Friday, April 1, 2016

A Blogging Hiatus During April and Part of May

A place far away, where
my mystery takes place.
I hope my book will end
up on one of these shelves.
Dear Blog Friends,

I will be taking a posting break on this Fourth Wish blog during April and the first part of May. A health problem (which looks like it will be resolved soon) took up a lot of my time with medical appointments during the past few weeks. I got way behind in my cozy mystery re-write, and I need to make that a priority now.

My Victorian Scribbles blog is connected to my other writing venture and the anthology coming out in June, so I'll be posting next door on Victorian Scribbles. I just can't manage two blogs while finishing the cozy mystery. I should be back here by mid-to-late May, so please return then. And please pop in next door at Victorian Scribbles for updates.

Thanks for your understanding.

Monday, March 21, 2016

The After-School Art Club's Art Show Ten Days Ago

I had meant to blog about my students' art show earlier, but time got away. (Some weeks are just like that.)

First, I'd like to thank University Art Supplies Store for hosting the students' art reception on Saturday, March 12th to kick off the exhibit, which will be displayed in the window for the rest of March and all of April.

University Art is a marvelous art supplies store that provides several programs for young people, as well as classes for all ages. They are located at the corner of 26th Street and J Street. You can learn more about their products and programs HERE, (and please "like" them on Facebook HERE. )

Next, I'd like to thank the South Natomas Community Center for being so supportive of the after- school art club. They purchase materials for me and store them at the center. All I have to do is go in and teach, and students already love art before they ever come in. The center offers a variety of services and classes for the community. You can learn more about their programs HERE 

Now -- on with the Second Saturday art reception and exhibit. For those who don't live in Sacramento, "Second Saturday" each month is when  art lovers go from gallery to gallery, enjoying  receptions for new art exhibits. The receptions often feature wine and munchies, but our artists served punch and cookies. Below are the 17 pieces of art displayed, along with pictures of some of the students and their families. Enjoy.


            Students range in age from 6 to 14, although the class is mainly set up for 8-to-12-year-olds. But some are returning students and go farther with the lessons, and some have older siblings in class, which keeps the class from becoming geared to 1st or 2nd-graders: The younger ones simply keep up and constantly amaze me with their grasp of what are basically lessons for older kids. Below are pictures of some of the students who came to the reception (in shifts, between noon and 2:00 p.m.) and their proud families. It got pretty hectic at times, so I didn't get a chance to photograph everyone who came.

This artist is seven.

Her cousin, artist on the right, is nine.

The artist on the left just turned eight.
Hopefully her brother will join one day.
Another seven-year old artist.

This artist just turned seven.
The artist on left is ten. Shy sister on
right is too young for the class.
Her thirteen-year-old sister, a fine
  artist, was sick and couldn't attend.

Two artists, sisters; the one on left is
seven; the one on the right is eleven.

I  didn't get a photo of these two artists
 before they left, so this is last year's
photo: The artist on the left is nine
this year; on the right, fourteen.

The artist, eleven and dedicated,
is almost hidden by her two
younger siblings in this picture.

Being involved with these students gives me a special boost each week. I always come home rejuvenated by their energy. We have two more classes this year, and then the art class is over until November. While I have other projects that need tending to, I'm going to miss them. 

How about you? Are you an art lover? Do you do any volunteer projects that give you special enjoyment?

Friday, February 26, 2016

Spring has Sprung in Sacramento

I have been busy with various projects lately, so I'm late in posting these photos. But spring in Sacramento is always a beautiful symphony of blossoms, starting with the flowering plum trees around town -- especially at McKinley Park. The sprays of pink along graceful boughs that reach up and out always give my heart such a lift.

Every fall, the burst or reds and golds makes me say fall is my favorite season. And then spring comes and blows me away.

