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Friday, January 31, 2014

Friday Fun


It's time for Friday Fun. Today, we're looking at the great combination of literature and food. Can you guess what books these plates of food are inspired by? Click here to try. 

My best to you all,

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Writer Wednesday: George Washington's Secret Six

It's time for Writer Wednesday, when I discuss another author and his or her book.

Long before 007, there was George Washington's Secret Six. These were the men (and one woman!) who helped to uncover the secrets that turned the tide toward the patriots' favor during the American Revolution. Kilmeade's and Yaeger's book, with the subtitle, The Spy Ring that Saved the American Revolution, tells the story of exactly that. It is a fascinating story that paints a picture of the setting for the colonists, particularly located around New York City. What was it like to have the British as occupiers? How was the spy ring enacted? Who was in charge? What were the coded number systems used as identification? And just who were the secret six? History has now uncovered the identities of each of the men. The woman remains a mystery. Time is also given to the counter-side, the British version. And of course, deception and the American Revolution would be incomplete without mention of Benedict Arnold. He appears in this colorful tale of historical narrative as well.
If you're interested in history, espionage or the American Revolution, this is a very interesting read!

My best to you all,

Monday, January 27, 2014

Helpful Twitter Hashtags for Writers


Today's post is all about the Twitter alphabet soup of hashtags that helps writers. 


#pitmad - This is a contest on Twitter, held on certain appointed days, where writers can pitch their story idea to agents or editors that are watching the Twitter feed.

#pitchmas - This is a contest on Twitter, that is like #pitmad but is held right before Christmas.

#pitchwars - This is a contest where authors submit through a blog and have the opportunity to receive guidance from a mentor (if they are chosen). Agents then have the opportunity to make requests after the mentor has helped the writer on the manuscript. 

** #Pitmad and #Pitchwars are run by Brenda Drake. 
** #Pitchmas is run by Jessa Russo and Tamara Mataya

Agent Information: 

#mswl- This is a hashtag used by agents or editors (rather than writers) to tweet about particular types of books they are interested in. It stands for manuscript wishlist. Although this began as a hashtag that was used on certain appointed days, some agents and editors use it whenever they have a particular item to add to their wishlists. 

#agentadvice - Agents posting advice use this hashtag.

#10queries - Some agents go through 10 queries in their inbox/mail and tweet about each of the 10 queries. They may explain why they choose to accept or pass on each query. This happens on various days, dependent on the decision of the particular agent. There is no appointed day for it, as there is with the contests above. 

#askagent- Some agents open the Twitter floor for questions and use this hashtag to do so. 


#amwriting - This is used by writers, to tweet things related to what they are writing about. 

#amreading - This is used by readers, to tweet things they are reading about. 

#amrevising - This is used by writers, to tweet things they are revising or editing. 

Are there other useful twitter hashtags that you know about that you'd like to add? 

My best to you all,

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Writer Wednesday: A History of the World in 100 Objects

It's time for Writer Wednesday, when I discuss another author and his or her book. Today's pick is Neil MacGregor's A History of the World in 100 Objects. I received this book for Christmas this year and very much enjoyed it! Last spring, I read MacGregor's Shakespeare's Restless World. It too takes objects and tells the stories of those objects in relation to a greater context. In the case of Shakespeare's Restless World, he relates everyday objects of the sixteenth and early seventeenth century to Shakespeare's plays and audience. Here, in A History of the World in 100 Objects, the stage is broadened. Not only are items picked that address the entire world, but millions of years, rather than a few decades, are spanned.

MacGregor is the director of the British Museum in London, a place that I could easily imagine living in for about a month or so to examine all the objects. When I visited, I said exactly that. You need only travel to a comfortable chair, though, to encounter the fascinating objects from all regions of the world and from diverse areas such as writing, cooking, economics, power and religion in this book. MacGregor's work in the museum makes sense that he would interpret history through objects. That is in part the motive of a museum- to preserve and protect, as well as interpret the artifacts of history. My own background from my studies is in history, specifically related to international relations, and so I found particular interest in how he presented a narrative of the interconnectedness of societies and civilizations.

This is a fascinating book that details the objects of our lives and how we create, use, re-purpose and reinvent their meanings as history progresses. In that way, a museum is not so different from historical fiction. Both take a snapshot of part of the past and present it in a palpable way for the audience. MacGregor has certainly done that here. In fact, he's done it 100 times.

My best to you all,

Monday, January 20, 2014

Martin Luther King Jr.

