Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A CHRISTMAS MOMENT WHEN PEACE PREVAILED


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 Public Domain
Taken from an article
  HERE 





Twice, now, I’ve blogged at this time of year about Joyeux Noel, a 2005 film that was nominated for both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Film. The individual stories highlighted were fictitious, but the overall 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, even warning each other of planned shellings the next day and offering refuge in each other's trenches when the shellings occurred.

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 it wouldn't happen again. It was a remarkable film, and a story I won't forget.

I was reminded of it again when the Sacramento Bee published an article in Saturday’s paper about this phenomenon, a phenomenon that occurred in several places across Belgium and across the Western Front.

In Flanders Field, the site of John McCrae’s famous poem comparing the blood of slain British warriors to red poppies, 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 even small gifts. Some played games. For a little while, Peace broke out. And then, as in the movie above, army generals made sure it would not happen again. In the following war years, at Christmastime they stepped up the fighting to ensure no one would even think of a truce.


So here it is again, the New Year approaching, and the Christmas message hovering still. 

Best wishes for the coming year, and for a time of peace, when people can forgive the atrocities of war and unite again in their common humanity.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Back with a Review of a Marvelous Book on Writing

My writing corner when it's tidy.
         
Although this is what is usually looks like.





Hello, again, at last, after the long silence. I have keenly missed blogging and connecting with blog friends, but I had to put writing first these last few weeks, and it's paid off. I finished my mystery, and now I'm doing the re-thinking, re-conceiving, additional research, etc. that is so much of the re-writing process. And I have been reading a wonderful book that I just have to share. The Art of Character, by David Corbett.



I first came across Corbett's insights in an article titled, "Characters, Scene by Scene", in the January, 2015 issue of Writer's Digest. (Yes, I know it's not January yet, but that's how magazines do things.)

In his article, Corbett emphasizes that "dimensional characters are born from drama—not description." Yes, you should know descriptive and biographical details: eye color, hair color, height, weight, hobbies, work history, biographical information, etc., but that doesn't create characters who live and breathe. What brings them alive on the page is interaction with others in scenes that serve a purpose in the story.

To paraphrase just one of his examples: How your character looks isn't as important as, say, how her appearance makes her feel, how it makes others feel, and how this translates into behavior. The same is true of age: How does her age affect her interactions? I have to say that just reading this article inspired several insights into my main character and a couple of others, and I immediately sent off for his book, The Art of Character.   Here's the book at Amazon, although several sites sell it.                                                      
And I bought the paperback, not the kindle. (When I read something this pithy, I do a lot of underlining.)

The Art of Character does not disappoint. It's like a course in creative writing, with exercises that are challenging but oh-so useful if you want rounded out characters that truly drive your story. It's also like a course in psychology, probing your characters' fears, desires, hates, loves, spirituality or lack of it. Or a course in sociology. Or philosophy. Or literature. (Corbett gives solid examples of stories, plays, novels, that illustrate the concepts he covers.)

You can tap into this book as deeply as you feel your work calls for, but the advice and insights gleaned from it are useful for any genre: light fiction, cosy mystery, MG or YA novel, literary adult fiction. It's the best book on writing I've come across in a long time. And it's the kind of book you can return to again and again.

You can visit his website to learn more about this book and the best-selling mysteries he writes. Meanwhile, I have to get back to the last chapter, the one on "voice". Happy reading.

And happy writing.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Time Out While I Finish My Book


One of the most interesting bookshops ever: Centésima Página
on Avenida Central in Braga. That's me, there, wishing I
could read Portuguese, a beautiful but challenging language.

A delightful café bar called Copa. Again, in Braga, Portugal.

Hi, Friends,

I have not been posting because I've been working hard at finishing my book. Almost there, too. I have two more chapters that I'm determined to finish this week before we head home.

Next week I'll be posting again, and when I take writing breaks, I'll be visiting and reading your blogs, as so many of them inspire me. Meanwhile, I leave you with two pictures above from Braga, Portugal. Once we are home, I'll be writing more about that trip as well as bits and pieces about Galicia.

