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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.

What can I say about my own most recent novel? I loved writing it and the hero, Mike Argent, is now my favorite grumpy construction worker.

ThisCantBeLoveCoverFinal200.jpgI first entertained the idea of writing a novel set during the Fringe when I was part of a small group of Welsh theater folk performing a Jeeves and Wooster comedy. Several of my colleagues from my work with community dance had taken their work to the Festival in years past and one of my close friends attended as often as she could so I was well-prepared for the two week event.

My role with most performing arts is front of house, though I have been caught on stage as a dancer in many cases and not so long ago as one of the Trojan Women – you’ll notice these are non-speaking roles!

I have always loved the theater but had no ambitions to perform as an actor after college. My final on stage role was as the Page in Shaw’s Joan of Arc. Once you have stage fever, hanging around the stage in any capacity is good fun. For my one and only Fringe production, I was as Usher/Tickets/Bouncer which played to all my fantasies of a life in greasepaint (much the same role as two characters in This Can’t Be Love).

A bit about the book: Falling in love with the quirky actress, Jakki Hunter, is all Mike Argent needs to deal with the incessant drone of the pipers along Princes Street, but does little to dull his pain. Jakki Hunter’s quirks have protected her from some of the men who won’t take no for an answer but they don’t deter Mike’s rescuer instincts when she falls at his feet. With only two weeks to convince Jakki he’s not like those other guys, Mike digs deep to unlock his own heart to open hers.

This novel is written from Mike’s point of view and that was a challenge, but a great experience. As you can see from the tags below, some difficult social problems are part of this novel.

This Can’t Be Love is now available on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, All Romance ebooks, iBookstore, Smashwords and also as a paperback on Barnes & Noble and Amazon; in paperback on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

ThisCantBeLoveCoverFinal200

I am proud to announce the publication of my fourth novel, This Can’t Be Love, set in Edinburgh during the summer Fringe Festival.


What happens in Edinburgh, stays in Edinburgh — if Mike Argent has anything to say about it.

Not every woman drops into Mike Argent’s life the way Jakki Hunter has, at his feet straight from the passenger side of a roadster.

Every guy Jakki’s ever known has dumped her, but not usually with such drama or with as drastic consequences as in the rubbish of a construction site.

Something about her brings out the rescuer in lone wolf Mike.

Something about him brings out all Jakki’s protective quirks.

This Can’t Be Love is a Big City, Semi-Sweet Romance.

He’s put the past to the back of his mind. He has the freedom from entanglements he wants. Why does he need this ditzy dame and her troubles in his life?

What chance does love have to bloom and grow between Mike Argent, an itinerant construction worker, and Jakki Hunter, a quirky actress?


I so enjoyed writing this story. As I wrote in my Classic and Cozy blog, “Falling in Love, Time After Time,” earlier this week, I fell in love with Mike Argent. I hope he has the same affect on readers of this book. Other readers may feel the same about Jakki Hunter!

And, by the way, this novel is written entirely from the point of view of the hero, Mike Argent


This Can’t Be Love is now available on Amazon as a Kindle ebook ($2.99) and paperback ($9.95), Kobo and Smashwords as an EPUB digital book ($2.95).

This second book in my “Americans in Love” series, standalone novels about Americans fall in love in some of the most romantic cities in the world. The first novel in this series, Wait a Lonely Lifetime, set in Florence, Italy, appeared in April 2012 (Avalon Books) and was published in Kindle ebook  and paperback  formats by Amazon’s Montlake imprint in October of the same year.

Copies are available to Reviewers from Eres Books at eres (dot) publisher (at) gmail (dot) com.

This post first appeared a few months after the publication of my debut Romance, Wait a Lonely Lifetime. For those of us who are perpetual students, love researching for our books and lectures, the people who inspired us to love learning are the real heroes.

In my college days.

In my college days.

September 23, 2012

Students of all ages started back to school a little over three weeks ago, some as early as mid-August. Watching the kids riding the buses and streetcars, I remembered my own years of formal education – some more productive (and happier) than others. I’m also reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower – another nostalgic reminder of the people who inspired me to learn.