McKinley Park is part part of my husband's regular walking routine. Lately I've gotten back to walking (a mile and a half most days), but usually my walk takes me in the opposite direction to Time Tested Books, my favorite used book store. Last week, though, I revisited McKinley Park after his glowing report of trees in bloom, and I was not sorry. Have a look:                                                                                                                                                                                

There is a pond on the western side of the park, on the south side of the library building. and a small island in the center where ducks and geese hang out. The path above circles around it. Here is a larger perspective of this beautiful section:    

But farther up the south side of the park is the beautiful rose garden. The roses aren't in bloom yet, but the Japanese magnolias have opened their petals and shed some of them, littering the ground with a dazzle of pale lavender

And now, as I make my rounds of the neighborhoods on my daily walk, I'm starting to see the daffodils and tulips. I keep forgetting to take my camera. For now, you'll have to imagine the yellow ruffles of daffodils, the glossy reds and purples of the tulips. 

Have a great week-end.

How about you? Which is your favorite season of the year? What trees to you like the best for their colors?

Saturday, January 30, 2016

What Make a Good Read in Fiction?

Where I write books and book reviews. 
Books I love to read.
Today I was writing a book review (that you can read next door at my other blog, Victorian Scribbles) and it got me to thinking about what makes a good read in fiction. I read lots of books, and I review books in various genres, but the ones that stick in my mind seem to share certain characteristics, no matter what their genre.

1. Some kind of a problem to be solved. Yes, "the story problem" that creates the story arc for the protagonist, etc. The plot. Still, reading it that way, it seems so . . . pedantic. For me, "plot" or "story problem" boil down to some kind of a puzzle or challenge that needs to be worked out--one that engages the reader as well as the protagonist. You really want to know how it will end. One of the appeals of a good mystery is that you find yourself hot on the trail, trying to solve it along with the protagonist.

2. Interesting characters that can make me suspend disbelief enough to go along for the ride. For me, they don't have to be the p.o.v. character. Watson, purported teller of Sherlock Holmes tales, is the perfect filter to make me suspend belief regarding Sherlock Holmes's astounding mental and physical prowess, because Watson is believable, and he believes in his friend. Nick, in The Great Gatsby, pulls the reader into his awe of Gatsby so that a reader is invested in the outcome for this tragic figure. In The Lightning Queen, a YA novel about gypsies and Mexican-indians, the author, Laura Resau, makes us care about the dignity of both groups and their traditions, while pulling us into their world of fate and magic and healing through the eyes of two endearing characters.

3. A reader learns something they didn't know, even though it's fiction. This is true in all of the above. But let me add Cara Black's Aimee LeDuc adult mystery series, where every new mystery is a free trip to Paris, and Kate Morton's novel, The Secret Keeper, where a reader travels back and forth in time to unravel a dying woman's story behind the mesmerizing event witnessed years ago by her daughter--a secret going back to World War II. Right now I'm reading a gripping middle grade novel by Julie T. Lamana, Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere, that takes a reader into the terrifying lead-up to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Many of us read about Katrina in 2005 when the storm hit New Orleans, but this book makes you live through it.

4. Emotional involvement. I love a book that plays on my emotions, and all of the above books do that. A special emotional aspect I enjoy, though, is humor--witty humor, not slapstick. For me, one of the simple pleasures in reading is to find myself chuckling, or even laughing out loud. The Sherlock Holmes mystery I reviewed next door--Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Ruby Elephants--was one such book, but library shelves and bookstores abound with good, humorous fiction, and for those of you who write, I would advise you to find a way to inject a little humor in your story. It's almost irresistible to re-read a truly funny book.

How about you? What do you find the most important elements in a good read? Can you tell me the titles of some good reads you think I (and others) might enjoy?

Friday, January 1, 2016

Revisiting Nancy Drew

Yesterday after lunch, my husband and I took a little trip to 57th Street Antique Row, a cluster of shops in town that sell antiques and/or second hand things. (The latter is what draws us, as we can't afford genuine antiques and would feel like we had to walk on eggs if we had them in our home.) We like old things and the histories they suggest, My husband loves old cameras and I love old books, so we are always on the prowl for those. Yesterday I struck it rich: One of our favorite shops on Antique Row is The Picket Fence, and that's where I came upon a whole set of Nancy Drew mysteries for $5.00 each. Not only that, the store was having a 30%-off sale, so I emerged happily with four books that came to a total of just under $14.00.