Hasta entonces . . .


Monday, October 6, 2014

Having Pulpo at the Feria in Monforte


A plate full of pulpo. You eat it with
toothpicks, bite by bite. Then you
break off chunks of crusty bread and
sop up the spiced olive oil. Yum!

Our wonderful neighbor,
Miguel
Today, despite the fact that it's nearly two weeks since our return from Portugal, I had every intention of writing a post about Fado, the Portuguese art form of song we both love so much, to be followed by a later post mid-week about the photography festival we attended when we were in Braga Portugal.

But then our neighbor across the lane from us treated us to pulpo at the feria in Monforte, 20 minutes away from our village, and, as usual, we were enthusiastically swept away. (This is the neighbor who keeps sheep, and sometimes in the mornings, we awaken to their soft bleating.) Off we went, my Fado post tabled for another day.

Pulpo is octupus, boiled, cut in small pieces, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pimiento - which in this area, means hot red pepper. All of our neighbors simply love pulpo, and their enthusiasm has been contagious. Though vegetarians, we do eat pescados and mariscos (fish and seafood), but octopus was a new experience for us. When done right, meaning boiled long enough, it comes out moist and tender and just delicious. It is served at long tables, in special buildings at all the fair grounds, and one of the servers comes around with a bottle of the house red wine and a loaf of fresh bread to go with it.

The woman boiling this pulpo
 is the neighbor of a woman in
Turiz, Melucha, whom we met
years ago when she was walking
  her cows down the road to graze.
The people in these neighboring
villages all know each other, so
Miguel was able to tell us this.

Rajan, adding his touch. We
actually see this woman and
another (who is distantly re-
lated to Miguel), at ferias in
the other villages, since the
market days in the villages
fall on different days. 

One of the long tables set up for this
event. For those who don't like pulpo,
 there is also barbequed beef or sausage.

Despite the note about beef, most of
these people are eating pulpo,
always the favorite.


Good to the last drop.
















Definitely a satisfied customer.









Feria is "fair" or market day, and in the mornings, nearly everything is sold at a feria: shoes, blouses, scarves, belts, beaded jewelry, plants, fruit, all kinds of produce, honey, bread loaves of all types, utensils for making wine, utensils for making the home-made brandy so popular here, aguardiente. One shot of that will blow your head off, but most people around here confine it to a little shot in their coffee when they do decide to have it. There is also a special drink they make, using aguardiente, called quemada, with orange peel, apple peel, coffee beans, and sugar, blogged about, beforeHERE.  (Scroll down to the very bottom of it, and you'll learn about the drink and the history behind it, as well as seeing the clay vessel they make it in and the clay cups they serve it in; the set is also called a quemada, and it is also sold at the ferias.)

While we were there, a gypsy playing an accordion came in and played some melodies that were so familiar to the crowd, some sang along. It was an absolutely charming touch (and he gained a few coins for that) but, alas, I didn't take pictures. A memorable lunch, for sure.

How about you? Have you ever eaten octopus? Have you ever found yourself eating a dish you thought you never would?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Two Awards and Apologies for the Long Silence

Inspiring Blogger Award from
Julia Hones

Liebster Award from Sandra Cox
See below the info that comes with
the Inspiring Blogger Award















First the apologies for not blogging. 
1.) I've been busy working on my mystery. My goal is to finish this draft by mid-September. There's 24-25 chapters in mind, and I'm on chapter 17 so far. 
2.) We've had company and made a couple of out-of-town trips to visit folks we hadn't seen for a long time, due to travels. 
And 3.) We are getting ready for another long trip to Spain and Portugal. (I haven't even finished blogging about the last trip, but that's how it goes sometimes. Oh, the stories I'd like to tell!)

Meanwhile, two very nice blog friends gave me awards that you can see at the top of this page and read about below. Thank you so much, ladies!

