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.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Inundated? Information Control

More and more, our days are assaulted with an abundance of information that overwhelms our senses and frustrates us. Most of our options for controlling this deluge are to ignore or to turn off.

Recently, I tripped over an app that makes it a little easier to manage the information we prefer to read. Flipboard lets you create your own magazines of news articles based on internet articles that interest you and articles collected from other magazine creators. Basically you create your own magazine based on your particular interests. You can share your magazine with others. You can subscribe to magazines that others have created.

All of this gives you a method of organizing and displaying the information that you truly care about and want to be able to easily retrieve. Flipboard is readily available on your smart phone, Windows, MAC, and Kindle Fire or Nook. You can view your magazines and the ones you subscribe to. You can search for topics of interest and share your topics or magazines by social media.

I tried my hand at creating a magazine. Here’s the link to Art, Words, Life: http://flip.it/bVdR2 Or, you can click the magazine icon in the left column. It’s fun and easy. You feel a little more in control of the content. It’s easy to search for information, easy to edit, easy to retrieve your articles, and easy to blow it out of the water when it no longer interests you.

Visit flipboard.com to download the app and view magazines. Tutorials are also available on line.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Movie Review: Lunchbox

What a title, you say. Doesn’t sound very interesting. It conjures up pictures of school lunches and the cubicle life many of us have had to endure. This is the story of a young neglected housewife, an office worker who is approaching retirement, and the mistaken delivery of a lunchbox that engages them in a dream of the human touch that eludes them in their daily life. The story takes place in Mumbai, India and is subtitled in English.

Mumbai’s lunchbox delivery system efficiently delivers meals from housewives to their spouses or from restaurants to workers who have contracted for their midday meal.

In the first moments of the film, you are introduced to the hurly-burly of the city. Mumbai feels like a spirit-crushing environment in which to survive—overcrowded, rushed, dirty, chaotic. Ila, housewife and mother to a young school-age daughter, cooks her husband a special lunch in hopes of winning a little attention from him. She packs the hot lunch in a multi-tiered metal lunch canister and hands it over to the dabbawala for delivery. Curious why her husband shows no interest in her cooking, she slips a note in his lunchbox on the following day, unaware that the lunch is not going to her husband but to a lonely widower and office worker named Saajan. This begins as an innocent exchange of notes between Ila and Saajan but quickly evolves into a deep virtual friendship that allows them to share their fears and hopes and reach out to each other for the small joys that evade them.

This is a delicately told story about the human spirit and how a virtual friendship can come to have a strong hold on desperate people, resulting in a conflict between fantasy and their day-to-day reality. Go see this movie!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Character Study for Readers and Writers

We love the bigger-than-life characters in our books, movies, and sports. We want to bask in their glorious personalities, touch a hem. Genuflect. Dream ourselves into their shoes. Some of us manage to realize our wildest dreams, but it can be a perilous, difficult journey and along the way we can lose our lives or our souls.

Take for example, Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong. I recently downloaded samples of two new books about him: Cycle of Lies by Juliet Macur and Wheelmen by Albergotti and O'Connell. I decided to download the full version of Wheelmen first. Wheelmen focuses on the cycling sport from it's humble beginnings and its evolution as determined sportsmen like Lance brought the sport into the lime light. While Cycle of Lies seems to focus on the analysis of Armstrong's personality and his many shortcomings as a human being (I haven't downloaded the full version yet), Wheelmen focuses on the business of cycling and how Armstrong rose to phenomenal success as the product of our celebrity-worshiping world and the corruption of the sport with money and drugs. It does not skimp on the details of his participation in the corruption, but it does not dwell on understanding his personality. We live in the age of fraud and the big lie due to the ease and vastness of communication. Those with access to money and power, lead not only themselves astray, but the rest of us too. Of course, we are often overly eager to worship and unwilling to question and look at the facts. The public persona of the hero/heroine is carefully crafted and we buy into it. When the truth about doping in the cycling world was brought to light, no one wanted to believe it and the liars happily persisted. There was too much money to be made and too much ego-feeding glory and celebrity to stop the roller coaster ride. We aid and abet characters like Armstrong and so do corporations. They sell us shoes, clothing, books, movies, lies, anything to feed our hunger for hero worship, a touch of the divine.

As a bigger-than-life character, Armstrong clearly has good qualities:  determination to succeed and survive, business savvy, physical gifts that made it possible to succeed in his sport. He also has great deficiencies as a human being. That's the stuff of life and storytelling. As a writer, I always want to include fallen angels. They provide the fabric of the story. There can be no sword-wielding St. Michael, if there is not a dark angel to call out and defeat. We do not evolve as human beings if we do not learn to separate truth from lies.

I think these two books have much to teach us about ourselves and the world we live in as well as the sport of cycling.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Through the Eyes of a Child

The topic for this month's Write...Edit...Publish blog is seeing through a child's eyes. Drop by and share your prose, poem or photos/art on the topic. The following monologue is from the point of view of a character named Mattie. I am gradually recovering from my time-consuming projects and getting back into a writing groove. Still haven't fully recovered my sanity, but working on it. I hope you enjoy this piece.

* * *

My name is Mattie Moore and I am 96 years young. There is nothing extraordinary about me. I have always been just plain Mattie from my first memories of myself. There is no difference between Mattie at two years and me, Mattie, now.

I might have learned some things along the way, but the essential me is immutable. I look at the world with the same eyes and I can tell no difference between me as a child, a young girl, or an old woman. I just am.

Sometimes I wonder if the essential Mattie will be changed by age, disease, or unfortunate circumstances. I keep a watchful eye on my neighbors, friends, and family. Many of them change. When their bodies and minds fail them or tragedy strikes, they become afraid and angry. They lose the ability to see themselves through the eyes of their child self. They lose their innocence and wonder.

