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1. Cowpoke Clyde is Back, and So Is Dawg



     
Cowpoke Clyde and Dawg, my favorite picture book duo, are back in another zany adventure. And what an adventure!

Clyde finds an ad in his mailbox from Smedley's Splendid Bicycles that promises fun to the rider. Now, Clyde is used to horses. How can a bicycle be a smart thing to get? But he talks himself into it, considering that a bicycle doesn't require food, doesn't make noise, and doesn't run off on its own.

And it's gotta be easy to ride, right?

Wrong. Clyde and Dawg are in for chills and thrills. The reader is in for lots of laughs. From the illustrations, Dawg's funny bone seems to be tickled as well, although Clyde doesn't find his adventures one bit funny. Illustrator Michael Allen Austin captures the humor, the terror, the horror, as Clyde rides the range on his out-of-control bicycle, his expressions wildly changing from scene to scene.

I loved this book. It's a great read-aloud. Clyde's "voice" is pitch perfect, as is the narrator's voice. Mortensen's rhyming works beautifully, and I can imagine young listeners chanting along as they listen more than once to this delightful book. Dawg is so doggone doggie, you'll want take him home.

This was a great follow-up to Mortensen's first Cowpoke Clyde book, Cowpoke Clyde and Dirty Dawg. (I reviewed it on my blog two and a half years ago HERE.)    


 You can buy Cowpoke Clyde and Dirty Dawg at Amazon HERE

You can buy Cowpoke Clyde Rides the Range HERE


I certainly hope there is a third Cowpoke Clyde book in the works!

More information about where and how to buy these books and the books below can be found on Lori's  WEBSITE HERE. Visit the site, too, to read more reviews of these books.
Add caption
















Check out two other rhyming picture books by Lori Mortensen: In the Trees, Honey Bees (it's won all kinds of awards), as well as the award-winning Cindy Moo, and a non-rhyming biography about Léon Foucault, Come See the Earth Turn. 


Foucalt's Pendulum'


Hey, diddle-diddle.
Find out about the secret
life of bees.











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2. Catching up on Our Trip to Galicia, Spain

A children's folklorico group at Vila dos Infantes. The
leader is getting them ready to perform.  
There are so many experiences from our last trip that I wanted to blog about all the time we were there. But I also needed to finish the rewrite of my cozy mystery--which I did. Now I'm back home, putting the rewrite chapters together for some beta readers to read and give me new feedback. And now I'm free to post again. Despite a lot of rain, it was a wonderful trip.





One particular day stands out,  and that is May 17th. May 17th is my husband's birthday, and in recent years we usually are in Galicia when that happens. It is also El Día de las Letras for all of Galicia, celebrating Galician authors and poets and the freedom for Galicians to read and write again in their own language -- Galego. (Under Franco, it was forbidden.) But friends of ours, Elvira and José, had also been urging us each year to see special festivities at a village called Vilanova dos Infantes, near the city of Celanova.






 The festival includes folklorico dancing groups all day long, as well as artisan displays of spinning, weaving, ceramics, basketry, among other crafts, and it takes place every year on May 17th. So this time we and several friends attended it, and later attended a lunch party by Elvira and Jose afterwards.



We spent the morning strolling around the village, enjoying the dances and displays, before going to our friends' house for lunch. The groups varied in ages, as you can see. Enjoy some of these photos. (I wish I had thought to video it so that you could hear the music.)

As we wandered through the village, we encountered various parades with the musicians using typically Galician instruments. One such instrument is the Galician bagpipe, called the gaito. A gaito player is called a gaitero, and famous gaiteros give concerts all over Galicia. As you can see in the pictures below, the musicians start out young to learn their art.






I tried to get pictures of the artisans at work, but streets were too crowded. And, much as I was tempted to buy a vase, the problem of transporting it without breakage was too challenging.   So, it was enough to enjoy the experience.



 Afterwards we went to Elvira's home to enjoy a sumptuous feast of a luncheon she had laid out for us: so many dishes, and all of them delicious. She and José are such gracious hosts, and you can see we all had a great time with food and wine and wonderful company. (We met Elvira through our friend, Jacki Edmonds, and how we wished Jacki were there to join us.)







Then, of course, Elvira and José decided to do a quemada.



A quemada is both a special drink and the vessel and cups it is prepared and served in. The ingredients are coffee beans, orange peel, apple slices (and some people add other touches), sugar, and, most of all, aguardiente, a homemade brandy in every home that will blow your head off if drunk straight. In a quemada, the effect is reduced because of the way it is prepared. You put all of the ingredients into the quemada bowl, set fire to the liquid, and stir continually until the blue flames die down. (A lot of the alcohol burns off--but not all!)
Here are the masters plying their skill:

José
The blue flame
Elvira














And then, alas, it was time to start the drive home. But before departure, I took a few pictures of Elvira's home and view. We love the old stone buildings of villages like this -- they are everywhere in Galicia. And you can see the peace and serenity of Galicia in the view from her window--both the vegetable garden she and José tend, and the layers of hills seemingly without end.








































How about you? Do you have a favorite place that seems to exude peace and serenity? Do you like old buildings? Do you garden? If so, flowers or vegetables? Or both?

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3. Still Working on the Rewrite

All I can say is, this had better be as good as I'm hoping when I finish! Hope to see you soon.

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4. A Blogging Hiatus During April and Part of May


A place far away, where
my mystery takes place.
I hope my book will end
up on one of these shelves.
Dear Blog Friends,

I will be taking a posting break on this Fourth Wish blog during April and the first part of May. A health problem (which looks like it will be resolved soon) took up a lot of my time with medical appointments during the past few weeks. I got way behind in my cozy mystery re-write, and I need to make that a priority now.

My Victorian Scribbles blog is connected to my other writing venture and the anthology coming out in June, so I'll be posting next door on Victorian Scribbles. I just can't manage two blogs while finishing the cozy mystery. I should be back here by mid-to-late May, so please return then. And please pop in next door at Victorian Scribbles for updates.

Thanks for your understanding.


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5. The After-School Art Club's Art Show Ten Days Ago



I had meant to blog about my students' art show earlier, but time got away. (Some weeks are just like that.)

First, I'd like to thank University Art Supplies Store for hosting the students' art reception on Saturday, March 12th to kick off the exhibit, which will be displayed in the window for the rest of March and all of April.

University Art is a marvelous art supplies store that provides several programs for young people, as well as classes for all ages. They are located at the corner of 26th Street and J Street. You can learn more about their products and programs HERE, (and please "like" them on Facebook HERE. )

Next, I'd like to thank the South Natomas Community Center for being so supportive of the after- school art club. They purchase materials for me and store them at the center. All I have to do is go in and teach, and students already love art before they ever come in. The center offers a variety of services and classes for the community. You can learn more about their programs HERE 

Now -- on with the Second Saturday art reception and exhibit. For those who don't live in Sacramento, "Second Saturday" each month is when  art lovers go from gallery to gallery, enjoying  receptions for new art exhibits. The receptions often feature wine and munchies, but our artists served punch and cookies. Below are the 17 pieces of art displayed, along with pictures of some of the students and their families. Enjoy.


