Grandma Gertie always said there's not a savory dish that can't be made tastier by just a touch of tarragon.

Tsunami and Me

Tsunami and Me
too big to escape now....

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Wondering About the Whys and Wherefores...

Beth Erickson

For several years I've subscribed to Beth Erickson's free newsletter, "Writing, Etc." Sometimes I skim through and delete. Sometimes I take time to think about her sage advice, and occasionally I file away the issue for further perusal. But today she asked a simple question that I know I'll be pondering all day long. Why, during this busy holiday season, am I concerned that I've not yet written a piece to submit to an anthology with a looming deadline? Haven't I already mined enough of my life in this screwy compulsion to submit, submit and submit? And now, WHY, in advanced old age, am I contemplating the challenge of trying my hand at fiction?

"Why?" Beth asks. Well...why not? It's simply what I do. What about you?

Here's her newsletter...and be sure to subscribe to Writing, Etc. if you haven't already signed up.

Why do you write?Posted on December 18, 2014 by 

Writing Etc.: Make your writing sparkle, write killer queries, get published. Tips, tools, and techniques to help sell your writing.
December 18, 2014
~~ Notes from Minnesota ~~~
Hey Writing Etc. subscriber,
All my cancerversary tests turned out OK. Liver numbers? Check. Tumor markers? Yup. So far, so good.
So, what do I do with the next six months?
I pondered this question quite a while. Writing is changing. Fees are declining in many markets. New books are flooding Amazon (many aren’t that great, btw).
So, how do you actually make a living as a writer?
From my perspective, I guess that’s what we’ll focus on 2015. In the mean time, if you have any writing friends, I’d be exceedingly grateful if you’d steer them this direction. We need join forces and create a vibrant writing community intent on not only honing our craft, but who take the business side of this endeavor just as serious.
More on all this later.
Why do you write?
Beth Ann Erickson
Have you ever taken a moment to ask yourself why you write?
Sure. You may write to inform. Perhaps you do it to persuade. Some people do it for psychic gratification. Some write for money.
But what do you write? Why do you write it? Why go through the angst of continual critique, challenges to your position, the horror of discovering you’re wrong?
Here’s my take on the subject:
I write because I like to stir my pot. It’s who I am. I ask questions. I make mistakes. I get messy. There are times I side with the underdog only because I want to experience their point of view.
I intentionally place myself in the small edges of the bell curve because I adore experiencing life through the eyes of everyone. Perhaps it’s my newspaper reporting, continually urging me to explore all aspects of the story.
Perhaps it’s because at an early age, as I watched my baby sister slowly die, that experience forever changed the way I viewed life, the way I looked at people, and how so-called imperfections can alter the trajectory of a life, even if that life is painfully short.
Because of that little sister, my life is a continual (and sometimes annoying) adventure. Life is short, if you don’t experience it now, you may run out of time.
Some of my adventures include:
  • Marketing director for a very large metaphysical “university” (Woah, the stories I’ll tell…)
  • Activity director for a local assisted living facility (Adventures in aging.)
  • Personal vegan chef (Interesting lifestyle, easy weight loss.)
  • Foster care provider for local humane society (What some people do to animals is terrible.)
  • Cancer quackery challenger (Want to get people mad? Tell them anyone can get cancer.)
  • Religious commentary writer (Had to be real careful here. Some religious people don’t appreciate questions… evidently.)
  • And a few crazy adventures best left private… (Ha. How’s that for a teaser?)
My point? Every single adventure has added a dimension to that which I call “life.” I write because I have questions. I’m curious. After all this time, I have doubts that will change. There’s nothing worse than thinking, “I wonder what would happen if…” I have to know… through personal experience.
I write because this profession reflects “me” better than any other profession. I can’t be anything but who I am. I’m a writer.
Now… tell me why you write (if you feel comfortable doing so) in the comment section below. Thanks! :)
This article is courtesy of Filbert Publishing. Make your writing sparkle, write killer queries, get published. Subscribe to Writing Etc., the free e-mag for freelancers and receive the e-book “Power Queries.”

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Irresistible Kristy Tate

The Pretty Ms. Kristy
Sometimes you're lucky enough to pick up a book that simply makes you smile. So I was in luck, indeed, when my daughter-in-law, Mari Lou Elders, emailed that the guest for her upcoming writing group session would be one of her fiction-writing friends, Kristy Tate.

For the past few weeks I'd been reading heavy stuff, autobiography, including the California Reads selection, What It is Like to Go to War, by Karl Marlantes. and Cherie Currie's depressing saga of her years with the 1980s girl band, The Runaways, Neon Angel.

