September 30, 2013

Make This Bed With Awe

The Cambridge dictionary defines noisy as:  making a lot of noise. The definition of noise is:  a sound, often a loud, unpleasant sound. The connotation is negative. But what about when color is combined with noise?

Colored noise refers to noise that may contain a wide audible spectrum but shows a greater intensity in a narrow band of frequencies. Different “colors” of noise sound different to human ears. As images, they have a visibly different texture. So each noise requires a specific color.

The color naming of noise began with “white noise” that is produced by combining sounds of all the different frequencies together. If you combined all of the imaginable tones that a human can hear, you would have white noise. The adjective “white” is used because white light is made up of all of the different colors (frequencies) of light combined together. A rainbow would separate white light back into its component colors. Sound

Other noise colors, like “pink”, “red”, “blue”, “brown”, and “violet” were given to noise with other spectral profiles, sometimes in reference to the color of light with similar spectra, but not always.

While fascinated by all of this, I am clearly no scientist and quickly out of my depth regarding the properties attributed to the color of noise.

SpectrumAs a writer, I am interested in the use of one sense to describe another sense. Synesthesia is a neurological condition where the areas of the brain which identify smell, touch, color, taste and sound become linked in some way. In literature, this device is used to mix senses together so that one type of sensory stimulus causes the activation of another sensory stimulus.

Because white noise contains all frequencies, it is often used to mask other sounds. In my mind’s eye, I see a snowfall in the woods where fat white flakes blanket the ground and muffle sound just as they mask color.

My favorite example of synesthesia is from a poem by Emily Dickinson titled:  Ample Make This Bed.

Ample make this bed.
Make this bed with awe;
In it wait till judgment break
Excellent and fair.

Be its mattress straight,
Be its pillow round;
Let no sunrise’ yellow noise
Interrupt this ground.

Sunrise’ yellow noise—what an exquisite description that brings to mind shafts of buttery light spreading warmth, birds heralding the break of day, the earth and its children shaking off the night and beginning the clamor of their tasks.

So, noisy is not always negative, particularly when compared to the silence of the grave.

Do you have other examples?

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June 23, 2013

Here’s Looking at You, Kid

I haven’t updated my website for a while but have been working on my next novel, Winter’s Promise. Spanning four generations, the story alternates between current times and the past. Research has drawn me back to the turn of the century, the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, and World War II.

I discovered that when a fire nearly destroyed the Wisconsin town of Port Washington, the population pulled together. A council set up programs to take care of the homeless; Schuder’s bakery moved into the old Foster building; the blacksmith and dray outfit moved into Berger’s barn; Smith Brothers kept on fishing from temporary quarters.

I discovered that during World War II, the Milwaukee USO Center had an amazing canteen. Meat, produce, and baked goods poured in from the surrounding towns of Grafton, Port Washington, Cedarburg, Mequon, and Pewaukee. Women’s clubs cancelled their lunches to send food to the USO. So much was donated by Grafton that two boy scouts and their dog spent the night guarding the treasure before it could be loaded on trucks and hauled to the Milwaukee center.

I discovered that people make our country unique. With the Fourth of July approaching, I wonder if we still have the spirit, determination, and belief in community that our ancestors did. I have seen such outreach in my community of Big Canoe in North Georgia. I believe it exists across the country, but the bombardment of negative news from the media and the chronic vitriol pouring out of Washington seem to overwhelm our goodness. It makes me sad.

Yes, life was tough in the past, before antibiotics, childhood immunizations, or a cure for polio. Yet I wonder if we are losing spiritual values that are equally important to our wellbeing. The obsession with social media, the increasing dependence on pharmaceuticals to feel good, and the rising suicide rate point to a gaping hole in the fabric of our society.

Hollywood reflects the banality of current culture. This weekend, I peered around a darkened movie theatre where half the audience was tweeting, texting, or surfing before the movie began. When the coming attractions rolled, images of over-the-top special effects assaulted the audience: cars, buildings, trains, spaceships—you name it—being blown to smithereens. That’s not entertainment. It’s distraction.

