Sunday, September 30, 2012

September Books

Posting the books I've read in the past month is one of my favorite things to do, so here goes:
I Will Not Die and Unlived Life by Dawna Markova is a beautiful book, well worth reading.  In fact, I'll be posting more about it as time goes on.

David Gilham's novel, City of Women is a different take on World War II.  Sigrid is an ordinary German woman, doing her best to make it while her husband is serving on the Eastern front when she befriends a young neighbor and is drawn into a web of intrigue and deception.  A good read, though you have to suspend your disbelief about some the the coincidental events.

Isn't this the most gruesome cover ever?  It made me feel like I was dead already. If you've read past postings, you may know that I belong to a group that discusses end-of-life issues.  It's called Death, Dying and Dessert and that's what prompted me to read this practical book about the importance of end-of-life planning.
Okay, why on earth am I reading The Prince and the Pauper?  Because someone in my book club nominated it and I felt obligated.  Did I like it?  Not especially.  I'd much rather have spent time with Huck Finn.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Quote fpr tje Weel: Remembering

I posted this poem from the memorial service during the Jewish Day of Atonement last year.  The Day of Atonement begins at sunset tonight, so here is the poem again.

In the rising of the sun and in its going down,
   We remember them.

In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,
   We remenber them.

In the opening of buds and in the rebirth of spring,
   We remember them.

In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of the summer,
   We remember them.

In the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn,
   We remember them.

In the beginning of the year and when it ends,
   We remember them.

When we are weary and in need of strength,
   We remember them.

When we are lost and sick at heart,
   We remember them.

When we have joys we yearn to share,
   We remember them.

So long as we live, they, too, shall live,
   For they are now a part of us,
   As we remember them.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Life Themes

Last week I visited my sister in Atlanta and while I was there, I watched a video she and my brother-in-law made for their children.  I saw their journeys through life, from toddlers through today.  I'm thinking of having a similar video done for my children, and I've wondered, what is the overall theme of my life?

 If I could come up with one word, it would be survival.  All of us are survivors in one way or another, but I think the key moments in my life are tragedies from which I've come back stronger.

The first happened when I was nineteen, an age when I never expected to face death.  It happened on a spring day.  The weather was perfect, but at the end of the afternoon a norther blew it and we lit the gas stove in our room at the sorority house.  We didn't think of shutting the window.  As I stood in front of the heater, my dress blew in, the flames caught it and billowed around my legs and, although I knew I shouldn't, I ran.  I was burned over 35 percent of my body and was hospitalized for three months.  Overcoming pain, joint stiffness and the slow process of healing made me realize that I was a pretty strong young woman--a surprise for me because I'd never thought of myself that way.

The second event that tore my life apart was my divorce from my first husband.  The worst part came beforehand--making the decision to become a single mom in a day when divorce was not anywhere near as common as it is today.  But the first day after my husband moved out, I experienced a feeling of freedom.  Again, a surprise.

The third event was, of course, watching my second husband, the love of my life, die from leukemia.  From a robust man he deteriorated to a person who looked like a concentration camp victim.  His courage during the long months of his dying taught me to be stronger than I ever thought I could be.  October will mark seven years of widowhood for me.  I've faced down a possum that invaded my bathroom, traveled alone, made decisions.  Widowhood teaches survival skills, whether you like it or not.

What's the theme of your life?  Please feel free to leave a comment--I'd really like to know.

Friday, September 14, 2012

New release

Adreneline is pumping, excitement is bubbling up.  Those boxes contain copies of On Our Own:  Widowhood for Smarties, an anthology published by Silver Boomer Books that I've co-edited.  It was my first experience editing and it was fascinating to read the more than 200 submissions and help choose the ones for the anthology.  We have a nicely balanced selection of poetry and prose, mostly from widows but from a few widowers, too.  They cover every aspect of the widowhood experience, from the first jolt of grief to handling every day tasks to venturing into the dating world to cherishing memories.  Some are sad, some are funny, all are written from the heart.