Today is a day when a yearning for freedom, embodied in the work of a man, is commemorated. Freedom, exercised through peaceful means, rallied those in Washington and across the nation in 1963. Just as Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of freedom ringing from the great peaks of the American mountains, his voice and his words continue to ring as a testament to the power of freedom and the endurance of a dream built upon the foundation of peace. That his words are still quoted decades later, and not merely in history classes as a note of what has happened that has been overcome, is reflexive of the longevity of ideas. That is, even if circumstances change, the longing of a human heart remains fixed, striving for truth, peace, and freedom. "Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred," are words that do not outgrow their advice. For his full speech, supplied by the American National Archives, visit here. The ideals of humanity, shining as a guiding beacon, are a link that joins together people from disparate lands and eras. Perhaps, from a writing standpoint, that is part of the appeal of historical fiction. Though the struggle and the year is different from our own, the longings for what is right are the same. There is a bond of companionship. United for good, through daily living or the pages of a book, is surely something that Martin Luther King Jr. would applaud.

My best to you all,

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Saturday's Quotation to Inspire: Books for Culture

“You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”
― Ray Bradbury

Friday, January 17, 2014

Friday Fun- Animal Smiles


It's time for Friday Fun!

If you're fond of animals and smiling- enjoy here!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Writer Wednesday- The Ghost Bride

Hello! It's time for Writer Wednesday, when I discuss another author and his or her book.

Today, I'm talking about The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo. I was introduced to this book during the historical fiction class offered by the University of Virginia on Coursera.

Part historical fiction, part magic, part ancient Chinese beliefs, part speculation and completely unlike anything else I've ever read, The Ghost Bride made for an interesting read with brightly colored details of 1890s Malaya. Li Lan is the central character in this book and is presented with the idea of entering into a ghost marriage. What follows is a journey through life and also into the Chinese spirit world. Li Lan learns much about her family, the beliefs and what is important to her as she travels through many dimensions in the pages of this book.

Good historical fiction opens the mind to a different culture, place, time or way of thinking about something. The Ghost Bride did that for me!

My best to you all,

Monday, January 13, 2014

New Year, New Pinterest


Last Monday, I introduced my new website. Today, I'd like to introduce my new pinterest. People use pinterest for all sorts of things. To me, pinterest is like a giant collection of magazines and the pictures that you clip out are then stored on bulletin boards.The areas that I've chosen to represent (so far anyway) are Beautiful Books (including quotations about books and pictures of libraries), Beautiful Animals (including some of my favorites), Beautiful Places (photos of places that I've been to, since travel informs writing), Beautiful Food and Favorite Films.

Writing- finding inspiration in all areas!

My best to you all,

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Saturday's Quotation to Inspire: The More You Read

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”
― Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Friday Fun - Maps

Map from 1897 
It's time for Friday Fun!

Maps are fascinating! They tell us where we are going and also where we have come from, based upon the design, layout and what is depicted. They determine what is important to a cartographer and by extension, the nation or culture at large. Some of the most interesting maps to see are those that first shaped the world, dividing land and sea and echoing through the pages of history. For a very interesting website that shows these maps visit, here.

My best to you all,

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Writer Wednesday- Shakespeare


It's time for Writer Wednesday, when I discuss another author and his or her book. Today I'm talking about Shakespeare, who has been named the greatest writer of the English language. 2014 marks the 450th birthday of William Shakespeare.

 He is beloved centuries later because there is a universality in the  actions of his characters. One does not have to be Caesar to feel betrayal. Brutus lurks even now in modern life. Likewise, one does not have to be Shylock to attempt to undertake a business dealing that ends less than desirable for oneself. One does not have to be Romeo to be in love. These characters are fully integrated into their various sets and places of their plays, but they are also identifiable to contemporary audiences, because they speak with honesty. What does this mean? Authentic characters are timeless, because they are supremely real and thus they emerge not as stifled creations but as full embodiments of humanity- or at least a portion of it. This then is the secret to longevity.

Much can be written on Shakespeare. He appeals to many because he was a master of so many genres- poetry, comedy, tragedy and history. Interestingly to me, as an author of historical fiction, Shakespeare himself wrote historical fiction. What we consider his histories are precisely that. He imagines the histories, based in fact, but also with the liberty of the playwright in crafting a story that seems plausible but that is not entirely documented to be true. The staying power of his plays testifies then also to the long-held appeal of historical fiction. The past beckons to the interests of others. There, readers continue to find some semblance of themselves. The past then truly is prologue. It was Shakespeare who coined the phrase- Past is Prologue.

My best to you all,

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Saturday's Quotation to Inspire: The New Year

“Another fresh new year is here . . .
Another year to live!
To banish worry, doubt, and fear,
To love and laugh and give!

This bright new year is given me
To live each day with zest . . .
To daily grow and try to be
My highest and my best!

I have the opportunity
Once more to right some wrongs,
To pray for peace, to plant a tree,
And sing more joyful songs!” 
― William Arthur Ward

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Writer Wednesday: Christmas with Anne

It's time for Writer Wednesday, when I discuss another author and his or her book.Christmas with Anne is a delightful compilation of Christmas stories and also tales for the new year. Some included are chapters from the Anne of Green Gables books, while others are short standalone stories. Be prepared to be charmed by the holiday spirit of Edwardian Canada. Family, friends, goodwill, presents from the heart and delicious food - all part of the holiday season- are included in this book. Happy New Year!
My best to you all,