Popular Posts

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Reflecting on 'The Truly Great'

 “Great poetry is always written by somebody straining to go beyond what he can do.” – Stephen Spender

Spender (born in 1909 and died in 1995) was an English poet, novelist, and essayist who concentrated on themes of social injustice and the class struggle.  A frequent lecturer and visiting professor at U.S. colleges and universities, he became the first non-U.S. poet to be appointed Poet Laureate Consultant to the United States Library of Congress (in 1965).  He served in that role for 3 years.                      
                          In 1984, on the occasion of the 40th Anniversary of D-Day, Ronald Reagan quoted from the Spender’s poem, The Truly Great, presented here for Saturday’s Poem.

                                             The Truly Great
I think continually of those who were truly great.
Who, from the womb, remembered the soul's history
Through corridors of light where the hours are suns
Endless and singing. Whose lovely ambition
Was that their lips, still touched with fire,
Should tell of the Spirit clothed from head to foot in song.
And who hoarded from the Spring branches
The desires falling across their bodies like blossoms.

What is precious is never to forget
The essential delight of the blood drawn from ageless springs
Breaking through rocks in worlds before our earth.
Never to deny its pleasure in the morning simple light
Nor its grave evening demand for love.
Never to allow gradually the traffic to smother
With noise and fog the flowering of the spirit.

Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields
See how these names are feted by the waving grass
And by the streamers of white cloud
And whispers of wind in the listening sky.
The names of those who in their lives fought for life
Who wore at their hearts the fire's centre.
Born of the sun they travelled a short while towards the sun,
And left the vivid air signed with their honour. 

Share A Writer’s Moment with a friend by clicking the g+1 button below.

Friday, September 29, 2017

A nice honor

And the Wind Whispered represents refreshing new ground in Western novel writing.” 
Paul F. Murray (Reader’s Favorite Reviews)


Historical Writers of America has selected my book And The Wind Whispered for inclusion on the new HWA Banner that will be on display at writers’ conferences, book fairs and other major literary events across the nation.   

Me and The Banner at the Historical Writers of America National Conference in Albequerque, NM.


A nice honor and definitely – at least for me – A Writer’s Moment!   Happy reading and many happy writers' moments to everyone.


Share A Writer’s Moment with a friend by clicking the g+1 button below.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The earth shares its 'music'

“Knowledge is recognition of something absent; it is a salutation, not an embrace.” – George Santayana
Philosopher George Santayana, who died 65 years ago this month, is perhaps best known for his quote, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”   

The Spanish-born Santayana spent almost as much time in America as in his native Spain and often referred to himself as a “dual” citizen.  He authored his main philosophical work, The Sense of Beauty, his first book-length monograph, while living in the U.S.   It’s often cited as the first major work on aesthetics written in this country. 
          Santayana loved the beauty of the world around him and left us with many eloquent notes and quotes on nature, fodder for anyone who aspires to be a writer.  One which nicely illustrates the beautiful autumn colors is one of my favorites: 

“The earth,” Santayana said,  “has music for those who listen.” 

Share A Writer’s Moment with a friend by clicking the g+1 button below.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Taking on the 'tough topics'

“Writing is such a good thing to do because you can't really get bored with it. If you're bored with writing, you're bored with life.” – Irvine Welsh

A native of Scotland who was born on this date “sometime in the 1950s,” Welsh burst onto the literary scene with his 1993 bestselling novel Trainspotting, also made into a successful movie.  Based on a series of loosely connected short stories, the book tells about a group of characters tied together by decaying friendships, addiction, and efforts to escape the oppressive boredom and brutality of their lives.   The award-winning film featured rising stars Ewan McGregor, Kelly MacDonald, Johnny Lee Miller, Ewen Bremner and Kevin McKidd.

Welsh has authored 11 novels and 4 short story collections – most based on the lives of working class Scots.  His 2016 book The Blade Artist won wide acclaim, as did his 2017 screenplay for Trainspotting, T2, a sequel to the first movie.   Welsh has written a number of successful screenplays, several plays, and one musical.                      
                   Unflinching in writing about tough topics, including addiction, hooliganism, prejudice and class divisions, Welsh offers the following advice to those who might want to give sensitive topics a try.

“I think the silences we have on some issues are inductive of the fact that we need to write about them more,” he said,  “but I think there are some issues you have to write in a sensitive way and in a way that respects the reality of the situation. If you can't do that, you should leave them alone.”

Share A Writer’s Moment with a friend by clicking the g+1 button below.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

From imagination to infinity

“From a good book, I want to be taken to the very edge. I want a glimpse into that outer darkness.” – Mark Haddon 

Born in England on this date in 1962, Haddon is best known for his amazing book and play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – a story of a 15-year-old boy with Asperger’s syndrome – for which he won the Whitbread Award, Guardian Prize, and a Commonwealth Writers Prize.                   
                           The author of more than 20 books, he also has written many short stories and said it was his “late” discovery of the joy of reading that took him off a path toward mathematics and onto one in the writing world.   When I was 13 or 14, I started devouring novels; literature took quite a while to take me over, but it caught up just in time to save me from becoming a mathematician.”