A




























            Students range in age from 6 to 14, although the class is mainly set up for 8-to-12-year-olds. But some are returning students and go farther with the lessons, and some have older siblings in class, which keeps the class from becoming geared to 1st or 2nd-graders: The younger ones simply keep up and constantly amaze me with their grasp of what are basically lessons for older kids. Below are pictures of some of the students who came to the reception (in shifts, between noon and 2:00 p.m.) and their proud families. It got pretty hectic at times, so I didn't get a chance to photograph everyone who came.

This artist is seven.

Her cousin, artist on the right, is nine.


The artist on the left just turned eight.
Hopefully her brother will join one day.
Another seven-year old artist.


This artist just turned seven.
The artist on left is ten. Shy sister on
right is too young for the class.
Her thirteen-year-old sister, a fine
  artist, was sick and couldn't attend.

Two artists, sisters; the one on left is
seven; the one on the right is eleven.





                 
I  didn't get a photo of these two artists
 before they left, so this is last year's
photo: The artist on the left is nine
this year; on the right, fourteen.

The artist, eleven and dedicated,
is almost hidden by her two
younger siblings in this picture.


Being involved with these students gives me a special boost each week. I always come home rejuvenated by their energy. We have two more classes this year, and then the art class is over until November. While I have other projects that need tending to, I'm going to miss them. 

How about you? Are you an art lover? Do you do any volunteer projects that give you special enjoyment?
















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6. Spring has Sprung in Sacramento

I have been busy with various projects lately, so I'm late in posting these photos. But spring in Sacramento is always a beautiful symphony of blossoms, starting with the flowering plum trees around town -- especially at McKinley Park. The sprays of pink along graceful boughs that reach up and out always give my heart such a lift.

Every fall, the burst or reds and golds makes me say fall is my favorite season. And then spring comes and blows me away.



McKinley Park is part part of my husband's regular walking routine. Lately I've gotten back to walking (a mile and a half most days), but usually my walk takes me in the opposite direction to Time Tested Books, my favorite used book store. Last week, though, I revisited McKinley Park after his glowing report of trees in bloom, and I was not sorry. Have a look:                                                                                                                                                                                


There is a pond on the western side of the park, on the south side of the library building. and a small island in the center where ducks and geese hang out. The path above circles around it. Here is a larger perspective of this beautiful section:    


But farther up the south side of the park is the beautiful rose garden. The roses aren't in bloom yet, but the Japanese magnolias have opened their petals and shed some of them, littering the ground with a dazzle of pale lavender


And now, as I make my rounds of the neighborhoods on my daily walk, I'm starting to see the daffodils and tulips. I keep forgetting to take my camera. For now, you'll have to imagine the yellow ruffles of daffodils, the glossy reds and purples of the tulips. 


Have a great week-end.

How about you? Which is your favorite season of the year? What trees to you like the best for their colors?

















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7. What Make a Good Read in Fiction?

Where I write books and book reviews. 
Books I love to read.
Today I was writing a book review (that you can read next door at my other blog, Victorian Scribbles) and it got me to thinking about what makes a good read in fiction. I read lots of books, and I review books in various genres, but the ones that stick in my mind seem to share certain characteristics, no matter what their genre.

1. Some kind of a problem to be solved. Yes, "the story problem" that creates the story arc for the protagonist, etc. The plot. Still, reading it that way, it seems so . . . pedantic. For me, "plot" or "story problem" boil down to some kind of a puzzle or challenge that needs to be worked out--one that engages the reader as well as the protagonist. You really want to know how it will end. One of the appeals of a good mystery is that you find yourself hot on the trail, trying to solve it along with the protagonist.

2. Interesting characters that can make me suspend disbelief enough to go along for the ride. For me, they don't have to be the p.o.v. character. Watson, purported teller of Sherlock Holmes tales, is the perfect filter to make me suspend belief regarding Sherlock Holmes's astounding mental and physical prowess, because Watson is believable, and he believes in his friend. Nick, in The Great Gatsby, pulls the reader into his awe of Gatsby so that a reader is invested in the outcome for this tragic figure. In The Lightning Queen, a YA novel about gypsies and Mexican-indians, the author, Laura Resau, makes us care about the dignity of both groups and their traditions, while pulling us into their world of fate and magic and healing through the eyes of two endearing characters.

3. A reader learns something they didn't know, even though it's fiction. This is true in all of the above. But let me add Cara Black's Aimee LeDuc adult mystery series, where every new mystery is a free trip to Paris, and Kate Morton's novel, The Secret Keeper, where a reader travels back and forth in time to unravel a dying woman's story behind the mesmerizing event witnessed years ago by her daughter--a secret going back to World War II. Right now I'm reading a gripping middle grade novel by Julie T. Lamana, Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere, that takes a reader into the terrifying lead-up to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Many of us read about Katrina in 2005 when the storm hit New Orleans, but this book makes you live through it.

4. Emotional involvement. I love a book that plays on my emotions, and all of the above books do that. A special emotional aspect I enjoy, though, is humor--witty humor, not slapstick. For me, one of the simple pleasures in reading is to find myself chuckling, or even laughing out loud. The Sherlock Holmes mystery I reviewed next door--Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Ruby Elephants--was one such book, but library shelves and bookstores abound with good, humorous fiction, and for those of you who write, I would advise you to find a way to inject a little humor in your story. It's almost irresistible to re-read a truly funny book.

How about you? What do you find the most important elements in a good read? Can you tell me the titles of some good reads you think I (and others) might enjoy?

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8. Revisiting Nancy Drew


Yesterday after lunch, my husband and I took a little trip to 57th Street Antique Row, a cluster of shops in town that sell antiques and/or second hand things. (The latter is what draws us, as we can't afford genuine antiques and would feel like we had to walk on eggs if we had them in our home.) We like old things and the histories they suggest, My husband loves old cameras and I love old books, so we are always on the prowl for those. Yesterday I struck it rich: One of our favorite shops on Antique Row is The Picket Fence, and that's where I came upon a whole set of Nancy Drew mysteries for $5.00 each. Not only that, the store was having a 30%-off sale, so I emerged happily with four books that came to a total of just under $14.00.

These are the original Nancy Drew series, too, the ones I read when eleven, the ones published between 1930 and 1959. You can see in the example above the old blue cloth cover with a silhouette of Nancy and her Sherlockian microscope. It's true what they say in the publishing industry: kids "read up". I checked every adventure I could find from the public library when I was eleven. I wanted to be Nancy Drew--enterprising, clever, fearless, able to handle whatever difficulties emerged from the crises that had a way of finding her. No matter that she took trips to faraway cities with her friends and drove a car--obviously not only a teenager, but in the high teens at that--she inspired me to start my own detective club and search for mysteries everywhere.

Being eleven in the fifties, and white, I was also oblivious to the racism embedded in many of the stories. In the sixties, revisions of the old mysteries and writers of new adventures started to address the racism and have continued to do so ever since. This was a much needed change for a series so popular. Popular literature not only reflects culture; it influences culture as well, giving attitudes the "okay" at a subliminal level where they seep into a reader's unconscious and take up residence. So I applaud the decision.

Sadly, though, in the series since 1959, Nancy's character has been watered down, a change that makes no sense to me. While subbing in a friend's classroom a few years ago, I picked out a fairly current Nancy Drew mystery from the classroom library and thumbed through it over lunch. This was not the Nancy Drew I remembered--spunky, adventurous, fearless, ready to take on what mystery she encountered. Instead I found a sort of "Oh, no!" Nancy, just short of a hand-wringer in the face of trouble. In an era of heightened awareness of social issues, including women's issues, what went wrong when so much was going right?