The main feature, Man of Steel, treated me to one dimensional stereotypes, maudlin sentiment, bad acting, and never-ending fight scenes that eventually made my eyes glaze over. Who cares who wins? Blow up the damn planet. Just make it end.

I recall being wowed by Star Wars. The special effects were cutting edge back then, but underlying the glitz was a great story, characters one could empathize with, and good acting. We fell in love with R2D2 and C3PO—robots for God’s sake!

The same applies to The Godfather, Gladiator, Forest Gump, Last of the Mohicans, The Color Purple, Fried Green Tomatoes, and so many more I could name. Today I sense an inverse parallel between the price of movies and the quality. Steven Spielberg predicts an implosion of the film industry. That might be a good thing.

Until then, I am satisfied to throw a bag of popcorn into the microwave, curl up on my couch, and pop Casablanca into the DVD player.

“Here’s looking at you, kid.”  casablanca

November 17, 2012

Haig Point on Daufuskie Island

Had a wonderful time at an Evening with the Author event at Haig Point on Daufuskie Island. It felt like a homecoming. My husband, Phil, and I have been visiting Daufuskie for the past twelve years and it is truly a magical place. Private cars are not allowed in Haig Point so we tooled around the island in a golf cart provided by Private Events Director, Kristen Ploehn. She also arranged for us to stay in the Ash Room in the historic Strachan Mansion. I felt like I had stepped back into time.

When I wrote The Messenger, I knew I wanted to incorporate places I loved. Daufuskie came to mind. The island can only be reached by ferry or boat so it remains a refuge from all the hustle and bustle of life. As a writer, I was seduced by the old cemeteries, the tabby ruins made from crushed seashells, the centuries-old towering oaks dripping with Spanish moss, the beaches flanked by mounds of bleached oyster shells, and the hammocks overlooking the ocean where one can read or doze all afternoon. I shouldn’t forget the haunted light house where we have stayed several times hoping for a glimpse of Maggie’s ghost.  

Memories washed over us as we drove our cart along the beach road. One special Christmas we collected shells and pinecones with our grandchildren to decorate the tree. So many Fourth of July weekends were spent festooning golf carts in red, white and blue, eating barbeque, and watching the fireworks light up the night sky over Hilton Head and reflect in the Calibogue Sound.

Stopping by the pond next to the Clubhouse, we reminisced about the dozens of bass we had caught and released with our grandsons over the years. I even hooked an alligator—cut the line, of course.

By evening, the skies opened up and Phil and I laughed as we ploughed through puddles to reach the Clubhouse where the function would be held. Inside, the tables had been set with linen cloths and candles, the chandeliers dimmed. Everything was perfect, including the people. Many are fulltime residents who obviously share our love of the island. Over scrumptious stews, crusty bread, and yummy desserts, we shared our stories.

I plan to keep in touch and hopefully return to the island. Maybe if I stay in the lighthouse, Maggie’s ghost will grace me with a visit. That could be another book…

           

    

June 13, 2012

We Breathe the Same Air…

The actors breathe the same air as the audience.

That is the magic of live theatre. Sometimes the actors flub, but usually recover beautifully. If you are close enough, you can see facial expressions, make-up, and costume details. You are right there with the  performers.

I recently had an opportunity to see “The Sound of Music” at the “Holly Theatre” in beautiful Dahlonega, GA. The theatre has a fascinating history dating back to the gold rush days and silent movies. You can follow the link here to learn more:

http://www.hollytheater.com/about-us.html

Now this is a really small theatre and I couldn’t imagine how they could pull off such an ambitious production. A neighbor couple joined us for a splendid Sunday afternoon drive to Dahlonega, an amazing show, and a superb dinner at the restaurant next door, delightfully named “The Corkscrew Cafe.”

The performance began with a procession of nuns coming down each aisle carrying candles and chanting in Latin. Having grown up Catholic, I was immediately enthralled. It got better from there.  The stage was deftly transfigured from a nunnery, to a mountain backdrop, to the elegant Von Trapp family home.  Set technicians (for whom I have great respect) quenched the lights and in a minute, voilà!

It is easy to create magic with technology and buckets of money. Not so easy with paint, plywood, and a shoestring budget. But the “Holly Theatre” achieved that goal.

