NOT YOUR USUAL SUSPECTS

A group blog featuring an international array of killer mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box. We blog several times a week on all topics relating to romantic suspense and mystery, our writing, and our readers. We welcome all comments and often have guest bloggers. All our authors can be contacted separately, too, using their own social media links.

We find our genre delightfully, dangerously, and deliciously exciting - join us here, if you do too!


Julie Moffet . Clare London . Cathy Perkins . Jean Harrington . Daryl Anderson . Nico Rosso . Maureen A. Miller . Sandy Parks . Lisa Q Mathews . Sharon Calvin . Lynne Connolly . Janis Patterson

Monday, March 31, 2014

Love is Murder

Love Is Murder.


Have you ever considered attending a crime fiction conference or event? Did you know there are several amazing conferences where readers, authors and mystery fans gather every year? I love these weekend gatherings. Local law enforcement, private detectives, doctors and amateur sleuths spend three or four days talking about every aspect of murder from plotting to execution to cover up. The food is great. The company is even better and the authors are hilarious. Maybe this shouldn’t sound so exciting to me, but I have to admit, crime fiction lovers are my kind of people!

In February, I had the pleasure of attending the Love is Murder conference in Chicago. I took my husband as a “plus one” and we had a blast. I went to sign books and ended up buying far more than I sold. I read something new every night until I conked out in the big comfy bed I didn’t have to make the next day. A woman’s dream come true.

I made the most of my time away from home, taking selfies and collecting autographs from my favorite authors. I met smart, sassy librarians from around the country and made a few new private detective friends too. The event wasn’t a “writer’s conference” though there were certainly plenty of opportunities to learn about the craft. Instead, readers of mystery and crime fiction were the honored guests and treated as such. The conference coordinators did an amazing job bringing us all together. There were equal chances throughout the weekend for me to fangirl on Heather Grahmn and then participate on panels as well as sign post cards for my new release, Murder Comes Ashore.

I was shocked and honored to learn Murder by the Seaside was nominated for the conference’s Lovey Award. The awards were distributed during a ceremony and the authors are recognized for their work. It’s quite an honor to be nominated. It’s especially exciting to know I had a hand in voting for the winners.
As a bonus to attending and participating as a panelist and author, I met my Merit Press editor, Jacqueline Mitchard (a brilliant author who everyone adores), got the call from my agent that she sold another of my manuscripts AND met a Harlequin representative who let me know my cozy ebook series at Carina was selected for the Harlequin book club! Best. Weekend. EVER.

Love is Murder is one of many annual crime fiction conferences. Bouchercon moves from city to city each year. The East Coast Crime Bake happens in Massachusetts. Killer Nashville occurs every summer in Tennessee. Thrillerfest happens every July in New York City. I’m sure there are many more. If you’re thinking of attending an event like this, I hope you’ll look into it. It’s a weekend you won’t soon forget and you’re likely to make friends that last a lifetime. Hey, if you do register at one, let me know. Maybe we can meet!

Murder Comes Ashore
Patience Price is just settling into her new life as resident counselor on Chincoteague Island when things take a sudden turn for the worse. A collection of body parts have washed up on shore and suddenly nothing feels safe on the quaint island.

Patience instinctively turns to current crush and FBI special agent Sebastian for help, but former flame Adrian is also on the case, hoping that solving the grisly crime will land him a win in the upcoming mayoral election.
When the body count rises and Patience's parents are brought in as suspects, Patience is spurred to begin her own investigation. It's not long before she starts receiving terrifying threats from the killer, and though she's determined to clear her family's name, it seems the closer Patience gets to finding answers, the closer she comes to being the killer's next victim.

Amazon       Barnes&Noble       

Thursday, March 27, 2014

What Shall We Talk About?


So… I had a list of topics to possibly blog about.

1. Destructive squirrels and my efforts chase them from my yard and attic.

2. Comfort food.  

3. What is up with the news media?

4. Why does the US have to keep the Bieb?

5. The leader of N. Korea telling the men of the country they must get a haircut like his.

Since 1, 3, 4 and 5 are about bat sh*t crazy creatures I picked… wait for it…2. Comfort food! Put your hands in the air and clap.