Here's what I would like to see happen: Keep cleaning up the racism and bring back the spunky Nancy Drew, the girl detective who inspired young girls for decades to believe they were smart enough to handle life.

How about you? Did you have a favorite mystery series when you were growing up? If not a mystery series, did you have a favorite series that had you waiting for the next adventure and the next?

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9. Best Wishes for Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

From our house to your house.

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10. Joyeux Noel, A True Christmas Message


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 the Public Domain. You can read the
article HERE

I am returning for a third time to an earlier post about a film that still moves me deeply: Joyeux Noel, the 2005 film that was nominated for both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Film. This has become my favorite Christmas movie, and I watch it each year.

The individual stories highlighted in the film were fictitious, but the over all 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. Bonds were formed. The next day, troops  even warned each other of planned shellings and offered refuge in each other's trenches when the shellings occurred.

Last year, the  Sacramento Bee published an article about this phenomenon, a phenomenon that occurred in several places across Belgium and across the Western Front. One such place was Flanders Field, (the site of John McCrae’s famous poem later, comparing the blood of slain British warriors to red poppies.) 

On Christmas Eve, 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 small gifts. Some played games. For a little while, Peace broke out. Afterwards, as in the movie, army generals made sure it would not happen again. In the following war years, at Christmastime, generals stepped up the fighting to ensure no one would even think of a truce.

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 such an event wouldn't happen again.

Joyeux Noel is a remarkable film--a reminder that we are human first, and that the human impulse is toward peace. It is the political impulse that moves nations to war.

So here it is, the New Year ion its way, the Christmas message hovering still. We still live in a troubled world, wondering how to meet the challenges.

Best wishes for a time of true peace, when people can be united again in their common humanity.

What is your favorite Christmas movie?


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11. Return to Pacific Grove

Pacific Grove in the afternoon.
I've been meaning to post ever since we got back from Spain, but life and work intruded -- in a happy way. I'm working on a new story, to be included in an anthology coming out next year.
Though I've kept my nose to the grindstone, it's made my blogging lackadaisical. Then Thanksgiving came -- a wonderful communal gathering with my beloved god family -- and after that we went to Pacific Grove for the weekend. Pacific Grove, Monterrey, and Carmel have long had a shared place in our hearts. We come back when we can, like homing pigeons, to walk the beaches and visit the art galleries in Carmel.

We spent both mornings in Pacific Grove, driving, then walking along the sea wall, enjoying the slate-blue of the distant waters, the foamy white ruffles of incoming waves, the soft hush-sh-sh of waves rippling and splashing on rocks, the muffled roar of larger waves, and the kwee-dkwee-kwee of the seagulls that soared and swooped from rocks to shore and back again.

A distant boat on the endless waters.

A lone seagull, taking it all in.

Rocks that jut up like sculptures.

And a rock littered with roosting gulls.
That was the ocean view.






On land, the ice plant that makes a fuchsia-colored carpet across the sand in spring was bereft of flowers, but it glistened in green and red tones like stained glass.

A path of beauty.

Fall colors like stained glass

Someone staring out to sea.













For years I've wanted to visit the Monarch Grove Sanctuary in Pacific Grove, an "overwintering" spot for monarch butterflies, November through February each year, free for viewing. This time we did. Look closely. Nature has truly devised a great safety system for these delicate creatures;
At first we thought they were only dried
Hundreds of butterflies with folded wings, looking like
so many dried leaves in their wonderful camouflage.
leaves hanging from trees--and not
pretty leaves, at that. And then a little
kid pointed them out to us! "They're
in camouflage," he said. (Smart kid!)
We looked again, and were amazed.
Hundreds upon hundreds of folded
wings. Camouflage indeed!

One butterfly opened its wings









Both afternoons, we drove into Carmel to enjoy the many art galleries. We have certain galleries we particularly like: One is Classic Art Gallery. One is the Carmel Art Association, a collaborative gallery that features work by local artists and puts out a lovely small catalogue each year that is like a book of art gems. You can visit them HERE. We also like Jones & Terwilliger Galleries.  But actually there are so many good galleries, an amble through them is like an amble through several fine art museums.

Because Rajan is into black and white photography, we stopped by two photography galleries we've always enjoyed.

One is the Weston Gallery. They are featuring a color show in one section at present, but they specialize in the art of some of my husband's favorite black and white photographers: Ansel Adams (his hero), Edward and Brett Weston, Yousuf Karsh, Michael Kenna, Imogen Cunningham . . . . You can click on the name of the gallery above, and, once there, click on the artists and see wonderful samples of their work. The other is Photography West Gallery, featuring some of the same artists, all working in black and white film (my husband's first love) rather than digital.

Both afternoons we stopped by a charming restaurant/bar called Grasings on  6th and Mission, and had a glass of crisp Chardonnay. The place had a soft, warm atmosphere and a friendly staff, and it made for a nice pause in the day.
Hubby's ear in lower left corner. :-)

A nice pause in the day.
 My birthday was Monday, but since we would be driving back to Sacramento that day, we celebrated Sunday evening at a little French restaurant in Pacific Grove. (Or maybe it's Monterrey: those areas run into each other, and I'm never quite sure. )

                                              It's called Fifi's Bistro Cafe , reasonably price, a charming restaurant with a cosy atmosphere. Fifi was there that evening, as it was the restaurant's 30th anniversary. She's French, of course, and she looked casually chic, as the French somehow always manage to do -- black dress, red scarf, hair tumbled back in a clip. We are not dessert eaters, but when she found out we were celebrating my birthday, she insisted on bring an order of flan for us to share, and she brought a beautiful red rose to the table, scattering the petals over the white tablecloth. How French!

I have a lot of questions in this post: Have you ever seen the monarch butterflies wintering over in some location? (I understand there are quite a few; not just Pacific Grove.) Do you have a special affinity for the ocean? Do you enjoy black and white photography? What is your favorite art form?



     



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12. Autumn Journey - Part One


Soundara.
The journey really started the last two weeks of August, when we went to India to visit our relatives for two weeks. We stayed with our 88-year-old widowed sister-in-law, Soundara, in the section of Chennai called Virukambakkam, where we usually stay. It was a long overdue visit. My husband and I visited in 2012, and then he went again in 2013, a year after her husband's death.

I have always admired Soundara. She is truly a sister. She is tinier than I am, and while we were there insisted on cooking great meals. She cannot not be busy, and she is interested in so many things. You can see the sweetness of her personality in this picture.

Murari
Our grandnephew, Murari, picked us up at the airport, at 4:30 a.m., and we stepped outside into an amazing heat. In seconds I was glistening with moisture from the humidity. I didn't take as many pictures on this trip as I meant to, and this one, at the left, was taken when we visited Murari's  parents' home a few days later. It took us about an hour to get to the house. After we showered and unpacked, she had coffee waiting for us. There is nothing like good, strong, Indian coffee.
Vasu & his pretty wife, Srimithi.
Notice her beautiful smile.
Later, Vasu (My husband's sister's                     eldest son) and his wife, Srimathi, visited
the house (at right), and still later, Murari's father, Ravi, stopped by, as well.
Distances are very far in Chennai, and the traffic is unbelievably thick. Each time we've gone back, it seems the traffic has doubled from the time before, so it is always a breath-taking ride, and a long one, to get from one place to another.