I loved the movie but the story never affected me as it did on stage. Von Trapp and Maria were wonderful, as were the Baroness and Max. But the children stole the show. They were so beautiful, talented, and obviously enjoying themselves. I wanted to hug each one of them. The biggest surprise was a young woman who played Mother Superior. When she belted out “Climb Every Mountain”, I don’t think there was a dry eye in the theatre. A patron beside me pointed out the woman’s parents a few rows ahead, and I could only imagine how proud they must be.

Theatre—especially a little theatre—creates intimacy. I enjoy movies, but it is not the same, especially the Hollywood epics where everything is perfect—unless it is purposely grotesque. I lost myself in this musical. When the Von Trapp family was singing at the festival, I had chills looking at the Nazi flags unfurled on either side of the stage, blood red and emblazoned with swastikas. Soldiers were positioned above the stage with guns trained over the audience.

This really happened in my parents’ lifetime. For a moment, I was transported back and could imagine what it must have felt like for the victims. When the Nazis realized the family had escaped, storm troopers poured down the aisles scanning the audience with flashlights. That doesn’t happen in a movie—even with 3D.

The production ended with the Von Trapp family tromping up the aisle on their way to the Alps. I am a sucker for a story where good triumphs over evil. It revives my soul. Judging from the standing ovation, the audience agreed. When we exited the theatre, the entire cast welcomed us on the sidewalk outside. What a treat!

If you have a local theatre near you, don’t hesitate. GO! They cannot survive without your support, and I suspect we need them as much as they need us.

May 26, 2012

Book Review in Smoke Signals

I have a new book review for THE MESSENGER  in the  North Georgia publication, Smoke Signals, which can be accessed at:

Smoke Signals Online

I am flattered to be in the company of three such successful authors whose books were also reviewed. The Community Library is a treasure in Big Canoe, thanks to the people who donate their time and the community who donates books.

I also had an interview published in the Pickens Progress Wednesday edition, 5/23, which will be posted under my “Media” tab.

My next book signing will be at Jasper Drugs and Gifts on the corner of Main St. and Church St. in downtown Jasper, GA. I will be there on Saturday, June 2, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and look forward to meeting new friends and neighbors.

Jasper Drugs is a great place to shop and and has a marvelous adjoining gift store. I feel strongly about supporting local businesses including hair salons, restaurants, and bookstores. But that may be another blog.

May 14, 2012

First Friday in Fairhope, AL

Had a wonderful time at “First Friday” on May 4th in beautiful Fairhope, Alabama. Included as part of an author’s roundup, I joined several others to do a book signing for the Page and Palette Book Store. If you are lucky enough to visit Fairhope you need to check out this book store. They host frequent community events and are a must stop for many best-selling authors such John Sanford (a personal favorite of mine) who will be talking about his new book on May 22.

While I sat at my table trying to look friendly, my husband browsed the streets of Fairhope which were packed with families, grandparents, and packs of teenage girls. Not sure where all the boys were. The Page and Palette had a steady stream of people who browsed, purchased books, and stopped for ice cream on the way out. Wine, cheese, snacks, and dessert bars were scattered about the section of the store that usually serves as a coffee shop. There is also a cool bicycle shop upstairs.

In fact, according to my hubby, there was plenty of free food all over town, along with street musicians and arts and crafts. I can’t wait for the next First Friday so I can walk around.

I did enjoy talking to the other authors. Everyone had an interesting story about why they wrote. At the table next to me were identical twins, Katherine and Margaret King, who were selling their book titled: “Y’all Twins?” Their stories begin at age six when they hopped a ride on the back of a wagon driven by, unbeknownst to them, a famous member of the community, William Faulkner. I just had to read those stories and look forward to visiting their home town of Oxford Mississippi. 

Anyone who would like a funny and nostalgic trip back to the fifties, will love the book. I believe their next one will be called “Which is Which?” They were kind enough to let me snap a photo so you can see what I am talking about.

