Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Neighbors -- Danielle Steel

Random House
ISBN-10: 0-59333-917-7
ISBN-13: 978-0-5933-917-6
January 5, 2021
Woman’s Fiction

San Francisco – the Present

Before her withdrawal from society fourteen years ago, Meredith White had been a famous actress. Fifteen years ago, her actor-producer husband left her for a younger Italian actress, moving to New York. Her fourteen-year-old son went to New York to visit his father and died in a tragic accident. Her son’s death caused Meredith to retreat from the world. For the last fourteen years, Meredith has become a recluse in her stone mansion in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights. Her house servants, Jack and Debbie, have taken care of the house and Meredith ever since. She now considers them her only friends. That is until the earthquake. When an 8.2 quake hits the area, Meredith insists that she go into the street to discover if her neighbors need help. Debbie and Jack oppose her decision, insisting she doesn’t even know her neighbors. Meredith goes anyway, and everything begins to change.

While Meredith’s house had minimal damage, her neighbors were severely damaged and have gone to the street for safety. Meredith meets Tyla, her husband, Doctor Andrew Johnson, and their children, eleven-year-old Will and seven-year-old Daphne. Daphne possesses a beloved doll Martha, who helps her in difficult situations. Unfortunately, her brother doesn’t have a friend like Martha to help him. Other residents include blind concert pianist Arthur Harriman, his assistant Peter Stern, wealthy businessman Joel Fine, and his current live-in girlfriend, Ava Bates. Meredith invites all of them to stay in her house until theirs are repaired. They know who Meredith is as her reputation as an actress is still well known, and all are excited at her invitation. Retired Air Force Colonel Charles Chapman also shows up. He is checking neighborhoods in his work for the Office of Emergency Services during this devastating crisis.

The past histories and current situations of these characters, both good and bad, begin to intertwine. The reader’s interest is captured as their involvement with each other brings significant changes to their lives. The story shows how devastation can lead to attainment or even greater failure.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Family Story of 'The Pin'

The Pin

After my mother-in-law's memorial service, Bill, her husband, insisted my daughter and I divide her extensive costume jewelry collection.   Metta had some beautiful jewelry. One-piece I received was a large (3.5") colored crystal pin with three red rhinestone flowers, the stems were lined with small clear rhinestones. There was a note in the box saying that a friend gave it to her in Czechoslovakia in 1946.  

My Bill asked his Dad (Big Bill) to tell me about the piece of jewelry, which made me curious. I knew Big 
Bill was a veteran of the Battle of the Bulge. I later learned he was part of the 78th Division's 311th Infantry which was the third infantry to cross the Remagen Bridge into Germany and also among the first U.S. Divisions to enter Berlin. The U.S. Army left Berlin in July of 1945, but the U.S. State Department asked Bill to stay, so he remained in Berlin until the end of 1946, maybe longer. He never mentioned why the State Department selected him to stay or what his job was. Once it was relatively safe, he asked his wife Metta to come to Berlin and stay with him while he was stationed there. They had commandeered a house for their lodging and had three Czechoslovakia driver-bodyguards, Jacque, Fred, and Walter. Jacque and Fred convinced Bill to take Metta for a skiing holiday in Czechoslovakia.




While skiing, they met the son of the prime minister of Czechoslovakia. Before the war, the prime minister had a business manufacturing costume jewelry. His son wanted to re-establish the business, and he asked Bill if he would be interested in becoming a salesman/partner for U.S. markets. They gave Metta a sample of the jewelry they used to make. Bill was very interested and spent an extra week there talking over aspects of the business.

Before anything could be finalized, word spread like wildfire that the Russians were taking over the country. Jacque, who Bill said was a freedom fighter and the bravest man he ever knew, turned white. Bill and Metta were rushed to their cars, a Mercedes and a BMW. Their security guards pushed Metta onto the floor in the backseat, and Bill laid on the backseat. Fred drove the Mercedes, and the BMW followed going (at times?) 100 mph for the German border.

As they neared the border crossing, they saw armed soldiers already held the gate. Fred never slowed down but drove right through the gate, busting it to pieces. It was a hundred yards to the American held gate. The soldiers fired on the two cars, riddling both trunks with bullets, but as the cars neared the American side, they stopped firing as U.S. soldiers had picked up their weapons and aimed them at those holding the Czechoslovakian gate.

They all made it safely back to Berlin, but that was the last they heard from the prime minister's son and his family even though the information was sought through American diplomatic channels and Jacque and Fred inquired through their contacts.

I now own this lovely piece of family history and will pass it along to my daughter. This past October, Bill took the pin to a jeweler. Surprisingly, he discovered the stones are not rhinestones. The red ones are semi-precious garnet stones. The white ones are diamonds. The pin is made of pot metal, a cheap metal, but one sometimes used in jewelry, and perhaps more accessible for jewelry production during the financial depression of the 30s, making jewelry more affordable. The pin has no manufacturer's identification imprint. 

While this story was told many times to Bill, the story has discrepancies. 

Recently, I've done some investigating and found some information probable and some problematic. Do I believe their story? Yes, but many of the facts are missing. I found black and white photos taken in January of 1947 at the Spindleruv Myln ski resort in the Krkonose mountains of north-eastern Czechoslovakia. It is less than five miles from Poland's border and a minimum of fifty miles to the German border, or perhaps further, considering what mountain roads would be like in the 1940s and winter. 

I  now think the pin might have been made at Jablonec Industries in Jablonec nad Nison which is about twenty miles west of the Spindleruv Myln. Jablonec Industries was well known for making jewelry and garnets were mined in the Jablonec nad Nison area. The company had faced hard times during the 30s and WWII. It is highly conceivable that Jacque, Fred, or Walter knew people in the area, including someone from Jablonec Industries who wanted to expand sales in the United States and restart their jewelry production and profits. These areas are all in what was known as the Sudetenland area of Czechoslovakia, which was populated mainly by German-speaking citizens and a highly contentious area in Czechoslovakia after the war. Those who spoke native Czechoslovakian hated the German speakers in their country and wanted these residents expelled no matter how long they had lived in the Sudetenland. 