We visited Rajan's doctor brother (Parthasarathy) and his wife, Vasantha, who live with their son and their son's family. Even though he is retired, he keeps up with current medicine, and we often turn to him for his medical opinion. On the trip this particular day, I was so enamored of the garden in his son's home, that I failed to take a lot of family pictures! Here are three family photos I remembered to take this time:
Hari, Parthasarathy's  &
Vasantha's son.

Sudha, Parthasarathy's &
Vasantha's daughter, visiting us
at her brother's home.

Anusha, Sudha's youngest daughter.
Her older daughter lives in the US.



But here are three from the 2012 visit, showing the whole family:
Parthasarathy, 2012.

Me, Soundara, & Vasantha, 2012

Hari & his wife, Vidhya, their sons
Aditya and Anirud, 2012.
Also, some pictures of the flower garden on this trip, that will show you how beautiful it is. there is a long passage way of flowers outside the ground floor, and then a roof garden with many potted flowers and plants.









This house is near the ocean and gets a nice breeze, so it is a nice oasis of coolness and beauty, so refreshing in the humid heat of Chennai.

On another day, we visited Rajan's brother, Narayanan, in two of his son's homes.

The first was in the home of Ravi and his wife, Nirmala. They are the parents of Murari, who picked us up at the airport. (Murari will be getting married this coming Monday, and we are so sorry that we are going to miss the wedding. We'll be disembarking from our plane home at about the time the wedding is beginning.)
Nirmala, our beautiful niece.

Ravi, her husband.

Murari and his grandfather,
Narayanan.





After that, we visited the home of one of Narayanan's other grandsons, Arjun and his wife Smrithi, along with Arjun's parents, Vasanth and Nalini. I really messed up, here! I got so engrossed in the conversations, that I forgot to take pictures. Luckily, Smrithi and Arjun and Nalini came to visit when we were at another grandnephew's home, so I did get a least a picture of them when we went for an overnight at the home of Madhu and Malathi. Madhu is the youngest son of Rajan's sister, and there are pictures of her, as well. This year she had her 80th birthday, but somehow she has kept youthful and full of energy.
Smrithi, Arjun's wife.

Arjun, Vasanth & Nalini's eldest son
Madhu in foreground; Arjun in
background. 
Malathi, Madhu's wife in the middle;
Nalini, Vasanth's wife in foreground.

Pattu, Rajan's sister in foreground;
her son, Madhu at far left, his wife,
Malathi and far right; their son,
Rohid, next to her.

Maithreyi, their beautiful daughter.
The day before we left, she gave birth
to a little girl. 
Eyeshwar, Maithreyi's husband, and
proud papa. 
Our last family visit was to Bangalore, where we visited to homes. We stayed two nights with our nephew, Ashok, his wife Gayathri, and their two sons, Rohan and Tarun, and Ashok's mother (Rajan's sister-in-law) Malathi. From there, we visited another grandniece, Priya, and her husband, Balajit. Once again, I was so involved in the visits that I didn't take as many pictures as I meant to take. Priya is the sister of the pretty woman in turquoise above, Sudha. It was a great pleasure to see her and her husband, and I was really vexed with myself for not remembering to use the camera I was carrying around everywhere. At Ashok's home, too, we mostly visited, and then on the last day I remembered pictures. I did get some pictures that included Malathi and Tarun. Tarun had just gone to temple for his thread ceremony, a ceremony for Brahmins similar to a bar mitzvah for Jewish boys, in that he was crossing over into adulthood with spiritual responsibilities.

Malathi, our sister-in-law on
left, Tarun on right. You can
see how happy he was. 
My husband, Rajan on left
with Tarun. This kid has so
much personality!
We took the night train to return from Bangalore to Chennai, and then there were just two days left before we departed for Spain. Earlier Rajan developed a really serious reaction to the anti-malarial medicine we took for the trip, so he had to discontinue it after 10 days. Then we had to wait (in Spain) 21 days from the last unprotected mosquito bite in India, which was a bit stressful--all the more so as his doctor brother says he is allergic to all malarial medicine -- including the one that's used to treat the illness. I was quite worried, as there were malarial cases in both Chennai and Bangalore, and he'd been bit by mosquitoes in both places. But all was well that ended well. He made it through the incubation period, and no illness.

I mentioned that Maithreyi gave birth to a little girl the day before we left. Her father, Madhu, kindly sent us pictures of the naming ceremony. Here are two:
Such a little doll!

Such happy parents. 
The last two days we rested and spent time with Soundara and packed.  Several relatives came to visit, and we also walked over to visit some in-laws through my Pittsburgh brother-in-law's wife, Kalyani. Raghavan and Kalyani are the parents of the nephew who got married last June. Her brother, Raju,  and his wife, Renukkah, live three short streets away from Soundara. Renukkah is an artist, and her work is really dazzling.
Raju & Renukkah
Renukkah's mother
Art. The flash doesn't do
the picture justice.

Another sample.

Each of these are different
styles, and she achieves
a great deal of mastery
in each one. 
And then the time drew to a close. But seeing everyone again is something I will treasure through the years, all the more so because, due to my husband's reaction to malarial protection, we don't want to risk his health in the future. At times like these, you appreciate the Internet and all the avenues of keeping in touch with family. We are thinking of them with love and prayers and are thankful that we got this visit in.

Next week I'll be moving on to the time spent in Galicia. Until then, I'll be visiting your blogs and catching up on your news.






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13. Imogene's Trailer

Dear Blog Friends,

In my absence until mid-October, please enjoy this little trailer for my book.  Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls

See you in about three weeks.

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14. Blog Break

Dear blog friends,

I am taking a blogging break until mid-October. I know that it looks like I already took a break, but my husband and I were visiting family in India, and we didn't have regular access to the Internet for a few weeks. I didn't have time to write, either, so now I am working again on the rewrite of my mystery, and I have a deadline to meet. Please come back in mid-October, when I'll be blogging again (and visiting your blogs as well).

Thanks for your understanding, and I look forward to reconnecting in four weeks.

Happy blogging, and happy writing. Ciao for now, Elizabeth.

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15. The Buildings of Braga

The main entrance of
Se Cathedral


For some time I have been wanting to write about the wonderful buildings we see each time we go to Braga. The Sé Cathedral is probably good to start with for two reasons: The personal reason is that my husband, who loves black and white photography, is entranced with the stone churches of Spain and Portugal, and this building is a knock-out. The more serious reason is that it is the seat of the Archdiocese of Braga and one of the oldest cathedrals in Portugal; some say the oldest. As such, it shows the many architectural features seen all over the city: The entrance facade is Romanesque (notice the arches);  the bell towers are Baroque, (intricately ornamental). And inside, many areas are tiled with the distinctive Azulejo blue and white tiles one sees on walls, both exterior and interior, all over Portugal.