Please check the “Events” tab on my site to see upcoming events. I will be interviewed on an internet radio program called “Authors Show” that airs  on May 21st at:

http://www.wnbnetworkwest.com/WnbAuthorsShow.html

The interview will be repeated throughout the day. I am also putting together a tour of the Southeast where much of The Messenger took place so keep posted.

April 26, 2012

Loving the Book Clubs!!!

I am having a terrific time doing book clubs. They are more intimate than signings in a book store. People have read the book and are eager to ask questions. I have met so many interesting and delightful ladies (and a few husbands.)

A theme has developed around the locations and characters in THE MESSENGER. At a recent meeting, the hostess served Veuve Clicquot champagne which really blew me away. We all raised a toast to Karen and Sami. Another meeting featured Middle Eastern food from a local Afghan restaurant. The hostess served Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc and decorated the room with bouquets of tulips. (If you don’t recognize the significance of these, you need to read the book.) We had twenty plus women at that meeting and it was wonderful! I just wish I had more time to chat with each person. 

The lovely hostess at my latest meeting helped me find a Bedouin looking scarf to match my gold earrings from Saudi Arabia (see photo below.) We scouted out a local Middle Eastern market that had wonderful hummus, olives, and baklava, a desert made from phyllo dough, honey, and nuts. We all mugged for photos and had a great time.

Theme or no, book clubs provide an ideal opportunity for learning about people and hearing their stories. We begin by discussing the book, but subsequently learn how each person relates to the story, its themes, characters, and settings. So many had fascinating—and often hysterical—stories to tell about their own travels. Imagine waiting in a restaurant while the chef hunts down dinner and butchers it. The meal could take hours!

One woman remarked that she had known an Iranian-American doctor who was put in a situation similar to Sami Nasser after his brother was conscripted into the Iranian army.  She said THE MESSENGER had reminded her of that, which made the story so real.

Another lady was intrigued by a flash-back into the past of one of the extremists. When she imagined him witnessing the destruction of his tribe in Yemen by a drone attack, she could understand why he might hate Americans. “I hadn’t really considered it from their perspective,” she stated.

We discussed serious issues such as,  will the West and Middle East ever reconcile with such divergent cultures? We also shared many laughs, pondering the possibility of space aliens building the pyramids. I’m with you Sis, they are probably out there.

I received three main impressions from my readers comments. First, most of them read the book in one sitting. Second, they wanted more—didn’t want the book to end.  Third, they want a sequel.

I am deep into my second  novel but I hear my fans. The kernel for a sequel to THE MESSENGER is taking shape. I may have to put my current endeavor on hold—or else learn to write two novels at the same time. I know some authors who do that. Not sure I can, but I will certainly give it a try.

My next book signing will be held on May 4th at the Page and Palette bookstore in downtown Fairhope, AL. The event is from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. EST. I will be joining a group of local authors promoting their books as part of the “First Friday Author Roundup.” Can’t wait to meet them and visit Fairhope again. Follow this link for more details:

Link to First Friday Author Roundup

March 18, 2012

Hooray for The Artist

Hooray for The Artist and good for The Academy!   

I just attended film for the second time. I first agreed to see it at the behest of my theatrically inclined granddaughter. Black and white? No dialogue? What kind of gimmick was this? 

What a delightful surprise! Always intrigued by the past, I especially love vintage cinema. I remember watching “Sunset Boulevard” for the first time as a teenager. I was captivated by silent screen idol, Norma Desmond, watching silent movies which captured her as a nubile young siren. No wonder growing old drove her crazy—with such a tantalizing visual reminder of everything she had lost.

The roaring twenties was my era. I love everything—the campy art deco, the elegant cars, the sylph-like women with bobbed hair, and the leading men with bedroom eyes and pencil mustaches. They reveled in their youth, their beauty, and their disdain for convention. The writers, artists, and actors inhabited a realm apart from us mere mortals and were idolized for it.

The women were vamps, their lives surrounded by mystery. Precious few contemporary actresses will become icons like Gloria Swanson, Greta Garbo, Loretta Young, or Katherine Hepburn to name a few. It was not a “tell all” world back then. A star was expected uphold a public image. I, for one, prefer not to know every sordid detail of their private lives. It ruins the magic.

