Linton Robinson has a writing style like no other. From the first of his books I had the pleasure to read, Sweet Spot, to one of his most recent, Boneyard 11, I have been enthralled by his humor, caustic wit, sarcasm, insights and social commentary.

MaryOfAngelsIf Mary of Angels is anything like Weekend Warrior, fans of contemporary, humorous fiction may enjoy this latest effort from Lin.

“Cops, traffickers, immigrants, whores, politicians, dogs and kids” – what more could you want in a book?

ThisCantBeLoveCoverFinal200.jpgWhen I first started writing This Can’t Be Love, my focus was exclusively on the relationship between Mike Argent and Jakki Hunter. Once the antagonist, Gavin Andrews, hit the stage, one of the ideas driving my characterization of the ‘bad guy’ was his arrogance and his presumption that he could do whatever he liked, with impunity, because of his position in society.

The same presumption of right enables David Gitano’s parents-in-law, Elizabeth and Donald Seger-Tomlin, in Salsa Dancing with Pterodactyls, to harass and undermine him and his small family at every opportunity.

Fiction thrives on conflict. Without that tension between characters, stories struggle to move ahead. The adversarial relationship enlivens and motivates the fictitious situation and we pit one against the other, doing our utmost to ensure that good conquers evil.

The interpretation of what constitutes evil is a matter of personal discernment and social mores. In classic literature of the Victorian era, the tension between good and evil was often demonstrated through the thwarting of the personal happiness of a character by a more powerful actor. George Eliot’s Middlemarch is an example where the scholarly, Edward Casaubon, allows his jealousy of his young wife, Dorothea’s friendship with Tertius Lydgate, to rule his judgment and seeks to punish her after his death. Charles Dickens allowed his ‘evil’ character, Scrooge,  redemption in A Christmas Carol and is ferocious in his portrayal of the manipulative criminal, Fagin, in Oliver Twist.

Both Casaubon and Fagin exert undue influence over others and assume they have the right to do so because they have power. This the basis of abuse in all circumstances regarding the interchange between human beings. While it makes for good reading in literature of all genres, we consider this behavior unacceptable in real life.

Or do we?

My portrayal of Gavin Andrews (This Can’t Be Love) is based on documented mob behavior. He is likened to Robespierre and his victim, Jakki Hunter, is seen by Mike Argent (the hero of the tale) as Marie Antoinette. If we read documented historical evidence of the brutality of the French Revolution, we can’t help but see the mob for what it was, bloodthirsty and vengeful. Robespierre suffered the fate of his victims when the mob turned on him. In my most recent novel, the ‘mob’ of Gavin’s making fades away every time they are confronted with the consequences of their actions.

SDwPtPBCover831In the instance of the miscreant parents-in-law (Salsa Dancing with Pterodactyls) who plan to get custody of their grandchild in order to have access to David Gitano’s finances, I ensured that the Seger-Tomlins failed in their attempt, yet it is not David’s understanding of the law but Emily’s understanding of human nature that wins the day.

As the writer, I am in control of the situation—although my characters make wild and wily attempts to lead me astray.

In real life, the circumstances are different. Although taking personal responsibility for our actions and their consequences is the first lesson of adulthood, we step away from consequences, hide in the anonymity of the being ‘connected,’ behave as badly as we choose toward our fellow citizens – secure in the fallacy of unaccountability. When we abdicate our responsibility and ignore the consequences of our actions, we are more easily swept into the mob.

We fall back on the impulsive, thoughtless behavior of children. We throw tantrums of rage when we don’t get what we want. We shout and scream and storm away if we perceive we have been denied our due. We call other people hateful names if we disagree with them and are outraged when they do the same to us. We cover our ears when we don’t want to listen to another point of view, just like spoiled teenagers.

Writers are ultimately observers of human behavior. We also have the unique opportunity to expose and comment on what we see. After all, we can always put that in a book and we do. Abdicating that responsibility is not a decision we make without recognizing its own consequences.

We have a love/hate relationship with the law. We must have rules to build a society. In Lord of the Flies, William Golding gives us the story of lost boys forming their own laws in an imperfect society to control their fear and desperation, a social order based on the example set by their experience of an adult model, equally imperfect.

If society is human-made, it is necessarily as imperfect as its creators. We don’t claim perfection, we do claim effort. Laws are our effort to establish a working social order that is as fair and as enabling as we want our own lives to be. That necessarily means that some human activity is curtailed and some is punishable. An obvious example is causing the death of or injury to another human being. Causing deliberate harm or by negligence is another.

Traitor's_Daughter200When I write about the law, lawyers, law enforcement officers, judges etc., I do so from a perspective informed by my experience of … criminals.

From my first completed and published novel, an historical Romance, written under my pen name, Lily Dewaruile, Traitor’s Daughter, through my latest contemporary novel, This Can’t Be Love, I have had a lawyer somewhere in the works.

The hero in Traitor’s Daughter, Garmon Dolwyddlan,  is a Welsh medieval lawyer working under the codified laws of Hywel Dda in the 10th Century, defending his wife against accusations of assault and bringing false charges against two members of his own family.