Before I start, you should know I’m old. So old, I hesitate to participate in buy one, get one free because I fear I won’t get the chance used the second one. That said I grew up in Florida on a barrier island 22 miles long, one paved road, three bridges to escape hurricanes. 2 were wood and barely above the water line no side rails. Scar-ee. If it rained a lot, gators came into the back yard and I witnessed more than one wild pig shot in the street.

Now the scene is set you can imagine what follows.  

A big meal, Sundays and holidays that was generally eaten and sometimes cooked outside was sea food paella.
Yellow rice and whatever clams, oysters, crabs, and fish we could get at the end of the street. Still love it today but, there is no fun in collecting the ingredients.

Then there was grits with red sauce and fried fish.
                                                           


 

Gator, when one crawled into the back yard. Turtle, land and sea.

 
Fried Spam, with fried egg and straight from the can in sandwiches. We lived in Hawaii a few years and Spam was a favorite there. On the menu in local places.

Fry a thick slice of bologna with eggs. Bologna sandwiches on white bread with plenty of mayonnaise.  Every tackle box I can remember held cans of Vienna sausages and potted ham. 
 
                                             Ya know for a snack.  

And.... popsicles, drippy, syrupy, sweet, popsicles.

Reading this over maybe I just call it weird crap I ate growing up.

So what do you call comfort food? Or just share the weird crap you ate.
                 
Don’t forget to enter our fab contest to win books. See the blog below for details.

I guess I can also tell you I have a new release, Point of No Return http://amzn.com/B00IO262K8   and a FREE sexy prequel, No Holding Back. http://amzn.com/B00IO1XFO0                        

CONTEST! Win a Mystery Novel by a NYUS Author

NYUS has some wonderful mystery writers. What? You’ve never read a mystery? No problem. We’re here to entice you to the dark side…

Complete the rafflecopter below to go into a draw to win a mystery title.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS by Wendy Soliman

THE TUXEDOED MAN by Marcelle Dubé

CAT BURGLAR IN TRAINING by Shelley Munro

SCENE STEALER by Elise Warner

DYING ART by Shirley Wells

MURDER COMES ASHORE by Julie Anne Lindsey


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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Left Coast Crime

I've just returned from four wonderful days in Monterey, CA at Left CoastCrime

As my career settles firmly into the mystery “camp” I find I enjoy these mystery conferences, which are reader focused rather than craft focus as romance conferences tend to be.

Each day was full of opportunities to spot my favorite “big name” authors such as William Kent Kruger, Sue Grafton, Marcia Muller, Donna Andrews, Catherine Coulter, and many others, as well as spend time with emerging, up and coming authors who are friends: Donnell Bell, Susan Boyer, Alexandra Sokoloff, Allison Brennan, Nancy Parra/Nancy Coco and the wonderful “Sparkle Abbey” team (Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter). I could go on for pages (and I'd still miss mentioning someone!), but then I couldn't mention all the new authors I met, putting faces with people I met through my work with the International Thriller Writers Debut Author program, and the fabulous readers. Oh, the readers! These are readers who devour mysteries, parsing the spectrum of cozy to amateur sleuth, understanding the nuances all the way over to hard boiled, noir and horror.


The conference officially consists of a series of panels. While a few are geared toward industry news (emerging trends, self-publishing, social media), most are meant to explore an aspect of the mystery genre: Cozy Noir, Manors and Manners, Why Authors Write Humor into Mysteries, and the well attended Sex, Death and Taxes (how can I not mention Harley Jane Kozak).

I sat on a panel titled The Voices in our Head, along with William Easley, Donnell Bell, and Terry Shames. The moderator, Peg Brantley, and audience asked questions which sparked great discussions about characterization, inspiration as well as process. It's always fun to hear how others go about this (slightly crazy) business of writing a novel. Of course, there were also the New Authors author breakfast, dinners with fellow Sisters In Crime members, and (I'm sure you're stunned) the bar, where lots of networking—and a little drinking—occurred.