The Czechoslovakian president at that time was Edvard Benes who returned home from a WW2 exile in England. The Russians began pulling out of Czechoslovakia in July of 1945. The last of the Red Army evacuated Czechoslovakia in December 1945. Evard remained president until 1947, dying in September of 1948. In May of 1946, Russian sympathizer and communist party rule supporter Klement Gottwald was elected Prime Minister. He is only listed as having a daughter, not a son. Neither Edvard nor Klement had manufacturing of any type in their family backgrounds. 

Big Bill and Metta did not speak Czechoslovakian or German, so may have misunderstood who the person offering the business deal was, or one of their guard-drivers might have misinterpreted the information. 

Do I think they were shot at? Yes. I saw photos of the back of the car. Were those shooting Russian soldiers? Maybe but most likely not. Maybe they were Czechoslovakian guards watching two cars speeding toward the border.  However, in traveling from Berlin, didn't Metta, Bill, and the bodyguards cross the border once already? Why was this time suspect? The Russians didn't invade Czechoslovakia until 1948. But if Czechoslovakia didn't have an adequate army, perhaps the Russians were assisting, or did they travel through part of Poland?  Were Russian troops stationed in either country after the war? Why would they attack Americans? Did Big Bill's position with the State Department raise questions? This all leaves lots of questions. Big Bill is gone, now, too, so can't answer questions, so I'll never know the true story.

It goes to show you that we all think we know about our parents, relatives, and friends, but we can't know everything about anyone. Sometimes we know their life experiences were as exciting as anything imaginable, more so than their everyday lives would suggest. Somethings are never told and get lost with time. So I want to encourage you to write down your and your family's stories. Ask those who know the stories what they remember before those memories get lost.





Monday, November 23, 2020

Ten Things I Hate About the Duke - Loretta Chase

 

A Difficult Dukes Novel – Book 2
Avon
ISBN: 978-0-06245-740-0
December 1, 2020
Historical Romance

England, 1833

Cassandra Pomfret, Lord deGriffith’s eldest daughter, is a passionate, outspoken public troublemaker as she advocates for fairness for women. She is feisty and bossy, which has given her a poor reputation among England’s elite. Most men avoid deGriffith’s ‘Gorgon,’ so at twenty-five she is unmarried. Her father makes the ultimatum that her younger sister Hyacinth cannot complete her first season in London until Cassandra marries.

Lucius Beckingham, the Duke of Ashmont, is inebriated after a duel with the Duke of Ripley (book 1, A Duke in Shining Armour), one of his two best friends. Ashmont, Ripley, and their close friend the Duke of Blackwood are known as their dis-graces for their many pranks and fights in London at both elite and lower-class events. While drunk he causes a carriage accident where the woman driver, her maid, and her groom are all thrown from the damaged vehicle. Lucius tries to help the three in the carriage accident, but his inebriation hinders him. The woman driver is disrespectful to Lucius, but he recognizes her groom Keeffe who was an excellent jockey until he was seriously injured in a race. Keeffe is injured now, too. During the ensuing mess, Lucius discovers Cassandra is a caring and thoughtful friend to Keeffe, but his uncle warns him to leave. Ashmont knows why. In this debacle, even though he would pay for all the damages, he would be unable to save the young women’s reputation—unless he marries her.

Cassandra knew Lucius before he became a duke. She still has fond memories of when she was eleven and visiting her aunt. Lucius told her about the stars and their stories and then defended her from some bullies. She had worshiped him for a long time before events led her to an opposite opinion. Yet he begins to capture her thoughts and feelings again. And Lucius? The outrageous girl attracts him more and more, but factors are working against their union. The story changes between Cassandra’s and Lucius’s viewpoints showing Cassandra’s wary attraction and Lucius’s growing self-awareness of what he wants to become. Can a dis-grace duke be rehabilitated into a caring, loving husband? And can Cassandra’s passion overcome her awareness of the danger in loving Lucius? Their future is also impaired as others work to prevent any union. Their dilemma becomes an emotionally convoluted love story.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

A Book Recommendation: The Eternal City


One book I've enjoyed this year is The Eternal City: Rome as Idea and Reality, by Jessica Maier. Published by University of Chicago Press. It was just released this month (11/4). While I mostly read fiction, I enjoy many non-fiction topics such as history, how-to, and art, and in many respects, The Eternal City covers all these categories.

The concept of learning from maps is unusual as most history books are straight forward chronological records. However, as author Maier shows through her map technique Rome's population through every age has had its own perception of their city and its purpose. It shows how the change in time, populations, and their ideas and beliefs also affect history. Rome's citizens essentially changed not only the physical appearance of Rome but also overlapped those changes with the past. The city and its structure have changed both physically and spiritually over time; indeed, different cities have emerged during Rome's long history, but each was built on the past.  


Maier gives an example of this in her introduction. She writes about the church of San Clemente (a disciple of St. Peter and the 4th Bishop of Rome). The church is built in the beautiful Roman basilica style still common in the 1100s. The builders constructed the church on the foundations of another basilica dedicated to Clemente, which was built in 385CE (Current Era, another change in history). This lower basilica was in turn built on the site of the Temple of Mithras (a Roman god) constructed around 200 CE. Visitors to San Clemente can descend a staircase (through the gift shop!) to travel 60' below San Clemente to see the remains of the two previous buildings. This example shows the "vertical, chronological layering" (Maier) of Rome.  

As Maier states, "Rome is more than brick and mortar. It also exists in the realm of ideas of history, myth, and symbolism." Another purpose of her book is to show how all large cities are similar in these types of changes.

