Sunday, January 15, 2023

Elizabeth Varadan's Fourth Wish Has Moved



Please come visit me on my blog, HERE 

I'll be blogging about travel, art, writing, at my new location and would love to see you at the new site.

Meanwhile, Victorian Scribbles will still continue, so if you are interested in the Victorian Era or The Gilded Age, please visit that site as before. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

THE NIGHT AFTER CHRISTMAS . . .

'Twas the Night AFTER Christmas
And all through the town
EVERY person was stirring -
Even a clown!

We took our evening walk last night and the historic area was jumping!

Outside A Brasileira, a popular cafe
The clown. 


Does Braga ever sleep? Everywhere was so lively. Shoppers, tourists, locals, families . . . Luckily, it wasn't raining, so the outdoor tables were packed, and there were few empty tables inside cafes and restaurants. This city comes alive at the drop of a hat!

I love the Christimas lights in all the main streets. These are along Rua do Souto, a major shopping street with cafes and stores and often street musicians, although we didn't see/hear anyone last night. The beautifull young dog you see in one picture is a Czech wolf! We had a chat with the owners. He's very friendly, has a really sweet disposition.

 





 



















Later in our walk, we went to a café bar we like for a glass of wine - Patio da Sé. (Outside, the patio/pedestrianized street dead-ends into the Sé Catedral, a national monument). That place was packed, too, both downstairs and upstairs, where we found a table.


Our Christmas this year was on the quiet side, although on the 26th and yesterday (Boxing Day), thanks to the wonders of WhatsApp, we were able to talk to relatives and godfamily in the US and India. Earlier in the week we met with our "Portuguese family" and other friends here, which made for a contentful season in our new home.

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas, wherever you are, and will have a wonderful 2023, full of peace and happiness and all good things. If you are in the U.S., I hope you are out of the path of storms that have been sweeping through America on the east coast and midwest.

Take care, and let me know how you are.






Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

Wishing you all a happy Christmas season and/or whatever other holidays you celebrate instead. 

In Braga (and all over Portugal), the wish is Feliz Natal e Feliz Ano Novo, or Boas Festas (Good Holidays.)

Here are a few shares from the main plaza areas to brighten your week.
     
This is the main Praça República tree


Yes, a street full of Santas my husband saw on his walk.



And the university students, who are not in classes during this time, form groups called "tunas" that put on little performances around the historic area. Enjoy




May your days be full of love and peace and happiness, and may the new year bring more peace in the world, which we greatly need at this time. 

See you all after the 25th.

With love and hope, Elizabeth



Friday, December 9, 2022

Meanwhile, Now That We're Back In Braga . . ..

 It's wonderful to be here. The Christmas season is upon us, and it's being celebrated brilliantly (i.e., with lot's of lights and window displays.)

Roasted chestnuts on
a cold night. 

The tree at Praça República 

Closer to the tree. Isn't it 
beautiful? 











These two pics were part of the same window display






I have always liked window displays, miniatures, and animated scenes. All these little scenes were animated. I was entranced. 

Then last evening we were doing one of our walk-abouts — in the rain, no less — and the rain didn't seem to daunt anyone else, either. Rain or shine, tourist come and locals turn out to shop and then have a drink or a bite in one of the many cafés, bars, and restaurants. 

 










And on a previous afternoon, when it wasn't raining, so many were sitting at outside tables and some were eating ice cream cones. But it is amazing: What once would have struck me as weather too cold to get out and about in now seems just . . . invigorating. 

But never too cold for a parade! In Braga, any time is a time to celebrate, and there is a fabulous drumming group that comes out for all these celebration. We followed them around for a while, and what struck me was how musical drums can be. They even seemed to change key at times. I got only a photo or two and one short video, but you can see the little girl skip-dancing to the beat as the crowd follows the drummers around the corner. 

The drummers and 
crowd. 









I have to confess, Christmas is my favorite holiday, and the Christmas season is my favorite time of the year. (Well, I love fall - which is also very beautiful here): 

How about you? Do you like animated miniatures? What is your favorite holiday and season?