Haddon likes to use a combination of humor, sensitivity and adventure in his writing and advises beginning writers to always employ imagination in developing their works.

“Use your imagination,” he said, “and you'll see that even the most narrow, humdrum lives are infinite in scope if you examine them with enough care.”

Share A Writer’s Moment with a friend by clicking the g+1 button below.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Bringing history to life

“When I settled to writing seriously, which would be in my 30s, I did expect to be published eventually, but my aspirations weren't very high. A published book and a few appreciative readers was my idea of heaven.” – Jo Beverley

Mary Josephine "Jo" Beverley, who was born in 1947 and died in 2016, went far beyond those aspirations, publishing 42 novels, dozens of short stories and novellas, and a number of research pieces.  Born in England where she grew up and studied history, she moved to Montreal, Canada in her mid-30s and began writing career as a historical, quasi-romance novelist. 

Noted for her attention to historical detail, both to the eras and the people who inhabited those time periods, she created communities of interesting interlinked characters with terrific dialogue – traits that won her numerous writing awards.  “I've always loved history, from my youngest memories,” she once remarked.  “My father enjoyed the great stories of history, like Hereward the Wake, Robin Hood, and Richard the Lionheart, and he shared them with me.  I went on to do a degree in history, though I found it rather dry, because it was mostly about politics rather than dashing individuals!”

              So, she kept the history and invented her own “dashing” characters, which won her legions of loyal readers and a “Readers Choice Lifetime Achievement Award.”  Shortly before her death from cancer, she said she had one wish unfulfilled.

"What I'd love to do would be to bring a person from the past to me.  In that case I'd pick Jane Austen, because I'd like to know what really made her tick.  It's my opinion that she was inhibited by her family and a desire to do the right thing.  Away from all that, I believe she'd show new facets and enjoy the adventure."

Share A Writer’s Moment with a friend by clicking the g+1 button below.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Meeting George R.R. Martin

“There was part of me that wanted to see the world and travel to distant places, but I could only do it in my imagination, so I read ferociously and imagined things.” – George R.R. Martin

George R.R. Martin, who celebrated his 69th birthday this week, not only “imagined” things, but “wrote them wonderfully” and has been called The American Tolkien by Time Magazine, which listed him among the 100 most influential Americans.   Author of the epic series of fantasy novels A Song of Fire and Ice – adapted into the massive HBO hit series A Game of Thrones – Martin makes his home in New Mexico and is one of the most popular writers in U.S. history.

It was my good fortune to spend time with him at an authors' booksigning during the Historical Writers of America conference, where he was named for the HWA’s Lifetime Achievement Award.  As gracious as he is talented, Martin made an effort to personally greet many of the authors in attendance and posed for this photo with me.  
                             Martin's work has been described by the Los Angeles Times as having "complex story lines, fascinating characters, great dialogue, perfect pacing."  His characters are multifaceted with intricate pasts, aspirations, and ambitions.  “The author,” Publisher’s Weekly says, “makes us care about their fates."

I'm one of those writers who say, 'I've enjoyed having written’,” Martin said.  “There has to be a level of joy in what you're doing.”
George R.R. Martin and his colleague, Melinda Snodgrass, co-author of their Wild Card series of books and TV scripts, (seated front) posed for a photo with me and Gini Grossenbacher and Mark Wiederanders, California authors who were with me on a panel at the Historical Writers of America conference in Albuquerque, NM.

Share A Writer’s Moment with a friend by clicking the g+1 button below.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Where language starts

“Poetry begins where language starts: in the shadows and accidents of one person's life.”  Eavan Boland
Born on this date in 1944, Boland is an Irish poet, author, and professor at Stanford University, where she has taught since 1996.  Her work deals with the Irish national identity, and the role of women in Irish history.   
                       Over the course of her long career, Boland has emerged as one of the foremost female voices in Irish literature. Her collection Night Feed established her reputation as a writer on the ordinary lives of women, and her work In a Time of Violence received a Lannan Award and was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize.    For Saturday’s Poem, here is Boland’s,

The Black Lace Fan My Mother Gave Me

It was the first gift he ever gave her,
buying it for five five francs in the Galeries
in pre-war Paris. It was stifling.
A starless drought made the nights stormy.

They stayed in the city for the summer.
The met in cafes. She was always early.
He was late. That evening he was later.
They wrapped the fan. He looked at his watch.

She looked down the Boulevard des Capucines.
She ordered more coffee. She stood up.
The streets were emptying. The heat was killing.
She thought the distance smelled of rain and lightning.

These are wild roses, appliqued on silk by hand,
darkly picked, stitched boldly, quickly.
The rest is tortoiseshell and has the reticent clear patience
of its element. It is
a worn-out, underwater bullion and it keeps,
even now, an inference of its violation.
The lace is overcast as if the weather
it opened for and offset had entered it.

The past is an empty cafe terrace.
An airless dusk before thunder. A man running.
And no way to know what happened then—
none at all—unless ,of course, you improvise:

The blackbird on this first sultry morning,
in summer, finding buds, worms, fruit,
feels the heat. Suddenly she puts out her wing—
the whole, full, flirtatious span of it.

