Friday, October 23, 2009

Back to Granny's Jig

I finally got back to rewriting Granny's Jig last week, and it was like returning to an old friend. I had missed the characters in my long vacation from it as I wrote on other books. For a little over a week, I've been working away on it, despite other distractions.

This week I've been too busy to blog here because I was setting up a second blog (Fourth Wish Readers -- shown now under "My Blogs") in preparation for my school visit next week. The new site is mainly for the kids (or anyone who wishes they were 8-to-twelve again and has read of The Fourth Wish.) I've arranged a contest with prizes; and the newsletter from Grand Illusions, a magic shop, sends me their latest cool magic trick (which I post on the new site.)

Now, I'm settled into the long haul with Granny, and living once again in the world of 1919 Irish Catholics in Sacramento, dealing with their problems and issues and sorrows and joys. It's an odd slant on things. As I walk my dog around midtown (which is where the book occurs), it's like having double vision: I pass a present apartment house and know that in that very spot there was once a dancing school in a long-since-demolished house; I know the names of former owners of time-tested buildings, and see iron horse posts from a bygone era in front of modern homes. It's like having X-ray vision into a the past instead of through concrete.

Which reminds me why I like books so much. They are doorways into worlds, whether you read them or write them, or both. As such, they enrich life beyond measure.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I Decided to Delete Twitter

I've decided to delete Twitter from my blog. Also from my Facebook. It's a nice idea to have everything connected, and my nephew's enthusiasm was quite contagious. But then I saw how the tweets were mounting up in the margin of my blog, taking too much attention away from what I want to talk about in more depth. And the tweets started showing up as postings on my Facebook -- way too many postings. (I don't post very often.)

If anyone wants to read my tweets in addition to my blog or Facebook, they can always go to my Twitter site: 4thWishVaradan. Otherwise, I'll assume those tweets are being heard as cheery chirping in cyberspace, and I'm returning my blog and Facebook sites to normal.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Grand Illusions -- A Fabulous Magic Shop

Friday I went to Grand Illusions, a magic shop, to find prizes for the coming Fourth Wish Readers contest. It's in Carmichael, and while I think of it, here's the address and website:

7704 Fair Oaks Blvd
Carmichael, CA. 95608-1706
916-944-4708 916-944-2970fax

What a shop! It offers everything you could ask for if you are interested in magic tricks and illusions -- books and DVD's, cards, juggling balls, mentalism tricks; lectures and workshops. And costumes galore! In addition, for those who live in Sacramento or Carmichael areas and can go in, Steve Johnson will give you a tour around the place. It's the perfect place to look right now for your Halloween costume. For those farther away, you can visit the website and shop for next year's costume.

Meanwhile, did I find good prizes? You bet I did. Stay tuned for the coming contest.

A Twittery World

One of my nephews from India is here with us this week-end. He's quite the techie (a description that fits a few of my nephews, actually). Anyway, he's convinced me to sign up, showing me the wonderful world of instant haikus, very short stories, and all the other writing possibilities within the parameters of 140 characters. (And here I thought Twitter was just about politicians informing friends they were eating a hamburger at the moment.)

So, I've gone and done it! I've signed up for Twitter. Of course, immediately I got the message that Twitter was having technical difficulty that would soon be fixed. Sigh. I'll have to wait to do my first tweet.

Meanwhile, Chapter Three on Granny's Jig progresses.

Friday, October 16, 2009

School Visit Coming Up

My school visit to talk about The Fourth Wish is coming up soon: two weeks from today. I'll be speaking at the elementary school where I taught a few years ago, which is fun to consider. After speaking to an assembly, then I'll sign books in the library.

Meanwhile, I've started the rewrite of my historical middle grade novel, Granny's Jig. I'm two chapters into the new version, and it's going well. But I have a deadline, since I promised a teacher at another school that I'd have it ready to read to her class for feedback by Spring. So, it's back to work: No more blogging until after Chapter Three.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Loving Books

I just finished reading a juvenile by Lewis Buzbee called Steinbeck's Ghost, in which he reminded me all over again how much I love libraries, books, and John Steinbeck (not necessarily in that order). Buzbee captures that feel of how an author can send you to another world, and Steinbeck was especially good at this. I'm a Steinbeck fan from way back, although I have only read about half of his books. One that I missed is The Pastures of Heaven, which plays an important role in Buzbee's book, and now I simply must go find a copy of it and read it. In fact Buzbee made me want to go back and read several favorite books, including L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. (L'Engle is another of my favorite children's authors.)

