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Thursday, January 19th, 2017
Nicholas Noyes of the NY Times recently wrote a column by that name. He describes the fascinating of following in the footsteps of Oliver Twist–having seen the film as a 5-year-old. An American who grew up in London, he found new eyes as an adult by traveling Oliver’s journey.
My historical novels known as The Justine Trilogy are anchored in real places and times. Whether in Cairo (The Cairo Codex), Italy (The Italian Letters) or Taos (A Rapture of Ravens), each site is real–there for the picking, pleasures to be harvested. Delectable visits into living history. My posts entitled 72 Hours in Cairo (Parts 1-3) take you on that journey. Several posts on Italy and Taos tantalize you, I trust, to journey there.
What is your favorite historical novel? Have you planned that trip as yet? Add it to your bucket list.
Posted in A Rapture of Ravens, Book Tour, Egypt, Etruscans, Fiction, Florence, history, imagination, Italian Letters, Italy, Rome, Taos, The Justine Trilogy, Travel, trilogy, writing | No Comments » | Leave a Comment
Sunday, April 19th, 2015
It all began when, as a young girl, I hid Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence under my mattress (who didn’t?). Women in Love and other Lawrence novels, short stories, and poems followed, keeping my infatuation deep in my consciousness. But it was not until my husband, Morgan, and I wandered into a bookstore in an Etruscan ruin in Italy in the mid-80’s and discovered Etruscan Places that Lawrence became an obsession. His unforgettable perspective on the Etruscans explained the heretofore unexplainable about these mysterious people.
Years passed. After all, I wasn’t a novelist as yet. I was busy with non-fiction writing –then moving in Egypt. Cairo fully captivated us. Old crypts and earthquakes and religious tensions demanded my attention. It was inside the crypt that had allegedly been home to the Holy Family that the first novel in the Justine Trilogy took form.
After giving birth to The Cairo Codex, I discovered that D. H. Lawrence was still waiting in the wings. But it was not until my protagonist Justine climbed into her grandmother’s attic in Fiesole that I found The Italian Letters. I know this may seem strange, but I didn’t know what she would find until old lace began to rise from a trunk untouched for 80 years.
These letters led me into Taos, New Mexico, and A Rapture of Ravens: Awakening in Taos… to be released May 12. My life as a writer has been one serendipitous event after another.
Next week: Why Taos?
Tuesday, March 17th, 2015
I will never forget one thing. In Winter time, when you go to
Wounded Knee, never dig deep into the snow. All you will do is
find the blood left by your family before me. Think only of
them and say, it is a good day to die!
-Tashunkala (Little Horse), SihaSapa Lakota
February 3, 2011
Justine stood at the frosted window in flannel pajamas, an Indian blanket curled around her like a cocoon, curtains drawn to reveal an island of lights on the Taos campus of the University of New Mexico a half-mile away. A meteor streaks by and disappears into a palette of stars, a mere sliver of moon hung in the eastern sky. Barely 5:30 a.m., she hadn’t slept since Amir’s 2:30 call. In a couple of hour, the mantle of snow on the Sangre de Cristo Mountains would turn shades of mauve in the early morning light.
Revolution day all over again. She held her steaming coffee cup with both hands, the noise of the television in the background. Without turning, she listened to the sounds of men and women flooding into Tahrir Square in Cairo. It was Wednesday.
All Amir had said before the line went dead was, “I love you, Justine. It could be today. Then I’ll be home . . . . ” It could be today, which could only mean one thing: Mubarak was expected to step down. The revolution would achieve its goal: the end to a brutal thirty-year dictatorship. Justine felt a tension in her gut—could it be so easy? Could Mubarak be brought down in less than two weeks? Perhaps, but not likely.
The possibilities were promising, yet she was gripped by deeply unsettling fears for Amir, his leadership role with the youth of Egypt placing him at great risk of being arrested. The turmoil in the Middle East was unprecedented, clearly, so perhaps none of the old rules applied. This is a new game, in a new world bursting from the ground up, a popular revolution quickened by social media. But then what? She knew that if Mubarak were removed, Egyptians would still have the military and the Brotherhood, since no one else was as organized. Perhaps with Amir’s help, those who led the January 25th revolution would form themselves into a focused political movement. Perhaps.
