September 4, 2018
Okay, now that I have your attention, this blog post isn’t strictly about drinking, though some drinking is involved.
Those who have read my previous novels, know I enjoy doing on-site, hands-on research. My current work in progress, BLOODLINE AND WINE, is set in the wine country of Tuscany. The novel involves a wine mystery. At the center of the story is the famous Brunello of Montalcino.
I visited several vineyards in Tuscany where I learned about the growing process, the harvest, the aging of wine. I tasted the Brunello, a wine that must be produced from 100% sangiovese grapes grown only in a specific area within the municipality of Montalcino. Wine production and even bottling must be done within the designated area, too. I enjoy wine, but even... Read More
September 21, 2017
Pardon my French, Madame Claire!
My first novel, The Seventh Unicorn, is set in Paris. It is, of course, written in English. I threw in a little French here and there to give it a local flavor, and also to remind my readers when the characters were actually speaking French. I’d taken some high school French, but not feeling confident, I asked a friend, who’d attended an American Catholic school staffed by authentic French nuns, to give it a read. I also alerted my agent to the fact that the French probably needed an edit. She assured me the publisher would take care of that.
Several months after publication, the email came from Claire L. (I’ll protect her surname, though it is a... Read More
September 8, 2017
Forty-three years ago today Evel Knievel strapped himself into his skycycle and launched himself across the Snake River Canyon just outside my hometown of Twin Falls, Idaho.
At the time I was living in Boise. Like many former residents, I returned home to witness this historic moment in 1974. I sat with anticipation, with other family members, as the cycle (billed as a flying motorcycle but closer to a mini rocket) shot upward into a lovely blue sky on this typical, though anything but, late summer day in Idaho.
Forty years later, as a number of promoters were stirring up interest in the anniversary with promises of another jump in a skycycle replicated from Evel’s original plan, I decided to tell the tale myself. Being a fiction writer who often uses real events to tell a story, I started doing some behind the scenes research. I talked to those who had been there, scrolled through newspaper articles at the Twin Falls Public Library, read Evel Knievel books and magazine articles. What I learned inspired me to use the voice of a young boy to tell the story. It became a tale of small town values. It was not the braggadocio who got attention by jumping lines of cars and busses on his motorcycle, a... Read More
August 12, 2017
When my two latest books, EVEL KNIEVEL JUMPS THE SNAKE RIVER CANYON . . . and LOST AND FOUND IN PRAGUE, came out, I redesigned my website and added a blog. I attended a blog workshop where I learned a blog needs a theme. An important aspect of my stories is setting, so I decided on a theme of PLACE.
I blogged. I wrote about the city of Prague, the setting for my most... Read More
August 22, 2015
Often when traveling, doing research for a book, I come across a setting, a character, or both together, and fall in love, and just know I have to write about it. While visiting Germany, gathering information for my novel THE WOMAN WHO HEARD COLOR, my husband and I visited the beautiful little village of Murnau and toured the house where Wassily Kandinsky and his mistress, Gabrielle Münter, lived and painted together during the summers of the pre-war years from 1909 to 1914.
For an early version of my novel (told by... Read More
June 9, 2015
At a recent library book event, where I was discussing and reading from my most recent novel, LOST AND FOUND IN PRAGUE, a member of the audience asked, “Which of your books is your favorite?”
I hesitated for just a moment as if I had to think about it.
“That’s like asking a mother which child is her favorite,” I replied with an admittedly clichéd answer. The person asking the question smiled, and so did I. Several members of the audience laughed, aware that the young man asking the question was my son, that his sister, my daughter, was also in the audience.
My children have been grownups for some time now, and I’m well into grandma mode. But, I’m still birthing books. While I don’t have a favorite book, I must confess to a favorite... Read More
March 19, 2015
Fairy-tale spires pierce a misty sky over waves of red-tiled roofs. Musicians, vendors, and tourists swarm along the Charles Bridge spanning the Vltava River. Children giggle as marionettes dance. At sunset, stone saints along the balustrades stand in silhouette against the fuchsia, tangerine, and pink hues of the evening. Each day, street performers, artists, and the 15th century astronomical clock draw thousands of visitors to the Old Town Square. An hourly parade of apostles circles on the... Read More
February 3, 2015
I was once invited to a book conference where it was suggested the writers dress as characters from their books. As many writers, I’m a bit of an introvert, and I don’t particularly like to make a spectacle of myself. I spend days alone writing, and when I step out into the world to meet readers, I really don&rsquo... Read More
December 23, 2014
I’ve always called Idaho home. When I was young, I spent time away, mostly for school, but I always came back, especially for the holidays. In my sixty-plus years, I’ve spent just one Christmas away from home.