Images and ideas take the reader from the beginnings of Rome to the time of the Ceasars, to the age of popes, through Rome's decline and recovery, and now its tourist period. The Eternal City shows how the city's population changed through time and how that changed Rome. Surprisingly, each era's maps show not only the physical changes but also society's perceptions about the city.

Rome, as one of the world's oldest continuing cities, has a long progression of maps. Some have a similarity to today's concept of maps, but not as directionally precise, and historical maps are often affected by the maker's era and purpose. Others are visual landscapes of the city, which in part, also serve as maps. The book's maps, visual images, and photographs are beautiful and insightful and tied to each age's beliefs, prejudices, and sense of humanity.

In the age of global warming, this book, in some sense, is also a warning. People are creative, adaptable, and constantly changing their landscape. This book brings awareness of those changes and of how we need to be aware of them and to be more careful in our choices going forward.

For more reviews please see the following authors' posts:

Margaret Fieland 
Skye Taylor 
Diane Bator 
Anne Stenhouse   
Connie Vines  
Fiona McGier 
Dr. Bob Rich
Beverley Bateman 

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Bone Chase -- Weston Ochse

Saga Press
ISBN-10: 1534450092
ISBN-13: 978-153445907
December 2020
Mystery Thriller

Colorado, Arizona, Texas, Finland, Sweden, and Malta – the Present,

Ethan McCloud’s mother unexpectedly calls him. She wants him to come home. His father is acting weird, and she needs Ethan’s help. As he has been laid off from his job as a math teacher, Ethan drives from Nebraska to Denver and gets there in the early morning.

He has a brief talk with his father. His father tells him a six-fingered man haunts his dreams. Matt, his father’s Vietnam war-time buddy, sent him a box, which he sent on to Ethan. Matt was killed in a hit-and-run accident the day Ethan’s father received the box. It seems whoever has the box is destined to die. Shortly after his father goes to take a shower, his mother screams. His father is dead, supposedly from a brain aneurysm, but Ethan believes the six-fingered man killed his father. Ethan is determined to find this man and kill him. He discovers his father left him a laptop computer with a message from him, which also tells Ethan of a debit card with ten-grand in cash on it. He wants Ethan to solve the problem Matt presented. The screen saver on the laptop is a Sumerian statue of a six-fingered giant. It is clear to Ethan that he will be taking a journey, so he inveigles his girlfriend, former soldier Shannon Witherspoon, to join him.

From the notes his father left him, Ethan learns of many legends about giants. Mentions of giants are found in the Bible, and other historical references claim giant skeletal remains were found not only in Europe and the Middle East but also in Native American sites. Those skeletons, of course, have disappeared. It seems two opposing groups are trying to discover the truth or prevent the truth about giants from being known. One group is the Council of David, which wants to wipe giants from existence. The other is the Six-Fingered Mafia, who wants to protect those hunting for the truth (bone chasers), or perhaps they each have different goals. Both groups are willing to kill anyone interfering with their goals. Within minutes of typing some of this information on a library computer, Ethan finds himself being hunted, supposedly by police.

What ensues is a long hunt for facts and truth. Along the way, Ethan and Shannon become separated, making Ethan even more determined to finish his father’s request and find Shannon. Are giants just legends? Have they ever existed? Are there giants living now? All questions are explored in BONE CHASE.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Save the Last Dance -- Shelley Shepard Gray

Dance With Me Series – Book 3
Blackstone Publishing
ISBN-13: 978-1982658588
November 17, 2020
Contemporary Romance

Bridgeport, Ohio – the Present

Kimber Klein doesn’t regret leaving her successful modeling job to join her new-found sisters Shannon and Traci in Ohio. Unlike Traci, she was adopted and her parents love her. However, she is unsure of what direction her life should take. She is volunteering in an elementary school library reading books. A high school boy, Jeremy, is there too, doing volunteer work credits for school. Leaving the school, Kimber finds her brand-new Mercedes in the parking lot with two split tires. She fears her stalker from New York, Peter Mohler, has discovered where she is.

Gunner Law is waiting at the school to pick up his foster child Jeremy. The stunning-looking woman draws his attention, and he sees her car has two flat tires, not old-tire break-down, but someone’s intentional slicing of the tires. Learning Jeremy, his foster child, knows who the woman is, he suggests they help her. Once her car is towed away, Gunner is hoping he can see Kimber Klein again.

Kimber is as attracted to Gunner as he is to her, but their lives are complicated. Her agent keeps contacting her about possible jobs, and his latest one is very tempting. Gunner wants to adopt Jeremy, but the boy is quiet and withdrawn and fighting issues of another possible abandonment. Jeremy also worries about what his schoolmates would think if they discovered he is a foster child. Jeremy is, however, interested in one of his classmates and is trying to work up the courage to ask her to the Christmas dance, but he has no idea how to approach her.

This story, like the previous two in the series, is about family and friendship, building new relationships, and helping those you love when things go wrong, and lots of things go wrong in the story. Great Christmas read!

the Camelot Betrayal -- Kiersten White

Camelot Rising Trilogy – Book 2
Random House Children’s Books
ISBN-10: 0-525581-171-5
ISBN-13: 978-0-52558-171-0
November 10, 2020
Teen and Young Adult

Camelot – Early Middle Ages

At sixteen, Guinevere is married to King Arthur, but their marriage is not yet consummated. She isn’t sure why, but Arthur wants it that way. She thinks perhaps it is because Merlin arranged their marriage. Using her magic, Guinevere has tied knots of protection on all entrances to Camelot to prevent the Dark Queen Malagant from entering (story in book 1). Yet, she has dreams where Mordred, Arthur’s nephew, who betrayed her, is involved. This frightens her. Her magic knots should prevent her from dreaming.