I'd been contemplating next dipping into Dickens, with my eye on Little Dorrit, already downloaded to my Kindle. But when Mari Lou mentioned Kristy, I thought I'd give her a try, even though I've never been much for chick lit or rom coms. In recent years I've shied away from time travel or paranormal themes, though one of my favorite all-time novels is Bid Time Return, Richard Matheson's 1975 novel set at California's hauntingly lovely Victorian Hotel Del Coronado.
Hotel Del Coronado

So I downloaded Stuck With You, and found myself grinning from ear to ear as I scrolled through the pages. Kristy's characters exchange such clever quips. Her preposterous situations somehow become wholly believable. To my surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed this novella, a perkily clean romp that readied me to meet Ms. Kristy in person.

Kristy showed up with homemade apple fritters, which she shared with us before she began to read from another of her novels, A Ghost of a Second Chance. It turns out that it's set in Rose Arbor, a place that links several of Kristy's novels.

Her books deal with love after death, love beyond the grave, with people "briefly colliding, before sailing away."

Kristy extolled the virtues of self-publishing. "There's no deadlines, no crunch or stress. Nobody really cares." Nonetheless, she admitted that she treats writing like a business, and has shifted her perception of her audience from friends and family to the world at large. The mother of six, all grown now, Kristy sticks to a strict daily schedule, and manages to fit writing into that routine, several hours a day.

"I've found that if I write for an hour or two, take fifteen minutes to do something physical, take the laundry out of the dryer, mop the floor, anything, I can sit back down and write some more." Good advice indeed for those of us who begin to sink into a computer coma after an hour or two of staring at a screen.

Kristy's ideas for her next novel usually strike as she is finishing her current one...and she begins to fall in love with her characters before they are even born on the page.

I have never written much fiction, other than an attempt at a novel in a creative writing course in the late '50s, and a couple of short stories that merged from tweaking true-life nonfiction that I couldn't place in any anthology.

As we washed our coffee cups at the conclusion of the morning, several of the members of the writing group agreed that Kristy's talk had inspired them to write more, to even attempt writing in a field outside their comfort zone.

Personally, I believe there's fiction in my writing future. In fact, FICTION might be my daily word of choice for 2015, just like CALIFORNIA was for 2014. I hereby resolve.

As Kristy said, "Look at your next five years and what do you see?"

Hmmmmm. At 82, could I be posing for a picture to be posted on my blog, holding a....novel??? If that's to be my fate, I wonder if my story will be set at a world-famous landmark, such as the Hotel Del, or in a more mundane but equally evocative place...such as Kristy Tate's elevator trap in Stuck With You. Something to jump start my imagination. Perhaps if I conjure up the setting, the characters, plot and structure will jump into place.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

D is for Dickens, Discord and Dorrit

Yesterday at Westwood's Geffen Theater, I watched Jefferson, Tolstoi and Dickens debate the legitimacy of the respective revisions they each had done of the scriptures. Reviewer Taryn Hillin comments in The Huffington Post:
It's quite a feat to throw three historical figures in a room together and ask them to figure out the meaning of life. Carter, an executive producer and writer for Bill Maher’s "Politically Incorrect" and "Real Time," is up to the task.
He uses a formula similar to Sartre's "No Exit" and locks the scribes in a room which -- you guessed it -- has no exit. It soon becomes clear that each man had died, albeit at different times, and entered this room directly after his demise. Eventually they discover what they all have in common: each man was brazen enough to write his own gospel.
Playwright Scott Carter took the stage after the performance for a half hour Q&A with the audience, along with the actors portraying Jefferson and Tolstoi. The discussion centered on what motivated each of these exemplary 19th century figures to pick and choose which Biblical verses to include in their revisions. Some audience members felt it overwhelmingly arrogant to choose to revise what they regarded as The Word of God.

Fortunately, Carter refrained from engaging in any arguments about the historical development of the books of the Bible, and instead focused on his own inner struggle to resolve what he believed to be the answers to "Why are we here?" and "Does God exist?"

In this performance, the character playing Dickens dominated the stage, just as he did in real life, full of sound and fury, and blustering and bellowing. Ever a Dickens fan, I was amused. As we left the theater there were baskets of buttons instructing playgoers to advertise the play by choosing the philosophical point of view that they would back. Because of my allegiance to Dickens I scooped up two that announce, "I'm with Dickens #THREEDEADGUYS."

After all, Dickens brought Christmas celebrations back to Victorian England in the time of reign of the industrial revolution. Dickens novels focused on the cruelties of the new urban life brought about by those changes...the treatment of children, the poor, the unemployed, servants, shop workers. And, of course, A Christmas Carol, became a lasting recipe for how examining ones life and deeds can impact others. In Discord, this is what the three characters ultimately end up doing.