And Donnell, Susan and I found the perfect spot to unwind Sunday afternoon, post-conference, at a tapas and wine bar overlooking the harbor... 

Yes, it's a tough gig...  

What about you? Have you attended a conference recently? Have a favorite?



And don't forget our multi-author giveaway! Check out the rafflecopter for ways to enter. 


Monday, March 24, 2014

What Do You Do When...

What do you do when you've had a bad few days, or weeks or even month? Do you power through the gloom? Do you reach out to friends or do you curl up and keep to yourself? There are a few other options I could come up with, but I'll keep them to myself.

I've found when the going gets tough, I disappear into books. I need the escape. I need to think about other 'people' and not what's happening in my life.

Earlier this month, I lost my dad. He was 89 and dealing with Alzheimer's for years. The last 9 months were especially horrific so I'll admit to being relieved that he's no longer suffering. But I've discovered that it's hard not being a daughter anymore. I like knowing my parents are together again somewhere after 17+ years of separation, but I miss them a ton.

Flying to Texas for my dad's funeral, I dove into Do Or Die by Suzanne Brockmann. I needed an escape and she provided it big time. (As she usually does for me.) Then as soon as I finished that book - and it's a biggie - I dove into Falling For The Marine by Samanthe Beck. I think I should mention that this book made Samanthe a USA Today bestselling author! A huge accomplishment and I'm so happy for her. She definitely deserves it since she's an awesome writer!

But now that the books are finished, I've found that grief is still lurking, telling me that no matter how much I tried to not think about my loss, I can't get away from it.
(Here's one of my favorite pics of my dad and daughter from about 15 years ago when he was still in good shape. This is how I like to remember him.)

Losing my dad was much like losing my mom in that I felt peace knowing they were finally at peace after dealing with such horrible health after years of struggle. But losing my dad brought home the fact that I no longer have parents and made the loss that much greater. I'm feeling doubly bereft, I guess.

I haven't cracked another book because I guess I'm feeling like if I don't deal with this loss now and if I keep putting it off, it's going to come back and bite me in the butt. I've been moving in slow motion the past couple of weeks and I'm counting on time (and a good psychic/medium) to pull out of it.

I have to admit to being much like my mom. She talked about everything to everybody. She worked through her issues out loud and never hid from the world. So for all you who already know and are probably tired of hearing me 'talk' about it, I apologize. As I said... I'm working it out.

So, what about you? What do you do when life lands those hard punches that get you down?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Try A New Genre: Read a Mystery Today!

What? You’ve never read a mystery? No problem. We’re here to entice you to the dark side…

Check out our mystery authors, read their book snippets and enter the contest below to go into a draw to win one of their titles.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS by Wendy Soliman

“There you are then. Weymouth is far enough away to put the boat—” she stood and leaned over the transom, reading the name upside-down, “—the No Comment through her paces. Unusual name,” she added with a lilting smile that immediately put me on my guard.

“Kara, just so we’re clear. I am not going to take you to Weymouth.”

THE TUXEDOED MAN by Marcelle Dubé

A layer of frost covered the body, obscuring the features and turning the black pants white in spots.

A half dozen people stood looking down at the body in silence. Their flashlights barely cut through the ice fog swirling around them, first hiding, then revealing the body. Kate couldn’t even tell if there was a paramedic among them.

“You’re sure he’s dead?” she asked.

CAT BURGLAR IN TRAINING by Shelley Munro

“Tell me what?” I asked.

My father exchanged a doubtful glance with Ben before returning his attention to me. He rubbed his chin, the guilty silence broken by the loud rasp of his whiskers.

“Maybe once Amber is at school,” Hannah said, turning away to deftly flip a pancake.

The fishy stench wasn’t my imagination.

SCENE STEALER by Elise Warner

For a moment our eyes met; his were frightened, seeking help. Was it my imagination gone wild? No. After all those years of teaching elementary school, I knew this child was afraid.”

DYING ART by Shirley Wells

"Furniture had been knocked over and there were papers everywhere. She was scared so she called the police and they found Prue lying at the bottom of the stairs. She was wearing a pair of pink pyjamas." Her voice cracked on that last statement.