Share A Writer’s Moment with a friend by clicking the g+1 button below.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Invading readers' comfort zones

“As a writer, one of the things that I've always been interested in doing is actually invading your comfort space.  Because that's what we're supposed to do. Get under your skin, and make you react.” – Stephen King

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone in America and perhaps the world who has not heard of or read Stephen King.  His books have sold upward of 400 million copies; many movies have been made from his works; and he’s won a remarkable 65 major writing awards.  Among them are the Mystery Writers of America’s Grand Master Award, and the National Book Award Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

Born on this date in 1947, King continues to reside in his home state of Maine and along with his wife Tabitha is one of Maine’s greatest philanthropists.  The Kings annually contribute some $3 million to charitable causes.   He has been unafraid to share his writing talents with others, including authoring the book On Writing, one of the best books written on the craft of writing. 
                       “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There's no way around these two things that I'm aware of, no shortcut,” King said in advice to would-be writers.   “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.”

Share A Writer’s Moment with a friend by clicking the g+1 button below.

Share A Writer’s Moment with a friend by clicking the g+1 button below.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A tireless stickler for the details

“I write novels, mostly historical ones, and I try hard to keep them accurate as to historical facts, milieu and flavor.” – Gary Jennings

Born on this date in 1928, Jennings wrote both children's and adult novels until 1980 when he wrote the bestselling historical book Aztec and switched entirely to the historical fiction genre for the rest of his life (he died in 1999).   A native of Virginia and a self-taught writer, he started as a war correspondent   documenting the Korean War and being awarded a Bronze Star for heroism in the process.   After the war he combined writing for newspapers with his creative work before deciding in 1968 to devote himself to fiction.

His thoroughly researched – and sometimes massive – novels were known for their historical detail and occasional graphic content, and he immersed himself in what he was trying to write.  Most notably, he spent 12 years in Mexico to research Aztec and its sequel Aztec Autumn, and joined 9 different circus troupes to write his bestseller Spangle. 
    In the course of his writing he learned that many words modern writers take for granted simply didn’t exist in the time periods he wanted to represent – something he said all writers, especially of historical fiction, should be prepared to deal with.
“I could list hundreds of words I've come up against in the course of my work that did not exist in the era of which I was writing and for which I never could find a suitably old-time, archaic or obsolete substitute, “Jennings said.  “I contend, most seriously, that there is a real need for a good, thick, complete-as-possible dictionary of 'What People Used to Call Things’.“

Share A Writer’s Moment with a friend by clicking the g+1 button below.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

'Everyone has a book in them'

“Writing is writing, and stories are stories. Perhaps the only true genres are fiction and non-fiction. And even there, who can be sure?” – Tanith Lee

Born on this date in 1947, Lee was a British writer of science fiction, horror, and fantasy, with over 90 novels, 300 short stories, many poems, and a children's picture book (Animal Castle) to her credit. She also wrote two episodes of the BBC science fiction series Blake's 7 and was the first woman to win the British Fantasy Awards’ Best Novel Award for her book Death's Master.  

Lee attended numerous schools as a child, often felt lonely, but said she could “always both find myself and lose myself in books.”  A voracious reader, she started writing early and had her first story published at age 21.   Her first major success was a children's book The Dragon Hoard, and her first adult book – a  massive bestseller that established her in the fantasy genre –  was The Birthgrave.  Inspired by everyone from Angela Carter to William Shakespeare, Lee’s style has been described a rich poetic prose with striking imagery. 
       Lee, who died of cancer in 2015, was always encouraging for those aspiring to become writers.   “Writers tell stories better, because they've had more practice, but everyone has a book in them,” she said. “Yes, that old cliche.”  Her advice was to write with people in mind.  “People are always the start for me... animals, when I can get into their heads, gods, supernatural beings, immortals, the dead... these are all people to me.”

Share A Writer’s Moment with a friend by clicking the g+1 button below.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Loving (and writing) the unexplainable

“I love the unexplainable. It would be so boring to me if everything could be explained.” Nancy Pickard

Born in Kansas City on this date in 1945, Nancy Pickard is the only author to ever win all four major crime/mystery writing awards – the Macavity (5 times), the Agatha (4 times), and the Anthony and Shamus Awards (once each).   She also has served on the board of directors of the Mystery Writers of America – all after starting her writing career after age 35. 

A journalist first – with a degree from the prestigious U. of Missouri Journalism School – she spent time as a journalistic writer, making her home in the Kansas City area.  “I've lived in Kansas for more than thirty years, and for half of those, I was part of a ranching family,” she said.  “So I'm writing about things I know and love.”      
                          Among her best-known books are the award winners I.O.U., The Virgin of  Small Plains, and Say No To Murder.   From her lengthy list of terrific short stories, I’d recommend “There Is No Crime on Easter Island.”  When you finish you’ll be wanting more

Pickard now makes her home in Prairie Village, a “close-in” KC suburb, “… where there's a feeling of everybody knowing everybody else. I think the same thing is true of New York City, by the way.”

Share A Writer’s Moment with a friend by clicking the g+1 button below.