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Posts Tagged ‘San Francisco’

In case this is news, we had a power outage in San Francisco today. The first I heard of it was a phone call to my office on the south side of Market Street. I heard the police and news helicopters most of the morning but that is not unusual in this city. Our building security kept an eye on the streets and from what I’ve since heard on the national news, fourteen neighborhoods—from the Financial District to the Marina—were affected.

I left my office shortly after noon, walking along Montgomery Street to Sutter, back along Kearny and up the north side of Market. All shops, building and restaurants were closed. All traffic lights were out.

Happily, I am able to report that San Franciscans behave well in a crisis. Drivers followed the basic rules of stopping at every intersection, moving forward when the box was clear. Pedestrians crossed in crosswalks without risk—pedestrians have the right of way in CA and today that law was actually followed.

I heard laughter, saw kindness and courtesy, patience was the operative word. BART engineers set up generators, the Municipal Transit Agency directed traffic and our wonderful Police Department kept everyone safe.

Even late in the afternoon, most of the business sections of the city were still shut down. And yet, civility reigned.

Thank you, San Franciscans, tourists, shoppers and commuters!

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My hometown is a village located in the southwest corner of Maine. For the first five years of my life, I spent my days wandering the woods and groves of lilac bushes around my house or with the kids down the road, an older girl and her younger brothers.

During the summer before I turned six, my father found work in San Francisco and my mother drove across the country with my older brother as a relief driver and the car loaded with luggage, my younger sister and me.  We arrived in the city and moved into a flat in the Haight-Ashbury. My parents enrolled me for the first grade—my first experience in school as Maine didn’t provide pre-school/Kindergarten education—and my father taught me to read before school started.

From rural Maine to cosmopolitan San Francisco might have been a shock, but not for me. We were close enough to Golden Gate Park for me to disappear in the groves of cyprus instead of the lilac bushes. My school was Dudley-Stone which drew its student population from the north and western Haight, rich in cultural and economic diversity. Later, we moved a little south to the Cole Valley and I started third grade at Grattan School.

The Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood Council held many community events—potluck dinners, talent contests, street fairs. We didn’t call it ‘diversity’ then. We called it community, neighborhood, friends. When I moved to live in Wales in the 1980s, I was so proud of my roots in San Francisco, that I wrote articles and gave talks about the spirit of community, neighborliness and friendships formed in my early school years with people of every race, religion and culture from around the world.

There was no strained, self-conscious effort to accept one another. We just did. The kids in my neighborhood ran around together, played and commiserated, disagreed and had water balloon fights without any distinction about the color of our skin, the origin of our culture or the denomination of our faith. Of course, we saw and sensed the differences but they were celebrated. We were all inhabitants of a sunny neighborhood and enjoyed the experiences of a wide world.

These are my experiences and I do not pretend to speak for those children I considered my friends in that long ago time, but the interference of adults in the innocence of childhood has never been more pervasive than it has been in this century.

This school year in San Francisco, the Board of Education is forcing children to learn about matters that only concern adults. Parents have a responsibility to protect their children from undue influence, including their own prejudice. As one of my childhood friends, now a renown clinical psychologist, once said, children do not need to know about what matters to you, only what matters to them.

My parents did not teach me prejudice and I have never looked at anyone to judge them for their color, religion or position, only for their character. And I have faith that most of us are good, honest, optimistic people who want only to be left alone to live our lives and raise our families. These are the people I write about.

 

 

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The following article appeared on Avalon Authors while I revised Salsa Dancing with Pterodactyls.

October 23, 2011

wherein1A few years ago, one of the first comments I received on a manuscript I submitted to an agent was “I don’t know where this takes place.” I thought the descriptions were pretty clear. As far as I was concerned there is only one ‘City’ — San Francisco. The agent thought I was writing about London but she didn’t recognize my evocation.

Both cities are renown for fog and I had plenty of fog but mine was rolling over Twin Peaks. Hers was rolling up the Thames. I had trolley cars and BART. London has the Underground and double-decker buses. She wasn’t seeing any of the landmarks of her City.

I didn’t want to go down the route of actually naming the location – somehow that seemed a bit of a cheat, especially for this particular book. I wanted the physical and sensual details to do the job but they didn’t, at least not for this particular reader who had her own ideas about wharves, wet tram lines and exhaust fumes.

andronicosbSo, how do you evoke a sense of place? If you name the town or street, how do you ensure the person who reads those words has a real sense of where you want them to imagine themselves to be? Is a sense of location that important?

For some people, not being able to visualize a place is a serious barrier to their enjoyment. They feel disoriented and excluded, alienated – like being in a strange country without a map or knowing the language.  Or worse, reading a poem written to discombobulate.

If you are writing about a place unfamiliar to you but critical to your story, how do you evoke that sense of authenticity your reader will want?

Last year, I attended a conference in which one writer of historical fiction praised satellite-generated images. While roaming streets of towns and villages you’ve never visited can be a help, it’s of no use for time periods that pre-date the technology.  What may have been rural, uninhabited terrain in the 19thC is more than likely urban sprawl when that satellite passed by.