MURDER COMES ASHORE by Julie Anne Lindsey

“Uh-uh. No you don’t. You can’t tell me a toddler found an ear on the beach and look at me like I’m the crazy one. Like this is everyday news. ‘Oh, I almost forgot. For lunch today I found a finger in my French fries.’” 

CONTEST: Have we seduced you to the dark side? Would you like to win one of the mysteries above? Complete the rafflecopter below and you’re in the draw to win one of our mysteries.


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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Mystery in a Kiss

I know we’re all about the mystery and suspense here at NYUS. Which is why I’m posting a link to this kissing movie.

Maybe you’ve seen it already?

Lots of views, especially after the NYT did a blurb on it. Some people didn’t like learning it was part of an ad campaign for clothes. I think that shows exactly how effective the film is.


Here’s the premise: Ten strangers. Paired off into five couples. Cameras roll. Now kiss.

The fun of the film isn’t necessarily watching the people kiss. Cameras have a hard time getting close enough to show what’s happening when people really kiss--lips mashing against each other, noses in the way, insides getting tingly. Although the filmmaker does a good job of cutting back and forth between the couples, giving the viewer just enough of a snippet to let our minds fill in the scene: a lip tugged between teeth, a hand touching a cheek. Exactly like writing, it's all in the details.

What I love is the moment before, and the moment after, each set of strangers kiss. The film captures the awkwardness of exchanging an intimacy with an unknown, and that weird moment when they must return to being strangers. I’ve watched a dozen time and find something new each time in the body language or the flashes of dialogue.

Notice how they address the person behind the camera, instead of the person they are about to kiss? They reveal their vulnerability in all these tiny ways and it’s completely endearing-- taking a step back, touching fingers, laughing. “It’s actually pretty scary,” one man says to his partner.

Near the end, after their kiss one man says, “I just want to hug you.” And turning away from the camera, his partner answers so softly it's hard for us to hear, “OK.”

I think the film does a great job of capturing the suspense and mystery of what happens between people—and isn’t that the best kind?


Monday, March 17, 2014

Reunited (and It Feels So Good)

That spark of passion that can't be denied. That invisible bond of a shared history that can't be ignored. That feeling of a second chance at a happiness that was meant to be...
These are the reasons I love a reunion story—a book that brings a couple back together after something has torn them apart or brings them together in a different way, with a new, deeper, richer layer to their relationship. 
Dark Deeds (Mindhunters, Book 4), which releases today, is such a story. Becca and Diego first met (as secondary characters) in Book 2 of this series, but Becca has been in all of the other books and my readers wanted her to have her own happily-ever-after. I like Becca too, so I was more than happy to give her a hero of her own. But she's a feisty female, so she needed a strong male who could go toe-to-toe with her, with a connection she couldn't ignore. Writing their story presented unique challenges and unexpected emotional depth that has me wanting to write more of these types of stories.
The pros of writing a reunion story? I enjoyed revisiting characters I'd already developed, who were practically living and breathing people already. Plus, there was an added depth to their relationship because of their shared history. It made their romance, when it came together, that much more satisfying and believable.
The cons? Of course, I wanted to be true to what had already been written about them, so creating a story bible of their previous encounters was helpful, but required additional time and energy. And, whatever had torn them apart or kept them from becoming involved in the previous story had to be overcome. 
I had a lot of fun finding ways to help Becca and Diego get their act together and confront their feelings. And I'm so glad they found each other again. Everyone deserves a happy ending.
Do you like reunion stories? Do you have a favorite couple (movies, TV, or books) whose relationship put them through the wringer, yet they ended up stronger for it?

