Saturday, July 02, 2011

Book Review: The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant

The Birth of VenusThe Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book kept my attention all the way through with much intrigue (a serial killer in 1400's Florence + twisty plotting about church/state fighting)plus romance and education (in a nice way) about the Masters and art in general. I would not say that this book is for people who love romances, or people who love art, or people who are interested in church/state squabbles of various centuries. Instead, I would recommend it to everyone. I felt the author blended it all so well into a story that I wanted to read! There were good guys and very bad villain types, and the main character is flawed in such a way that she seems real and we root for her. She is an emancipated woman, of a sort, in a time where those types of females were frowned upon.

What does this writer do that others don't? She paints such a real scene, such real "people," and such a clear picture of the time period, that you know she is not just a fiction writer but also an historian. I've read books by such authors before that were dry, that were over-historical/research so obvious I felt it stopped the story (ala Da Vinci Code)but this author deserves accolades because she is a true storyteller. I loved feeling I was there, in that century, in her main character's dresses, feeling her love for her artist, and her pain as she grows up and learns that life hurts even the strongest deeply at times.

Read it! You won't be disappointed. : )

View all my reviews

Monday, October 26, 2009

What Makes a Writer

My gynecologist found out I was a writer and said, "My husband thinks I should write a book. I read a lot." I thought, "Hey, go for it," the way I always do. "And let me know when you finish the manuscript."

But I'm being harsh. She was just voicing something she had thought about. Happily considered, probably. Or maybe she wasn't just thinking she might. Maybe she *will* write a book. And truly, if she does, I'll be excited to know she had accomplished her dream. But I'm skeptical. I think having the title of "Writer" after one's name is very appealing to a lot of people, but since I *am* a writer, I also think if they knew the work involved, they would quickly banish that dream from their hearts and minds. I know *I* would have, if I'd had any inkling as to what was in store for me for years to come.

But who ever really considers all the consequences of pursuing a dream? And if we did, would anyone ever accomplish anything really great? Doubtful.

As for me, now that I'm selling my house and buying one, I've thought about going into real estate. It's really appealing to me to get to check out houses (I LOVE looking at them!) or to work with people to make their home dreams come true. I love visualizing how a house can be, and I really enjoy the thrill of open houses, of checking out prices and comps and viewing photos of properties, or driving by them. But do I want to take courses and pass tests to get my license? Write up reams of paperwork? Troll for clients? Sell my services to people? Network like crazy in the industry? Be current on property laws, neighborhood analyses, homeowners' associations, the MLS, etc,...?

Nah. Sounds hard. Sounds boring, in parts. And it sounds like a lot of time involved.

Welcome to the world of writing. In order to be called "Writer," first things first: you have to write! In order to be called "Published Author," you have to:

--Write often (which involves the three S's: solitude, silence, and sitting)

--Rewrite often

--Probably join a critique group and get your writing analyzed by your peers, and do the same for them. This can involve hurt feelings. In fact, it generally does on a regular basis.

--Submit your work, which is tough even for pretty secure writers. Thinking that someone of authority will review your work and then have something negative to say, or worse, nothing at all to say, can break a writer out in hives and send us into hiding for months or years!

--Promote yourself. This is SO hard for some writers. Writers tend to be loners in disguise (or not,) sensitive people who are very insecure at times around large groups of overachieving peers. Imagine how *not* good it feels to be at a conference where all the editors are clamoring to lunch or dine with So-and-So Author and it isn't you. A major blow to one's confidence. And yet, you must go to the conferences and the local groups, and enters the contests, if you want to grow, to be known, to improve to the point where someone goes, "Hey, I've met her and she seems on-the-ball. I asked for her partial manuscript and she sent it right away. I'm looking forward to reading it."

OR, you can write for fun. It's like painting for fun. You can take a local writing class, or don't, and just do it on your own. And you can call yourself a writer, because you are writing.

This brings up the difference in *levels* of writing. There are those who we in the industry say "are serious about writing," and those who play at it. Those who play never really crank out much material. Or they never submit it to an editor. Or they go to all the conferences just to hang with pals.