Wednesday, November 30, 2022

The Poet, Seamus Heaney

 Recently, while mulling over my next mystery to write, I've been reading a lot of poetry. A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled on this beautiful collection of Seamus Heaney's poems—100 of them over the course of his publishing life, compiled by his children and wife.

This is a picture of the cover shown on the book I bought at my favorite bookstore here in Braga, Portugal (Centésima Página), but you can go to Amazon to get a copy if you are a poetry lover, and especially if you are a fan of Heaney's poetry. 

I love poetry and have read it off and on, quite haphazardly, through the years, so I've encountered his name. Also, a former writing teacher quoted one of his poems often—the first one in this collection, as a matter of fact: "Digging." Beautiful language and lingering images. But I had never settled down to read more of his poetry until I got this collection.

I am simply spellbound! His poems paint portraits that come alive, tell stories in scenes that put you right there. He retells history. He was an Irish poet and has that magical, musical way with words. (I have always been a W. B. Yeats fan for the same reasons.)

I purposely have been reading these poems just a few at a time, so as to savor them and not let them all run together in a mishmash. And I highly recommend this book for a soothing entry into places that beckon on a cold, rainy day—which is what we've been having off and on lately in Braga.

How about you? Are you a poetry lover? If so, who is your favorite poet? (I'm always interested in recommendations.) Have you read Heaney's poetry before?


Saturday, November 26, 2022

Back In Braga, for Good This Time. And Some Book-Related Shares . . .

 

     It's great to be back. It's raining here, which Portugal needs, although the drought areas are mainly in the south and Braga is in the North. But the first few days of rain, it was a warmish springlike rain, and it's always so pretty to see what rain does to the colors everywhere. In the top left picture, the beautiful gardened area of Avenida da Liberdad near the Praça República is sporting begonias. (They plant different plants each season, and each year, so it never seems redundant.) The picture on the right is on Avenida Central, near the hotel where we stayed.

Then the Saturday after arrival, we went to Monforte in Galicia, Spain, where we rent a small apartment, to get some dishes, pots and pans, and some grains and spices we had stored there, as well as the car we had in a garage. We traveled up to Monforte — about 2 & 1/2 hours north of us by car, but we traveled by bus and train and then drove back after a few days, resting up and visiting only a couple of friends, saving our social visits for the future. 

While we were there, the teacher at the Escola da Idiomas EOI Monforte invited me to talk about my books, especially the mysteries set in Braga, and about the writing process. She did a beautiful job of displaying all my published books and especially the Braga mysteries.  

 
I enjoyed the experience so much. All the students were adult, learning English (and many were quite fluent). I always loved teaching the elementary grades when I was a full time teacher, but this experience made me realize I might well have enjoyed teaching adults. It's a very different experience.

For one thing, one of the students took notes! (That doesn't tend to happen in 6th grade, lol.)


But I also had a nice writerly experience before we left Sacramento. A woman we met at one of our open mic nights at Fox and Goose - no, not Karioke, but musicians showing up with their guitars to play and sing blues and folk and rock and country every Monday night. We were listeners only.

Anyway, a week before we left Sacramento I was interviewed by Donnella Fraser Fradkin (a terrific singer of country and blues) for her Vlog, BookMeUp. You can see it at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-2XcvMJg9I 


I enjoyed this interview so much because it was so relaxed and in such a conversational style. Donnella is an excellent interviewer. I hope you will go take a peek and leave a comment. Meanwhile, it makes for a very happy memory before departure. 

But - we are here to stay. Whew! What a year. What a two years, in fact! 



Wednesday, November 2, 2022

On Our Way - and a Book Review and Interview with Michele Drier



 

 

We are in a hotel for two days before we leave first for Pittsburgh (tomorrow) to visit Rajan's brother and family, and then for Portugal (Saturday, arriving Sunday.) We are excited to return, and yet we treasure the time we've had here meeting up with friends and family, visitng favorite places like Pacific Grove above, and of course, I was happy to meet with writers and poets and have a bookstore signing. We even squeezed in three visits to Crocker Art Museum. But we are ready to go home. 