SDwPtPBCover831In Salsa Dancing with Pterodactyls, the hero, David Gitano, is a corporate lawyer in San Francisco, under pressure to break all of his profession’s highest ethics in order to keep his son. Throughout my novel by installment, Nights Before, the law enforcement officer with the nice eyes, Brad Foster, is equally maligned and adored by his wannabe girlfriend, Jocelyn Tavers.

Welsh medieval/Celtic laws play a part in all of the books of my medieval family saga, Pendyffryn: The Conquerors, and are at play in the second generation of this saga, The Inheritors.

ThisCantBeLoveCoverFinal200_thumb.jpgWhen Jakki Hunter is harassed by a former friend when her rescuer, Mike Argent, the construction site manager-hero in This Can’t Be Love, pursues a claim against the friend for damages, Mike’s foreman gives him the business card of his sister, the barracuda of the Edinburgh legal system, Mary McEwan.

When I was in college, I worked as a writer for a newspaper distributed to prisoners throughout California and the U.S. The people who had established the organization publishing this newsletter were all ex-convicts, people with whom I worked daily. There is a reason some people go to prison and a good reason they are forever after known as ‘cons’.

Most of these men and women were intelligent but used their intelligence to nefarious ends, to con well-intentioned supporters into giving them grants and access to power. Some were of a brutal nature, easily manipulated by their smarter con-colleagues into performing their bidding, as Jakki’s tormentor is able to encourage his minions to do.

Cons are masters of manipulation and they are shameless. They are typically self-important and harbor delusions of superiority; nothing pleases them more than convincing the unsuspecting that their ideas and causes are right. They find the weakness in the law and exploit it to their purpose and advantage.

Following my years of training in visiting convicts at San Quentin and Folsom,  listening to the ex-cons gloating about how easy it is to get naïve civilians to believe their games, and the wretched tales of abuse and violence to which their victims were subjected—quite often their girlfriends and wives (Tina Turner, the inspiration for the title of this post, is an example of that)—I can truthfully say the criminal class has contributed significantly to my understanding of human behavior.

LilyDewaruile_Invasion200However, I prefer to make heroes and heroines of those who stand for ‘the right thing’. And it is a great pleasure to bring the cons and thugs in my novels to their just ends. I don’t write crime fiction. I write about the interaction of human beings in ordinary situations. Manipulation, bullying, confidence games, harassment, violence are all part of the mix.

In the novel I’m currently writing, Pavane for Miss Marcher, the hero is – you guessed it – a lawyer. The antagonist is a politician. Caught in the middle is a woman whose kindness and sense of ‘the right thing’ puts her in the clutches of the politician and the care of the lawyer. And the novel I am editing for publication later this year in the Pendyffryn: The Inheritors series, Justice? I think the title answers that question.

So. What’s law got to do with it? A lot!

With thanks to all the men and women who serve and protect our society, defend our Constitution, and uphold our laws.

The House of MirthThe House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The House of Mirth
is an exquisite, classic tragedy. Wharton’s creation, Lily Bart, is among the truly honest, tragic heroines – driven by her best instincts and her highest ideals to make choices that lead to sink further into the mire of her society.

As Wharton explains, Lily Bart was raised to be decorative. When that fails because of her own, inner standards of behavior and expectation, her life takes on the inevitable nightmare of rejection and exclusion.

The two people who love her throughout her descent are blind to her plight in some instances. Gerty Farish is the most faithful friend but her own experience gives her a bias against Lily’s peculiar situation.

Lawrence Selden loves Lily for the very reasons that her position in society is in peril, but when she needs him most, he deserts her.

I read every word of this novel, studied the human frailties and heroism. For many reasons, I believe Lily Bart is one of the greatest heroines of modern literature. I recommend this book to anyone who is a student of humanity.

I doubt there is a finer chronicler of American society of the Edwardian era, pre-World War I, than Edith Wharton.

View all my reviews on Goodreads.

Since writing this article, I have had the opportunity to read more about the War Between the States.  I now caution anyone setting a work of fiction during this period to research both sides of this tragic conflict.

This post was written a few days before it was scheduled to appear. The fourth blessing mentioned below made his appearance on the day this post was originally published. And now there is a fifth – a star in her own right!

November 23, 2012

4blessingNearly every culture has a ritual for giving thanks for life and blessings. We celebrate thanksgiving in the Fall of the year particularly because of the abundant harvest the Summer months have provided. In the United States, this celebration has taken on a mantel of national enormity but where has this holiday come from?

3blessingBut Thanksgiving is something else. Most of us in the United States have grown up with the legend of the Pilgrims and their wretched struggles in the first year of their life in North America. As the story goes, after over half their number starved to death, they were helped to survive through the kindness and generosity of the established inhabitants, whose own journey to this continent was taken thousands of years before.In most religions, thanksgiving is a spiritual recognition of the blessings bestowed upon the faithful, again usually around the time of the harvest.

In ancient times, people made sacrifices of living creatures and this practice is still in evidence today with turkeys, lambs, goats. In religious establishments, there are formal offerings, services of appreciation, shared meals to celebrate the bounty of the earth.