There's nothing wrong with that. The world is full of all sorts of people. But one mustn't confuse them with others who sit in their homes or coffee shops or bookstores, or at their paying jobs, typing up fiction on their keyboards day after day. THOSE are serious writers (and I don't include myself in them right now because I'm too distracted and disillusioned to write much lately.) Those are people who are passionate about their craft.

And maybe that's the difference. You have to have passion for writing, just as you have to have enough passion as a realtor to get you thru all the grunt work, all the paperwork, all the crabby clients, and the working during weekends and holidays and while your kids are sick or your significant other is depressed.

If I really, really wanted to walk the high wire, I'd practice. I'd fall and get bruised, but get back up and set my jaw and my sights on that danged wire again. Let it wobble. Let it throw me off some more. I'm a circus performer and this is my schtick. I'll do it or die, and I'll do it til I'm perfect at it, or as damned near perfect as I'll ever be.

THAT is the type of writer I always aspire to be. But it's so much easier not to write and to whine, and I do fall into that from time to time.

Next topic: Running With The Tide, or What To Do When the Writing Passion Ebbs

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

I'm Obsessed with "Obsessed!"

Okay. Now, *this* reality show is really worth watching. It's called "Obsessed" and I've caught the bug, I'm well and truly obsessed with it. Have you ever seen "Intervention," where they follow a substance abuser on a downward spiral all the way to their intervention and beyond, after rehab? Well, this is along those lines, only instead of being substance abusers, the participants have anxiety and/or OCD.

As with "Intervention," "Obsessed" helps people live better, and I'm for anything that does that. I like the "feel good" leap of energy I get, watching the cognitive behavioral therapists work with the hoarder, the skin or hair picker, and the woman terrified of earthquakes + imagined creatures under her bed.

I think the reason "Obsessed" fascinates me is, none of these people are as different from the definition of normal as they think they are. I see us as all on this ledge of life, and we can teeter off so easily into being one of them, or at least come very close. They just fell, sometimes for decades, into debilitating ways of living. But really, how different is someone who hoards things from one we refer to as a packrat? It's just that we gasp over the extremes. It makes me think of that actor, Mark-something, who emceed the green goo show on Nickelodeon. He now emcees a show on the Food Network. Maybe it's Unwrapped. Anyway, he has OCD. He once admitted that he combs the fringe on his rugs in his house and won't stop straightening them out until they are just right. Now, I would LOVE for someone to always keep my carpet fringe looking fab. But to HAVE to do it, to be so compelled that you lie awake at night worrying about that fringe, well, I want to see that person get some relief from that. Because I've lain awake at night, worrying over things. I can empathize.

On the first episode I watched of "Obsessed," a woman with some serious anxieties had a 5- or 6-year-old son with autism. She desperately wanted to get him several miles away to a place where he could ride horses. Horse therapy has been known to bring autistic children out of their fugues (not sure that's the right term.) Anyway, it is a great help, and the children really respond. Well, the woman couldn't drive on the interstate. So the therapist gradually exposed her to different levels of that, by first driving her, and then riding along with her, and finally, riding behind her a short distance. By the end of the 12-week period that the show follows, the woman patient could drive all the way to the horse ring to let her little boy ride. How great is that?!

One thing I know for certain. If I weren't a writer, I would be a cognitive behavioral therapist. Those people really are my definition of heroes. They rock. They change lives. It's not that I have this need to rock or change lives. I don't. I would just love to help people in that way. I feel so bad for them, because anxiety is no fun on any level. And I can't imagine not being able to drive my autistic child to horseback riding lessons if there were even the slightest chance that he might enjoy it.

Oh, and the patients on this show! They're heroes, too. Can you imagine a therapist saying to you, "Okay, on a scale of one to ten, what level of anxiety are you having during this exposure?" and your answering, "A ten," or even, "a six or seven?" These patients work SO hard and, really, unselfishly. Yes, they would like to get better. But often, they're doing it so they can have easier and deeper relationships with their family and friends. Because they care. Which makes me care for them.