Silver Boomers is a publisher based in Abilene, Texas.  I've been fortunate to be included in some of their previous anthologies, and it was a privilege to work on this one from beginning to end.

More to come...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Quote for the Week

I was looking for a quote about fall, aka autumn, when I found this instead.  I love it.  Hope you will, too.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Website Review: Phronistery

Are you a lover of words?  Here's a site for you:
Obscure words, archaic words, essays about language, even a list of 2 and 3-letter Scrabble words. 
And just for fun, do you know what a lipogram is?  See if you can figure out what it is.  Hint:  It's a sentence or paragraph that never uses one specific letter.  Here's an example:  It's hard to find a lipogram in a book on writing.
Figured it out?  Check the Comments section for the answer.  And check out phronistery.  You'll enjoy it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Quotes for the Week: Politics continued

It's the Democrats' turn.  Time for answers to the week's burning questions:  Are the Ryan kids as cute as Sasha and Malia?  Does Charlotte have more strip joints than Tampa?  Will the Dems have their own speaker with an empty chair? 

They say women talk too much. If you have worked in Congress you know that the filibuster was invented by men.
Clare Boothe Luce

The politicians were talking themselves red, white and blue in the face.
Clare Boothe Luce

The activist is not the man who says the river is dirty. The activist is the man who cleans up the river.
Ross Perot

Many politicians are in the habit of laying it down as a self-evident proposition that no people ought to be free till they are fit to use their freedom. The maxim is worthy of the fool in the old story who resolved not to go into the water till he had learned to swim.
Thomas B. Macaulay

The Vice-Presidency is sort of like the last cookie on the plate. E
Everybody insists he won't take it, but somebody always

Bill Vaughan

Voting is a civic sacrament.
Theodore Hesburgh

If a politician murders his mother, the first response of the press or of his opponents will likely be not that it was a terrible thing to do, but rather that in a statement made six years before he had gone on record as being opposed to matricide.
Meg Greenfield

A politician will do anything to keep his job - even become a patriot.
William Randolph

Monday, September 3, 2012

Books of July and August

Here's my list of what I've been reading along with comments.
A fictional account of the Bronte family, not just Charlotte and Emily.  We follow them from childhood on.  Nicely written.  If you love the Brontes, you'll enjoy this book.

Phillip Carter is supposedly the pseudonym of a best-selling author.  No wonder he didn't put his real name on this one.  It must have come from long-ago rejects.  A far-fetched "thriller" which makes only limited sense.  Deux ex machina galore.  Need to make a bomb?  The ingredients are convenitently available.  Half-drowning in the Seine?  Hero is available to pull you out.  My recommendation:  Don't waste your time.

A desperate attempt to recapture an escaped serial killer.  See my interview with author, Esther Schrader.

A light-hearted look at aging.  Warning:  Those who saw the movie first didn't care for the book.  Apparently the movie is only loosely based on it. 

One of the most sensible and readable books about death and dying that I've encountered. 
Non-fiction.  Visit a small Texas town and its residents.  Some seem stereotyped:  the teenage loser, the only African American kid in town, the old curmugeon, the mom who lost a son in Iraq--but they're pleasant to spend some time with.
A chic young shoemaker who wants to resist falling in love but can't.  Also her quirky family.  Fluffy but fun.
A Holocaust story and one of the best books I've read this year.  A couple find each other after many years.  This isn't a spoiler alert:  the book begins at the end.  Lovely story, beautifully written.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Interview with Esther Schrader

Today I'm interviewing author Esther Schrader whom I've known since elementary school.  We're the two authors in our high school class of nearly 500 students, each of us in a different genre.  After running into Esther at a recent reunion, I ordered one of her books, Death Walks Among Us, the story of an escaped serial killer and the desperate attempts to find and capture him. 

Q Have you always written or wanted to write?

A I have written and been published since I was 10.  First in school newspapers, then local newspapers and company house organs and finally by national publishing houses.  My motto says it all:  "I must write or die.  And no, you don't get to choose."