Julia Hones gave me the Inspiring Blogger Award, which I find quite an honor. Julia has a marvelous blog called My Writing Life that I love to read and find inspiring in its own right, and you will too, so do check it out. She's also had many short stories and poems published and is the poetry editor of Southern Pacific Review

As a recipient of the award, I'm supposed to reveal 7 things about myself and then pass the award on to others whose blogs I find inspiring. Hmm. 7 reveals . . . Okay, here we go.

1. In my junior year in college, after finals, I let a girlfriend talk me into bleaching my hair blonde. (She was bleaching her hair, and we were hyper from finals, so I thought, "Why not?") Because I have a lot of red in my hair, it went red instead of blonde. Because I have a few freckles, everyone who met me as a redhead thought I really was a redhead -- to the point that when I got tired of it and decided to dye it back to dark brown, I was told, "No, don't do that, it won't look natural."

2. My favorite dessert is a cookie. Forget pies, cakes, and rich creamy custards. Give me a cookie. Any cookie, although I like sugar, shortbread, oatmeal, or peanutbutter the best.

3. I am a crossword puzzle nut. I love the New York Times crossword puzzle. I can't always finish it (Fridays and Saturdays), but I usually start the day with it. For one thing, it wakes me up and gets the wheels turning for writing later in the day.

4. My husband and I met through a cat named Meathead. That is a ve-r-r-r-y long story, that only some of our friends know and would take up too much space here. But we have very fond feelings for our feline cat-alyst from long ago.

5. I used to write everything in longhand first, but the computer has spoiled me. Cut and paste is so convenient. Even so, I miss that feeling of connection between pen or pencil and heart, and I still write my poetry first in longhand.

6. This is probably a horrible confession for an author to make, particularly one who writes children's books, but . . . I never liked The Wind in the Willows. I know, I know, one of the world's great classics. What's wrong with me! But I never could get into it, no matter how many times I tried. 

7. I loved Edith Nesbit and Edgar Eavers, though. And they stand the test of time. I re-read a couple of their books recently and still found them so funny.

And now the nominees:
1. Keith Wynne has a truly inspiring blog called Musings of an Unapologetic Dreamer . He'll also send a little blurb via email called Thought of the Day, if you sign up for it at his site. I bookmark nearly everyone of these blurbs, as they are quite pithy and inspiring.

2. Catherine Ensley is an author of inspirational romance novels and is writing a four-part series. On her blog she "shares her thoughts on country life, simple living, adventure, reading, writing and faith that transforms." I think you will find it very enjoyable. 

3. Victoria Lindstrom's Writ of Whimsy blog is rich with Middle Grade book reviews, poetry tidbits, thoughts on writing, and a section I love, "Whimsical Word of the Week." Check out her site; it's great fun.

4. Lynda Young has a wonderful blog called W.I.P. It: an Author's Journey in which she addresses many issues for writers with insights and reminders that are so helpful to all of us on this common journey. 

5. Check out Carol Riggs, a published YA author with a personable writing style. Her blog, Artzicarol Ramblings, is full of writing tips, YA book reviews, and shares of her own personal journey with agents and publishers. 

6. Renee Hand's The Crypto-Capers Review is a children's book review blog as well as a platform for her radio show, Stories from Unknown Authors. Renee also writes winning interactive mysteries. How cool is that? Check out her site, and you may find yourself being interviewed if you've written a children's book.

7. Mark Noce has a rather eclectic blog, sharing news about his flash fiction publications, gardening, music he likes, and news about other writers. It's always a feel-good experience to read one of his posts. 