So catch "Obsessed." Set your OnDemand and tape it. You may have to watch it in reruns, though, because the season-ending show (a hoarder) is next week. And if you don't trust MY review, check out New York Times, Wash Post and such. Appears I'm not the only one watching and raving.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson and Farrah in One Day

Michael Jackson figured in to a huge part of my life! My first record (a 45 rpm) was something obscure called "Toast and Marmalade for Tea" by a British group, a one-hit wonder. But around the same time, I got Michael Jackson singing "Rockin' Robin." We were both ten years old!! Can you imagine? There I was in Cincinnati, still playing in a refrigerator box on my neighbor's driveway that we made up to look like our very own "house." We had Tiger Beat Magazine with Michael, Bobby Sherman and Donny Osmond in it! And we had transister radios.

When I was in college, Michael's "Off the Wall" album came out. my hubby (who was dating me at the time) copied some of his album onto a cassette for me to play.

I must admit he dropped way down in my estimation with the child abuse scandals. When that came out, my kids were wondering what was going on, and I had to explain it to them. They knew him from "Man in The Mirror." But I always said, "He may have some personal issues, but there is no one who can touch him in a lot of ways with his talent."

I also heard his father was very abusive, which made me feel sorry for the whole Jackson crew.

Rest in peace, Michael.

P.S. I should've worked for People Magazine. I've enjoyed following the stars for 30 years! Yeah, I know, it's mind candy. But it's also entertaining. After all, they're entertainers, like us. I think we have a lot in common with actors.

Oh, and guess what? I still *have* Rockin' Robin, in my psychedelic record case, down in the basement (along with Donny O singing "Puppy Love," Captain&Tennille singing "Muskrat Love," The Carpenters and the GREAT Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke." Now, if only I still had a stereo or record player! LOLOL

I miss the snap, crackle, pop! of a record. You just can't simulate that on an iPod.

I have a funny Farrah Fawcett story, too. Sprained my ankle, taking a bunch of mag photos and her poster (the famous one) off my hubby-to-be's fishnet wall in college. He was SO mad that I took them! I think he's *still* mad, even though I gave them back the next day. I think I wrinkled a few...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Life at Seventeen and Twenty-One

I can't remember doing a lot socially when I was a teenager, but my daughter sure does manage to move her car all over Atlanta with her friends! I didn't have a car. Didn't have one through college, either. I only got one when I got a job and had to drive there, and that was well into my employment when I guess my dad got tired of using my mom's Chrysler and wanted his Datsun that I'd been using back. Anyway, he bought me my own Datsun and I made my loan payments directly to him. I paid the car off after I was married. I thnk I'd had it about six months, and I guess we paid it off within a year or two. (Here is where my daughter rolls her eyes and goes, "Yeah, and you walked four miles to school in the snow. I *know*, Mom.")

I also recall, as a teen, sitting on the edge of the porch, having a TAB and yogurt or PBJ sandwich for lunch (with my cat unofficially invited) and reading. And reading. Thinking, "This is nice and boring. I wish I had something exciting to do. But since I don't, this isn't bad." And when I did get tired of that, I'd get on my bike, my tennis racket laid across the handlebars and balls in my shorts pockets, and head for the high school. I'd hit a ball against the practice wall for a while. Then I'd ride home. Hot times in Cincinnati!

My twenty-one year old hangs out in my basement now. He has a bunch of guys over and they play those addictive online video games all night long. They eat a lot of junk food, like, McDonald's at 11 or 12. Waffle House at 2 or 3am. They drink beer. They joke around. Occasionally, they go to a Braves game, or fishing, or if I'm lucky, to someone else's house for the night!

The kids both have very part-time jobs. In between jobs and having friends in to our basement, they go to their friends' pools. They eat out a lot. But to be honest, they don't spend a ton of money. They aren't big shoppers. None of us are, which is a very good thing right now.

Still, life is good. Life is pretty easy. We fill their gas tanks.

I watch them and think about when I was their ages. I didn't have many worries. Boyfriends used their gas to drive me around. I worked and had some money, and didn't have to worry about that. What *were* my worries? The occasional hurt feelings due to some silly disagreement with a boyfriend or girlfriend. Grades, a little. Weight a little, mainly because every girl was thinking about diets and stuff. The Scarsdale Diet was big in college.