Braga is a city of churches, given its long history as the the religious capital of Portugal. But you see the interweaving of Roman and Baroque in many of the churches, and also many of the mansions and museums. One example is the old Archbishop's Palace, where the Jardim de Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara Garden) is nestled in a back square of the former palace.
You can see how the word "Palace"
applies here. 
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The new Archbishop's palace is located elsewhere and this crenelated building now houses archived material for the University of Minho. But step inside the entrance and you can see the true beauty of Azulejos:


   






 So many insides of churches had scenes in Azulejos, too. And many an exterior is decorated in blue and white tiles. While ceramic tiles were used all over Europe and were inspired by Moorish and Egyptian, the way Azulejos are used in Portugal have become an art form. In addition, many walls in Braga often display solid or geometrically patterned tiles as well: 
                                                                   







 All the beautiful colors and textures add to the distinctive quality to each building. No two buildings are exactly alike. Some have arched arched windows; others arched doorways. Some have painted walls, others have tiled walls. Sometimes the grill work of balconies is black; other times it's painted in bright colors. I could have taken endless pictures. You've actually been spared an extensive photo album of shots! :-)

Back to the churches: You could call Braga a city of churches. As the religious capital of Portugal, there are over thirty-to-thirty-five churches, in addition to the Sé Cathedral, and all quite distinctive. There is Igreja dos Congregados on the one side of Avenida Central bordering  Praça República (Republican Square (two views below).
Seen from the Arcada, which fronts
one end of Republican Square. 
Seen from across the triangular park
 that starts at the Arcade and ends in
Largo Senhora Branca.
There was also Igreja a Senhora Branca (Church of Our Lady in White) just across from our hotel (Hotel Senhora a Branca). A sign forbade picture taking inside, but the chapel was lovely, tiled in two shades of yellow with the main altar ceiling painted blue. The tiled facade could be photographed, and above the entrance, a statue of "Our Lady" in an alcove was lit by night: Here are some pictures by both day and night:




 On this particular trip (June, 2015), we were there during the full moon, which added a veil of mystery at night.

There were other churches of note: Bon Jesus, four miles out of town, up in the hills, which we did see last fall while attending a photography exhibit. (Our pictures were mainly of the exhibit, but here is a plaque on one wall.) A small, baroque church  on a street behind the Arcade, Igreja da Terceira Ordem Regular de São Francisco (Church of the Third Regular Order of Saint Francis). And inside the arcade is a small churchIgreja Paroquial de Nossa Senhora da Lapa (Our Lady of Lapa). 



If you look closely, you'll
see more beautiful Azulejos.















Then there were the museums. I'll concentrate on two that captured our attention. On our first trip, we went to the Museu da Imagem - The Image Museum, that specializes in photography exhibits. I had read of this museum in a travel article posted in the Huffington Post and was particularly interested, because my husband does black-and-white photography. Online, we made friends with the director, Rui Prata, and when we visited, we got acquainted with him and this beautiful museum. It's partly housed in an old tower of the original castle and an adjoining building that looks out on the street. Inside are current exhibits and historical photographs of Braga, and Rui Prata was generous with his time, telling us much about the history of Braga. He himself is a photographer, a curator of exhibits, and has recently retired from director of the museum to move to Finland from where he still curates exhibits all over Europe.
Museum entrance - the red building.
Street view from inside the door.
My husband debating what
to look at first. You can see
the complexity of the layout.

Just one of the sections of photos. 

This particular exhibit was
about the 1974
Carnation Revolution














Later Rui treated us to dinner
and introduced us to some fine
Portuguese wines.













We'd often heard about the Museu dos Biscainhos, a historical mansion, originally built in the early 17th century by a noble family. Inside its many rooms are collections of 17th and 18th century European and Asian furniture, ceramics, porcelain, glass, paintings, etc. The baroque palace or manor had its own chapel, servant quarters, carriage house. But it was the 18th century baroque garden with statues, fountains, pathways between hedges and flower beds, and trees that blew me away, and I focus my pictures on its beauty. 9One tree is a giant tulip poplar, sent from Virginia to the nobleman's family 2 centuries ago.)                                                                                                                            






A 200-year-old tulip poplar and me.
   Did I mention it was huge?
   Moments like this give you a sense of your size in the scheme of things.



Last, but not lease, I'd like to mention our good fortune to meet Inȇs Barbosa on our first and subsequent visits. Inȇs is getting her Masters at University of Minho and was interning at the hotel where we stay (Hotel Senhora a Branca) until just recently, when she went to work for Lufthansa in Porto. She patiently answered innumerable questions about Braga, about Portugal, about Fado, etc. On our last visit she told us about some of the Folklorico groups in Braga. The group she belongs to were to perform in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, the day after we left Braga.
In Folklorico costume. 
 She kindly sent me a video of the group performing in Braga, and I'm passing it on for you to enjoy: Just click HERE.

How about you? Do you belong to a heritage or historical interest group of some kind? Do you love historical buildings and gardens?



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16. Some Special Eateries in Braga

                                                                                                                                                             Well this post is mainly about some of our favorite eateries, but a later one will hit the highlights of some special places to see. (And then we'll move on to our nephew's wedding last week.)

One of our favorite hangouts when we go to Braga is Café Vianna, a café overlooking Praça da República (Republican Square). There are tables inside and out, but we sit at an outside table under one of their giant umbrellas sipping wine and people-watching.
Café Vianna used to be a
hub of political activity in
the years before Salazar.

Now it's just a popular place
for tourists to enjoy.


It's almost always busy.











The square is dominated by an immense circular fountain, and on a hot day it's refreshing just to watch the streams of water shoot up and splash down. (It was hot in early June!) The square was being decorated while we were there (as was the city) for the coming Festa de São João (St. John the Baptist), a very popular festival that occurs mid-June.

I was surprised by a rainbow!
The arches are part of the decoration
for the coming Festa de São João 
Two gracious women at
the tourist office, Márcia
and Cristina, have helped
me a lot with my research.











The eating places in Braga are quite interesting. Each of them has a unique flair. And I don't mean just what kind of food they serve. They combine ideas about eating. For instance, on our last trip, we discovered a wine bar called Copo. But Copo isn't just a wine bar. or a tapa bar, although that, too.
It's several things rolled into one. Here we are enjoying our favorite small table by the corner window. But this building -- which is really two -- is full of nooks and split levels. The room next door is a wine and gin bar (with an actual horseshoe bar.) Up a flight from that is a cocktail lounge. A stairwell off of that leads to a small restaurant area. From where we are sitting in this picture, stairs lead down to a little champagne nook, which leads up to another restaurant area, and also down to yet another restaurant area. Surprises abound everywhere. And Copo does serve great tapas.

A little dining hall.
Unless you prefer the garden.
Art on the wall, food on
the table, books to read.
What's not to like?






A favorite lunch place of ours is Centésima Página, The Hundredth Page, a unique bookstore and café housed in a Baroque building on Avenida Central. I can't begin to tell you how inviting it is. These pictures may help. There are numerous little side rooms, small indoor tables, a garden patio. And books, books, books, everywhere! They also offer art exhibits and guest speakers, and special kid programs at various dates and times. But the books and snacks are irresistible.


Exterior: The bookstore/cafe is on
Avenida Central, not
far from Praça República.
Books, books, books! What's not to like?

















