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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Saturday's Quotation to Inspire: Midsummer Night with Shakespeare

“For you, in my respect, are all the world; Then how can it be said I am alone, When all the world is here to look on me?"
― Willilam Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Writer Wednesday: Summer Sky

Today's Writer Wednesday is a brief poem, by Emily Dickinson, to perfectly capture a summer day.

To see the Summer Sky by Emily Dickinson

To see the Summer Sky
Is Poetry, though never in a Book it lie --
True Poems flee --

What are your favorite summer poems? How does this capture the mood of summer to you? To me, it shows that there is a fleeting beauty all of its own, that often passes away too quickly into cooler days. 

My best to you all,

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Saturday's Quotation to Inspire: Gardeners of Happiness

"Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom."- Marcel Proust

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Writer Wednesday: To Kill a Mockingbird


To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee was an assigned book to read in high school. As much as I love books, some high school reading I didn't like. To Kill a Mockingbird, though, is magical and it deserves to be on every reading list. 

Although technically true that this is a literary novel debut and it is a classic, it is also the sole published novel by Harper Lee. I have featured this book once before on Writer Wednesday, in relation to Halloween books, and you can read that here. 

Today, though, since I am discussing debuts, I want to speak about why she may not have written something else. I have heard that she wrote other work for herself but did not wish to publish it. More specifically, this quotation explains why she chose not to publish again. "Two reasons: one, I wouldn't go through the pressure and publicity I went through with To Kill a Mockingbird for any amount of money. Second, I have said what I wanted to say and I will not say it again."

While it is perfectly within her right to choose this, it reminds me of what I've seen in several authors. There is timidity, in wanting to perfectly please the audience. I have seen authors hold back their work, rereading and reviewing it many times. While some authors spend years on a single work and there's nothing wrong with that, novels are meant to be a snapshot in time. Sweeping sagas may discuss great periods of time, but the majority of novels are about a season of the character's life. A well known author said that it takes him a season (in terms of sports) to write a novel. I think that perfectly illustrates this seasonal mindset. A character is presented to the reader for a season and it then makes sense that the character be derived from an author's own season. No season of life holds the entirety of existence and so it serves the audience well for an author to have courage and publish a season, rather than holding out for years, trying to perfectly nail the book. On top of this, what was once in fashion, may seem outdated by the time the book is published. This effect will only be multiplied if the work of a season becomes the work of a decade.

I do not mean to deride any author who spends several years on a book. There are very good works out there that do such a thing. I merely mean to encourage. I taught a writing course and so I feel that is within my capacity of writing coach and teacher. Have courage to believe in your writing and then move onto the next story.

My best to you all,

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Top Ten Books I've Read so Far this year...

Image by The Broke and the Bookish 

In no particular order, here are the top 10 books that I've read so far this year...

1. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

2. A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor

3. Reason and Persuasion: Three Dialogues by Plato by John Holbo

4. 1014: Brian Boru and the Battle for Ireland by Morgan Llywelyn 

5. An Officer and A Spy by Robert Harris 

6. The Myth of 1648 by Benno Teschke 

7. The War to End the Peace by Margaret MacMillan (Ok, not quite finished yet- but it has to be included!)

8. Jane Austen Made Me Do It

9. Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomalin 

10. The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht 

What are the best books that you've read so far this year?

My best to you all,

Monday, June 9, 2014

Why I write about war...

Friday marked the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Next month marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WWI. I've written about both and my current work in progress takes place in WWII. So, why do I write about war?

I studied International Relations in college and global ethics. At the heart of them is the commitment to making a more peaceful and better world in which to live. My approach to my university studies  involved historical concentrations. Past is Prologue and "Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it," by George Santayana carry responsibility with them. By examining what has happened and why it has happened, there can be greater understanding and an attempt to embark upon a more peaceful path. 
I write historical fiction, particularly within wars, because there are moments in time that are especially poignant in expressing the idea that a person is an individual and that being from a location does not make one good or bad. Furthermore, the other is often quite similar to the self. War offers dramatic settings to showcase this and to perhaps, dilute the appeal of their repetition.
Of course, not all of my stories are set in wars and even when they are, wars have varying degrees of importance on the actual stories. Characters are at the heart of each story and they each come with themes and story lines that may or may not be best enacted against a war. 

There was a very interesting article about writers as the heroes of this generation. In a way then, writers are the social conscience, exposing others to lives they have not lived and ideas they have not thought. They are there to inform and to help to guide the thoughts of others. Writers are teachers by another medium. 