While we were packing up and cleaning out things, getting ready to go, I did get a chance to read and re-read a terrific mystery by Michele Drier, Tapesty of Tears. It's the second book in her Stained-Glass series, and I wrote a review of it, which I'm posting here, as well as some interview questions she was kind enough to answer.                  

                                                    The Review: 

Tapestry of Tears is Book Two of Michel Drier’s new Stained-Glass Mystery series, featuring Rosalind (Roz) Duke., an internationally known stained-glass artist. 

Rosalind, a widow, moved from LA to a quiet beach town on the Oregon coast, hoping to resolve her grief and the unanswered questions about her husband’s death. But death seems to stalk her. In Book One (Stain on the Soul) Roz becomes a reluctant sleuth when a neighbor is killed with one of her tools. In Tapestry of Tears, Roz travels to England and France to study how she might translate portions of the embroidered Bayeux Tapestry to stained glass form, capturing colors used in medieval glass. While visiting a small church in England, she encounters a dead body and soon finds herself the target of the killers. 

 

This book has so many layers for a reader to enjoy. 1. The mystery itself: Who was the dead body and why was he killed? 2. Believable, three-dimensional characters: Roz is sympathetic and likeable, as are Hal Fitzroy (the local Detective Inspector) and Liam (Roz’s friend in Portland who is currently dog sitting.) And the villains in this piece are truly villainous. 3. Richly textured settings in coastal England and in France, as well as a dip into the history of the Norman Invasion. 4. Good plotting that keeps the pages turning. There is more than stained-glass involved, and soon Roz is cooperating with DI FitzRoy who, in turn is working with Interpol to track down a human trafficking ring. 5. A peek into how countries work together to solve international crime. And 6. Fascinating explanations (that are so well woven into the unfolding story, they never distract) of how stained-glass windows and art pieces are crafted.

 

This is the kind of book that is pleasurable to read more than once (as I have), and I highly recommend it.


                                                       The Interview


1.     Your protagonist, Rosalind Duke, is an internationally famous stained glass artist, a unique choice for a sleuth. How did you decide on her profession? 

I wanted her to have a unique career and reflect my own selfish interests! I’ve always had a career, even as a single mom, so her passion underlays all her other relationships. 

 

2.     Did you know much about stained glass before you started writing this series? Or is your information mainly based on research? 

A mishmash. I’ve always been stunned at the beauty of medieval stained glass but am having to research the manufacturing methods. I’m trying to track down exactly what made the light through medieval stained glass so nuanced during the day 

 

3.     If the latter, have you been tempted to do any stained glass work yourself? 

Yes, years ago. In the 60s I was chipping away at GE requirements and took an Art History class. We could write a paper or do a project and, even though I was a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News and wrote every day, I decided on a project, a Celtic Cross in stained glass. Not very refined, nothing like Roz’ work, but I learned the rudiments and enjoyed it. 

 

4.     How did you happen to choose the Bayeux Tapestry for Rosalind’s project?  

So much of Roz’ career choice is centered around religious motifs, I wanted her to have meaningful beyond-commercial designs and work. I’m a history buff, and her work is in a decidedly medieval discipline that centered on religion, so this was a challenge. 

 

5.     The historic aspects of the tapestry and the events leading up to the Norman invasion added so much to the story. Are you a history buff? If so, have you been particularly interested in this part of history? 

Yes, I’m a history buff, primarily medieval European and I’m gaga for Gothic architecture, art, glass. It probably comes from having spent a lot of growing-up time with my grandmother in her apartment on Nob Hill, watching the final touches (and glass) being put on Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. 

 

6.     Rosalind’s plight as a widow with unanswered questions about her husband’s death makes her a particularly sympathetic character. Did she just come to you as a character (some do, I know), or did you have to do a lot of work puzzling her out? 