Not far from Centésima Página is a remarkable place called Casa do Professor, a home for retired teachers -- at any level: elementary to university level. It houses a library and a restaurant and bar, among other features. The goal is to make the teachers feel at home. But the restaurant is also open to outside guests and parties. We didn't take any picture of it, but here is a website that can tell you more about it . There is a buffet dining room at street level, and both a cafeteria and a menu restaurant down a few stairs to the next level. The food was delicious and so reasonably priced. Being vegetarians, we had a vegetable-filled pastry for lunch that was so good I could swoon over it. And a party of teachers were at a group of tables near the far window, having a wonderful time.

Last spring, visiting the Museu Imagem for research, (Image Museum), a unique photography gallery, we were privileged to meet the director, Rui Prata, who introduced us to both the fabulous three day photography exhibit last fall, and also Casa do Professor, as well as two other noteworthy restaurants. The names of those two wonderful restaurants elude me, but we found two more in a little square (Largo da Praça Velhanear the museum: Taverna do Felix, and Anjo Verde.

Anjo Verde means Green Angel, and it's all vegetarian food that must be cooked by angels! Last fall we enjoyed a memorable lunch of eggplant parmigiana cooked just right. We split an order, and their portions are so generous we still were quite stuffed. I only have one picture to share, but this website can show your more of the interior, as well has samples of their wonderful food :

Right next door, in the same largo was a restaurant I'd been intrigued by online while doing research -  Taverna do Felix (Felix's Tavern). I want to place a scene in my book there. These pictures should give some idea of it's distinct ambience, which is both elegant and cosy.
A great selection of wines. 

Gray lace on white linen.
Combined with Marilyn!
There was a homey quality to this restaurant, established by all the antiques placed here and there, I suppose, and the soft lighting.

Little tables were also in clusters, here and there. We were among the early guests, but were welcomed in, and "Nina" the owner, explained the wonders of Port to me as she and a warm and friendly waitress named Sandra set things in place: White Port is an appetizer, and red Port is for dessert. (I knew about the red, but not the white, did you?) In the course of the evening, she gave us a sample of each. Here's a video that gives you more information about the restaurant and owner, and you'll encounter the beautiful Portuguese language as well. And here are some photos of the food: as well as more pics of the restaurant. Our meal was lovely. We do eat fish, and we had broiled sea bass beautifully presented.
Meanwhile, the restaurant had started filling up, and there were couples at various tables from all parts: Netherlands, Belgium . . .

The man from Belgium recommended a hotel to us, and it turned out to be where we were staying: Hotel Senhora a Branca, reflecting the name of the church - Igreja Senhora a Branca - and the name of the square  - Largo Senhora a Branca, where the hotel is located. We have stayed there all three trips and will again. It's a comfortable hotel, reasonably priced, with beautiful rooms and a friendly staff. And we made friends with a young intern who has received her Masters in cultural tourism and who took us on a tour of her Braga the last evening we were there. (Thank you, Ines!)

And then there is the mysterious young woman who is always playing her violin on one street or another: 

who is she? 

Her playing is haunting. 



Next blog will be about the Churches, Gardens, and Museums of Braga. Stay tuned. 

Meanwhile, what is the best restaurant meal you've ever had? Do you like to read while you eat? Are you a vegetarian? If so, what kind? (I have learned that there are quite a few classifications.) 



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17. An Evening of Fado and a Fadista to Remember

 One of the great traditions of Portugal is the unique music called tFado. I first heard Fado two years ago in Galicia, when Maria do Ceo sang at a  restaurant in a casa rural. (I blogged about her singing HERE and HERE.)

My next Fado discovery was the great Fadista, Marisa da Luz, in Braga, Portugal.



By the time my husband and I went to Braga last year to do research on a book I am writing, we were both hooked on Fado, and we especially wanted to find a place where we could hear it. We lucked out! Mercado das Tapas offers Fado every Thursday evening and a wonderful selection of tapas, as well as that great potato and kale soup called Caldo Verde.

At Mercado das Tapas, various Fadistas perform, but when we went last year we were fortunate to hear Marisa da Luz. We liked her so much that, when we knew we were going again early this month, we requested her. There are many things that make her such a good Fadista: To begin with, she has a beautiful voice with quite a range. But she also pours such feeling into her songs, they wring your heart.





There are cheerful songs in Fado, but the majority of songs deal with life, one's soul, fate. Fado has been called the Portuguese equivalent of American Blues, and to some extent, that's true. But to me the melodies are more complex and take one by surprise. Some tell a story. Some are philosophical. Some simply express the sadness of loss at a high level of poetry. Some of the lyrics are taken, in fact, from the poetry of one of Portugal's greatest and most mystical poets, Fernando Pessoa. Normally a Fadista is accompanied by two or three musicians. One or two will play guitar, and the remaining one will play a Portuguese guitar, which sounds very much like a mandolin.

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Fado is an art form like no other, and Marisa da Luz's voice and delivery rise to the demands of it. We predict that she is a rising star Fado lovers will hear of more and more.

Elegant and dramatic
She was the main singer of the evening, but three men took turns singing Fado, too, as many Fadistas are men, and this seems to be tradition.

Beautiful voice.


Great feeling
The humorous one.
As it turned out, it was Marisa da Luz's birthday, and she was celebrating it with her friends and family. Graciously she shared some champagne with us, and she let us take pictures of the party, as well as a couple of pictures with them! And with her! A very cordial, down to earth lady.
The woman behind me on your
right is one of the owners.

She gave us champagne!

A wonderful group of people as
you can see.


I was really honored.

Thank you, Marisa da Luz, for an inspiring evening full of wonderful song.


Next week: Some of our favorite places in Braga, and a wonderful tour guide.

Meanwhile, what is your favorite music to listen to? Have you heard Fado? If so, do you like it?

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18. Time Out for a Book Release!

Today was the big day!


I have so many things to blog about, but:


Hip Hip Hooray,
Caloo Calay!
My book was just released today!

Here are the links: Imogene and The Case of The Missing Pearls is available from all good bookstores including The Strand Magazine, Amazon USA,Amazon UKWaterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Kindle and Kobo and will soon be on iTunes.


Please do check them out. 


Meanwhile, please come back Friday for the first of several blogs about the trip to Portugal.

A school visit,
arranged by my friend, Carla



A fabulous Fadista, Maria da Luz











See you Friday, if not before. Have a great week.





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19. An Interview with Caroline Stellings

Author extraordinaire . . .

I became acquainted with Caroline Stellings through a review I wrote of her book, The Manager, an engrossing tale about boxing with quirky, captivating characters. You can read the review at The Children's Book Review HERE .  The Children's Book Review is an award winning, online, book review site endorsed last year by the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.  
          The Manager, published by Cape Breton University Press in 2013, is a young adult novel that won the Hamilton Literary Award for Fiction.  Carolyn Stellings' middle-grade novel The Contest (published in the USA by Seventh Generation) won the ForeWord Book of the Year gold medal in 2010. Her teen mystery, The Scratch on the Ming Vase -- which I'm reading right now and loving -- was published by Second Story Press and was included in the Canadian Children's Book CenCentre's 2013 Spring edition of  Best Books for Kids and Teens . She also writes and illustrates picture books.

Humor and boxing . . .

Anne of Green Gables,
look out!

First in an exciting mystery
series . . .