Q What got you started?

A I have always been a voracious reader.  When I was a child, we drove to the library every Satuday morning and I checked out the maximum 6 books allowed.  I almost finished the first one before we arrived home.  My home was filled with books then as it is today.

Q Why were you drawn to the mystery genre?

A Experts tell us to "write what you know."  I would add, "Write what you love to read."  Early on my heroes were Stephen King and Dean Koontz.  As I drfited away from horror, my reading turned to James Patterson, Agatha Christie, and a host of others too numerous to name.  I love legal thrillers, but I don't have the background to write them.  I also love police procedurals, and one of my novels currently underway is in that genre.

Q Tell us about your road to publication.

A When I retired as an insurance professional in early 2000, I set my sights on becoming a professional writer.  I joined writing organizations, attended writers' conferences, participated in in critique groups, soaked up seminars, and accumulated a massive library of reference books.  My goal was to be a novelist, but I soon discovered I would have better luck breaking into professional publication by perfecting the art of short story writing.  My stories appeared in 10 or so anthologies and online venues before my first novel was published.  I met my primary publisher online through the daily genre newsletter, Flashshot, which I was editing at the time.

Q I think writers are always interested in the process other writers use.  Do you have any special routines?

A I usually have several projects underway.  I'll write on the one that floats to the top at any given time.  Sometimes I hit a wall, and then I lay that one aside and work on another.  I'm always writing, either on my computer on in my head.  I'm alert to real dialogue, unusual names of places and plots twists.  When an idea comes to me, I write it down.  I always carry a notebook and pen in my purse, and keep them all over my home as well.

Q Do you write from beginning to end or skip around?

A From beginning to end, but I might go back and insert a chapter or throw one out if the story line takes a different direction.  Sometimes my characters compel me to shift direction.

Q Outline first?

A I tried that once, and it bored me to death.  I do organize my story arcs, but that is while I'm writing.

Q Do you start with character or plot?

A My books and stories are character-driven.  The plot comes from the characters as they come to life and tell me the story.  This is a result of my having started out by writing and producing 10 mystery dinner shows before I retired from insurance.  I've been told I have an ear for dialogue.  While I was writing my fanstasy thriller, Wrath of Thoth, I was working on my computer when suddenly one of the characters did something I didn't expect.  "You can't do that," I actually said aloud.  The action totally changed not only the scene but the rest of the novel.  And she was right!  I guess that taught me tp never second-guess your characters, if you have created them accurately.

Q Have you taken any writing courses?

A Just seminars and writers' workshops and conferences.

Q Joined any writing groups?

A Going on the recommendation of a highly respected handbook for beginning writers, I first joined Horror Writers of America.  I picked that one because the first book I wrote was a horror novel titled Death WAlks Among Us, which ended up being my third one published, after several rewirtes.  Later I joined the Oregon Writers Colony and the Northwest Writers Association and dropped out of HWA.

Q How have you publicized your books?

A My best publicity is word of mouth from my readers.  Fans of my Ginger Akana Adventure series are always asking me, "When will your next Ginger book copme out?"  I have a web site  I try to keep it up to date, but it usually lags behind my activity.  I also have a brochure that I use liberally to acquaint people with all my books and how to get them.  I arrange readings/signings whenever possible and donate copies of my novels to fundraisers.  I participate in book fairs and other functions sponsored by the Oregon Writers Colony.  And going on the thesis of, "If you can't beat them, join them," I have transcribed two of my novels into Kindle format and plan to add the others as time permits.

Q Any writing tips?

A I accumulate reference material to have available for future work.  Sometimes I find relevant material while I'm actually writing a particular novel. I wouldn't dream of starting a novel without proper research and in-depth character bios.  One pice of advice:  read as much as you can in the genre you wish to write.  Spread your net behond best sellers.  I've found some unique writers to have become favorites and, in some cases, good friends.
 Look for Esther Schraders' books on Amazon or check out her website

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