These are the original Nancy Drew series, too, the ones I read when eleven, the ones published between 1930 and 1959. You can see in the example above the old blue cloth cover with a silhouette of Nancy and her Sherlockian microscope. It's true what they say in the publishing industry: kids "read up". I checked every adventure I could find from the public library when I was eleven. I wanted to be Nancy Drew--enterprising, clever, fearless, able to handle whatever difficulties emerged from the crises that had a way of finding her. No matter that she took trips to faraway cities with her friends and drove a car--obviously not only a teenager, but in the high teens at that--she inspired me to start my own detective club and search for mysteries everywhere.

Being eleven in the fifties, and white, I was also oblivious to the racism embedded in many of the stories. In the sixties, revisions of the old mysteries and writers of new adventures started to address the racism and have continued to do so ever since. This was a much needed change for a series so popular. Popular literature not only reflects culture; it influences culture as well, giving attitudes the "okay" at a subliminal level where they seep into a reader's unconscious and take up residence. So I applaud the decision.

Sadly, though, in the series since 1959, Nancy's character has been watered down, a change that makes no sense to me. While subbing in a friend's classroom a few years ago, I picked out a fairly current Nancy Drew mystery from the classroom library and thumbed through it over lunch. This was not the Nancy Drew I remembered--spunky, adventurous, fearless, ready to take on what mystery she encountered. Instead I found a sort of "Oh, no!" Nancy, just short of a hand-wringer in the face of trouble. In an era of heightened awareness of social issues, including women's issues, what went wrong when so much was going right?

Here's what I would like to see happen: Keep cleaning up the racism and bring back the spunky Nancy Drew, the girl detective who inspired young girls for decades to believe they were smart enough to handle life.

How about you? Did you have a favorite mystery series when you were growing up? If not a mystery series, did you have a favorite series that had you waiting for the next adventure and the next?

Friday, December 18, 2015

Joyeux Noel, A True Christmas Message

German soldiers of the 134th Saxon Regiment pose with men of the Royal
Warwickshire Regiment in 'No Man's Land' on the Western Front in
December 2014. Photo is in the Public Domain. You can read the
article HERE

I am returning for a third time to an earlier post about a film that still moves me deeply: Joyeux Noel, the 2005 film that was nominated for both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Film. This has become my favorite Christmas movie, and I watch it each year.

The individual stories highlighted in the film were fictitious, but the over all story is based on a true happening on a Christmas Eve in 1914, in the theater of war: Scottish, French, and German troops agreed to a cease fire, and put down their weapons to celebrate Christmas Eve. Bonds were formed. The next day, troops  even warned each other of planned shellings and offered refuge in each other's trenches when the shellings occurred.

Last year, the  Sacramento Bee published an article about this phenomenon, a phenomenon that occurred in several places across Belgium and across the Western Front. One such place was Flanders Field, (the site of John McCrae’s famous poem later, comparing the blood of slain British warriors to red poppies.) 

On Christmas Eve, German soldiers began playing music familiar to both German and British soldiers. Soon an informal truce was struck. Troops visited each other, gave each other food and small gifts. Some played games. For a little while, Peace broke out. Afterwards, as in the movie, army generals made sure it would not happen again. In the following war years, at Christmastime, generals stepped up the fighting to ensure no one would even think of a truce.

For all three military groups, the only thing that saved troops from being tried for treason was the fact that 200 or so in each case would have to be tried. Instead, all the participants were transferred to other fronts to make sure such an event wouldn't happen again.

Joyeux Noel is a remarkable film--a reminder that we are human first, and that the human impulse is toward peace. It is the political impulse that moves nations to war.

So here it is, the New Year on its way, the Christmas message hovering still. We still live in a troubled world, wondering how to meet the challenges.

Best wishes for a time of true peace, when people can be united again in their common humanity.

What is your favorite Christmas movie?