Dark Deeds Blurb:
Walking away from sexy Detective Diego Sandoval was one of the toughest things security specialist Becca Haney ever had to do. But her past is a direct threat to his future, to the career he’s working so hard to rebuild. Now, with a witness from a horrific case implicating Diego, Becca must decide whether to listen to her head or her heart.
Diego is a big-city lawman used to cracking the hardest cases, but he’ll never understand why Becca ended their passionate affair. When he’s assigned to help keep her safe from a human trafficking ring, he’s determined to stay by her side and learn about the woman behind the passion—scars and all.  
But Becca has another admirer. Known only as “the Fan,” he believes he’s the perfect partner for her—and he’ll kill to prove it. When the stakes are raised in the killer’s deadly game, Diego will be called upon to save lives—including Becca’s.

Anne Marie has always been fascinated by people—inside and out—which led to degrees in Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, and Counseling.  Her passion for understanding the human race is now satisfied by her roles as mother, wife, daughter, sister, and award-winning author of romantic suspense.  
She writes to reclaim her sanity.
Find ways to connect with Anne Marie at www.AnneMarieBecker.com. Sign up for her newsletter for the latest about her books, special sneak peeks, and giveaways.

Friday, March 14, 2014

My BFF should have known better

I just spent a wonderful ski weekend with a group of woman I absolutely adore—my Best Friends Forever. We grew up together and have shared one another's joys and sorrows our whole lives. We only see each other a couple of times a year, and we're very different people, but we're there for one another. Always. A couple of these BFFs have read my books from the earliest drafts and bought them when they were published. They tell all their friends about me and their friends buy my books. They're my biggest fans.

One of these women is very religious and much prefers to read the bible and books about the bible, but she supports me by buying my books anyway. I find that incredibly sweet. And one of my friends isn't a big reader, doesn't see the point of fiction and is unlikely to ever read or buy one of my books. Still, she's happy when something good happens to me. What more can I ask?

So, one evening we went to a party thrown by people I didn't know, and several women came up to us and asked which one was the author, and then gushed about my books. One lady actually crashed the party because she'd heard I was going to be there and she wanted to tell me in person how much she loved my books! All of my BFFs thought it was great. They kept hugging me and calling me the "rock star" of the evening.

A rock star. That was just how I felt. It was wonderful. Yes, I'd been drinking wine, but the high I was on was all about these people acknowledging me as an author of some worth. The feeling was indescribable.

And then, as we were getting ready to leave the party, my beautiful, much loved, non-reading BFF said, "Wasn't it great that all these women came clean?"

I froze. She couldn't be saying… "What do you mean?" I asked, hoping I'd misunderstood. "Coming clean about what?"

"About reading your books," she said.

My blissful high evaporated in a single instant. "Why would they have to come clean about reading my books?" I asked. But I knew. Of course I knew. What I didn't know, could never have predicted, was that the next thing out of her mouth would pierce my bubble with such a deafening pop.

"Well," she said with a half shrug, "they're just trash, right?"

Ouch.

I think I left my body for a few minutes while I absorbed the shock. Did one of my oldest, dearest friends really think I spent my time creating "trash?" Did she not know me at all, even after all these years?

Okay, sure, those of us who love romance joke about trashy books, but that's meant to be ironic or something. Dry. Self-deprecating, even. When people who don't read the genre say it's trash, it's an insult. And it reveals their ignorance.

I love this woman and always will. We'll be close for the rest of our lives, without a doubt. Of all of us, she's always been the best at sticking her foot in her mouth. (Okay, make that her whole damn skinny leg.) She's an artist and an athlete and a single mom and she doesn't read books for enjoyment. She has no idea what it takes to actually conceive and write a whole book and get it to publication. So I forgive her for hurting me. Of course I do. I can't imagine anything she could do short of murdering my children that I would find unforgivable.

But jeez, she's an artist—a creative person, like me. And I love her to death. She should have known better, damn it.

—Ana

Ana writes sexy romantic suspense, and she loves to hear from readers. If you'd like to read one of her current ebooks, either leave a comment here or email her at: ana@anabarrons.com, let her know which book you'd like (WrongfullyAccusedSon of the Enemy or Betrayed by Trust) and in what format, and she'll send you a copy.






Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Forensic Dentist



Television shows and books often depict the forensic scientist. A scientist might focus on chemistry, which encompasses crimes against property such as burglary, or they might focus on biology where the crimes are against people—murders and rapes. The third category is where the scientists focus on drugs and toxicology.