My first memory in life is lying in my crib and being fascinated by the shadows and moonlight playing across my bedroom walls. That mysterious moon.

My second memory is standing at the top of a very steep stairwell and willing myself to flutter to the bottom like a bird, unhurt and in awe of the power of flight.

My third memory is of falling out of a doll carriage and striking my head on the floor. On my hands and knees I calmly called for my mother to come see as I stared at the red, magical pool of my own blood. A hysterical mother. A hurried visit to the doctor. A cold scissor on my forehead snipping the thread of a final stitch on my forehead. A promise to my father that I would never do such a foolish thing again.

I begin and end with the mysterious moon, wonder, and the blood of my own mortality. I am simply Mattie and as long as I can hold on to these memories, I will see the world through the eyes of a child and my original, immutable self, no matter where I am in space and time.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Recovering from Crazy

Life has been crazy for the last several weeks. I feel like I've been in a deep tunnel and trying to find my way out. I stopped writing, abandoned social media, and barely answered emails. I neglected housekeeping and most of my outside interests.

Several months ago my husband and I hired a professional landscape designer to come up with a home improvement design for a new driveway, front entrance, patio, and fire pit. I had been thrashing around forever on my own by scratching out designs and collecting clippings from magazines. We got off to a good start with the designer, but after a while I began to feel neglected--she had more interesting, profitable jobs to pursue than coming up with a design for me. I was patient because I was preoccupied with trying to get my uncle's will through probate. So I overlooked the slow process and her preoccupation with plants rather than focusing on hardscape. My main concern was coming up with a workable hardscape design first. Plants were beside the point until there was a canvas on which to paint them. But plants seemed to be her focus. She insisted on the destruction of our old pomegranate tree. I demurred, but in the end I agreed with her because the tree, though beautiful, was unmanageable. It had grown too large for our garden and required constant pruning. But when she tried to scrub my Australian tea tree from the final drawing, I put down my foot. Whatever the design, it would have to accommodate that small tree. I thought it was too absolutely beautiful to destroy. We began to dismantle the yard by removing plants and trees and enormous hidden root systems. There was no turning back.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

What's in a Face?

February's challenge at Write...Edit...Publish is "what's in a face?" I thought of my main character, Elizabeth, in Dreaming of Laughing Hawk. She keeps a sketchbook of portraits of all the people in her life--from the gardener to her family to the love of her life, Collin. This is a short monologue from her point of view. Feel free to offer a full critique.

* * *

I look at the sketch book in my hands. Before I left for California, I tore out my mother's picture and set a match to it--for what she did to me and my stepfather. Some days when I'm a little home sick, I stare at the sketch of my stepfather and trace his craggy jaw with my fingertip. I hope he is doing well. When my mother left us for a new lover, we somehow managed to help each other get through the anger and pain. Me, a scatter-brained high school kid. Him, a drunk. I think I love him more than my father because he did his best to save me from my mother.

And then one day I found myself in California living with my aunt and uncle. It was like God finally decided to give me a break. I filled my sketch book with pictures of my aunt and uncle, my cousin Melina. I collected sketches of Armando the gardener, the maid, and all the people in the new world in which I found myself. I'll admit to an obsessive need to capture people in my sketch book. It's how I attempt to understand them and hold them in my life.

My sketchbook is sacred. It is only for my eyes. I would not want to give anyone the advantage by revealing too much about myself. I trust no one. My sketchbook gives me power. When I first met Collin, I was not so sure I liked him, but then things changed between us. I knew he had to be in my sketch book, but I didn't want him to know the power he was beginning to have over my heart. I could not risk being so vulnerable but I could risk taking his photo from his office credenza. It helped me capture him on paper. He caught me in my little game of hearts. I don't know what I was thinking about that beautiful face of his--his icy blue eyes, the blond hair, the square chin. I was lost in the dream of him. He seemed to have all the right words to feed my hungry soul.

The one person I did not want in my sketch book was Mark Laughing Hawk. Not because my cousin Melina warned me, but because he made me uncomfortable. He did not need to see my sketchbook to see right through me. He called me a liar. I did not want those hawk eyes staring back at me. Hungry eyes hunting. His face was hard, his mouth too sensuous. There was nothing I could say or do to discourage him. In the end, I could have sketched his face and thoughts from memory. And he always knew it.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Soul Trip


Thirty-year old Jodie Parker kicked off her shoes and laid back on the sofa. Melissa Gonzalez, her childhood friend, placed her chair next to the couch.

      “Are you sure you know how to do this hypnosis stuff?” She remembered the silly Ouija board parties they had held as kids.

Melissa smiled. “Hypnosis can be a useful tool in my practice for cracking a case like yours. Let’s find out why you’ve blocked memories of your hildhood and address your animosity towards your father. I think you will find this liberating if you are willing to trust me.”

     “If I can’t trust you, who will I trust?” Jodie wanted to unravel the mystery of a difficult relationship with her father and the men in her life—to bring some measure of happiness and equilibrium to the chaos.

     Melissa brought her left thumb and middle finger together. “Stare at my hand, steady and as unblinking as possible.”

     Jodie felt her body relax as she listened to the lilting sounds of Enya in the background. She stared at Melissa’s hand and listened to the soft voice instruct her to relax and ensure her that she would feel refreshed after their session. Then the lights went out.

     Melissa moved her right hand into Jodie’s view and watched as her eyes suddenly closed. She waited a moment and then turned on her small hand-held recorder. “We are here to discuss these feelings that trouble you, particularly those about your father.” Jodie’s father had always been cold and dismissive of her. He killed with words and little by little Jodie’s emotions had become entangled in a complex love-hate relationship.

     There was a low moan and a muttering. “My hand hurts.”