I was a junior in college, abroad for the year, studying at an American university in Florence, Italy. For our Christmas break, the school sponsored a tour of the Holy Land.
Just before Christmas we arrived at the Palace Hotel in Jerusalem where most of the ninety-plus students would stay for the next several days. A small group of us were bussed over to Bethlehem. We were disappointed that we would be separated from the group, but found humor in the fact that we had been turned away because there was no room at the inn. And then, because we... Read More
November 14, 2014
One of my favorite ways to connect with readers is through book clubs. I’ve visited groups in my home state of Idaho and as far away as New York by phone. Recently I flew to California. Yes, for a book club!
The invitation came from a high school classmate, and I think we were both a little surprised I accepted. We’d gone to different grade schools, different churches, had different circles of friends, so our only connection seemed to be that we’d grown up in the same town... Read More
October 3, 2014
I once read an article in a travel magazine about tourists who seek out graveyards. I thought it weird, perhaps a little morbid, until I realized I myself had visited a number of the places on the list. What better way to understand a city and its history than to visit the local cemetery?
Perhaps one of the world’s most famous is the Cimetiére du Pére-LaChaise, a tourist hot spot in Paris, where you... Read More
September 5, 2014
Long ago, in what seems like a different life—different spouse, different house, different century—we bought a puppy. My then-husband wanted a hunting dog. I wanted a pet who would become a member of the family. We found the perfect puppy in a beautiful little Brittany Spaniel. We called her Cindy, though she had a fancy name, registered with the AKC. We decided to breed her once, and envisioned a litter of pedigreed puppies. Unfortunately, and sadly, the one litter was fathered by the neighborhood mutt, who managed to jump over what we were sure was an impenetrable, unscalable eight-foot fence.
When it was time to deliver the puppies, my husband, who often traveled, was out of town. It was just the two of us—me and Cindy. Poor little thing didn’t seem to know what was happening when the first baby came out. She yelped and cried, and looked up at me with pleading, confused eyes. I wasn’t in much better shape myself, but as gently as possible I picked them both up and carried them downstairs where we had prepared a bed in a box with a cozy quilt... Read More
August 10, 2014
I often go back to my hometown of Twin Falls, Idaho, to visit family. As I was writing my latest book, Evel Knievel Jumps the Snake River Canyon . . . and Other Stories Close to Home, I took to wandering a bit, revisiting some of the places I hung out as a kid. A couple of the stories are set in Twin Falls. I have wonderful memories of growing up in a small town. We could take off on our bikes... Read More
July 31, 2014
Who says the setting for a story has to be exotic. In my novella, EVEL KNIEVEL JUMPS THE SNAKE RIVER CANYON, much of the action takes place in an alley. Not a scary, thug infested alley, or a place my fallen hero, or heroine, might meet to score some drugs, but the alley of my childhood. Kids nowadays don’t know about alleys, yet they were an important part of my growing up. Everyone had an alley running behind their house. It was in the alley that I met my childhood best friend when they moved in on the other side, their house facing one street over.
Alleys were lined with delicate blue blossoms, sunflowers, and hollyhocks that could be made into dolls and princesses with colorful skirts and knobby heads. Sometimes we’d even find asparagus growing along the alley, not that I had any use for asparagus at the time. My brother and his friends used to go “garbage snooping.” Once he found a collection of phonograph records and once an old chandelier, thrown out for the trash man. He took it down to the surplus metal dealer and made more money than a summer’s worth of allowances.... Read More
June 22, 2014
When Evel Knievel came to Twin Falls in the summer of 1974 to prepare for the event of the century, his jump across the Snake River Canyon, the spin began! He claimed the canyon was over 600 feet deep and 4,781 feet wide. Local engineers put the width at about 1,600 feet, substantially less than the almost mile-wide gap the showman claimed.
So, how deep is the Snake River Canyon?