In a recent Army magazine (Issue 448) I learned about the forensic dentist.

The main ways to identify human remains are finger prints, DNA and dental records. Visual identification can be difficult and fingerprints are not always available. DNA testing is expensive, and this is where the forensic dentist comes in.

Teeth are the hardest part of the body and in recent times have been used to identify human remains. Identifying a person in this manner is quick, inexpensive and very accurate.

Our local army personnel have helped in identifying soldiers killed during combat in the first Gulf war and after disasters such as the Christchurch earthquake, the Boxing Day tsunami and the Victoria bush fires.

The forensic dentist said the work was demanding and could be unpleasant, but it was also rewarding to help give closure to a grieving family.

I thought – wow. I can use this as an occupation in a future book, and a plot started shaping in my mind to write when I get time.

And this leads me to a question for all you mystery and romantic suspense fans out there.


Is there a type of character or occupation that you’d like to read about in the future? One that you haven’t read about so far, or do you have a favorite type/occupation that you gravitate to?

Shelley Munro lives in New Zealand with her husband and a rambunctious puppy. She writes romance for Samhain Publishing and Ellora's Cave and loves to toss in dead bodies for interest. Her next release is a historical romance called Mistress of Merrivale, and it features murder and deeds most foul along with a marriage of convenience. You can learn more about Shelley and her books at www.shelleymunro.com 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Is Face to Face Out of Style?



When it comes to writing, the best teachers are not always the folks standing at the front of a classroom. The best teachers are the writers who sit down at their desks everyday and struggle to find just the right word, the perfect phrase and the twist that makes it all worthwhile. They hope and dream, deal with defeat and get up the next day and do it again.

Many years ago, I joined a writer’s group. It was the smartest thing I ever did to advance my writing and learn the value of a thick skin. Was it hard the first evening I took my place as the newbie amongst the other five writers in the group? Absolutely. It was right up there with laying down my heart in the middle of the floor and hoping it didn’t get stepped on or standing naked in a busy intersection. It was as vulnerable as I’ve ever felt. But no one becomes better at what they do without feedback, not the athlete or the chef, or the parent, or the teacher. We need each other and writers are no exception. Even though I savor the solitude of writing, I have also learned to savor the advice, suggestions and critique of people I trust and those who know more than I do. (Which as it turns out, are quite a few.)

Once past the knee-jerk defensiveness, most of the time I realized their suggestions were right. They had the distance from the work that I didn’t and could see what I could not. Critiques aren’t cruel they’re immensely helpful. The tough part is getting over our own defensiveness so we can hear them. That’s where an intimate, trusted writing group comes in. My co-writers supported me in taking my craft seriously, but their humor and friendship insured that I didn’t take myself too seriously. And that little lesson made all the difference.

So, here is my question (and dilemma). A few years ago, due to my husband’s employment, we had to move from Maine to southern New Hampshire. For a while I did consider the two-hour commute to get to my group, but soon accepted that all good things must end and I started searching for a new, local group. I’m still looking.

With all of the on-line groups and blogs and emails and texts, have we lost the need to meet face to face? Has the impersonal persona of the Internet replaced the intimacy of sharing hard copy with a group? It’s a lot faster to hit “send” and shoot your latest chapter off into cyber-space for someone’s critique than to print it, make copies and drive to a group, but at what cost?

I occasionally check Craigslist for local writing groups or the website of NH writer’s organizations, but still haven’t found a good (old-fashioned?) writer’s group. There’s one that meets for drinks once a month and I might give it a try to see where that leads, but I haven’t yet. It’s not that I’m against discussing writing over a good bottle of Pinot Noir, but it’s the intimate circle in front of a fireplace, sharing writing, advice, laughs and occasionally tears with carefully chosen like-minded, writers that I want.

So what do you think? Am I showing my age thinking that these types of groups still exist amidst 2014 technology? Tell me what you do. Do you have a trusted group? Or do you simply hit “send”?








Yahoo Web Search

Friday, March 7, 2014

Words are all I have ...?


