Tuesday, May 8, 2018

A Trip to an Ancient Castro

Last week we visited an ancient "castro" with friends David & Terry about an hour and a half's drive away. It's called Castro Maior (maior being Galegan for "major"— Major Castro; it's also spelled Castro Mayor in Castilian). A castro is an ancient, pre-Roman fort city, Celtic in origin from all I can read. We approached it via a faint road just off an offshoot of the  "Camino" (one of the pilgrimage routes to Santiago); mainly uphill, and bordered by the beautiful combination of purple heather and yellow broom you see here. (They are just coming into their own in this very late spring. )

This castro is 2400 years old, and what you see are the remains of what must have been ground floors of the various households in what was basically a village structure, but the method of building involved houses building onto houses with adjoining walls, and a main entrance into the village, with a path or lane going around the edge of the village, but cutting through at places between buildings—not unlike the present plans in the present villages (which all are old and follow an ancient tradition).

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A "castro" was the whole village, with stone foundations and thatched roofs (the thatching being of the barley that grew all around.) The village was surrounded by farmland, but there was only one main entrance into the castro, and there were also storage areas that served the entire castro. Above are some pictures of the ruins were were privileged to wander among.

Below, you can get a good idea of the stone work. The stones in that area are quite flat, not "block-shade" like some of the rock that forms the foundations of more recent (but old) buildings.

        To me, it was awesome to think I was touching stones someone had touched 2400 years ago. But those of you who have read earlier posts know I get "mystical" about ancient buildings. They stir something deep inside me, and make me imagine the past. Our friend, Terri said she could actually "see" (figuratively) scenes in these ancient little rooms. It is amazing to see how they have stood the test of time. The thatched roofs are gone, but the foundations remain.

After our walk-around the castro, we went to another town called Portomarin for lunch. Portomarin is quite charming. My husband likes to photograph old churches, and we were rather captivated by the square architecture of this one right in the center of town.

    We were also excited to learn that there is another castro closer to us in a village called Fion that we can visit. If we find time to go see it, you can bet we will take more pictures.

How about you? Do old buildings and ruins stir something inside you and take you back to the past? Do you like historic architecture? Do you like to imagine the past when you visit a place? 

Monday, April 30, 2018

A Writerly Week

Even though we are on "vacation", in Galicia once again, I work part-time most days, either writing or doing research. Rajan takes pictures, mostly black and white, that he develops when we get home. I take my point and shoot camera everywhere and snap less professional shots. I couldn't resist this one on the left: in the far distance on the hill is the Parador of Monforte de Lemos, the town that has built up all around it, below.

Meanwhile, this has been a "writerly" time for me. First, shortly after our arrival two and a half weeks ago, I received word that a short story I had submitted was accepted. The title is "Going Home" and it was published on April 13th by a cool magazine called Page & Spine. If you are interested, you can read it HERE. 

Second,  I've been doing research for a character in my current WIP. In my  book, one of the characters turned out to have been in Vaudeville in  her earlier years. (I'm sure all you writers know how that happens. You suddenly learn something about a character you didn't know earlier. She let me know she had been in Vaudeville.)

Well, I knew next to nothing about Vaudeville, and I love research, so off I went to find information. I've been mesmerized by a book called No Applause — Just Throw Money, by Trav S. D. (Yup, that's the author's name.) The book is expensive online, unless you go for a used copy. I did, and I was fortunate to get copy in pristine condition. Here's the book:

The writing is fast-paced, humorous, and at times brutally honest about the racism and prejudice that permeated the industry. (Vaudeville was one of the few avenues open to minorities and immigrants, but the actors themselves played off their own stereotypes in the early days.) The author gives a comprehensive history. I hadn't realized the differences between music halls, saloon variety shows, or how gradually respectability was worked into shows that once were a step away from medicine shows, freak shows, etc. They had an unsavory past, too, thanks to after-hours entertainment before they gradually evolved into what became known as Vaudeville. Then Vaudeville became cut-throat business for managers, theater owners, agents, etc., until the movies came along. I'm only halfway through the book, but since one of my characters wants to be a movie star, I'm glad to see this book has information about the early days of the movies as well.

Third, while doing the research I need for this character, I've been writing poetry. A blog friend mentioned a poetry challenge for April ( National Poetry Month). (She writes Haiku and has a wonderful blog called Words and Such; she always has rewarding posts, which you can read HERE.

The challenge was actually a contest: You register to write 30 poems in 30 days around a theme of your choice. At the end of it, you have a chapbook. I started on April 1st, but I didn't register in time, so I missed the contest. Still, I gave myself the challenge anyway, because I felt I needed to be writing while I worked out what I was learning in my research in terms of the characters. I felt I couldn't afford not to be writing.

Well, "I did it!" I wrote 30 poems in 30 days. Today I wrote my 30th. I'm done! Whew! But it really was a nice way to start each day. I actually woke up many mornings thinking about the new poem for the day.