Arthur, of all people, knows Guinevere is not who everyone believes her to be. He also knows that she has magic, which is forbidden in Camelot. However, the worst is that she has no memory about her past or who she was, and if he knows, he won’t tell her.

Camelot is where Guinevere believes she wants to be, and Arthur is who she wants to be with. Soon she and Arthur will escort her friend Dindrane to her parents’ castle to be married to Arthur’s knight Sir Bors. Dindrane is the daughter of a southern lord and a sister to Sir Percival, another of Arthur’s knights. During the journey, many problems occur, and while Guinevere attempts to help people, she often fatally injures others. It haunts her, and with all the questions troubling her, how can she determine who she is or what she should do?

THE CAMELOT BETRAYAL is an evocative journey about finding yourself despite many adversities. It changes parts of the legendary story, but this fantasy is exciting and evocative.

Friday, October 30, 2020

The Eternal City -- Jessica Maier


A History of Rome in Maps

The University of Chicago Press
ISBN-13: 978-0-226-59145-2 (cloth)
ISBN-10: 0-226-59145-x
ISBN-13: 978-0-226-59159-9 (e-book)
ASIN: B08GXBBZZ8
November 4, 2020
Nonfiction

Rome with its ancient and on-going history captures the attention and imagination of many people — researchers, historians, tourists, and readers — and its attraction has been on-going for centuries. Author Jessica Maier shows the perceptions of Rome both past and present as caught in maps through the ages. Some of these maps, while not as accurate, are like today’s maps. Others are more picturesque in form. When created, they held a specific purpose for their design.

Rome has a long history, and Maier lets the reader journey through the many ideas Rome has held from its inception, about which little is known and much guessed at, to the present. The book shows aspects of how all building stands next to, or on top of, those made in the past. It explains about Rome’s many changes and exposes information relatable to all major cities. As Maier states, Rome has had many reincarnations, and no city equals Rome’s resilience throughout the ages. As an example, she writes about San Clemente, a church in Rome dating back to the twelfth century which has a staircase leading down to a church of the fourth century upon which San Clemente was built. This fourth-century church was built on top of an old pagan temple, aspects of which can still be seen 60 feet below the ground level of San Clemente.

Maier states Rome is more than its architecture and buildings, for the maps show the inhabitants’ history, myths, and symbolism as shaped by gods, Caesars, pagans, Christians, and tourists alike. It is a fascinating study with an abundance of historical maps. Again, some are linear depictions of roads, ancient walls, and buildings while others are beautiful paintings showing the city’s changes through landscapes. The information is fascinating. How much did I like the book? Since I preordered a copy, a lot.

Monday, October 26, 2020

A Christmas Resolution: a Novel -- Anne Perry

Perfect 10

Ballantine Books
ISBN-10: 059312958X
ISBN-13: 978-0593129586
ASIN: B084M6LC6G
November 3, 2020
Historical Christmas Fiction

England, 1872, Victorian Era

Celia Hooper, who is just over forty, married only a year ago. Her husband is John Hooper, a detective with the Thames River Police. They live a modest lifestyle, but they married for love.

Celia goes to church regularly and likes the Reverend Arthur Roberson, who preaches forgiveness. She does not like church member Seth Marlowe, who is Roberson’s brother-in-law. Roberson’s wife, who was Marlowe’s sister, died of a serious illness several years ago. Marlowe is very judgmental and unforgiving. He singles Celia out to tell her he is marrying her best friend, Clementine Appleby. Clementine is just over thirty and much younger than her intended husband. Marlowe disapproves of Celia and demands she stop seeing or talking to Clementine. If she doesn’t, he will tell not only Clementine of Celia’s lies in court but also all the church members, which will sully her reputation. She did lie in court, yet the judge forgave her because of the reason behind the lie.

Celia is very disturbed by this marriage announcement. She doesn’t trust Marlow as he defames his previous wife, who committed suicide, and his wayward daughter, who disappeared. Clementine, her charitable and affectionate friend, seems deliriously happy with the engagement. Then Seth accuses Celia of sending him an anonymous, hateful letter. Celia doesn’t know what the letter says, but she guesses it may contain a truth Seth doesn’t want anyone to known. He promises her and John trouble. They will lose everything. He doesn’t understand John Hooper is a detective dedicated to discovering the truth.

Christmas is quickly approaching. Will Celia let Seth ruin her friend Clementine’s future as she suspects he might do? Can Celia convince Reverend Roberson that sometimes a person must become aware of their sins and repent before earning forgiveness? This is a short novel, only 200 pages, so it is a fast read. The story contains some very galvanizing issues still plaguing society, which will rivet the reader’s attention. The characters are fascinating and create an entertaining reading. A CHRISTMAS RESOLUTION is not a Ho, Ho, Ho, Merry Christmas story, but more about what Christmas really means. An appealing and heartfelt Christmas story.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Tall, Duke, and Dangerous -- Megan Frampton

A Hazards of Dukes Novel – Book 2

Avon
ISBN-10: 006286744X
ISBN-13: 978-0062867445
ASIN: B0847P4G72
October 27, 2020
Historical Romance

Nash, the Duke of Malvern, is a handsome but gruff and uncommunicative man who gives away few of his feelings. His mother ran away from his father when he was ten-years-old. A mean and abusive man, his father often beat his wife and son. Once his wife left, he only showed his son the despicable and debauched parts of society. Nash is afraid to intermingle with people, afraid to unleash any violence on them, as his father told Nash he took after him in every way. Nash has hunted for his many illegitimate siblings and helped them in their lives. All of his servants are half-siblings (they wanted to do this). He has no intention of marrying until his grandmother, the Duchess of Malvern, visits and tells him he must—she tells him his cousin and heir (who he is unfamiliar with) is just like his father, and to prevent this man from becoming the next duke, he needs to choose a wife so he can produce an heir, but a woman willing to live separate lives.