Justine gripped the blanket more firmly around her chilled body and returned to the kitchen for the last dregs of coffee. On the couch, she curled her stocking feet under her and stared at the screen. Tahrir Square was crowded with thousands of Egyptians chanting, “Down with Mubarak,” arms flailing the air, placards in Arabic demanding the president’s resignation. The crowd throbbed, like a singular heart beating in concert.
Her vision was captured by a familiar-looking figure in the throng. While the images were nearly indistinct, she recognized his gait, his posture, even his profile. Amir! She smiled involuntarily to see that he was wearing the Kokopelli scarf she’d given him for Christmas. It must be Amir. She couldn’t be wrong, could she? He was facing west, toward the burned-out Hilton, leaning into a small group of four or five men.
From the edge of the screen, men rode swiftly into sight on sturdy Arabian horses and lanky camels, clubs swinging above their heads, then coming down to strike indiscriminately into the swarm of young people.
Suddenly, one of the camel riders rushed in his direction, charged with intent as though he knew his target. Amir didn’t see him. Justine jumped to her feet, spilling her coffee, turning over the coffee table. “Amir! Amir!” She was with him in the middle of the grassy square, screaming, warning him. Two men in the crowd pointed frantically and raced to pull the hoodlum from his camel, but too late. The club crashed against Amir’s head. She imagined blood spurting into the electrified air. As the rider lifted his club for a second blow, he was pulled from his camel and beaten into the ground.
Bloody Wednesday had begun.
Tuesday, 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.
Sunday, 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.
Friday, September 19th, 2014
At your local bookstore or Amazon.
Release date: October 14, 2014.
The Italian Letters is the second in the Justine Trilogy.
Saturday, 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?”
Tuesday, March 11th, 2014
In August, 2013, The Cairo Codex, the first book in the Justine Trilogy, was released. In the beginning for this riveting trilogy, anthropologist Justine Jenner discovers a lost codex belonging to Mary, mother of Jesus. Readers particularly find and applaud the details describing Egypt and the build-up to the revolutions to be of compelling interest.
Now, I can forecast the publication of the second book in the Trilogy.
The Italian Letters lies in the sensuous curvature of ancient and present day Italy. The sequel to The Cairo Codex, follows the life of anthropologist Dr. Justine Jenner after she is expelled from Egypt in the wake of discovering and making public a controversial codex, the diary of the Virgin Mary. Exiled into Tuscany, Jenner finds herself embroiled in three interwoven stories of discovery: the long-lost letters from D.H. Lawrence to her great-grandmother, Isabella; an Etruscan tomb revealing the origin and migration of an ancient people predating 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 Etruscans and Jesus’ mother, Justine must confront her own sexuality and yearning for personal freedom. The Italian Letters is riveted with literary, religious and archeological history and international politics, each narrative magnifying and altering the meaning of the others.
Tuesday, January 7th, 2014
If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast. Ernest Hemingway
…as I was saying, Hemingway’s approach to writing–with his morning companions, whiskey and fine brandy–was to write to a peak moment. When he was in flow. Then break and allow ideas to germinate, slosh around while he spent time with others. He listened. He was creating and writing The Sun Also Rises at the time.
A second intriguing learning from Hemingway was how he found his “true” sentences for which he is most celebrated. If he were in need of one–but the “truth well” was dry–he went to the Louvre and sat in front of a painting by Cezanne. The true sentence thus revealed itself. Where do you find truth? Cross over into another creative discipline and listen.
Thursday, January 2nd, 2014
In the past week or so, I’ve written about the novel from several perspectives, including styles, fiction vs. non-fiction, behaviors to abandon, the story of two Kents, etc. The habits I write about here are the roles of others in our writing lives. Since I enjoy writing alone in my private world, I initially resisted the time necessary to involve myself in the thoughts of other writers.
Ah, but writing is not a singular life. Instead of losing time in the presence of others—those conversations projected my writing into new realms, new ideas, a process of jump frogging ahead. So when you return to your own manuscript, doors yawn open revealing new images.
I learned this long ago from Ernest Hemingway through his claims in A Moveable Feast. He would end his writing in the late morning when his creativity was in full flow and wouldn’t allow himself to think about it again until the next morning. The afternoon and evenings were spent with his son Bumby, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein….
Find your Hemingway, Pound, Stein, Joyce in a writing coach, a writing group, a writing conference or class, an insightful editor, or a critical friend. Staring in the mirror can be inspiring, yet staring into the eyes of others can provoke a new way of imagining the world.