How about you? Do you like poetry? Do you like research? Do your characters surprise you with revelations about themselves? Have you ever written a chapbook? (If so, I'd sure like some information about how to put one together.)

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Dragonella is Back — This Time in Spanish!


Good News: Dragonella has been translated into Spanish, and I'm so excited about it. \

You can find it on Amazon HERE:

This came about in a wonderful way. During our last trip to Spain, I musingly said to our good friend, Terri Anderson, "I wish I knew someone who could translate Dragonella into Spanish." I had already checked with the publishers, and they were interested, but an earlier prospect fell through.

As it turned out, Terri knew just the right person—Carla López Piñeiro—and Rajan and I had already met her. Terri facilitated a new meeting with Carla, who read the picture book through in English, and then said, yes, she'd love to translate it. Now that the book has been released, Carla was kind enough to answer some interview questions, which you will find below the pictures.

Carla López Piñeiro, Translator
Terri Anderson,

1. Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from?
I am from a small village in Galicia, a region of the North of Spain.

2. As a native Spanish speaker, you are very fluent in English. Had you studied English for a long time?
Thank you! The truth is I have been studying English almost during all my live. I learnt the first basic vocabulary and structure at Primary School, and then continued studying at High School and the University. But I experienced the greatest advance when I spent some months in Australia and then in the USA. After that, I have never stopped practicing: Reading, watching films, etc. And still, I keep making mistakes and learning something new almost every single day. I am pretty sure I am going to be a student of the English language for ever!

3. Was it difficult to translate a book from English into Spanish?
I think it was not difficult in general. I had some problems with some words and expressions. But that gave me the opportunity of do some research and expand my boundaries learning new ways of saying things, even in Spanish. Besides, I was not alone in the process! I have the help of my friend Terri Anderson, an English native, as you well know.

4. What was your favorite part of the process?
Two were my favorite parts of the project: the first, the beginning. The first reading, the moment I discovered the whole story and the characters; the second, at the end, when the translation was almost ready but it was still necessary to work on some small details.

5. Have you translated other writings from one language to another?
No, I have not. That was my first experience translating a text at a professional level.

6. Do you have any future translation projects?
I do not have any translation project right now, but I would like it!
7. How can readers contact you if they want to know more about you or your projects?
They can write me at unahabitacionparacarla@gmail.com
I will be happy to answer their questions if I can. 

Thank you, Carla, for your wonderful translation and for taking the time for this interview. I wish you luck in future translation projects.

Blog friends, do any of you speak and read Spanish? Have you had any of your work translated into other languages? If you could learn a second language, which language would it be?

Friday, March 16, 2018

Latest from the Art Class

Last Saturday's art show can be viewed on my Victorian Scribbles blog HERE

Meanwhile, in yesterday's art class we used colored pencils on pastel paper to capture wild animals and birds. Enjoy.

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The class will be over on April 12th, sigh. But it's been a great year with these students.

This is a special project of mine that is a nice balance to writing and research, huddling over the keyboard all day. What projects take you out of your writing cave to balance out your week?

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The South Natomas Community Center Art Club's Art Show at University Art Supplies, March 10th


I'm excited about my students' art show coming up a week-from today. It will be in the window of my favorite art supplier's store. 

The exhibit will go up on March 10th, "Second Saturday" and will be in the store's special window for the rest of March and all of April. The students have a little reception outside the store, serving punch and cookies. The manager, Dave Saalsaa, is always so supportive, and parents usually bring more relatives and friends to see the work.

 I have ten regular students in class this year, from age 7 to age 16 (the latter a returning student.) Most of the students are 9 or 10. The above pictures are 5 of the 10 pieces that will be in the show — pictures taken before they were matted. Along with the matted pictures on display, the students have "artistic statements" with artist photos, and the pictures have labels with the name of the work, the student's age, and the media used for the art piece. 

Here's the announcement. 


                             2018 ART EXHIBITION
                                                                        2601 J STREET
                                                                        SACRAMENTO, CA. 95816
                                                         (Midtown – corner of 26th & J Streets)


I simply love doing this each year, but I had to drop it last year when it looked like I might have a second eye surgery. As it turned out, I didn't (touch wood). I really missed the class. I love what I'm doing as a writer, but I do spend the majority of the week huddled over my keyboard and in the land of imagination. A real high point is going to this class each Thursday and watching the students get immersed in their art. This was the first year we got easels, and we use these for the painting, but also for some pastel work.

If you like art and you are in the Sacramento area next Saturday, I hope you can find time to come by for some punch and cookies and enjoy the student art. University Art Supplies also has good prices on art materials, for those of you who paint or draw. 

