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.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Great Land

I just recently made my first trip to Alaska. It is an unimaginably big place forged in a cauldron of fire and ice.  It is a place of big silence: the skies are heavy and gray and the rain is softly insistent. The wildlife that you know is there moves quietly. It does not want to be seen--the back of a whale, whisker of squirrel, statue of moose, cluster of caribou, flutter of bird wing, splash, running bear.

Here are a few interesting facts about Alaska:

  • It's a water world of over 3,000,000 lakes and it's twice the size of Texas.
  • It has 29 active volcanoes and 100,000 glaciers.
  • The Alaska pipeline moves 88,000 barrels of oil per hour. The pipeline was a monumental accomplishment considering the geology and climate of Alaska.

Alaska is still largely untamed frontier and we should be thankful for that. What a gift it is to see nature as it was created. I'm not sure how anything manages to live in a place of such extremes in geology and climate. Most people seem to visit during the summer months and head back south before winter arrives. By the end of September, resorts shut down for the long winter, roads close, and the year-around residents hunker down for winter. Those living in the bush stock up on food and other supplies to last several months. The bears hibernate and the caribou and moose hopefully are carrying enough fat to get them through the long winter. Survival in Alaska is a supreme challenge for wildlife and people.

Try to imagine living in such a challenging environment. Once you are outside of the few small towns, you stand alone in the wilderness awestruck by the stark beauty and the necessity to stay alive. And you are just one small creature in a big, big country.

Glacier Bay

Mount McKinley

Misty Fjords National Park

Nenama River, Denali

Lake Chilkoot

Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Write...Edit...Publish August Challenge: Spectacular Settings

Thanks to Denise and Yolanda for hosting the monthly Write...Edit...Publish blog hop. Here are the guidelines:

This first challenge has two parts. You may do both parts or just one. Your choice.

For this challenge you will:
1.    Firstly share a paragraph from a novel, or an extract from a poem, or a photograph that stopped your heart with a spectacular setting etc. 

2.    Describe how your chosen 'setting' spoke to you. Why did you like it?

3.    Then you have the option to:

     a)     write your own 'setting' piece in any genre, or share a ‘setting’ from your WIP, or…
     b)     write your own poem which highlights 'setting', or 
     c)     share a photograph that blows you away every time you look at it and tell us why.
     d)     share an artwork that shows a 'setting' you love and tell us why you love it.
     e)     write a small playscript which highlights 'setting'.

I chose the opening of Hilary Mantel's Bringing Up the Bodies.

Wiltshire, September 1535

His children are falling from the sky. He watches from horseback, acres of England stretching behind him; they drop, gilt-winged, each with a blood-filled gaze. Grace Cromwell hovers in thin air. She is silent when she takes her prey, silent as she glides to his fist. But the sounds she makes then, the rustle of feathers and the creak, the sigh and riffle of pinion, the small cluck-cluck from her throat, these are sounds of recognition, intimate, daughterly, almost disapproving. Her breast is gore-streaked and flesh clings to her claws.

Later, Henry will say, `Your girls flew well today.' The hawk Anne Cromwell bounces on the glove of Rafe Sadler, who rides by the king in easy conversation. They are tired; the sun is declining, and they ride back to Wolf Hall with the reins slack on the necks of their mounts. Tomorrow his wife and two sisters will go out. These dead women, their bones long sunk in London clay, are now transmigrated. Weightless, they glide on the upper currents of the air. They pity no one. They answer to no one. Their lives are simple. When they look down, they see nothing but their prey, and the borrowed plumes of the hunters: they see a flittering, flinching universe, a universe filled with their dinner.

I enjoy historical fiction. Thomas Cromwell was a very complex character, a man from a humble background, abused by his father, who became a self-made man and Henry VIII's henchman. Henry could not have been a successful king without him. Yet Mandel also paints a portrait of a man who loved children, his own and many others that he took into his own household. He was fond of his daughters Ann and Grace. He wanted them to have the same education as the young males in his household. In this opening scene, we learn that he has named his hawks for the young daughters and wife he has lost to the "sweating sickness." With Cromwell you come to see a tender, sentimental side juxtaposed against a ferocious side.
* * *

And so for the second part of this challenge, I decided to post a painting I recently completed instead of something written. These two rascals are my grandchildren Jake and Kylie. When they are awake they are hell on wheels, but when they are asleep, well, they come pretty close to angelic. Their dual natures make me reflect back to the dual nature of Cromwell.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Mother Nature

Plants fascinate me. I try to discipline myself and restrain my tendency to find a home for every plant that I come across but my yard is full of flower beds, planters and pots. I like animals too but we don't have the right accommodations for them so we only have an old Maine Coon cat.