It’s my pleasure to have this award-winning author as my interview guest today. I’ll get right to it:


EV: Have you always been interested in writing? When did you first get into it seriously?
CS: Well, it was nearly 20 years ago, and I was in a PhD program at McMaster University, but stumbled upon a book about the life of the famous illustrator from Vermont, Tasha Tudor. She, of course, has done numerous stories about her corgies, and I decided then and there to quit the academics and write books about my dogs, which have always been Schipperkes. These are little black sailing dogs from Belgium, and very smart. First, though, I had to learn how to do watercolors.

EV: You write both YA fiction and picture books. Do you favor one of them over the other, or do you enjoy them equally?
CS: I love the picture books because they feature animal characters, not only my Schipperkes, but I have also done a series of mice books, and recently, my book about a fortune-telling cat, Gypsy’s Fortune (published by Peanut Butter Press) was chosen as a Best Bet in Canada, one of the top ten picture books of the year. I think everyone liked the traditional fortune cookie sayings! Novels are more difficult, but I have enjoyed doing a mystery series because I am a big fan of Nancy Drew.

EV: Do you approach the two genres differently? If so, what are some special challenges of each?
CS: The biggest challenge with the picture books, for me, is the art. I was not lucky enough to be born with artistic talent; in fact, it took me years to learn to paint. With the novels, the challenges come at that stage when the publisher assigns an editor. She then goes over the book piece by piece, and there is a lot of re-writing to do. 
          With The Secret of the Golden Flowerthe second book in my Nicki Haddon mystery series, my wonderful editor really worked hard to get it right. Nicki,the main character, is a female Chinese James Bond, and anytime a book has a number of clues, etc. the editing can take almost as much time as writing the book in the first place.

EV: Do you have any favorites among the books you’ve written?
CS: My two Skippers books, Skippers at Cape Spear and Skippers Save the Stone because they are about my dogs.

EV: Can you describe your writing process? Do you plot ahead of time? Become haunted by a theme or idea? Start with a character and then see where that leads?
CS: It usually takes me a few months to decide on my next project. Those are the months when my house is the cleanest, because I find it easier to wash floors than face the blank page. Once an idea hits, then my house isn’t so clean, because I can’t tear myself away from the computer.
         I always seem to know what my ending will be, and then I sketch out a basic plot, and a few sentences for each chapter. This inevitably changes, of course, once the characters start developing minds of their own and bossing me around.
         Sometimes, a book requires research. With The Manager I had to learn about boxing. Even though the book is a comedy, and boxing is just in the background, I still had to know it, right down to the last jab.

EV: The research really showed. I felt the world of boxing come alive when I read it. What was your inspiration for The Manager?
CS: One hot summer night, when I couldn’t sleep, I watched a movie called The Station Agentstarring Peter Dinklage, an achondroplastic dwarf, and a fantastic actor. I fell in love with him, and decided I had to write a YA novel with a dwarf character. I wound up with a female lead, but never stopped thinking about that film. Nothing much happens in that film, but thanks to the superb actors, it haunts you for a long time.

EV: What were some of your favorite books while growing up?
CS; The Wind in the Willows was my favorite illustrated book, and then Nancy Drew when I was a bit older. Later, of course, it was Tasha Tudor’s books, and Corgiville Fairis a masterpiece.

EV: What is the best piece of writing advice you ever received?
CS: I keep this piece of advice on a sticky note on the front of my computer at all times: SOMEONE MUST WANT SOMETHING ON EVERY PAGE. 

EV: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
CS: 1.) Don’t invent a book, experience a book and then write it.  2.) Don’t tell the reader anything; make the reader feel everything instead.

EV: What are you working on now, or can you say?
CS: I am starting a western, set in 1857 Utah Territory. Because I must learn the time period, speech, clothing, etc. I am taking longer than usual with the preparatory stages, but enjoying it. And I hope to begin editing a novel I have written about Janis Joplin called Saskatoon Blues. She came to Canada just before she died in 1970 to ride the Festival Express, and when the musicians aboard the train ran out of liquor, they made an unscheduled stop in Saskatchewan. That is where my story begins!  There‘s only one problem with writing about Janis Joplin – she steals every scene she is in!

EV: Ah . . . Janis Joplin. I can believe she would. When oldies-but-goodies come on my car's radio, she outshines all the other singers the DJ plays.

Caroline. It’s been such a pleasure to learn more about you and your work. Thank you for sharing all this.

Thank you so much, Elizabeth!

EV: Readers can find more about Caroline Stellings and her books at:





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20. Time Tested Books and a Book Signing


Wednesday I had a book signing at my favorite bookstore, Time Tested Books, on 21st Street, between K and L. It's a marvelous place. I have spent hours and hours through the years, browsing the wonderful selections. I never leave a bookstore empty-handed, but I usually leave this one with an armful of books. The owner, Peter Keat, always can find what I'm looking for. His staff, Finian and Mazelle, are the same. All the books are nicely organized, and the atmosphere is gracious. It's a great place for a book lover to hang out. Once my husband even phoned me there, because he knew where I'd be when I didn't come home from one of my walks. (For a sampler of what to find, read some of the reviews on Yelp, HERE. )

So when I learned Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls was going to be published in June, I knew exactly where I wanted to have my book signing. MX Publishing sends exclusive shipments to independent booksellers who give pre-publishing signings. The signing went very well. I'll skip now to pictures of the evening. An evening of great fun, I have to add. It felt like one big party! And, you can see in the background, what a great bookstore this. (Side note: MX specializes in Sherlock Holmes-related books, so if you're a Sherlockian, you can find lots of good reads HERE. )

This is Maddy (to your right). She was the perfect Imogene! 
 On the right, you see Maddy Johnson, the actress who started in the trailer everyone liked. Below is her father, Steve Johnson, who put the trailer together. Steve is a magician and has a wonderful magic-and-costume shop in Carmichael, Grand Illusions. Want some magic tricks? Wand a magician at your party? Need a costume? You can learn more about Grand Illusions HERE
And this is her father, Steve Johnson, who made the trailer

Friends and neighbors

Fellow teachers and writers

\
JaNay and Rosi, fellow writers. JaNay
wrote the fantastic PB, Imani's Moon.
Between them, Julie, with whom I
used to teach. Next to Rosi, Bob,
from a former group. In front, one of
my art students, Miranda. 

Nancy, David, & Naomi were in a
former writing group. Nancy is in one
of my current groups. She wrote All
We Left Behind, which I'm reviewing
 next week. Naomi's book, Landfalls,
is coming out in August.


Then there were my super cool
teacher friends from Elder Creek,
where I used to teach.


Next to Rosi, another writing group
member, Paddy, and her two boys.
Super-teacher Julie at the right.
In pink, our fabulous house-sitter, Dana.
She's going to have a little boy, soon.
Next to her, in maroon, Bethany, a school
librarian who's had kind things to say
about Imogene. 


The Erica (tallest) and Vanessa
are wonderful artists in my art
class. Sofia is still too young,
but I hope she'll join in the future
Even my dentist came! (green shirt). That was so kind of him.
And Kari (wearing cap; hubby Bill by her side) organized my
school visit to Matsuyama Elementary School, April 17.
That was another wonderful event. The kids were super! 

And there you have it! A wonderful evening, surrounded by books and friends in a wonderful location, with my wonderful husband taking pictures. What more could you ask?