Ana Maria resides with her cousin Thaddeus, the Duke of Hasford, in far better conditions. Her step-mother, the former Duchess of Hasford, had relegated her to servant status as a scullery maid. Now she is Lady Maria Dutton, and at age twenty-eight, having her first season. She, however, is now determined to do things her own way and make her own decisions. Outside of her brother Sebastian, who was declared illegitimate as told in the first Hazards of Dukes novel, NEVER KISS A DUKE, and her cousin Thaddeus, the only person she knows is Nash. The four of them played together as children. She understands Nash’s clipped words and growls and other non-verbal communications. While he doesn’t seem to want her, she becomes determined to have him.

These two seem fated for each other, yet Nash’s preconceptions about himself and of love make it impossible, but Ana Maria attracts him more than any of the ‘eligibles’ on his grandmother’s potential wife list. Does Nash use violence? Yes, in criminal situations. Is Ana Maria allowed to do whatever she pleases? Her brothers and Nash all know she doesn’t know the dangers of society. Both Nash and Ana Maria are hunted by potential mates for their wealth, causing some fascinating scenes. Two questions came to mind as I read the story. The first is how could Ana Maria’s father, the duke, let his wife treat his daughter so shamefully? The second, how could two dukes live so close as to be neighbors? Yet the emotional and unique situations in TALL, DUKE, AND DANGEROUS are what carry the story and make it a good and interesting read.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Take the Lead -- Shelley Shepard Gray

Dance With Me Series – Book 2
Perfect 10
Blackstone Publishing
ISBN-10: 198265855X
ISBN-13: 978-1982658557
September 8, 2020
Women’s Fiction

Bridgeport, Ohio – the Present

Officer Traci Lucky left Cleveland, where she worked as a police officer, to move to the small town of Bridgeport to spend a year living with two sisters she never knew she had. Her sister Shannon found them through a DNA test. Traci grew up in foster care. While she eventually landed in a good group home, she had many bad experiences in foster care. In Bridgeport, she got a job with the local police force and has now partnered with her sister Shannon’s new husband, Dylan Lange (series book 1 SHALL WE DANCE). Today during a raid on a suspected meth house, Traci finds an emaciated girl and takes her to the local hospital. There, Doctor Matt Rossi learns the girl, Gwen, is pregnant and still under the effects of drugs. Traci believes Gwen is another person who feels abandoned like she once felt. Rossi keeps Gwen in the hospital. His actions and approach to his patient impress Traci, and she feels a strong attraction to him.

Matt (Matteo) Rossi is happy to work in a small town where he gets to know his patients, and it is where his family lives. This makes his life meaningful. While treating Gwen, he can’t help but be attracted to the woman officer who brought his patient in. She is authoritative, independent, and compelling, but also caring, and unlike any woman he has known. With her visits to Gwen bringing her to the hospital daily, he tries to talk to her more frequently. Then his brother makes a demand that allows him to get to know Traci better. His brother Anthony demands his younger brother Matt dance a waltz at his upcoming wedding reception. Matt doesn’t dance, but Traci’s sister teaches dancing, and he knows the perfect partner to ask.

Traci hasn’t shared much of her past life with her new-found sisters. She has come to love them, but she still feels reluctant to disclose her past. She feels the same with Matt once they grow closer. While this causes emotional turmoil in the story, so does Gwen’s situation. Her ex-boyfriend trouble-maker Hunter doesn’t love her or want their baby but feels he owns her and is going to get her back. The story’s themes of family and building protective, loving relationships, even when unexpected events cause turmoil, makes this a captivating read.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Favorites in Reading

This month's topic is about what my favorite book is or books of all time are and my favorite genre. (You can include children’s books or non-fiction or even magazines). I have read a lot since first learning how to read and find it impossible to identify just one story as a supreme favorite. The titles of many books come to mind from ages ago like Boxcar Children, My Friend Flicka, Thunderhead, and Black Beauty. Looking back, maybe my mother loved horses, too. She never talked about them, but why else did she buy My Friend Flicka and Thunderhead? They were her favorites, too, and I still have her copies. (Wish I could go back and ask her now!) Just mentioning them makes want to go and reread them.

The first book I read by myself remains on my favorite list as explained in an earlier post. I think I made a mistake though. I thought Miss Hillman was my teacher, but she was my third-grade teacher and I read On Beyond Zebra by Dr. Seuss (Theodor Suess Geisel) in first-grade (Miss Wilkins? Time changes memory.) It was released in 1955. I think what first attracted me was the zebra on the cover. Zebras are like horses and I was a horse-crazed little girl. The story was also very imaginative in concept, wording, and illustration. 
I continued reading and eventually, probably about sixth or seventh grade, came across Will James' novel Smoky the Cowhorse (yep, another horse theme book) at the Fenton Public Library. At the time I was walking the mile or two there and back at least once a week. I was in love with that mouse-grey horse and cried through the horrible parts of his sad history. The story won the John Newberry Medal in 1927. The Newberry Award is still given for a distinguished contribution to children's literature. James, the author, was a French Canadian artist whose writing covered the American West's cowboy culture, and Smoky the novel, held many of his illustrations. This story has taken a current trend in how horses are treated, not only at rodeos but also at our racetracks. 

When I reached fifteen in the ninth grade I started working after school in a local drugstore. For the previous three years I had worked in my family's pet store selling tropical fish and hampsters, and cleaning tanks, but didn't get paid. At the drugstore, I mostly worked behind the soda counter serving coffee, ice cream treats, and some simple to fix sandwiches. I enjoyed the work, and I was earning some money and guess what? The drug store had a sales rack for paperback books. That bookrack introduced me to romance, both current and historical, and to the genre of fantasy. Soon I was reading another of my all-time favorite novels. Andre Norton's Witch World series mesmerized me. The first volume was written in 1963 but I became familiar with the following stories so I searched and found a copy of the first story.

