December 17th, 2014
The identity, personal diary, and genealogy of Mary of Nazareth and her son, Jesus, are expressed in the first two novels of the Justine Trilogy: the award-winning, The Cairo Codex and The Italian Letters (release, October, 2014). Perfect Christmas presents. The third in the trilogy, A Rapture of Ravens, will be released in June, 2015.
November 11th, 2014
On Friday evening, November 14, at 7:00, I am talking about and reading from The Italian Letters in San Francisco at Books, Inc., Opera Square, 610 Van Ness. This will be a Champagne Launch and you are all invited.
Why is this so special? Books, Inc. is the West’s oldest independent bookstore with 11 stores in California. Amazingly, their “origin dates back to the Gold Rush Days of 1851 when Anton Roman struck it rich in Shasta City, California, and set himself up in the business of selling books. That small bookstore was moved, bought, sold, burned, rebuilt, renamed and became Books Inc., as we know it today, in 1946.”
On December 9, I’ll have the pleasure of sharing The Italian Letters with the community of readers at the Palo Alto Books, Inc.
Check out booksinc.net and join us.
November 2nd, 2014
I’m always seeking environments that offer moments of clarity. That one magnificent epiphany, that one true sentence, that pulse of reflective insight into self. A redwood forest, a beach, waterfall, or even a seat alone among a crowd of strangers. A few months ago, I wrote that Ernest Hemingway found that moment of clarity in front of a Cezanne. Doreen Carvajal’s romantic piece in the New York Times (10.26.14), entitled “Writing Retreat by Rail”, conjured up an enticing experience of traveling–and writing–by rail from Paris to the Riviera. She recounts the array of artists and writers who found their Eureka moment on the rails: John le Carre, Graham Greene, Matisse, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Picasso, Anton Chekhov, J.K. Rowling, among others. What do they find there? The repetitive moment of the rails? The kaleidoscope of colors and light stirring those brain neurons? Perhaps we out to hold collaborative writing retreats on trains as well.
October 24th, 2014
My son Tod suggested this morning that I explore the Brain + Gut phenomena as an analogy for desirable novels. Capital idea! Many now recognize that humans have two brains. One in the head and one in the gut. The gut is loaded with nerves and neurons; a very complex brain indeed. For the gut, taste+reward=energy. So describes Heribert Watzke of Oxford in the video below. So far, so good.
We experience the pleasurable taste of a good novel in the gut as well as in the brain holding our hat. I would suggest that a novel must satisfy the intellectual cravings of the big brain in companionship with the yummy tastes experienced by the gut brain. And the best news: both brains entertain your emotions, that lovable human possession that makes the world go round. Thus: Intellect + Taste + Emotions=Human choice and desires.
Think of the last novel you really loved (I’m hoping it was The Cairo Codex or The Italian Letters). Did it meet these criteria? How so?
October 7th, 2014
John Berendt is a truly unique writer. In Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil he engaged a true story and characters into a richly texturized novel of grace and elegance. Memoir authors have borrowed this approach in recent years—to their detriment when the fiction is excessive—and to their glory when it worked.
As I began to write The Italian Letters (just released), I turned to Berendt’s second such novel, A City of Fallen Angels, set in Venice for insights into the Italian culture and legal systems. I, in turn, invoked some of his approaches, particularly the use of true incidents and characters, into my novels (the Justine Trilogy). Berendt—and earlier Truman Capote (In Cold Blood)—offered gifts heretofore undiscovered. For me, these writing strategies created a format to bring together my background in history, non-fiction, and fiction. Thanks, John.
October 2nd, 2014
The Italian Letters lies in the sensuous curvature of ancient, 20th and 21st century Italy. The sequel to The Cairo Codex follows the adventures of anthropologist Justine Jenner after she is expelled from Egypt in the wake of discovering the diary of the Virgin Mary. Exiled into Tuscany, Justine finds herself embroiled in three interwoven stories of discovery: the long-lost letters of D. H. Lawrence to her great grandmother, Isabella; an ancient tomb revealed the origin and migration of an ancient people pre-dating Rome; and the genealogy of the Virgin Mary and Jesus. While shaken by the frank revelations in Lawrence’s letters and the intimate relationship between the primeval Etruscan’s and Jesus’ mother, Justine must confront her own sexuality and yearning for personal freedom. The second in a trilogy, The Italian Letters is riveted with literary, religious, and archeological history and international politics, each narrative magnifying and altering the meaning of the others.