If you’d like to take a closer look, here’s a hint and my recommendation: The patio of Elevation 486 http://elevation486.com along the rim on the edge of Twin Falls. It is a perfect place to enjoy the view, sip a drink, have lunch or dinner. Then you... Read More
June 6, 2014
As a writer I abhor clichés. But, in this case, it just seems to fit. So how did I find myself in this very uncomfortable place?
I’ve become a hybrid. For those in the “industry,” you know what this means, but to those who are readers, not writers, I’ll explain. I’m a published writer in the traditional sense, with one of the Big Five (used to be Six!) internationally recognized English-language publishers, and recently I’ve become a “self-published” author.
I’ve published... Read More
June 2, 2014
In Boise, the big letters spelling out L-I-B-R-A-R-Y on the building are followed by an exclamation point! I've always thought the library was a fun place, deserving of an exclamation point, which maybe makes me a bit of a nerd. I seldom go to borrow a novel anymore, because I like to buy books. As a fiction writer myself I think it is important to support my fellow writers in this way. Yet, I’m always delighted to see one of my own books on a library shelf.
I especially enjoy doing research at the library. Though I often do online research at home, I've always liked the adventure of searching for a book on a particular topic, flipping through old magazines, or looking at ancient newspaper microfilm. When writing historical fiction I want to read not... Read More
May 19, 2014
I grew up in Twin Falls, Idaho, on Ninth Avenue. During the twenty-two years I called Twin Falls home—four of these college summers—I lived in just two houses, one right next door to the other.
My parents recently moved out of the big house on Ninth Avenue where they’d lived for almost sixty years and where they raised six children. Mom was born in Twin Falls on Eight Avenue and could look out her front window and see the house where she was born.
My parents’ new townhouse is located near the... Read More
May 6, 2014
Writers are often advised to “write what you know,” but personally I’ve always resisted. My first book was inspired by a set of medieval tapestries, The Lady and The Unicorn, and when I began to tell this story I knew nothing about... Read More
April 24, 2014
When I was twenty years old and about to start my junior year in college, I bid my parents farewell at the Greyhound depot in Twin Falls, Idaho. We wouldn't see each other, or even talk on the phone, until late spring the following year. After taking the bus to Salt Lake City, I flew to New York where I met up with other classmates. We got on a boat (yes, a boat!) and ten days later we arrived in Europe, ready to start our year abroad and our adventure as students at Gonzaga-in-Florence.
Now, after spending a week making our way from Rome, through Siena, the wine country of Tuscany, and Pisa, my husband and I have arrived in Florence for a reunion celebrating Gonzaga's fifty years in Florence. I wasn't in the first class half a century ago, but close enough that I'm senior status. As I return, I reflect on that time long... Read More
April 18, 2014
April 14, 2014
Early in my writing career I realized how much fun it was to set my novels in places far from my home in Idaho. Readers often ask, “Do you visit the settings of your novels?”
“Before you start writing or once you have an idea?”
I’ve found it best to visit after I have a good start on the story—a first draft is ideal—but sometimes circumstances don’t make that possible or sensible.
My first novel, The Seventh Unicorn, is set in Paris. I barely had the first draft of the first few chapters on... Read More
March 27, 2014
Before we take off on a trip, we do our homework—travel books, online research. My husband is the family tour agent and organizer and always books our flights, land travel, and rooms. I read the fiction. A good novel can often set the scene better than the guidebooks with their lists of things not to miss, places to stay and eat. To put me in the mood and introduce me to the setting, I love a good work of fiction, whether it’s historical or contemporary. We’re off this spring to visit Italy. Here are some of my favorites, set in my favorite Italian city, Florence: The Sixteen Pleasures by... Read More
March 20, 2014
Yes, I'm starting a blog. This surprises even me. Many of the blogs I read are very personal and I’m not one to rip myself open, pull out my heart and present it on a platter for the world to see. Some bloggers—I don’t know how she does that—seem to have something spontaneous to say and share every day. I’m a slow writer, spending days on revisions and always setting a piece aside before offering it to anyone to read. So, it was difficult to see myself as a regular blogger.
I recently took a workshop on blogging (Well, not that recently. As admitted, I’m a slow writer), and one of the presenters did an exercise to get us started. “Focus on one topic in your blog,” she suggested. “What is it that you are passionate about? What is the general theme of your writing?” I tried to find a common element, a theme in my writing. I write fiction and my first three books were inspired by... Read More