The drugstore's book rack introduced me to many romance authors, but one of my favorites was Georgette Heyer. She could take a reader back to another time. It showed a judgemental public was not just a modern phenomenon. I remember reading many of the titles but the one that left a lasting impression was  Devil's Cub, which I probably read in tenth grade. The hero loved his horses, too. Devil's Cub was a Georgian era time-frame story written in 1932. Heyer wrote many historical romance stories mostly in the Georgian and Regency eras, but she also wrote mystery thrillers. I mentioned this title before in the charming villains' post, and it is a story I've reread many times. I think Heyer started the trend for Regency romances which still continues today. 

My next favorite was an eleventh-grade reading assignment--Pride and Prejudice, a book written in 1813. At learning the assignment I had severe apprehension about how I could read, or even like, so old a story. I was even assigned to give a presentation on one chapter. For once though, I loved an assigned story so much, it helped me overcome my reluctance to talk before a group. Each student was given a paperback copy, but I wanted a more permanent copy, so I drove to Flint and bought a leather-bound copy at a book store. My daughter has it now. It surprised me several years later that my (male) college instructor for the class masterpieces in English literature talked about this story. He claimed to have read it twenty-seven times. I'm not certain I've read it that many times, not even half of that. I have, however, seen all the TV and movie shows. Some are good renditions, but I get very upset when they change things.

My last listing is the Lymond Chronicles of six novels about the Scot Francis Crawford of Lymond. Another historical novel, but this one is about the era and not so much romance, although there is some. Scottish novelist Dorothy Dunnet also wrote mysteries. This is a wonderful series published between 1961 and 1975.  Again, I found it as a paperback in the drug store. From my drugstore bookrack experience, I had become enamored of all store bookracks, although I kept my habit of haunting libraries, too. 

According to RR Bowker, at least 275 thousand books (all genres, both fiction and non-fiction) are published each year. That is an overwhelming number. Who knows what great books I've missed?  

Visit these sites for more views on this topic.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Venus and Aphrodite: a biograph of desire -- Bettany Hughes

Hachette Book Group
ISBN-10: 1474610366
ISBN-13: 978-1474610360
September 22, 2020
Non-Fiction

Everyone knows of Venus as the beautiful Roman goddess of love, lust, and debauchery, and the definitive symbol of desire. She was closely based on the Greek goddess Aphrodite and has defined the beauty of the female form in artworks, whether clothed or naked, for centuries. Author and historian Bettany Hughes explores the goddess’ past and what she represents, and how her influence is still at work. She explains that in the Middle East, earlier civilizations other than the Greeks had similar goddesses such as Inanna, Ishtar, and Astarte. Why were so many goddesses who combine wantonness and warfare created?

The story starts on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, the historical home of the goddess, where an annual celebration and worship of the miracle of life was held long before the Greek civilization. Archeology now traces the basic idea of the goddess of womanhood and birth, which of course involves sex, back more than 4,000 years as represented in many small voluptuous rock carvings of a female form with a penis head called the Lady of Lemba. It is most likely that each of these goddesses influenced the next permutation. Within the chapters, a fuller explanation develops of the goddess as a symbol of life. Eventually, lust leads to many urges of humankind, including war which Venus also exemplifies by her affair with Mars, the god of war.

VENUS AND APHRODITE describes the transformations of this goddess through time and changes in civilization. We still celebrate her today in art museums, where sculptures and paintings through the ages show her many traits. She is also used more indulgently in commercials and media used to sell products. Her fame has lasted longer than any other gods and goddesses, undoubtedly because Aphrodite-Venus symbolizes so much more than we expect. She shows the dichotomy of love and life. It is an entertaining and informative read with amazing insights into humanity.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Intuitive Themes in Novels


Most novels have an easily understood point to make to the reader. Do stories ever have a more subtle or intuitive theme?

Actually, this is a hard question to answer.

To intuit is "to know, sense, or understand by intuition" (Merriam Webster definition). Intuition is what we understand, often unconsciously, about any situation. A condition usually based on our previous experiences, our senses, and our primal instincts. In writing, if used intentionally, it is good because the author involves the reader on different levels of perception. But it might be unconsciously used with unexpected results and the reader can sometimes perceive themes in writing that the author never intended. Words and minds are tricky things.

Since every word can give slightly different meanings and connotations, it shows how the author's intent in using certain words can sometimes differ dramatically from how a reader understands them.

When might it be a conscious choice by the author? An aware author can use situations that leave the reader to decide what the character felt beyond the obvious action. When a reader encounters a situation they have experienced, either emotionally or physically, then they intuitively know the cause for the character's reaction. 

This often happens when the author uses a show rather than tell method. Showing usually involves the use of description especially in a character's actions and expressions, leaving it to the reader to share the character’s reaction from their personal understanding. The reader's perception might be very emotional, especially if they have experienced the same or similar situations. This often happens in emotional scenes, so most writing probably has intuitive emotional themes.

The opposite can happen, too, from both author’s and the reader’s perspectives. An author might unintentionally insert oblique messages, and since we all experience life differently, we all have a slightly different understanding of what is happening. The reader might also have had a very different reaction to an experience, meaning their understanding of the scene might differ from what the author intended.

We often use gut instinct for insight. Intuitive means a reader can understand without a lot of explanation from the author because the situation or emotions are so familiar. They don't have to think about the meaning. They know it. While these subtle reactions might be unacknowledged, they still have an impact on the reader.


My guess is I’ve used intuitive writing and that most authors have also used it, especially since one goal of fiction writing is to engage the reader’s emotions.

Please visit the following blogs for other takes on this topic.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Eden and Guy

Eden was pruning her roses when she spied a curled up snake. Grabbing the snake directly behind its head, Eden tugged it from the tangle of shrubbery.

“Gotcha. Damn snake. Don’t care if you are good for the garden. I don’t want you in mine.” Its length coiled around her arm. She put her garden pruners to the serpent’s head.