On to the Liebster Award, which Sandra Cox kindly gave to me. Sandra's blog is called, not surprisingly, Sandra's Blog  . Sandra is a prolific blogger as well as a prolific author. Spend a little time at her site. Her pictures will make you smile. Meanwhile, the Liebster Award is given to bloggers with less than 200 followers, ferreting out blogs you think are worthy of more followers. (Thank you, Sandra!) The rules for accepting the award are to share 11 random facts about myself, answer 11 questions posed by the blogger who nominated me, nominate 11 bloggers who qualify, and pose 11 questions to them. Happily, Sandra modified the rules, asking 6 questions, and nominating 5 newbies. So I am following her lead:

The questions she asked:
1. If you were an animal, what would you be? Probably a dog. I love animals, but dogs have a special place in my heart. They are so loving and loyal.
2. What is your favorite genre? That's a hard one. Mysteries and historical novels are about equal.
3. When reading, do you prefer paper or a hand held device? Paper, for sure!
4. What's your favorite vacation spot? Galicia, Spain. 
5. What's your favorite charity? Another hard one. We contribute to a number. I suppose Southern Poverty Law Center, a remarkable organization that goes after hate groups in this country and prosecutes hate crimes.
6. If given the choice, where would you live? Right where we live now. As a runner up, Galicia would be next, but we are quite happy where we are.

Okay, my nominees are:
Richard Hughes at Writing and Living by Richard P. Hughes , is an eclectic blogger, sharing thoughts about writing, art, life in general, publishing issues. Right now he's running an interesting series of interviews with other bloggers, called, "Where I Live and Why I Like It.

Rosi Hollinbeck at The Write Stuff reviews children's books, interviews authors, and does a wonderful job of culling and sharing links to help writers in every sphere of writing. I always look forward to her posts, and you will too.

Kenda Turner at Words and Such posts book reviews, interviews, and shares rich thoughts about the writer's journey. Always a good read.

Loretta Proctor at Books and Other Things blogs about books, art, and music, "and all things creative and beautiful." Her current post is about Seamus Heaney, one of my favorite poets.

Jeanmarie Anaya's delightful blog, Jeanmarie Anaya is definitely worth your while. Humorous, pithy, eloquent. She writes about a number of writing issues, and wrote a lovely tribute to Robin Williams. 

And here are my six questions for these worthy recipients:
1. Where is your favorite place to read a book?
2. When beginning a new W.I.P., do you write by hand or wordprocess?
3. What are three of your favorite books? 
4. If you could be a character in a novel you've read, who would you be?
5. Which author, living or dead, do you wish you had the opportunity to meet?
6. When did you begin to write for yourself (as opposed to doing early homework assignments)?

And that's it, folks. I look forward to your comments, (feel free to answer any of the questions I posed for the nominees), and I do hope you check out the blogs in both sections of this post.

Ciao for now . . .

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Dolmen of Abuime, in Galicia, Spain

Five big rocks that may surprise you.
Here it stands, a collection of four immense standing stones (the fifth one fallen to the side), tucked back in the far end of a field nearly hidden by trees, easily missed, if you didn't know about it. We knew about it because good friends in Galicia, Craig and Melanie, told us about it.

Craig, Melanie, and their
loveable dog, Slawit
A brief introduction here: Craig and Melanie are our friends in Galicia who sold us our house in Trasulfe.


They are from England, but they have lived in Galicia for about ten years, and Craig has written a book about their adventures. He also has a blog, and he wrote nice a post about the dolmen HERE  . Enjoyment of wine in Spain is contagious, and he has started growing his own vines and making his own wine (which is pretty good; we get to sample it whenever we go to Galicia. ) In addition, they have restored another home, and this one they rent out. (You can learn more about it at his blog site.)

So, back to the dolmen. And what is a dolmen? you might ask. Wikipedia gives a pretty good explanation of dolmens and where they can be found, HERE .  Basically a dolmen is considered a megalithic tomb. Usually it has a flat capstone on top of the standing stones. Rajan and I wonder if the stone in the picture above that is off to the right is the original capstone for this dolmen. Originally dolmens were covered up with earth mounds, and 5,000 to 6,000 years of erosion have uncovered them.
Even with enlarged photo, it's hard to tell. After all, the
trees are pretty tall, and it's hard to tell here just how tall.

Even with Craig and Melanie's good directions and the picture on Craig's blog post, we had to look for it. Despite signs, from a distance, it's hard to appreciate the size.

This should give you a better idea:
How on earth did they prop these stones up?