FiesoleRomanTheaterA sense of place is as much a character in fiction as protagonists and just as unique to the experience of the reader as the author’s voice. When I began to write Wait a Lonely Lifetime, there was no doubt in my mind that the main body of the novel had to be in Firenze (Florence), although I had only been there for three days several years before I even had a notion to write this story. I had taken no photographs, bought no postcards, collected no tourist guides. I had vague memories of restaurants, piazzas and two obscure details that I knew I had to include.

Audacity was my guiding principle. As news readers are taught: if you aren’t sure how to pronounce a name, give it your best shot with authority.

Is location as important in fiction as it is in real estate? When you read a novel, do you look for road signs?

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Eres Books has enrolled my novels in the Read an eBook Week from Sunday, March 3, 2013.  The first two stories of the Nights Before series and Salsa Dancing with Pterodactyls, Part I are on offer. Also Following the Troops, Life for an Army Wife 1941-1945 is included.

Just search for the book’s page and the discount code will be near the top of the page, on the right, opposite the cover image. The code for Salsa Dancing with Pterodactyls, Part I is REW50 and is valid until midnight, March 9th, 2013. ‘Twas the Night Before New Year and ‘Twas the Night Before Valentine’s Day are FREE, the code is RW100.

The code for a FREE copy of Following the Troops is also RW100. Hurry. Midnight, March 9th, 2013 is approaching.

Salsa Dancing with Pterodactyls, Part II will be released on March 29th, 2013, so you’ll have plenty of opportunity to read Part I at half price.

Not yet a Smashwords reader, author or publisher? Sign up before or during the sale to take advantage of this opportunity.

The above promotion is only on smashwords.com but you can find my books on the iBookstore as well as all other major online retailers.

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My introduction to the life story of Helen Keller was through the film, The Miracle Worker. With the help of the acting brilliance of Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke, I watched the impaired little girl transform not only herself but her family and teacher by her determination to overcome the loss of sight and hearing because of an illness in her infancy.

If you have seen this film, maybe you had the same reaction to Helen’s bravery when she, faced with the desertion of her teacher, breaks free of her family’s indulgence of her impairments and proves she is capable of learning.

In the film, she stumbles from one object to another in her front yard, naming each as her teacher had signed them to her, giving her utmost effort to vocalize words she has never heard.

During those moments in the film, I cheer for that little girl, fighting all the odds, including the people who loved her most, to be more, have more, achieve more than anyone believed she could, including her teacher.

By her supreme effort to prove she is capable of more than being a sightless, voiceless creature to be pitied, Helen is transformed into a heroine and a champion of those less fortunate.

That story, the legend the film created, has always inspired me and probably, with the help of women in my life and in my family who, in spite of adversity, kept faith with themselves, gave me the foundation that has seen me through my own, though meager in comparison, adversity. Women who, for their families and friends, follow their dreams, protect and provide for their children, stand by the men they love, even if they fall short of reaching their life’s goal, never give up. Always adjusting, altering, sacrificing to meet the needs of the people they love.

These qualities are part of what make us all capable of heroism, at least in the eyes of those we love. When my father returned home as a veteran, there were no jobs. Despite his experience as an Army officer, the only work he could find was as a farm laborer, picking potatoes. He had to provide for his wife and children and he did this back-breaking work to ensure than none of us went hungry. While he was bending beneath the weight of this burden, my mother was working nights in the canning factory.

My mother’s memoir of her WWII experiences is Following the Troops. She was proud of my father, even when she was run out of Boston because of him.

I’m an author and I write about women who, despite uncertainty, disadvantage or disappointment, take on life on their own terms, finding the men they need along the way, chasing them down when they have to.

Men like Eric Wasserman, women like Sylviana Innocenti.

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As part of my Virtual Launch of Wait a Lonely Lifetime published by Avalon Books and now available on several online bookshops, Sandra Carey Cody posted an excerpt from the first chapter of the novel on her website: SandraCareyCody. Use the following link and click on the Guest Excerpt tab.

Sandra Carey Cody is one of my fellow writer colleagues at Avalon Books, writing in the Mystery genre. She has very generously offered to host this excerpt and I am happy to be able to share some of her books with you: Put Out the Light (2005); Consider the Lilly (2008); By Whose Hand (2009). Her most recent book for Avalon is Left at Oz (2011).

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As part of my Virtual Launch of Wait a Lonely Lifetime published by Avalon Books and now available on several online bookshops, Sandra Carey Cody has posted an excerpt from the first chapter of the novel on her website: SandraCareyCody. Use the following link and click on the Guest Excerpt tab.

Sandra Carey Cody is one of my fellow writer colleagues at Avalon Books, writing in the Mystery genre. She has very generously offered to host this excerpt and I am happy to be able to share some of her books with you: Put Out the Light (2005); Consider the Lilly (2008); By Whose Hand (2009). Her most recent book for Avalon is Left at Oz (2011).

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