“Don’t kill me.”

Eden jumped, gasped, and a middle-aged bladder leaked. Death-grip fingers grasping the snake released as she tried to fling the thing away. The serpent’s coils clung to her arm. Her voice clogged in her tight throat. “You spoke!” She stretched her arm out as far as she could to get the serpent away from her.

“Yes. I’m an explorer from the galaxy Peareedeeessiss.”

Her mind flooded with movie images of alien invasions. “You'll destroy my world!” She clicked the pruner blades open.

“No! Wait! Just sightseeing. Don't hurt, please?” Pleading tones turned supplicant. “I can change into any shape that pleases you.”

She looked into the alien’s beady eyes and angular face. Was changing shapes any stranger than a talking snake?

“Change like a werewolf or a vampire?” Curiosity tickled her imagination. “Anything?”

“Even a human.” The alien’s coiled body slithered over her forearm in a sensual touch.

Eden hesitated as the sensation brought romantic reminiscence of her husband Guy trailing arousing fingers in such a way. Not that for one instant did she believe Guy’s love had faded, but mutual interests had long ago changed to singular pursuits.

An explorer… a stranger in an unknown place; perhaps he desired companionship as much as she did?

“Change into anything?”

“Yessss.”

She took him inside. What was she to do with him? Let him slither around the house? Get away? No. She popped him in the empty cookie jar. Always empty now as the kids were gone and she didn’t need the extra calories. The alien’s coiled up body just fit.

Guy came home from work. “Hi, sweetie.” He gave Eden a perfunctory kiss and then found the TV remote. “Big game tonight. Mind if I have dinner in here?” He sank into the couch.

“Sure, honey. You can watch the game over dinner. You mind if I go out?”

“Not at all. You have plans with your girlfriends?”

“No, but while you watch the game, I might as well visit the library, or maybe the museum.”

“Great.”

Guy’s supper served, Eden changed to dressier clothes. Guy didn’t notice when she walked through the living room with his suit draped over her arm. Already the announcer’s voice boomed game statistics and predictions over rousing music.

In the kitchen, she pulled the snake from the cookie jar. It wrapped around her arm. “Be Guy.”

The snake fell from her arm and morphed into Guy. She handed him the suit. “Let me take you out to dinner,” Eden said as he dressed. “Afterward, I can show you my world.” Exciting opportunities opened her mind and Eden smiled. She brushed some scales off the shoulders of the suit as the serpent pulled on the jacket.

As she opened the door to the garage, Eden heard Guy shout from the living room, “Bye. Have a good time.”

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Reality in Stories -- no matter how bizarre

The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense. – Tom Clancy, suspense novelist, 1947-2013.

This month's topic is about how to make a story feel more realistic to the reader and what elements achieve this.

In most novels establishing reality isn't hard. The author develops characters representing specific people in specific locations and times; then they add plot lines readers can relate to in some way.

So what is reality? Merriam Websters defines it as the state of being real, a real event, entity, or state of affairs, and the totality of real things and events.

We all know we live on the planet Earth, share the same sun and moon, and see the same galaxy at night. We share Earth with seven billion other humans, so we believe we are real and know the reality of where we dwell and what we do there. Humans have very similar requirements for living, particularly water, food, sleep, and personal relationships. We are social creatures who share similar emotions. We have interactions with other real people and experience many real, even if odd, situations, and we often enjoy telling others about them and hearing their strange events. However, each of us knows the reality of a different place, its weather, family, society norms, education, and living conditions, so our realities vary. We are also different from our past populations' reality as ever-shifting time changes the basic reality of life on this planet and will continue to do so until the species or planet dies. It might be that experiencing the realities of others, even fictional characters in stories make us appreciate our own reality, or change our mental knowledge and images of others and their reality. And don't even go into the bizarre concepts involved in quantum physics reality.

In most genres, authors are writing about real locations and standard human types. Only science fiction, fantasy, and horror introduce situations and characters with powers beyond the basic human scope, but even the strangest characters often share well-known human characteristics. However, my previous post on “How Far Can Fantasy Go?” mentions how people enjoy the unbelievable and have enjoyed fantasy stories far longer than our know stories. Witches, demons, mythological gods, and monsters of various ilk, have been stars in stories forever. Today it only takes the writer's imagination to create a world, and the reader's imagination to believe it. Besides that, everyone knows of situations where the ordinary world became extraordinary in special circumstances.

Reality in Characters:  A growing quantity of anthropological proof declares the basic human, i.e. physical, mental, emotional aspects, haven't changed that much from prehistorical times. That means whatever time frame you read or write in, human responses remain the same. Most authors' characters run the huge gamut of the understandable traits and responses of both sane and insane people. Yet sometimes characters can be written to be too good which raises readers' suspicions as they know we all have flaws and insecurities that can drive our reactions. Insanity can reach unfathomable unrealities but still be believable. For me, however, the author can reach such a level of improbability, reality falls away. I’m reading a story now with a killer who wants to protect his illegal industry, but enjoys watching the agony of death, the more anguish and physical pain, the better. I am having trouble reading it. Yet I’ve watched TV shows about serial killers whose practices also seem unreal; unfortunately, the murders they committed happened. So it is possible the previously mentioned characters will have some readers who believe in them. If characters have a full range of emotions, strengths and weaknesses, good traits and bad, the reader will most likely believe them.


The web and dimensions of reality
Reality in Settings: In most stories, settings are part of the world people know, so easily provide a basis for reality. Yet, I’ve run into problems writing reality into settings of historical novels. The further back in time a story is set (the same is true for fantasy stories), what the world looks like including the changes in social mores and beliefs of the time, the more the setting becomes unfamiliar to readers. On the other hand, so many stories are set in the 19th Century, many readers are very familiar with the society and some may believe the books show exactly what that world was like, which is not true. As I am familiar with some historical information about the time, I've noted authors have changed historical mores to make the characters more contemporary, so more believable. Some readers look for such stories, others have problems with it, and some (especially historians) turn critical. The same is true in future based stories.