As the song goes...
It’s only words…but words are all I have, to take your heart away.


Well ... words may not be ALL I have to give *g* but they're what I want to give thanks for today. I’m thankful that I can speak and hear, that I’ve had the education and environment to learn how to express myself, that I’ve had the eyes to read and the hands to write. Words are a treasure and a treat to me, and I’m thankful daily that I can use them to communicate.

They can bring us joy and knowledge, they can create worlds, they can hurt or heal, each as strongly as the other. They allow us to cross boundaries of distance and age and background. We used to have letters and cards to communicate, and some of us still love those. But now we also have the internet, email, blogging.

I'm fascinated by the internet. Ask my family, who have to peel me from the screen to eat supper LOL. I know its dangers and I know its lack of moderation. It’s not for everyone. But it’s been a boon for me in opening out the world. I’ve learned about other lives, about other worlds, I’ve made friends, kept in touch with their lives and loves, and I’ve been encouraged to find myself another career and pleasure in writing fiction. All based – partly or wholly - on words.

They’re everywhere! Who doesn’t love a favourite song? Or laugh at a particular kind of joke? It all hinges on words. I don’t Tweet much and my blogging is erratic. But I love writing and communicating, whether it’s through email or through my stories. I have made some truly good friends, whom I’ve never met face to face, but whose style and generosity in their correspondence allows me to see and love the real person.

Words have their shortcomings, of course. They can be misunderstood, they can come across too baldly. They can’t replace the importance of seeing someone face to face, of reading body language, of smiling to ease potential hurt, of frowning to express caution. A *hug* is never the same as a real one, but to a trusted friend who’s far away, an emailed *hug* is still a treasure. I know it is for me :).

I recently discovered a short post I'd written about my Mum in 2009. Forgive me the indulgence of family issues, I don't often write *too* personally. I wrote about her worrying slide into dementia and her frustration at losing touch with words and memory. She was a strong, articulate, witty woman, who brought up me and my sister for many years on her own until she remarried, who started in a fairly modest job but after encouragement from her boss and her own mother, found herself an important career in education. But over a distressingly short period of time, she found she couldn't join in conversations because she couldn't remember the words for certain things: she began to forget names and repeat herself, and she hated it.

Since that time, Mum has deteriorated to the stage where she can't string a sentence together and is bemused by conversation. But on the good side, she's looked after in her own home, she seems happy in herself as the frustration has eased over the years, and everyone who cares for her loves her company. And she HUMS almost constantly *g*, though it wouldn't be so bad if we knew what tune she was following so we could join in!

I'll finish on a more upbeat note :). I was out with Son#2 in town the other day and we were stopped a few times. People asked directions, or chatted to us in a queue, or they knew us from the boys’ school days. On our way home, Son#2 turned to me and said – “We always end up chatting to people, don’t we? It’s good fun.” It was one of those tear-to-the-eye moments!

Words are all around us, available for our pleasure, comfort and excitement, with new ones always waiting to be discovered, old favourites to be savoured. Thanks for them – and for the extra special delight they bring, keeping me in contact with my family and friends!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Clare London
Writing ... Man to Man

         




Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A TRIP TO THE LIBRARY





     Patience and Fortitude, the New York Public Library’s lovable lions charm all who pass the steps leading to the main entrance. They’ve worn garlands for Christmas, wreaths of posies to welcome spring, top hats and Mets and Yankees caps and are said to howl whenever a virgin passes by. Samuel J. Tilden, a Governor of New York bequeathed the bulk of his fortune to “establish and maintain a free library and reading room in the City of New York.” The site between 40th and 42nd Streets and Fifth Avenue—home to the Croton Reservoir was chosen as its future home. The largest marble structure to be built in the United States, the library welcomes writers doing research to its titanic reading room above seven floors of stacks. The cornerstone was laid in May 1902 and by 1910, 75 miles of shelves were incorporated to accommodate the vast compilation. Dedicated on May23, 1911, the library opened its arms to the public the following day and between 30,000 and 50,000 people entered their building. Today a controversial reconstruction is planned that includes additional private space for researchers and writers, a full service library for general users with hours scheduled until 11:00 pm, and more space for children but plans also include diverting stacks of books to storage in New Jersey. Talks are ongoing.
     The New York Public Library for The Performing Arts holds recordings, video tapes, manuscripts, stage designs, newspaper articles, scripts, posters, programs and photographs and is a treasure trove for writers researching early performers and theatrical history. I was in heaven when I found material on vaudeville for a play I wrote and material on the gold camps where everyone from the Edwin Booth to unknowns played and sometimes were thrown a gold nugget or two for a good performance. One nugget I found mentioned that many miners carried a dog eared copy of Shakespeare with them and woe to the actor that improvised a speech.