I knew I wanted her to be an off-beat cozy protag, but her backstory of her husband, Winston, being murdered in LA gave her an edge. She needed motivation to uproot her comfortable life in LA and take on a life alone, so as I began to think of her, her vulnerabilities and her coping strategies, she came to me as a whole. At the end of the first book, Stain on the Soul, Winston’s murderer is caught, but Roz still has questions about why he was at the place of the drive-by shooting. 

 

7.     Reading the book, the settings seem so visual and immediate, the flow effortless. Have you traveled a lot to England and France? LA and Portland?  

Yes and no. I’ve been to England and France, not nearly as much as I want! I’ve spent time on the coast of Kent and seen the Tapestry so all the settings are real, places I’ve been. Even the Dymchurch Railway and the castle and church at Lympne. I lived in Southern California for several years, although not right in LA, and have relatives in the Portland area. 

 

8.     What is your writing routine? Do you write regularly? Now and then? Special time of day?  

It’s been sporadic this year due to health issues, but usually I try to write at least 4-5 days a week. On good days, when I’ve cleared my calendar and am in the groove, I can write about 3,000 words a day, but I’ve eased off a bit and now shoot for 5,000 words a week. Because I’m a news junkie and always have some contemporary events in my books, I spend a couple of hours each morning reading online news sources (NY Times, Washington Post, CNN, Reuters, Axios, Politico, CalMatters). I try to recap the WIP to date before lunch then put in writing time from about 2 to 5 p.m. 

 

9.     How do ideas come to you? What is your writing process?  

I read pretty widely and voraciously so I clip, save, make notes on weird or interesting things I run across. The basic plot for Tapestry grew from a small story about some 30,000 pieces of medieval stained glass found in the attics of Westminster Cathedral during renovation work. That factoid lived on a sticky note for a couple of years before I had a chance to use it. 

 

10.  Plotter or pantster or somewhere in between? 

Pantser. I’m the one who, in school, wrote the paper THEN outlined it. I guess my mind goes for the whole then I fill in the pieces. 

 

11.  Are there many more adventures planned for Rosalind Duke? Or do you just think in terms of the next one, and then the next one. 

The third Roz Duke story, Resurrection of the Roses, is in the writing stages now. I have about 15,000 words. Resurrection takes Roz and Liam (with Tut!) to France where she’s been invited to give a presentation on medieval stained glass at the Sorbonne. She’ll spend time in French cathedrals and Liam will research and write about French wines. After that? We’ll see what she has up her sleeve. 

 

12.  Any advice for budding writers? 

Read, read, read. And write, write, write. This is storytelling and it doesn’t matter if your work is character-based or plot-based, the story is the most important factor. And don’t get too wound up in the dos and don’ts of writing, this is communication and you’re writing stories for others to enjoy, learn from, savor. 

Most important: READ, READ, READ. 

 

Michele Drier is a fifth-generation Californian and spent better than 20 years as a reporter and editor at California daily newspapers. She writes traditional mystery series (The Amy Hobbes Newspaper Mysteries and The Stained-Glass Mysteries) and paranormal romance (an 11-book series, The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles) as well as a stand-alone medical thriller, Ashes of Memories. She is the past president of Sisters in Crime chapters, Capitol Crimes and the Guppies, was the co-chair for Bouchercon 2020, the world’s largest and oldest mystery fan convention and is currently the president of the NorCal chapter of Sisters in Crime.  


The Book:                             

                                  The Author


 




 









Visit her webpage, www.MicheleDrier.me 

Or her Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/AuthorMicheleDrier  

Or find her on her author page at http://www.amazon.com/Michele-Drier/e/B005D2YC8G/ 

Buy link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08P41FKJY\ 


How about you? Are you interested in stained glass? Have you ever had class that later gave you the inspiration for a book? Have you ever seen the Tapestry? (I sure would like to.) Do you like mysteries that take you to faraway places?