Reality in Plot:
This storyline is more difficult as plots can differ in many ways. The key to plot reality is the action and reaction response of the characters due to the action presented in the story. A person’s reaction to a situation differs in real life depending on their personality type and their life issues. The same type of response should be designed into the story’s characters. If a character’s response isn’t what a reader thinks appropriate, then the author needs to build the character’s personality enough for the reader to realize why they acted in a different way from what the reader expected.

Story reality isn’t that difficult until readers encounter those unusual places, events, or characters in a story.  Then it is a case of building the story's reality in a step-by-step introduction for each new reality change.

For other viewpoints see the following authors' blogs:

Skye Taylor 
Victoria Chatham  
Judith Copek 
Diane Bator 
Dr. Bob Rich 
Beverley Bateman
Fiona McGier
Connie Vines 



Monday, July 27, 2020

Preface to Angels Tread


Angels Tread is the final volume in the Black Angel series which was published this month.  The preface was necessary for readers who have not read the previous volumes to help explain the series and understand this story.

~*~
Lieutenant Jezlynn Chambers was an engineering officer aboard the United Planets Alliance’s Space Service Corps Embassy Ship the Constant when it was destroyed. She woke in the mines of Ezredin as a slave, but she didn’t know who she was and had no memory of her previous life. Another slave, Khajarian T’Carta Kar, owned her, his guards having given him his royal due as a prince of Khajari.
Jezlynn had changed. She was no longer one person but became six different individual personalities. May emerged first. She is deaf, mute, and filled with fear. Any event could trigger a terrifying memory. The emotional personality Lynn emerged next. She relieved May’s fear and her own grief through song.
T'Carta escaped the mines, taking Jezlynn with him, but he released her once they reached safety. During their trip to freedom, Jesse, the social communicator and perfectionist persona emerged. She could control body time for the others.
Others emerged. Alyss is blind, but that does not hamper her logic, perception or insightful planning and predictions. She prefers no one know about her. Nael is a masculine persona who was an inventor and expert investigator. He also avoided recognition—being a man in a woman’s body was hard. Jet emerged last. She was a hyperactive, fun-loving and reckless military persona, a soldier and pilot who always protects Jezlynn as a whole.
Once free of the mines, May’s unexpected memory of Jezlynn’s military status made Jesse return to the Service Corps. She learned she had been deemed a deserter and was transferred to the Rangers to complete her service obligation, a demotion from her former Corps ‘elite’ status to a common soldier, or Ranger ‘meat.’ She served during the Alliance-Khajari war, earning distinguished service medals. Once released from the Rangers, she served on several trade ships before joining the crew of Sanker Tricome’s pirate ship. On a stopover at a non-allied space station, she found Commander Thomas Langston, another of the Constant’s supposed deserters.
When Tom’s father disowned him, his aunt gave him her last name of Thorson. Together Jesse and Tom decided to find the other Constant crewmembers deemed ‘deserters’ but were sold into slavery, a dangerous and expensive endeavor. They financed their searches by raids on Space Service Corps drone ships, finding Rafe Dakota and Henry Wakeman, among others. Eventually, Jesse’s ability with finances allowed her and Tom to proceed legally with the Pilgrim Shipping Lines.
The head of the Alliance’s intelligence department became aware Chambers was the supposedly mythical pirate, the Black Angel. He demanded she use her investigative and discovery talents for his purposes. This brought her to the attention of Undersecretary Corrao, who forced her back into the Space Service Corps with the mission to prevent another conflict with the Khajari. Onboard the Sentinel, she was under the command of Captain Lucien Krayne, the same captain with whom she had fallen in love two years previously while he investigated the Black Angel’s supposed misdeeds on the Xanthean inhabited planet าชiro. He is Lu to Jesse, but Krayne to Jet, and Lucien to Alyss.
Jezlynn successfully completed her Service Corps mission, but now finds herself assigned as an ambassador to negotiate a peace treaty with the Khajari.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Different Characters

How do you develop a character who is different in personality from all the other characters you have developed or from yourself? 

This is a difficult topic for separating one of my characters from me and from my author's viewpoint can be very difficult. All characters have something of me in them. They are part of my mind. Another aspect of a character is how they develop or change through a story, which is again based on my perceptions but which I think are often shared by the reader. I have also found in re-reading my stories there are repeated snippets of character behaviors, thoughts, and similar dialogue. Bothersome, but a fact.

We are all individuals and all have different personality types. What makes that happen? Certainly, genetics plays a part. How we are raised, where we live, our work, and our personal history, and our interactions, all differ. What interests us and how we behave despite social behavior dictums differs. I think readers also realize we all share human qualities, but we are all different.

However, to balance out my perceptions, I use the character's purpose in the story and try to determine their personality type. I do this through questions like what is their perception of the world? This means I have to know what type of personality a character has and what mix of traits go with each character. Are they adventurous or more leisurely? Does their anger translate into in-your-face threats or do they internalize their rage? To help me I long ago found a book that has proven invaluable, Personality Self-Portrait by John M. Holdham, M.D., and Lois B. Morris. It was meant to tell their reader what type of personality traits they had. However, for an author, it divides personalities into types such as adventurous, aggressive, conscientious, or vigilant, and more. It gives traits of each type of personality, their work styles, their emotions, along with how they handle relationships and self-control. This gives me the opportunity to develop very different characters, yet those characters are still distilled through my viewpoint.

Please visit the following blogs to see these authors' opinions on this topic.

Diane Bator 
Anne Stenhouse 
Skye Taylor 
Connie Vines  
Dr. Bob Rich 
Helena Fairfax 
Beverley Bateman 
Fiona McGier