Anyone who know me knows I have a thing about old buildings. I love to touch old man-made structures, whether 12th century walls or Roman era bridges, whether in England or Spain. But our British friends all find this somewhat amusing. After all, they remind me, they grew up surrounded by historic buildings and Roman bridges. It's no big deal to them. But I always have to touch these old edifices that, I feel, still bear the mystical aura of humans touching them long ago.

So, you can imagine how enthralled I was to touch something that humans touched maybe 5,000 or 6,000 years ago!
Yup! Pretttty impressed. And pretty happy, too.
On another note, this week I had two pieces of pleasant news:
 1. A blog friend, Julian Hones, gave me the "Inspiring Blog" award on her great site, My Writing Life . Julia is an editor of a magazine and writes poetry and short fiction. The award carries some "pass it on and give information" duties that will have to wait for another post, but I was certainly pleased to get it. Thank you, Julia.

2. I made this announcement on Facebook, but for those of my blog friends who are not on FB, my Flash Fiction, "Persephone," is in the current issue of Fiction Attic Press and will also be in the Flash in the Attic anthology. You can read it HERE:  If you have time to read it, I'd love your feedback.

Meanwhile, how do you feel about old buildings? Do have that irresistible urge to touch them and imagine who touched them so many years ago?


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Back to Galicia

We have been traveling, and I started this post when we were still in England, visiting family. (Post about that to follow when I finish the posts about Spain.) We got back late last night (actually early this morning), but I had promised to get back to two events in the earlier part of our Galicia visit, and here they are:
David and Pepe

David and Terri
                                                    FIRST: The Friday after our arrival -- April 11th -- We went with friends Terri and David to what is known as a "casa rural," but also includes a restaurant/bar and week-end entertainment. The name is Torre Vilariño, and it is co-owned by a cool hombre named Pepe. Alas, I don't know his full name, but here he is with David. And here is the website, which has lovely pictures of the rooms where one can stay, as well as the restaurant and patio.

On this particular Friday, two main musicians were playing. We had dinner first (around 9:30), and the music started around 11:00 p.m. One of the musicians sang, both of them played, and they went through a whole gamut of popular songs from the 80s -- in English. They were really good. Here are a few pictures:

The main duo.

The singer.

Hearfelt guitar work.

Occasionally a third musician joined them and sang along. They had a good sound! (I wish I had gotten the name of the group.)

Jamming!
The servers thought they were
pretty good, too. Singing along
with great gusto!

Susana, server extraordinaire!
The SECOND event was the Fiesta Medieval that takes place each year at the end of Semana Santa (Holy week). It used to only take place on Saturday, but now it has grown to include the entire week-end. We went both days. We love this fiesta, many locals dress up in costume, and small skits and re-enactments are put on in main streets and plazas. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves:
Processions . . . this is a special
Galician bagpipe called a gaeto.




A medieval damsel . . .

A  verrry young knight Templar!





From one of the plazas.
And the little ones on burros!
Entertainers on stilts.

I don't know how
they do it!
This woman was really into
her role. 

The ever-present
witches.
I suppose this is where the knights
collected their helmets. 
To defend their king and queen.
(Isabel and Ferdinand).

King of Castile y Leon.
  
Another feature of this festival each year that we particularly enjoy is the showing of the raptors -- hawks, falcons, owls, ravens . . . Two trainers have taught them to do tricks, and they are always fascinating to watch, not to mention what beautiful birds they are: 


Such beautiful birds! I think they said
this unusual raven (with the white stripe) is distinctive to Galicia.

The horned owl is so commanding!

But this hawk is pretty
impressive, too. 

One of the trainers and a snowy owl. 

The other trainer watching
a falcon he released.
They finished off the show
with an interval when people
could pet one of the birds.

And who would you guess is petting that snowy owl?
Yup. Yours truly. It was really an awesome experience.
So there you are: Two "local" events we thoroughly enjoyed. I hope you enjoyed them too.

How about you? Do you enjoy historical fairs and festivals? Have you ever petted a wild bird?