A couple of years ago I celebrated the Dickens bicentennial in a big way. I'm including here an article I wrote then for Uncle Jam. Now it once again is time for me to read Dickens, and this time I'm choosing Little Dorrit. I also hope to attend the Riverside Dickens Festival in February. 

Even Now…The Best of Times

By Terri Elders

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, English novelist (1812 - 1870)  

In the enchanting Oscar-nominated film, Hugo, young Isabelle gushes, “I’m half in love with David Copperfield.”  How delightful that director Martin Scorsese pays tribute to the genius of Charles Dickens in the author’s Bicentennial Year. A confession: I’ve been totally in love with Dickens’ works since adolescence.

Charles Dickens was born in Landport, Portsmouth, England, on February 7, 1812.  Yep, two hundred years ago, so the Dickens Bicentenary corresponds with my own seventy-fifth birthday. Late last year I decided I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate my personal diamond jubilee than to devote most of 2012 to a celebration of that foremost gem of English authors.

My romance with Charles Dickens began in my late teens when I started turning the pages of David Copperfield. Over the decades I’ve savored nearly everything he wrote. Back in the early ‘80s I attended The Dickens Universe at the University of California, Santa Cruz, when the novel of focus was Martin Chuzzlewit, known as the American novel.

In 2003 I dragged my late husband to Ford’s Theater to see A Christmas Carol, since it was the last Christmas season we’d be living near Washington DC.  Two summers ago I enrolled in a course at the University of Cambridge International Summer School, “Criminals and Gentlemen in Dickens’ Oliver Twist and Great Expectations.”  

You could call me a Dickens groupie, and it wouldn’t be an anachronism. Dickens indeed was the rock star of his time.


I began my Dickens Bicentennial celebration a week early, on Christmas Eve, even though the official onset wasn't until New Year's Day. That evening I settled down to watch The Mystery of Edwin Drood, filmed a couple of years before I was born, and starring the remarkable Claude Rains. Earlier that month I’d taped several other films from the Turner Classic Movies wondrous "Dickens in December" series. I’ve been watching them all winter and spring. If you didn’t get to tape them, most are available through Netflix.
  • The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1935) with Claude Rains.
  • Oliver Twist (1948) with Alec Guinness.
  • Nicholas Nickleby (1947) with Cedric Hardwicke.
  • A Christmas Carol (1938) with Reginald Owen.
  • A Tale of Two Cities (1958) with Dirk Bogarde.
  • Little Dorrit (1984) with Alec Guinness.
As 2012 progresses, I’m rereading Bleak House, and following the daily discussion of its chapters on a Yahoo Group, Inimitable Boz. I also am reading some of the lesser-known Dickens' works, mostly short stories, downloaded for free to my Kindle:
  • The Seven Poor Travellers
  • Somebody's Luggage
  • Going into Society
  • Mugby Junction
  • The Haunted House
  • Doctor Marigold

In June I'll be celebrating in London with Road Scholar's "The Best of Times." Kevin Flude, a Dickensian expert, will be leading this tour. Highlights include:
  • A pub crawl to Dickens' favorite haunts: The George Inn and the Prospect of Whitby.
  • An outing to marshy Kent to see both Gad’s Hill Place, Dickens' occasional holiday retreat, and the manor that was the model for Bleak House.
  • A visit to Little Dorrit's church, St. George the Martyr.
  • A coach trip to the historic waterfront city of Portsmouth, to the site of Dickens' birth, where now is located the Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum.
  • A staging of Oliver! at the Intimate Theatre, Palmers Green, by a well-known amateur dramatics group.
I’ve also secured a ticket to see the interactive musical comedy, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, at the Art Theatre. This was the last novel Dickens undertook, and he didn’t finish it. Rumor has it that he offered to tell Queen Victoria how it all turned out, but she refused, wanting to follow it in the serial form in which it was published. This production stops two-thirds of the way through, and the audience gets to vote on how it thinks the book would have ended. The actors then finish up, according to the outcome of the vote.

I’d mentioned earlier that there are two full-body statues of Dickens. Besides the one in Philadelphia, there’s another standing in Sydney’s Centennial Park, New South Wales. Though Dickens never visited Australia, two of his sons emigrated there. Since I have several friends in Australia, I’m thinking of a future trip to see this one, as well. Perhaps in 2013 I’ll be still celebrating Dickens, and this time Down Under!

If you, too, want to pay homage to The Inimitable Boz during his big year, here’s some websites you might investigate:

Home of the largest collection of Dickens quotations on the web.

Site of all things Dickens, quotes, reflections, references.

Searchable collection of Dickens’ works.

Historical and biographical information, scholarly commentary and criticism.

An email list presently reading and commenting on Bleak House.

Included in membership is a subscription to the fascinating newsletter, The Buzfuz Bulletin.