Now available in audio. Click here to hear a sample.
Narrated by Lynne Parrish, order the unabridged audiobook from Audible.com
7 hours, 16 minutes, $19.95
When we returned from Arizona to Pine Mountain Lake I promised I would stay put for at least six months, but in May I’m on the road again (not for long). Judith Gregg, head librarian at the Los Altos Library, did this lovely flier to advertise a local author event. I’m on the program.
Can I say I’m local even though I no longer have an address in the area? If home is where the heart is, I would say that my grandmother’s house in Los Altos was my emotional hub. My love of orchards, oceans, and pink peppermint ice cream with crunchy green candies emanates from my growing up years in Santa Clara Valley.
What was so special about that house that it features in both my books? I have no pictures to post. The tiny summer cottage that doubled as a neighborhood ballet studio was razed in the Seventies. That old house was dwarfed by a California pepper tree in the front, a messy olive tree in the back, and a Mission fig tree to the side. You could swing from the olive tree, climb the pepper tree, and gorge yourself sick on the figs. (Like apricots, figs must be freshly picked, warmed by the sun, and oozing juice to be fully appreciated.) The trees are gone, I think. Today, a two story house commands most of the lot.
It will be fun to compare memories of the orchards with Robin Chapman and hear from Marian Aiken about the many special needs boys she raised. Also, I will be reading selections from my books. If you are in the area, please stop in. We’d love to see you.
Partaking of the internet is like eating from the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Where once we were relative innocents, we now know the unfathomable depths of horrific evil that pervades the earth, in epic scale.
In a class I am taking, Jesus the Jew, Rabbi David Davis lamented, “Our knowledge has increased, but our hearts have not changed.” There in a simple sentence is the problem I have long pondered.
We have made great strides in science and technology that enable us to battle dissidents and diseases with greater ferocity. But hatred and illness seem to be a war we cannot win. Contain the festering sore in one place and it pops up in another. Forming coalitions, crafting policies, and legislating behavior have their place, but they don’t appear to touch the heart.Read More»
Charting a family tree provides a record for future generations, but sketching the leafy branches in story form is far more revealing. At first glance, your tree may appear to be a uniform sample of its species, but move your gaze though its branches and you will likely find broken limbs and odd grafts.
Unless it is a well researched biography (non-fiction), a family saga is an intriguing mix of fact and fiction. To tell a good story, historical fiction writers have to make up what they don’t know.
Careful research can raise facts that help shape the story so that what it lacks in accuracy is compensated by truth.
What’s in a name?
I am writing about the role black sheep play in a family. The book is based on the adventures of my great grandmother Nellie Belle Scott. Family legend has it that she left her husband and children for a career as the first female court reporter in the Pacific Northwest. At a time in history when women stayed married and stayed in the kitchen, she ran around the circuit providing stenographic services in makeshift courtrooms and amusing conversation to judges and attorneys.
Viewing Nellie through the eyes of my mother and grandmother painted a negative picture. But in researching her girlhood, I stumbled upon an interesting fact. Her younger sister Jessie named her daughter Nellie. Obviously there’s another side to my great grandmother. My job as a novelist is to discover what in Nellie’s character inspired such high regard from those who knew her growing up.
Namesakes and monikers
In one afternoon I traced my family history straight back to Plymouth Colony. I saw how some names were passed down through generations: Francis Carter, son Frank, great granddaughter Frances, who died in infancy. If you are looking to name a baby or a fictional character, check your family tree.
My favorite moniker goes way back in history. I could write a book about a woman named Submit Talman, a misnomer I’m thinking. Pair the Biblical character trait of her first name with the phonetic spelling of her last name — tall man — and you have enough tension and conflict for a lively plot line.
Have a litter of kittens or puppies that need names? Nineteenth century people had large families. My maternal great grandfather was one of ten children. Choice names from that list? Zenas, Enos, and Hiram, fit for a bevy of bulldogs.
Because I’m off my feet now recovering from foot surgery, I have lots of time to go down rabbit holes. The terrain is so full of holes, I’m beginning to wonder how the ground under our feet holds together.
I clicked on an article that sounded an alarm over the demise of sardines (my husband will be glad to hear that) and declared that the domino effect will be the loss of huge populations of sea creatures. Makes sense.
Pondering that, I scrolled down to a meme that screamed at me, Now do you believe in climate change you #$@*!!!? (Insert a long list of angry invectives branding non believers as evil people of questionable parentage.)
As a writer I spend a lot of time attempting to craft intelligent responses to difficult, complex issues. Given that my brain scatters in multiple directions before it forms a complete and hopefully rational thought, it takes me awhile to get clear on things.
I am not going to address the issues involved in climate change in a public forum. I will freely admit that I don’t know enough about the science that supports the conclusions people draw to discuss the topic in any meaningful way. I do have some thoughts on temperature of the discussion, though.Read More»