A Giant Dracula Orchid - Botanical Garden @ Golden Gate Park

Fat & Sassy in Walnut Creek, CA

Growing in Golden Gate Park - No idea what this is

Spotted on the Glacier Point Trail in Yosemite


Monday, August 3, 2015

Short Fiction: The Seer

I have an ordinary name: Celia. And while I lead an ordinary life, if there truly is such a thing, I must admit to an extraordinary profession. Some might call me a psychic, but I like the term seer better. I see what my clients prefer not to see.

When a client walks into my place of business, they are left to idle in the reception area for a few minutes to contemplate the paintings on the wall and the sculptures and ceramics on the tables. There is soft background music and comfy chairs. I want to take down that wall that keeps them from seeing.

People come to me for various reasons—for help in finding something or someone, to seek guidance about career or relationships, or to make me look like a fool.

Today, into my office strolls a tall willowy young woman. In her early forties, I guess. Her attire is expensively simple: blue jeans; a loose, lacy white blouse; and knee-high leather boots. She could be a star on Housewives of Orange County. I note her long, polished finger nails; the tawny-streaked hair artfully tousled; and the bangle earrings. She has a cool, dry handshake that has no more strength than the fluttering of butterfly wings. A deep breath could blow her away if her over-sized breasts did not anchor her to the earth.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Short Fiction: Prince Charming

My cousin Mariah and I share the same birthday. A month before we both turn 30, she rings me up and says we should celebrate. I hesitate. What does she mean by celebrate? Our lives are so different from one another. Mariah is an entrepreneur of some sort, married to a real estate developer with beaucoup bucks. I think she owns an exclusive dress shop on Rodeo. I don’t know who I am—just an unmarried paralegal with dreams of going to medical school.

“Fly out to L.A.” she says.

“Well, I don’t know if I can.”

“You can. I already bought you a ticket. I’ll email you the confirmation.”

“But . . .”

“No buts. The only thing you have to worry about is a nice dress for a spectacular evening out. I’m sure you can find something in my shop.”

“I’m stunned,” I say.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Social Media: The Double-Edged Sword

I don't know about you, but some days I feel overwhelmed by the amount of "stuff" that ends up in my email accounts and flows through all the social media accounts I have. Yesterday I did something that felt great: I killed an account--LinkedIn. Let me tell you that it felt good. I maintained this account when I was working full time as it provided a basic networking service. (Yes, if you want a useful, fully functional experience, you have to pay a monthly fee.) Later I adapted my account to serve my writing interests and book promotion. But LinkedIn didn't serve me in a way that engaged. I no longer cared about maintaining business contacts, and no matter how I tried to inform people in my profile that I no longer was a technical writer, people kept sending me job offers or other information that clearly didn't match my revised profile. So I hit the Delete button and it's gone baby, gone. I feel a little freer.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Where are We Going?

We are all creatures who seek joy and comfort—a beautiful place in the world, the company of someone we love, a good meal, shelter, health, freedom and peace. But the world is a troubled place. It has always been troubled but perhaps now it is far more so as we have overpopulated the world and our sins are finally catching up with us. Mother Earth is in a rage. She storms and shakes. She curses us with erratic weather, fire, floods, famine, disease and drought. We live shoulder to shoulder and the effects of our individual actions are felt by one another. Those-that-have try to insulate themselves and protect what they claim for themselves, cursing the have-nots. We close our eyes to the poverty, disease, and moral corruption surrounding us or we write a check and pray it all goes away. We squabble about God and do evil in His name. Some, however, understand that God is love and that he created the earth beneath our feet and the stars and planets in the heavens. A few understand that a blade of grass is a miracle and the earth is a living, breathing entity. She is our mother. We cannot live without her. Before we sever the umbilical cord, we had better find another place to live.

There are two good men in recent news who are warning us against our complacence: Pope Francis and Barack Obama. They have both made enemies by speaking the truth.