The Italian Letters is the suspense edition of Etruscan Evenings.
September 19th, 2014
At your local bookstore or Amazon.
Release date: October 14, 2014.
The Italian Letters is the second in the Justine Trilogy.
September 12th, 2014
You need to know that the forthcoming The Italian Letters (October 14 release) is the second edition of Etruscan Evenings. What does that mean? It means that the second edition is a suspense novel, much more so than the first. It alters the characters, the tensions, the events, yet is true to the plot. Such an undertaking is very challenging. I’ve done second editions on textbooks before, but in fiction it means something entirely different. In this case, it meant that the novel shifted genres. Perhaps that’s a new concept, not sure: “SHIFTING GENRES.” Here is some of what it entails:
• an analysis of the first edition to identify aspects in the current genre
• deciding on the desired genre and what forces will drive it
• discovering the elements that would shift the genre to suspense, in this case (e.g. Justine is more proactive; characters are more edgy; occurrences are more sinister; elements are more entangled, each competing with others; motivations are more complex, delving into the psychological dysfunctions of characters; pace is accelerated.
• shifting genres is intellectually challenging–which I enjoy–in that it is essential to hold a gestalt of the novel in your head and play with the pieces holistically.
Questions about these practices?
September 2nd, 2014
Today Huffington Post suggested as much–so do I. Let me reflect with you on why this is true.
I am fortunate to have several feminist friends–including a daughter–and write feminist novels; e.g. The Justine Trilogy. The first, award-winning The Cairo Codex. The Italian Letters is being released on October 14. In addition, I’ve had the pleasure of writing Women’s Ways of Leading with feminist friend Mary Gardner. But I digress… These are some of the reasons, and how to know one when you meet her:
1. Feminists are strong, smart, and fascinating. They are awakened to the world of possibilities and see no limits. Friends like this are challenging and provocative, enabling you to see yourself in the same way.
2. Feminists understand what it is to be fully human, fully alive. To engage in a world of adventure, activism, travel, caring, problem-solving and new ideas.
3. Feminists are without prejudice, for they have been there. The place is called “invisible.” That was when identity was based on what others thought of us. So, they defend equality for everyone.
4. Feminists are honest. Therefore, you can count on authenticity in the relationship and hearty, rigorous feedback. I have a great writing group that is composed of stimulating companions.
5. Feminists know that reciprocity is the most vital, vibrant factor in any relationship. I’m invested in your awakening, you in mine.
August 30th, 2014
“I need to go to Rome for a couple of days, Cherie. Would you still like to come?” asked Andrea. The light from the eastern horizon flooded the terrace where Maria had laid out a small breakfast of croissants, coffee and cream, pecorino, and fig jam. Andrea opened a croissant, spreading jam on one side and topping it with a thin slice of cheese. “You remember Blackburn?”
“The codex thief? How could I forget?” Robert Blackburn was an infamous, slippery thief who owned the Tut Tut Bazaar in Cairo. It was rumored that he had stolen the original codex, but Justine suspected that was a ruse to protect the real villain, the Supreme Director of Antiquities. Still full from the night before, Justine settled for a cup of coffee. She had already dressed in her running clothes and carried her tennis shoes.
“Exactly. I have reason to believe that he might be in Rome.”
“I thought he was still in an Egyptian prison,” said Justine, genuinely surprised. “And, if you find him, you’ll walk right up to him and ask for the original codex? Just tell him Stanford is waiting with their new-fangled machines?”
“Don’t be cute!” said Andrea. “He’s been a prickly thorn in Egyptian sides for some time, so I understand they released him with the agreement that he would leave the country. All rumor, of course.”
“How will we find him? In the phone book, perhaps?” Justine began to put on her running shoes.
“In a little antiquities shop, I’m led to believe.”
“You have the most interesting informants. Tell me, do you seduce all of them?” Justine cocked her head and glared at Andrea.
“Agitated this morning, aren’t we?”