Lest we should think that wars are no longer as encompassing as they once were and be tricked into thinking that they no longer hold a threat, the 1870s and 1880s were remarkably peaceful overall, known for being a time of great peace and cooperation and technological advancement. Professor Philip Zelikow  of the University of Virginia has compared this time in history to then, in terms of the transitional period that it created. I in no means am suggesting that we should be frightened of the inevitability of war. Merely, we should be mindful of its causes and informed of its consequences. For some, that eduction comes best from novels. There is an immediacy in the characters and a vested interest, that makes their trials palpable. We ought only to be vigilant, so that we can pursue the paths of peace whenever possible. 

The simplest answer then for why I write about war is because I love peace and wish to help its furtherance. 

My best to you all,

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Saturday's Quotation to Inspire: Positive Results

"Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you'll start having positive results."-
Willie Nelson

Friday, June 6, 2014

D-Day + 70 Years

Operation Overlord.
Normandy, France.
June 6, 1944
Why does it matter?

It was the beginning of the end in the long road to freedom. It was the offensive, coming to life on a wide scale, after the defensive had been enacted so often. It was the culmination of preparation and the collective holding of the nations' breath, as they took part in the largest ever amphibian assault in history.

Here are a few snapshots into the day.

Mulberry Harbor- These were the floating bridges built to transport the trucks and supplies from the ships to the beaches.

The beaches...






More than just a name, these beaches resonate with the history and the sacrifice of Normandy. Even the stones seem to remember. When I stood on Utah beach, I picked up a stone that was striped red. I couldn't help but feel the stone told the story of that beach, also marred in blood and remembrance. And yet, there is a serenity and beauty that pulses from this land. It is the quiet echo of the beginning of freedom's toll.

Pointe du Hoc- This was a site for the German fortifications overlooking the beaches. Rangers scaled these cliffs. Not all battles were waged on the flat expanses of beaches.

Sainte-Mère-Église is one of the many towns in Normandy. Before the advance on the beaches, parachutes fell from the skies as the troops began securing the countryside. A parachute remains on the steeple of this church as a memorial.

What do crickets have to do with D-Day? Crickets were the name given to metal clacking devices that were used to signal in the massive Normandy hedgerows. They helped determine between friend and foe.

Normandy's landings can be viewed in more detail here.

After the landings, D-Day + was used to mark the time, in terms of days. Today, it is D-Day + 70 Years. Normandy remembers and so do I.

My best to you all,

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Writer Wednesday: F. Scott Fitzgerald and This Side of Paradise


On Writer Wednesday, I write about another author and his or her book.

F. Scott Fitzgerald continues to be widely read, nearly a century after his work was published. Although many know him for The Great Gatsby, This Side of Paradise was his debut. Having read both, I prefer This Side of Paradise. Wit, humor, philosophy, musing, and beautiful passages marks the life of Amory as he journeys from school days to college to life beyond. It is said to be partially based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's life and was written when the author was twenty-three. It also purportedly is what enticed Zelda to marry him, when he secured the funding for their marriage from the publisher who agreed to publish this work.

It is commentary on the twenties, but also on life. It is innovative in its story. One particular character who lives her life as an actress, in that she is always acting at what she really wants, is presented through a section written as a play. The rest of the story is told in narrative, but the flavor of that character is best presented through a play and so that is what emerges. Also interesting to note, since this is the centenary of the beginning of WWI, Amory and several of his college friends are in fact in WWI. Strangely (to me), the war didn't much affect the characters. F. Scott even comments on how it did not. In F. Scott's real life, war did in fact greatly impact him as he left Princeton to join the army in 1917. In order to ensure that his literary ambitions were protected, before shipping out, he penned The Romantic Egotist. This work was rejected by a publisher, but it is a portion of This Side of Paradise.

Which work by F. Scott Fitzgerald do you most enjoy?
Join me next Wednesday, when I discuss another classic literary debut!

My best to you all,

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Top 10 Books for the Beach this summer

Image from The Broke and the Bookish

Since I live beside the sea, I suppose that in one way or another, all of my reading is on or at least near the beach. Here then are ten books that I plan to read this summer, in no particular order!

1) The War that Ended Peace- Margaret MacMillan (Currently about 1/2 way through this)

2) The Last Runaway- Tracy Chevalier 

3) Z: A novel of Zelda Fitzgerald- Therese Anne Fowler

4) Washington: A Life- Ron Chernow (to be completed as well)

5) I Am Rembrandt's Daughter- Lynn Cullen 

6) Paradise Lost- John Milton 

7) First Family: Abigail and John Adams- Joseph Ellis

8) Juliet- Anne Fortier 

9) Emma- Jane Austen

10) Research... whatever form this may take as new stories emerge!

Join me tomorrow when I begin a look at classic literary debuts, in preparation for the countdown to my debut of Across the River.

My best to you all,