Buzbee also captures that special atmosphere that only a library can offer. Libraries have figured largely in my own life, and I would hate to consider the shrunken world of a city without at least one branch. An afternoon spent in a library is different from a couple of hours spent browsing in a book store, although the latter is one of my addictions as well (a reason I'm eager to read another Buzbee book: The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop.)

Books. Libraries. Reading is one of the great pleasures in life. And, when you are anywhere near a libary, it costs nothing at all to kick back with a good book and be transported. And any book by Steinbeck takes you on a wonderful journey.

Thank you, Lewis Buzbee, for reminding me of all of the above, as well as providing a wonderful journey of your own.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Wonderful News Flash and Four-Pronged Happiness

I've had a busy couple of days, and this afternoon am basking over four reasons to be happy:

I started the day elated by the news that President Obama is receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.

I spent most of the day reorganizing my writing files, both in the file cabinet and on my computer. I also submitted a picture book and a poem to publishers, which always makes me feel GREAT.

My after school art club started off small yesterday -- 5 students -- but they are very focused and said they want their friends to come. They all asked for a longer art period. (What teacher isn't happy over a request like that?) So, class time is expanded now from an hour to an hour and a half each Thursday.

My friend from Galicia who speaks German and Spanish, but no English, has been e-mailing me wonderful letters to translate. She and her husband have lived in Germany for several years, but they return to Galicia twice a year during the same period of time that we go. We've struck up a good friendship with them, fed by their patience with our lurching Spanish, and our determination to become better at it. Today I was able to translate a very long page.

Three satisfying accomplishments and one great news flash.

Of course, there's always something to bring one back to earth: The weeds still call from the back garden, despite my best efforts not to hear them. They refuse to be ignored and are getting louder, louder, LOUDER....

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Back Home Again

We're back. We got back Friday evening. Our dog was delirious to see us again, and we returned the sentiment. There's lots of e-mail to catch up on, since I had to be frugal with online time abroad. Once again the garden is a mass of hearty weeds, although the basil and parsley have fought back valiantly and managed to be prolific: I foresee pasta nights for some time.

Galicia still resonates in my ears. I miss the sound of Spanish flowing around us. I have to resist the impulse to answer "si" when I agree with something. Not many people speak English in Galicia (except for our British friends), so going there is truly an immersion experience. Our Galician neighbors are supportive of our efforts and seem to get what we think we are saying. But I'm dutifully continuing to study Spanish, in hopes of being more fluent by the next trip.

As much as we enjoyed the trip, it's great to be back. Immediately I had to go to my two favorite used book stores, The Book Collector and Time Tested Books, in search of more books in Mary Stewart's Arthurian series. We took the first two books with us and read them in Spain. Rajan read them twice, to clarify the many names and locations mentioned in Stewart's beautiful writing. Luckily I got the next two books over the week-end, so we are set with good reading for awhile. I blame our Arthurian addiction on the TV Pilot, Merlin that we watched over the summer. It has a different story line for Arthur and Merlin, in fact for the whole cast of characters, but it was a refreshing pilot, and it piqued our interest. Now we are both hooked on the legend and anyone's version of it. And I've always admired Mary Stewart's writing.

I painted a little on our trip, though I wrote constantly. But today I go back to the pastel landscape class I like so much, and Thursday I start teaching the after school art club for kids again. Art may sound like a distraction for a writer, but I think it enhances writing. It certainly makes you visualize what you are trying to describe in words, and to think in "scenes", and I think it removes some of the clutter that can make for writer's block.

Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to more research for my next book that takes place in Sacramento. I've already written one draft of it, and a partial re-write, then put it on the back burner for another book. But it involves a ghost, and this is a wonderful season to explore the old cemetery, among other things, as I pick up the threads and continue the re-write.