We always harp on our kids to care more about certain things. To think about the economy, be responsible, get good grades, brush their teeth, eat right and use sunscreen. But I guess when they have to, they will. The time will come when they have plenty to think about, more responsibility than they can imagine, teeth that are softer, things to be zapped off their skin and doctors reminding them about the cholesterol and fat in burgers and fries. They'll find out that Mom was right when she said, "Eat in. It's better for you." But that time isn't here yet. Their gas tanks are full, their friends are calling, and Mom and Dad are just voices going, "Blah blah blah."

The biggest responsibility of all is parenthood. One day, they'll get that, too. That's when they say parents' "Blah blah blahs" suddenly, strangely, turn into intelligible words that float out from their memories. Thankfully, shut back in there with the admonishments will be the wonderful reminiscences of driving around Atlanta with their friends, chillin' in our basement and worrying about very little.

I don't wish I were seventeen or twenty-one again. I've been there. I'm a forward-moving kind of person. But I have to admit, watching these kids gives me a little nostalgic lump in my throat. It puts me back on the cool concrete porch in my shorts on a humid June day and reading an RF Delderfield saga. I'm sipping TAB and going, "I wish I had something exciting to do. But since I don't, this isn't bad."

Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Daddy Issue is now available

The Daddy Issue is now available thru and Exciting! I think the official release date is 6/19 but they may be taking preorders.

It's been a long process, getting this book out. I had a contract on it a few years ago, but that fell through on the publisher's end. So this is a happy ending, getting the story out there. I hope people enjoy it.

I'm working on a manuscript that has been slow going this year. The *new* working title is "A Father At Heart." It's sorta another daddy issue! But each story is its own characters and dilemmas, and love tale, of course.

Hm. What else? Well, I had lunch with my friend, Denise, whom I met thru Georgia Romance Writers. We ate at the World Peace Cafe, which is run by Buddhists. It's supposed to be a place that really supports peace, but I have to tell you, it is NOT peaceful for me to have to stand on line to order our lunches, and then decide we want to split a piece of cake and have to stand *back* in line while there are four or five peace-filled volunteer workers *standing there looking at us* because you always have to order on line. Even if they serve you your orders, you must get back in line to add anything! And be run up all over again, on another ticket. sigh

Okay. Enough crabbing. I'm getting back to writing love stuff. grin

Monday, March 16, 2009

What I'm Up To

What am I up to?

On the writing scene, I'm working on my manuscript titled, "What Makes a Man." It's a story of a man and woman who had an oops pregnancy in high school. Twelve years later, they reconnect because of their daughter, and must decide what's best for her. Each brings his or her own life experiences since school to the table, though. And each brings their past hurt over their breakup. Can they forgive and forget? Can the heroine let the hero have a say in raising this child he never met until now? That's the gist of it. Can't say too much, cuz I don't want to spoil it. Plus, I make it up as I go. Ssh. That's supposed to be a secret.

I'm also anxiously awaiting college admissions day, April 1. That's when Torie will find out which schools she got into. And we're waiting to hear if she gets any corporate scholarship money. That happens between March and May.

I'm training my dog! He now knows how to jump onto my back on command, and then sit there. The first time we tried it, he bounced around and around me, unsure of what I wanted from him, and ended up whacking the bridge of my nose with his concrete-hard cranium!! OWWWW!! I just about had a broken nose AND toe.

Oh, and I'm dealing with a broken toe, too, in case you haven't heard my whining via Facebook (which is something else occupying my time lately.)

I'm finishing up Disciple 3 Bible study. Ends in May. We're in Paul. We study every week for nine months. I love my little group and will miss it when we finish. Am wondering if we'll all continue into Disciple 4 together.

I'm packing up my extensive doll collection. Have about 15 boxes done and inventoried so far. I am planning on selling them at auction in coming months. I can't wait to get rid of all this stuff taking up space and gathering dust! More packing up to do. We're not moving. It's just an organizing thing.

I'm filet crocheting a table runner with a farm scene on both edges. It's tedious work. It's basically lacemaking. And I'm braiding a wool rug. And knitting a spring sweater. And learning bead crochet.

That's not all, but can't think of other things right now. Lunching with friends a few times a week. Weight-lifting twice a week. And wishing my toe wasn't broken, cuz I seem to have gained 3 lbs and *surely* it isn't from eating out too often!