Meanwhile, check out the links above, and come back next week for my review of Nancy Herman's book, All We Left Behind, a deeply moving story about the Donner party, through the eyes of Virginia Reed.

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21.


Today I'm at Teresa Cypher's wonderful blog, Dreamers, Lovers, and Star Voyagers, doing a guest post about persistence in her "Tuesday Two Cents' Worth" column.

Teresa's blog has a variety of features, including her Weekend Writing Warriors hop, where writers share 8 sentences of something they've written, published or unpublished. She also provides a great list of writer resources in the margin.


To hop on over and look around, click HERE.


              

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22. Scrambling to Keep Up and Still Relax

Beautiful weather for driving along
 scenic roads from village to village.

We love going through these small
villages.
We arrived in Galicia exactly a week today, in the evening, and have fallen under its spell, as we always do. I'm behind in everything, including a book review I've been promising of an utterly wonderful book, Nancy Herman's, All We Left Behind. Be patient, folks, it's coming.


But it has felt great to just relax after the hectic days leading up to our trip -- the bathroom remodel, putting the house back together before our trip, the book signing at Time Tested Books (a delightful evening), and setting up other book signings after we return. When we got to Galicia, we just gave into the trance of taking long walks and long drives for photo shoots, visiting friends and neighbors. We've been blessed with beautiful sunny days, although it's been a little windy at times, and at times there has been the usual sprinkle of rain. And at this time of year, the countryside abounds with wild broom, whole fields of it.


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Brilliant yellow sprays of it, everywhere. And on the roadsides, buttercups, Queen Anne's lace, small, magenta thistles, purple foxglove, fields of white daisies, tiny blue forget-me-nots, and rose-colored alfalfa, and the all pervasive greenery.


Cuckoos call, and you see the flash of black and white wings of the magpies. And in Tuiriz, near the church, two stork nests rise atop poles that seem to be their designated area. Originally they built their next on the church steeple. Meanwhile, nearby, around the corner from our house, Eva's chickens peck the corn she gives them that is responsible for the brilliant gold of their eggs.

Still, around all the tranquility, this is a working vacation for me, and I will be back to work on my cozy mystery re-write starting this afternoon, and a book review will soon follow this post.

Also, please check out Rosi Hollinbeck's interview with me, review of my book, Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls, and a giveaway, on her blog, THE WRITE STUFF. In addition to interviews and book reviews of children's books, Rosi provides wonderful links to other blogs sites with information on the writing process, writing career issues, contests, etc. She offers a banquet of information at her site. Go HERE to see what I mean.

But for now, a second cup of coffee, and one last view out the galería window before I get to work.




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23. Guest Post and Give Away on Natalie Aguirre's "Literary Rambles"

I'm excited to have a guest post and a giveaway of my new book, Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls, on Natalie Aguirre's wonderful blogLiterary Rambles. You can read the post and maybe win your free copy HEREPlease visit her site and check it out.

Here's a teaser of the book, a trailer a friend made for me:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NpBXxmTVdvM&feature=youtu.be

And at Natalie's blog, you'll find a wealth of information on agents and other authors.

Have you ever made a trailer for one of your books?

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24. A One Week Blogging Vacation

Dear blog friends,

I'm taking a one-week blogging vacation on this blog (The Fourth Wish) for a trip to Braga, Portugal for research on my latest WIP and a school visit.  I'll still post next door on My Victorian Scribbles blog, where I've told a little more about the trip. I'll be back here next Sunday, so please come back then.

Have a great week and "see you" soon.

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25. All We Left Behind, by Nancy Herman

Virginia Reed and the Donner Party
Author extraordinaire 
For some time I have wanted to review this wonderful book, but life kept intruding (marketing my own book, travel plans, celebrations of important birthdays, a wedding.)

I’ve read many books about the Donner Party, but All We Left Behind has preyed on my mind like no other book about this tragic event. Told through young  Virginia Reed’s point of view, it traces the trajectory of what begins as a hopeful journey to a promising new life but ends in disaster.

Virginia is twelve when the story opens in Springfield, Illinois the day the family is departing, along with the extended Donner family and others, setting out for Independence, where they plan to meet up with a larger wagon train, the Russell Company. The trip has been James Reed’s idea all along, and he’s the leader of the small group.

The first few weeks of the journey seem like an adventure until they reach Independence, Missouri, and learn Russell has gone on without them. James Reed misunderstood the meet-up date. This is the first time Virginia realizes that “Pa” her adoptive father, can make mistakes. Despite his autocratic nature, she has idolized him, feeling he can do no wrong. The family is Methodist, and earlier, after she visited a Catholic church with a friend, he made it clear Catholicism was the wrong path. (Virginia has guiltily been hiding the rosary the friend gave her in her pocket.) Now, she wonders if Pa can be mistaken about Catholicism, too.

This is only the first mistake James Reed will make. They meet up with Russell, but later split up, the larger wagon train taking the tried and true path; the Reed and Donner group and a few others taking the Lansing cut-off, a supposed shortcut that will make up for lost time. Reed has misplaced faith in the book by Langford Hastings, but he is a leader type with the ability to persuade, and this leads to one stubborn mistake after another. Reed is also a proud man, traveling with his family in the largest wagon with the most luxurious contents (dubbed later, by resentful fellow travelers, as “the Palace car.”) 

Before the trip is over, the car’s contents will join the many things “left behind”. Virginia's grandmother dies on the the trail. Another old man is abandoned by one of the other pioneers. All along the way, they encounter household goods, wagon wheels, relics of earlier pioneers who had to leave so much of what they valued behind. 

One of the strengths of the author’s writing is the way she shows Reed through Virginia’s eyes: a man of flaws and redeeming virtues. Virginia’s hero worship wavers, but her loyalty never does. In the space of a little over a year, she matures from a pre-teenage torn between homesickness and adventure to a young woman with knowledge far beyond her years.

The author’s setting details plunge a reader deeply into the experiences of these hapless travelers. She has clearly has done extensive research that shows in the authority of her storytelling without ever intruding as "information dump". One of the most haunting scenes is when the Reed family and their three wagons are crossing the Great Salt Desert. They are crossing alone, because the heaviness of the “palace car” has slowed them down and the others have gone ahead. Patty, Virginia’s younger sister spies three wagons in the distance.
        
         “I wonder why they’re so far off the trail,” Mama said. She added in a puzzled tone, “Their lead wagon looks nearly as big as our palace car.”
         I waved just as the girl beside a pony waved back. Milt waved both arms over his head in unison with a rider in the other wagon company.
         “They’re our mirror images,” he said wonderingly. “Even the horses are identical.”
         A slow chill ran down my spine. “You mean they’re us?”
         “Don’t look. Don’t look!” Mama’s voice trembled. “They aren’t
real. They’re a mirage.”

The Reeds join up with the others, but before long, things worsen as tempers and egos flair – as of course they would among a group of travelers who once had high hopes but have to deal instead with unforeseen difficulties that terrify them.

As a reader I found myself experiencing so many emotions -- tension, relief, humor, sympathy, even tears – as the writing pulled me deeper and deeper into Virginia’s world. While the story of the Donner party itself is remarkable, the author’s telling of Virginia’s story is equally remarkable. This is a book that bears more than one reading and should have a place in school libraries, both middle school and high school.


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The author can be contacted at (Click on the sites):




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