I think ‘teach’ is a misnomer. For most of what happens while we are in school, college and university – or actually what should happen – a better word is inspire. A teacher who inspires a love of learning does more than instruct. That teacher encourages an inquisitive mind, opening doors for the student that imparting of facts can never do.

I can remember so many teachers who captivated me with their love of their profession and their charges. Some were mysterious. Some were difficult. Some were cruel and some were saints.

I was never a particularly brilliant student. Competent in most subjects but with little commitment to the hard graft of getting good grades, particularly in Algebra. Girls were not supposed to be good at math or science. Equations evaded my grasp until my 7th grade math teacher, Miss Hughes, gave up her after school hours once a week to give four of us special tuition. When equations clicked for us, we had no idea then what her commitment to our understanding of a mathematical formula offered us and our futures.

If not for Miss Hughes, math would have continued to be my nemesis as it was for so many of my colleagues in community arts organizations. Miss Hughes’s few hours of tuition gave me a grounding in numbers that led to good jobs in the industry that most interested me as well as open opportunities in information technology that never occurred to me as a teenager.

A few years later, I sat in class and listened to Mr. Lombardi talk about language, particularly the English language. His love of language spoke to the heart of what I had always wanted to do, regardless of what job I might have to take. He also gave me the confidence to believe that a career in writing was a possibility for me, even if others urged me to be ‘practical’, be a teacher.

The day I  signed my first  publishing contract.

The day I signed my first publishing contract.

While in university, I detoured into Art and Theater Studies. While studying Art, I found inspiration for my heroine in Wait a Lonely Lifetime (now in paperback). I also took courses in Astronomy and Physics. Eventually, I returned my love of language, first and foremost. The detours provided ample fuel for stories. They also extended my schooling by several years!

During my post-graduate years, I had an opportunity to explore teaching as a career.  Although I had a few triumphs and amazing, special moments of being credited with changing someone’s life, I realized I had none of the commitment to the profession that I had experienced. I was and still am a student.

A student can never be bored – there is always something new to discover. For this special gift, from those who are so gifted to inspire a love of learning, I am forever grateful. I would never have become a writer without you.

Every year that goes by since I first wrote this, I am more certain that the quotation that opens this post is increasingly important to remember.

August 23, 2012

“Never put in writing anything you don’t want people to read.”  V.V.Verrill (1913-2005)

That is not the only quotation from my mother indelibly enscribed onto my brain but it is most pertinent today and not just for writers. I almost missed my appointed blog date and with only a few hours to spare, I have found a topic worth writing about. (One of my cardinal rules – not from my mother: Write for yourself but don’t expect anyone to read it unless there is something of value for them.) So, until noon today, I had no topic. Therefore, no post ready for the midnight launch.

But at noon, I saw one of the scariest and most amazing things. I work in the financial district, many tall buildings, a few that qualify for skyscrapers status. I chose to have lunch on the roof of my building (small in stature compared to others in the area) and take time to work on my current work-in-progress. At a blurry juncture when my brain needed to sort through images and words to find the next step, I looked up and to the south.

On the ledge of a building twenty floors taller than mine, I saw a man washing the windows. He was balanced on his toes, his left hand gripping the top of the window while he scrubbed the panes of glass and wiped them dry with a cloth on his belt. I could see no visible sign of support and I couldn’t take my eyes off him. One, for fear he would fall. Two, in abject fascination that he could do this. (I have difficulty walking over grates in the sidewalk, along the pedestrian area of bridges, looking down the 13 floors in the stairwell of my building to the ground floor.) Yet, here was a man hanging on the vertical wall of a 24-story construction with seemingly no way to stop himself from falling.

This is earthquake country. Anything can happen at any time. At last, he went into the room and after a while I saw that he was attached to a webbed belt locked into an eye-hook in the ceiling of the room. Still! Not anything I could do.

I looked around the area and saw two men in a gondola hanging from another building, on two wires that lowered the gondola as they finished one window and moved down to the next. And, on the ornate frontage of another building, another gondola suspended on wires, two men swinging in the air. Whether these two pairs of workers were tethered to their equipment I wasn’t able to see. Brave? Foolhardy?