Meanwhile, do you have pet projects that take you away from your keyboard and your WIP? Any school programs that you participate in? 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A Fun Read: "Some Very Messy Medieval Magic"

Recently I had the pleasure of reading C. Lee McKenzie's new book in the Pete and Weasel time travel series: Some Very Messy Medieval Magic. While part of a series, it easily stands alone as a good read.

Pete and Weasel are eighth grade best friends in the small town of Hadleyville. Pete, a budding wizard, is an orphan and lives with his Aunt Lizzie, one of many witches in this town. Weasel’s parents are scientists, always busy with lab work to the point of nearly ignoring their son. Fanon, an alligator, happens to be Pete’s familiar. Dr. Wraith, is a blend of a supreme wizard and a sort of “Dr. Who”, in charge of passports for time travel, orchestration of various wizard enterprises, and solving problems time travel and magic gone awry can cause.

Magic has gone awry in this fun story: Pete didn’t properly close a time lock in the 1100s at the close of an earlier adventure. Now Peter of Bramwell, a page and the nephew of Earl Minimount, has gone missing in time. Pete and Weasel must go back to the year he disappeared to head off a resultant disaster. On arrival, two guards, Sir Egbert and Sir Alywin, discover the boys wandering around; they decide Pete is the missing Peter of Bramwell and Weasel his servant. They take the boys to Earl Minimount, and since Minimount hasn’t seen his nephew since he was a toddler, he welcomes them in these roles.

Humor, danger, mystery, and suspicion unfold in this romp of a tale: Rumors abound that trouble is afoot in the countryside. Sir Egbert skulks around and sneaks out of the castle at night. And why does he take such a dislike to Pete? The teenage Richard, Duke of Aquitaine stops by en route to France and wants to go on a hunt. Pete is assigned to accompany him. But Pete has never ridden a horse, much less hunted. Then there are the dreaded Dark Woods, a place people inside and outside the castle fear, and the mystical Circle of Stones, where Druids worship. The young duke himself brings new dangers with him. And why does Earl Minimount’s niece, Juliana, Peter of Bramwell’s cousin, seem so familiar to Pete of Hadleyville? It takes the “very messy medieval magic” of the title to resolve these questions and bring the real Peter of Bramwell back to the time where he belongs.

Some Very Messy Medieval Magic, published by Dancing Lemur Press, L. L. C., will be released May 15, 2018 and is available on Kindle and in some Amazon locations.
C. Lee McKenzie is on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/cleemckenzie
and you can learn more about her and her books at her website: http://www.cleemckenziebooks.com/middle-grade/

Monday, February 12, 2018

Research Rapture


 Recently I began working again on a historical novel I started quite a few years ago. The book had bogged down about halfway through, even though I roughly knew how it would end. It came to a screeching halt because one character took on more importance than I had initially envisioned. I knew that character had to be highlighted more and had an important role to play, but it threw a wrench in my story. Between the chapter where she took on a stronger role, and the ending I had in mind, there was a wilderness of how to get from one point to the other. Which way to go? I was lost in the woods. I wrote three other books while I was pondering this.

Then recently I and a friend signed up for a set of 6 workshops/classes that meet about every two or three weeks. With a teacher who gives homework. I decided I was going to pull out this manuscript of old — which was one of my favorite stories, really — and work on it. We've had to do scenes, a log line, character maps, etc. But the most helpful assignment was to do a chapter summary of the whole book. Yep. The whole book. Including the part where I didn't know what was going to happen. The idea was that we should just get through our whole book with the freedom to change things along the way once we started writing it.

Well, guess what? Now I know how to get to my book's ending, and I'm all enthused about writing the new draft. I'm also in love with research for this book again — it involves a lot of research because it takes place in Sacramento in 1919. The family is Irish Catholic. The railroad shops are involved (Southern Pacific). The Spanish influenza epidemic is involved. WWI is involved. Vaudeville is involved. A Model T is involved.

So I've been haunting both the Railroad Museum Library at 111 I Street (right next door to the Railroad Museum) and the Sacramento Room in the Sacramento Public Library, Central, at 828 I Street. In both cases, the archivists are incredibly friendly and helpful, locating booklets, books, pamphlets, directories, etc. for me. Next I plan to peruse microfiches of newspaper articles at the central branch and I'll visit the California Automobile Museum on 2200 Front Street. I did a lot of research at the library and online a few years ago when I was working on this book. And I read numerous books on all these themes. But now I know what I need to look up to build on what I learned before — a lot of questions about details to fine-tune the setting.

Not only that, after not reading it for about 8 years (yes, that long) I rediscovered how much I like this story. I am already four chapters into the re-write.

A few years ago I took a writing class from Sands Hall, and she described a phenomenon called "research rapture".  I'm in the throes of research rapture, now, and I am having the time of my life.

How about you? Have you ever had to lay a work aside because you were stuck and then "rediscovered it?" The chapter summary pried me out of my bog. What was your solution?