5blessingThis story may be true in its essence but it isn’t the origin of Thanksgiving as we know and celebrate it today. (Let’s assume we’re not talking about the folks who’ve formed tent-communities outside mega-stores in lieu of having a meal with their families.) The Pilgrims were most probably celebrating the religious thanksgiving, toward the middle of October with a religious service and a long sermon, rather than the more pagan celebration of life and all the bacchanalia surrounding a day of feasting, football and family feuds.

cad2Thanksgiving began its journey to becoming a National Holiday in the United States only in the 1860s, during the American Civil War. The author, Sarah Josepha Hale, promoted the idea of a national day of thanksgiving to politicians for over forty years. At the time, a day of thanksgiving varied from state to state. A few months after the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, in part as an attempt to unify the northern and southern states, Lincoln declared a national day of thanksgiving for the last Thursday of November in that year.

LDFor seventy five years, subsequent Presidents kept the tradition by declaring a national day from year to year but not until December 26, 1941, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the law, did Thanksgiving become fixed on the fourth Thursday of November by federal legislation. For nearly 400 years, people living on this continent have celebrated their good fortune and the blessings bestowed upon them through the observance, religious and secular, of a day of feasting.

This is one of my favorite holidays and it seemed only natural to include it as a pivotal point in my Avalon Romance, Wait a Lonely Lifetime, now published by Montlake. I sincerely hope all your days of thanksgiving are exactly that and may we continue to celebrate in the way that most fittingly shows our gratitude for our many blessings as a nation.

Leigh Verrill-Rhys: EverWriting:

You know how it is when you read something and wish you had written it? Here’s one example I want to share… (Don’t let the image at the top scare you!)

Originally posted on Kristen Lamb's Blog:

After six years in critique her novel was “perfect.”

Critique groups can be wonderful. They can offer accountability, professionalism, and take our writing to an entirely new level. But, like most, things, critique groups also have a dark side. They can become a crutch that prevents genuine growth. Depending on the problems, critique groups can create bad writing habits and even deform a WIP so badly it will lose any chance at resonating with readers, thus being successful.

The key to avoiding problems is to be educated. Not all critique groups are worth our time. Some critique groups might have limitations that can be mitigated with a simple adjustment in our approach.

Traditional Critique Groups

Many of you have attended a traditional critique group. This is the “read a handful of printed pages or read so many pages aloud” groups. Traditional critique groups have some strengths. First and foremost, they…

View original 1,563 more words

A few months ago, I mentioned to a fellow member of a writers’ group that I was working on a post-Civil War manuscript. Her immediate comment was “You’d better be on the right side of that conflict.” My immediate reaction was a silent grimace, and a sense of foreboding.

As an amateur historian with a bias toward my own Yankee heritage (20th Maine, Gettysburg), I’ve done my homework on the War Between the States, from both sides. And, as I wrote in a recent post, there is very rarely a ‘right’ side of any war. The war fought in America in the 1860s had many causes and many tragedies.

I think one of the best authors to examine the complexities of this American conflict, Michael Shaara, does an excellent job in his novel, The Killer Angels, of presenting how the commanders and soldiers on the Union and Confederate sides saw their roles and their respective positions in the political and social argument. Neither side was innocent nor entirely right.

Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetary design by Moses Ezekiel one of 12,000 Jewish Confederate soldiers, depicting one of over 300,000 African American soldiers fighting for the Confederacy.

Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetary design by Moses Ezekiel one of 12,000 Jewish Confederate soldiers, depicting one of over 300,000 African American soldiers fighting for the Confederacy.*

What concerned me most about the above comment from my colleague was the dictatorial nature of her statement. Writers must be at liberty to explore and express, as only they themselves see fit. If we write to dictates, we are not fulfilling our potential to give another point of view, to show another experience. If we only regurgitate what is ‘accepted’ history, we allow truths to remain hidden and lies to flourish under the guise of ‘so many have said this, it must be true.’

As we all recognize, a lie repeated often enough becomes the truth and many ideologically motivated historians, journalists and activists depend upon that to spread their dogma as fact. Regardless of our own personal preferences, we owe ourselves and our readers our own interpretation of our research, however contrary or uncomfortable that may be.

If we self-censor for fear our discovery of another truth may bring unpleasant consequences, censorship of knowledge and opinion will eventually govern and any claim we may make about our honesty will be fundamentally flawed and hypocritical.

Writers are substantially courageous souls. After all, who but the brave put their thoughts, opinions and emotions on public display? We may be writing for entertainment, but false, shallow and stale effort will be recognized for what it is.

With thanks to Lerone Bennett Jr., Nelson W. Winbush and his grandfather, Pvt. Louis Napoleon Nelson, Company M, 7th Tennessee Calvary, Army of the Confederacy.

For further reading: Forced into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream, Lerone Bennett Jr.; Everything You Were Taught About the Civil War Is Wrong, Lochlainn Seabrook; * image from Seabrook; The Civil War: Volumes 1-3, Shelby Foote; Civil War Hospital Sketches, Louisa May Alcott.


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