     I kneel to examine a public notice—perhaps the first Roman advertisement—drawn on the gleaming Marble Road that begins at the Koressos Gate and extends to the Library of Celsus in Ephesus, Turkey.  I see a woman’s head and a heart (translated as waiting for love) a footprint, (turn here) and two fingers—one finger points to the library, the other to the remains of The Brothel of Ephesus built across from the library. 
     As a writer and booklover, I trail the finger that points to the Library of Celsus and stop in front of a two-story façade, decorated with copies of statues, recessed in Corinthian columns, representing Episteme (knowledge), Sophia (wisdom), Ennoia (intelligence), and Arete, (virtue). The library, one of the most spectacular structures in Ephesus and the third largest in the antique world, held over 12,000 scrolls kept in cupboards on double walls—the gap between the walls protected the rolls of parchment from humidity. Librarians handed the scrolls to readers who gathered in a single sizeable area circled by three balconies of storage space. The library faced the east to take advantage of the morning light. 
     The library is a stately and touching memorial to Celsus Polemeanus—Roman Senator, General Governor of the Province of Asia, and an avid book collector. The Governor’s son, Proconsul Gaius Julius Aquila began the library, designed by the Roman architect, Vitruoya, as a tribute to his father in 110 AD. Aquila left a bequest and instructions to his successors and the library was completed around 135 AD. Celsus Polemeanus rests in a lead container inside a marble sarcophagus, decorated with garlands, rosettes and figures of Eros and Nike, buried beneath the library’s ground level.   
     The interior of the library was destroyed by fire when the Goths invaded in 262 AD; the façade though left intact was abandoned. The 4th century saw the area in front of the façade converted into a pool and fountain. Damaged by an earthquake in the 10th century, the façade collapsed but much of its history was discovered during excavations in 1910 including a statue of Celsus, on display in the Istanbul Archeological Museum.
     What venerable institution has 530 miles of bookshelves, 29 million books and other printed materials, 124,000 telephone directories and more than 45 million maps?  The institution is the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.—a brisk walk from our nation’s Capitol.
     On April 24, 1800, John Adams, our second President, signed a bill transferring the seat of government from Philadelphia to the new capital city of Washington. The bill included legislation authorizing a reference library for the use of Congress and “for putting up a suitable apartment for containing them within…” Congress authorized the sum of $5,000 for its creation and the Library began with less than 1,000 books and nine maps shipped from England—space would be provided in the Capitol Building and Congress made use of the knowledge within its walls.    
     The War of 1812 led to the young Library’s destruction—American forces burned the Canadian Houses of Parliament and the British retaliated, in August of 1814, by burning the Capitol Building. Former President Thomas Jefferson came to the rescue by offering to sell Congress his personal library; regarded as one of the best in the United States. Jefferson spent 50 years collecting books—books about America, the sciences, philosophy and literature and books written in foreign languages. The offer bitterly divided Congress; a number of members considered certain volumes controversial.
     “I do not know that it contains any branch of science which Congress would wish to exclude from their collection;” Jefferson wrote, “that is, in fact, no subject to which a member of Congress may not have occasion to refer.”
     Today, there are three main buildings and research can be pursued, without charge, by anyone over the age of eighteen, with a reader’s identification card. Researchers from all over the world use over 128 million items, in multiple formats and 460 languages.
   
     Do you have a favorite library?

     

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