They trusted themselves, their ability and their equipment to keep them safe. (You may have seen photographs of skyscraper construction with men sitting on eye-beams and no visible sign of support – these photos make me weak in the knees!) All they had to trust were themselves and their co-workers. Were there safety nets out of sight of the camera lens?

And here we are, as writers, out on our own individual ledges, trusting ourselves, our ability and equipment to keep us from falling. My mother’s edict is even truer today than when I was confined to notebooks and scraps of paper. At least then, someone had to find the notebook, steal it and read it in secret. In today’s connected world, every word I put on the screen and upload to the cloud or the social media page, is available to hundreds of thousands of people. If I send my work in an email, I have no control over where that email will end its journey.

Some of us believe this is a grand thing. My mother would disagree. And I, for once, have to agree with her. There are some thoughts that are best kept in notebooks, locked away in drawers for which the keys have been lost. However, we also have to trust the recipients to respect our ownership as well as our freedom to write with honesty and integrity, according to our own beliefs and understanding.

During my tenure as director and editor for Honno: Welsh Women’s Press, I encouraged my mother to write her World War II memoirs. I presented my siblings and my sons with a privately published copy on her 90th birthday. These memoirs were subsequently published as an ebook, Following the Troops: Life for an Army Wife, 1941-1945. 

July 23, 2012

I read Andrew Galasetti’s guest blog at selfpublishingteam.com on Saturday morning (July 21, 2012) that resonated with me. Near the end of this post, Galasetti writes about his grandfather’s writing dreams and how they had nearly died with him. This was particularly moving to me because I spent many years as an editor for a women’s cooperative press in Wales, selecting material for three volumes of autobiographical writing by women that, had it not been for Honno, would not have been published or recorded for history.

One of my proudest publishing moments was working with historian, Dierdre Beddoe, on Parachutes and Petticoats and Iancs, Conshis a Spam, two volumes of women’s writing about their experiences in World War II. Many of these accounts were harrowing, tragic or triumphant. All were about the indomitable human spirit and our willingness to sacrifice our lives for strangers.

The stimulus for both of these volumes was the stories my mother told me about her experiences during World War II and her childhood. Twenty years before her death, I asked her to write these stories down, intending to include them in one of the volumes. In the end, I edited and published them independently for my family and her grandchildren.

Several of my friends have created similar publications, so that their own personal journeys aren’t lost and forgotten. During the latter part of the 20thC, there were hundreds of volumes of diaries and oral history projects undertaken to capture these stories for posterity. Until they were written, recorded or published, these experiences were stories passed on from one generation to another but often not. Now they are history, available to us all.

That is, as long as our smartphones, laptops, ereaders and tablets keep working. Galasetti’s book, To Breathe Free, incorporates his grandfather’s poetry and will be published in Fall 2012.

If you want a really good yarn, talk to your elders.

Shortly after Avalon Books published my debut novel, the sale of Avalon to Amazon’s imprints was announced and finalized. This was my short farewell to my editor, Lia Brown. For most of us, losing an editor is one trauma we don’t anticipate. In my case, I found an editor and a publisher in one year and lost them both in the next. Amazon’s Montlake published Wait a Lonely Lifetime as an ebook and paperback in October 2012.


 

June 23, 2012

We here at Avalon Books have been in transition for a few months as my colleague, Kent Conwell, has mentioned in his blog this month. I’ve only been with Avalon for a little over a year but I’ve felt welcome and at home from the beginning.

My editor for Wait a Lonely Lifetime, Lia Brown, was the first person to read my novel and I will be forever in her debt for seeing the story as ‘a terrific romance’, and doing what editors do to get books they have enjoyed published.

Lia’s departure late last year was a blow, as losing editors has been for Kent. He has years of publishing experience to sustain him, as do all of the Avalon authors who’ve been with Avalon Books for a lot longer than I have.

I take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone here at the Avalon Authors Blog and the community established to help and support one another as writers, through transitions and uncertainties.

And to think, we’ve been called ‘jealous creatures’ (a line from the film, Midnight in Paris, attributed to Ernest Hemingway).

For a list of Avalon Books and all their authors, start at the publisher’s website and go on to their full list of all Avalon authors. Find out what makes them all so special.

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