn't think much of Bennie and asks her mother to touch Bennie so he loses his power and his status is reduced to that of an ordinary toy.

To believe or not believe. I think it's a wonderful thing to encourage fanciful dreaming in a child--that little touch of magic that will serve him or her well in adulthood. It's like lighting a candle in the window of your soul and being transfixed by the flame as it dances and flickers in the dark.

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Dark, Dark Tale

I don’t know how this dark story turned up, but I decided to let the character have her say. Maybe it’s the rain in Southern California. In the land of sunshine and drought, a few drops of rain can affect the brain.

* * *

It’s 1451 and my husband stands in the darkened doorway and says: “You are fouling our bed with your disease.” If I weren’t so near to heaven I would tell him that I am dying from him, not this plague that has laid me and my children so low.

“Dear husband,” I reply, “do not linger, but bring us a pitcher of fresh water and a bit of bread.” He is terrified of the plague we call the sweat and does not approach. I listen to the shallow raspy breathing of my two-year old Mary who lies next to me. Her little chest rises and falls with great difficulty. I hold her hand in mine. On my other side, is ten-year old Charles, the golden boy, the son on whom my husband has built all his dreams for a better life. I place my hand on his sweaty palm. He is delirious with fever.

“Will he live?” my husband asks. He does not care about me or Mary.

“Tell cook to bring a chicken broth with a pinch of my herbs.”

“Do you never tire of playing the witch?”

“If a witch could save your son’s life, I wager you would pay any price she asked.”

He turns to leave.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

T'is the Season

It’s that time of year when we wistfully wish for peace and goodwill on earth. Ha! This has not happened in the 2000+ years since the birth of Christ. If Jesus were to show up today in any country in the world, there would be plenty of folks eager to nail him to his cross again. The world is filled with ugliness that none of us can escape—that is to say some of us manage better than others, but no one can get out of this world without a brush with evil in some form or another. Every day we are confronted by death, destruction, deceit—the list is long. We put our blinders on and try to deny evil or our part in it. We blame others, even God.

Nevertheless, we hope. We pray for the healing that comes from wisdom and love. We struggle to mend the torn fabric of our family lives. We look to government, business, educational, and religious leaders for honesty, direction and justice. And we fail over and over again, year after year, to make the right choices, exercise responsibility and love, to lift our faces up to God, to defeat evil.

In the year 2014 we have drifted even farther from the concept of peace and goodwill. Each of us must light a candle for hope, purification of spirit. We must grow hearts. We must understand that we will reap what we have sown. And we must ask ourselves the question—what would Jesus or Mohamed or Buddha say or do? If each of us asked ourselves what is good and right in the universe, could the world finally turn toward peace?

So this holiday let us do more than wish: let’s practice the things which can change the world for the better. Light up a child’s eyes, feed a hungry family, set aside grievances, fight injustice, find a way to make a contribution to community or country. Let us each be a light in the darkness, an angel of peace.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

Today is a day of thanksgiving when we celebrate the bounty, goodness and freedoms that have been bestowed upon us as a nation and as individuals. And while we are aware that there are those who suffer from want, misfortune or loss of loved ones, almost everyone has a treasure trove of thankfulness for the kindness, goodness, and love that has come his or her way in life.

So this morning when I read about the story of twin 3-year old boys who weighed only 15 pounds each, I thought what a horrible life to be starved and abused by your own mother. One of the twins is now in intensive care in San Diego. The other, who was rescued from his home, is also severely malnourished and has a fractured jaw. Maybe this Thanksgiving there will be a glimmer of hope for them and a chance at a better life.

Life, even when difficult, is meant to be embraced and we thank God and those that help along the way.

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.