Yes, glamour is mostly an illusion, but that is what creates the magic. I know Fitzgerald was a notorious alcoholic and Hemingway ended his life with a shotgun. But the tragic details don’t negate their towering talent and the burning desire to live life to the hilt. This is what made them legends.

The Artist, captures the magic and excitement of an age when cinema was young and movies served as a primary escape from the great depression. We have DVDs now and every manner of electronic device to entertain ourselves, yet nothing matches sitting in a dark theatre waiting for a movie to begin. For a few hours, we hope to suspend reality without interruptions.

An allegory for every great story, The Artist depicts George Valentin’s fall from the pinnacle of Hollywood silent films. He is brought down by the new “talkies.” Sound is his enemy, so it is banished from the movie. Words are not needed. His chance encounter with the lovely Peppy Miller is classic. They are struck by the thunderbolt, and their lives will never be the same. Dialogue would be a distraction.

Uggie the dog understands that. Indeed, he is the star of the show. His biography states that he narrowly escaped the pound. This makes him perfect for the role. The little guy is all heart. He saves his master from self-destruction so Valentin lives to dance his way into the dawn of talking films. Corny, but satisfying. Like watching Charlie Chaplin duck-walk off into the horizon at the end of a film. He adjusts his bowler, twirls his cane, and you know he is smiling.

I am old enough to dread the inevitable changes I see coming. My children are already lamenting the vanished world of their childhood—which really makes me feel ancient. Maybe nostalgia is wired into the human psyche.

I hear rumors that books and newspapers will disappear, replaced by electronic media. I can’t imagine a world without books so I hoard mine, just in case. My dream house has floor to ceiling walls of books. Then again, maybe that’s heaven…

I hope I can survive a transition to the brave new world as gracefully as Valentin. My motto is: treasure the past, anticipate the future, and relish the present.

When all else fails—dance!

March 16, 2012

Seaside Book Signing

I had a book signing at Seaside on March 14th at Sundog bookstore located in Santa Rosa Beach on the Emerald Coast of Florida. Selling books was icing on the cake since just being there was a treat. Made famous by the film, The Truman Show, in 1998, the town is unique. Duplicate communities have sprouted up but nothing is quite like the original with its taffy-colored houses trimmed in white gingerbread.

The day started out gray with fog rolling in off the water. But by midday, the warren of angular peaks and widows’ walks shimmered against a robin egg blue sky.

Spring break was in full swing and I had a bird’s eye view from my little table on the bookstore’s front porch. The expanse of green grass on the square that supports farmers’ markets and festivals was teeming. Dogs chased balls, teenagers basked in the sun, and children toddled and tumbled along the hills.

I enjoyed visiting with fellow book lovers who gravitated to Sundog which is located in the heart of the town. A lovely young girl congratulated me on The Messenger and introduced herself with a wide smile made adorable by a mouthful of metal braces. Told me she had read at least half of the books in the teen section.

Two lovely ladies from Canada who had known each other since grammar school chatted with me and swapped stories about our travels. Another couple purchased a book for their daughter who was named Cozette after Le Miserable—one of my favorite novels and musicals.

A man sat down next to me for a brief respite while we discussed the inspiration for The Messenger and his son’s voracious appetite for books. It was his eleventh birthday and the trip was a bonding experience for both.

I discussed the challenges of being published and promoting a book with a musician who was writing his own songs and hoping to sell them.

But a chocolate brown Rottweiler puppy with a splotch of white on his chest stole the show. I should have offered to rent him for a couple of hours since everyone who passed stopped to pet him. Hard to imagine he will one day grow into a bruiser weighing over a hundred pounds!  

Like most independent bookstores, the customer service is friendly and personal. It is the perfect place to browse during a lazy afternoon, perusing floor-to-ceiling shelves and tables laden with every genre of book. Then camp out on the beach or relax at an outdoor café sipping a latte or savoring a gelato.

Just a taste of Paradise…

February 8, 2012

“The Messenger” has arrived!

Breaking news!  The Messenger is now available!

Amazon.com

Amazon.com for Kindle

B&N.com

Books-A-Million