“Home” by Sheryl Crow

Literary Map of EnglandMusic has always been very important to me. Many times when I look back at a time or a memory, a song will sneak in before an image. I thought it would be interesting to look back at people and moments by tapping into this quirk. The first in my series “With Music” was about Ben Folds and a girl with elf ears (here), this time I take on a song by Sheryl Crow.

This is about the time I almost disappeared

The first thing you have to understand about me is I have a knack for romanticizing things. Moments are never just moments for me, I see the potential for some kind of poetic license in everything. Maybe I read one too many romantic poets back when I was in college, but I would look for messages in nature and life. Messages just for me. Let me emphasis this point- not for you or the rest of humanity, just me. Yeah, it’s just a sunset, I get that, but could those colors be reaching for me, embracing me, telling me something for only my eyes?

Destiny. Fate.

I was sure I had it all in spades.

When I was in college I used to romanticize the idea of exploring Europe by myself, nothing but a backpack and my wits for comfort. Besides meeting with the travel agent to work out the flights and some tours along the way, what I would do while there was all on me. One of the few things I had certain about me and my trip was I would arrive in London on the first day and fly out of Paris on the last. Point A and Point B. Continue reading

Banned Books Week 2014

Books! Everywhere! Books!Wouldn’t it be neat if we had a week to celebrate Shakespeare? A week when everyone was to read Charles Dickens or Mark Twain? A day even when everyone was supposed to talk like a character in a Jane Austen novel (as compared to a pirate)?

Nah, we book lovers get Banned Books Week. Where all of us book readers get to shake our heads collectively and wonder what others are thinking. The funny thing is most people that try to ban a book don’t actually read the book in question. A few years ago there was one protestor who strived to get Harry Potter banned from her school library. It made national news. She was discussed on all the Potter forums. What we discovered later is that she had never read Harry Potter and was worried it would drive kids to Satanism.

I don’t even know where I would start if I was to have an argument with such a perspective.

My grandmother used to be a member of her local library board. The reason she would give for being on the board was to fight people trying to ban books from the shelves. She was the voice of reason in a very conservative community and she kept up her end of the battle long after Parkinson’s made her life difficult. She will always be one of my heroes.

Last year on WKAR, I gave a commentary on their daily radio show Current State about Banned Books Week. Here is an excerpt from the beginning:

The playwright Anton Chekov has this great rule for writing a play. To summarize it, if a gun appears in the first act, it has to go off by the last act.

What Chekov is tapping into is that a gun is threatening, a gun can kill. An audience remembers it is there, and each and every playgoer expects that sooner or later, for better or worse it will be fired. I remember once I saw a production of “Hamlet” by the Royal Shakespeare Company, and they showed Hamlet with a gun in the first act. He carried it in his coat wherever he went on that stage, his concealed weapon, and we always knew it was there, expecting it sooner or later to cause destruction. Because a gun will always be fired, fictional or real, and there are always consequences for one being around.

The funny thing is, there are pockets in our country where people feel more at ease with guns than books.

You can listen to my complete thoughts (or read them) via this link.  I will be appearing on the show again this week, but this time to discuss the importance of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, another fighter in this literary battle. I hope you will check it out.

Well, if this is the only holiday people will give us book lovers, we might as well make the most out of it. Decorate your books shelves with garland, start a book club, pick up that classic you never got around to finishing, turn off the TV, and… most importantly… read, everyone, read.

Happy Holiday!

“Nightmares and dreams” Part one of an interview with Nancy Christie

Jane AustenHappy New Year faithful readers! 

Last month I was interviewed by novelist Nancy Christie as part of her “One on One” series. It was quite a long and fun interview, and she has turned it into a two-part series for the site!

If you ever wanted to get really into my writing head, meet the wizard hiding behind the curtain, this is that interview! The first part of her interview was released today; you can read it here.  In this excerpt is my answer to the most challenging undertaking I have had as a writer:

A JANE AUSTEN DAYDREAM was easily the most difficult book I have ever undertaken, because I had to be true to Jane. In other words, I wanted her to be alive on the pages, which means her own dialogue and spirit had to be part of the narrative.

So first, I had to research her life and her books thoroughly. I used to be able to quote entire passages of her novels! (Not anymore, now that space is taken over by cute kid songs from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood thanks to my young daughter’s obsession with the show.)

Then I had to decide what of her life I wanted to keep and what I wanted to use for the book. See, I wanted the plot to be influenced more by her own stories than her actual life (it is a daydream).

After the plot was in place (with some very notable surprises and literary twists included), I then had to write a book where her voice would feel natural, but not too dated to scare off a contemporary reader.

Yes, it was a slow process, with each sentence and chapter written and re-written numerous times. By the end, I felt like I had run a marathon (or at least what I assume that would feel like). But it was all very worth it.

You can read the rest of the interview here. Part 2 of the interview will be on Nancy Christie’s site on January 15. Thanks Nancy! 

A Jane Austen Daydream

My latest novel, A Jane Austen Daydream, can be purchased in print ($13.46) or as an eBook for the outrageously low price of $3.99 for Kindle. You can find it on Amazon here (http://amzn.com/B00CH3HQUU).

Welcome to the World of Writing: My Advice for New Writers

What a weird pictureI wrote my first collection of short stories at age 16. I have always loved writing. My mom still tells the tale about how on a car ride home at age 6 I made up an entire story (it involved a ghost watching his grieving wife, I believe) that she felt she had to write down when she immediately got home. For good, and many, many times bad, there was little else I saw myself doing with my life.

And when I was young and new to the field, I had hundreds of questions. For example, there was the time I met this professor at my undergrad college at orientation; well, he was a published writer (I read some of his books before going), and I pretty much stalked him, asking him question after question that afternoon. Embarrassingly, I believe I might’ve followed him all the way back to his office.

Recently, I got a comment on my site from someone calling herself a newbie novelist, and through the comment she asked me a series of questions regarding how to break through and what to do, reminding me of myself when I met that professor. But this time I was the professor, expecting to have the answers, the secrets to the castle, the path to Oz.

The fact is today, if I was that professor, I would’ve taken a different approach. While agents and publishers and the debate over publishing vs. self-publishing are all important, some other things get missed in the excitement around the idea of just finishing a book. Below are the six pieces of advice I would give to any new writer first. Continue reading