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An Anniversary

June 23, 2020

This month, June 2020, marks the fifteenth anniversary of the release of my first published novel, Put Out the Light. http://amzn.to/pd9yqS

I’ll never forget the thrill of getting the call from Avalon Books.  As luck would have it, that happened on my birthday. Best present anyone ever received! I don’t remember what I said, but I know that a few seconds into whatever it was, I realized I was babbling. I took a couple of deep breaths and started over. I don’t remember what I said then either. I guess it doesn’t matter. What matters is that Avalon didn’t hold it against me and went ahead with the publication of Put Out the Light.

It was a major milestone in my life. I had reached a goal. When I started writing this book, I told myself it didn’t even matter if it was published. I just wanted to see if I could actually write a book – a whole book – so I put those first words on the page with only the vaguest idea of what came next. Finally, I finished the book. I had a story that, at least in my opinion, held together. There was a beginning, a middle, and an end. I was enormously proud of myself, but only for a few minutes. It hit me that it did matter to me that the book be published, so I started down the road toward another goal – publication. A different goal. A different process and not an easy one. Nevertheless, after a long and not-always-pleasant journey, I achieved that goal and, since then, have reached a few more. One thing I’ve learned along the way is that a goal reached is not an end, but a beginning. There’s always more to the journey.

That’s where I am now – working on the sixth book in the series begun with Put Out The Light. I wish I could say that it’s become easier to reach those goals, but that wouldn’t be true. Writing a book – a whole book – requires an enormous amount of discipline. I suspect that’s true of any goal worthy of pursuing.

Favorite Characters (again)

May 28, 2020

Bored and (much as I hate to admit it) in writing-avoidance mode, I started browsing some of my past musings. I came upon this, written a couple of years ago. It prompted me to wonder about other writers. Do you have favorite characters?

Asking a writer to name her favorite character is a little like asking a parent which of their children they love most. I, and I assume most writers, love all my characters – even the bad guys. Having said that, I admit some have a special place in my heart.

Put Out the Light was the book that introduced Jennie Connors to the world beyond my imagination. It also introduced Nathaniel Pynchon, who started out small and went on to become a favorite. He’s become my go-to guy. When the plot starts to stall, I can count on Nate to do something outrageous and get things rolling again. He’s an 84-year-old Shakespearean actor, who has trouble remembering that, while trickery works out on the stage, it can have serious consequences in real life.  A big help to a stalled plot!

Another favorite is Tess Zumwalt. Tess is a former FBI agent, a graphology expert. She’s quiet and soft-spoken, someone people tend to overlook, a quality she uses to her advantage. She was in the background in the first couple of Jennie Connors mysteries and came into her own in By Whose Hand when an illegal funds transfer prompted a murder and the only clues were some notes Jennie found in a trashcan. Tess is the perfect foil to Nate’s bravado and good person to have around if you’re an amateur sleuth.

Another character I have a special affection for is Caroline Morrow, a peace activist who found a baby in a basket when she went to a folk fest. She adopted the baby, named her Peace, passed along her own Quaker values and … turn the page, 22 years go by  … Peace Morrow is all grown up, just in time for me to write Love and Not Destroy . I had fun writing this because it features an actual museum just up the street from where I live. Strange though it may seem to some, The Mercer Museum is more than a place; it’s a character in its own right.

I said I love my “bad guys” too. An Uncertain Path, the book that follows Love and Not Destroy, was a change of pace for me. It’s not a traditional mystery. The reader knows from the beginning whodunit. We watch Rachel Woodard commit the crime and see how it affects her, how it forces her to examine the impact of her actions on the people she loves. I told this story as a dual narrative, a format I’ve always enjoyed reading, but I wondered how readers would feel about my switching gears. So far, feedback has been good. (Huge sign of relief.)

Those are just a few of the individuals who started out as vague ideas and became real to me as I put them in difficult situations and gave them tough problems to solve. I could go on, but I won’t. The list is too long. That’s the beauty of writing – you meet a lot of interesting people – made according to your own specifications. That last statement is only partly true. More than once, a character has informed me that what I had planned for them wasn’t possible. It wasn’t true to their character. Interesting, since I had created their character in the first place.

Perhaps a more interesting list would be characters created by other authors. (Sounds like an idea for another post.)

How about you? Do you have a favorite fictional friend (or foe), either created by you or another author?

Put Out the Light http://a.co/9A3Ad61

By Whose Hand – http://a.co/dmlVdRb

Love and Not Destroy – http://a.co/30yaaP4

An Uncertain Path http://a.co/3wlVVlm

 

 

Introducing the Tea Ladies

April 25, 2020

Consider the Lilly is the book that introduced the Tea Ladies, six elderly women who set the tone of Riverview Manor, the retirement community where they live. I would say that I enjoyed creating them but, to tell the truth, I didn’t have a lot to do with their creation. They pretty much stood on my shoulders and told me who they were, what they would and would not do. At any rate, writing about them was a hoot. I can only hope readers have half as much fun reading about them.

About the story: Jennie Connor’s friend, Lilly, is in big trouble. Two patrons are poisoned while dining at her restaurant.  The police are busy with crowd control and don’t notice a shadowy figure climb down the arbor and slip away.  Jennie watches and wonders if Lilly’s daughter, Jasmine, is up to her usual teenage mischief.  Or is it something more sinister? 

While the press focuses on one of the victims, Phillip Jeffries, a junior high principal who’s made a lot of enemies during his career, Jennie learns that the other victim, teacher Leonard Atkinson, has his own dirty little secret. Jennie tries to sort it out, aided and abetted by the Tea Ladies. 

Here’s how the story begins:

Chapter One 

“Our stuff’s gonna be cold.”
     “Lilly’ll keep it warm for us.”
     “But we’re starving.”
     “You’re not starving.  You’re bored.”
     “You can say that again.”  Tommy put in his two cents. Up to now he’d let Andy do the whining for both of them.
     Jennie fed the last page of the report into the copier before she turned to her sons: nine-year-old Tommy and seven-year-old Andy. “Just a couple more minutes.  Then we’ll–”  
     Running footsteps sounded in the corridor.  Dr. Woodrow Samson flashed by.  Jennie sent up a prayer that Riverview’s elderly residents were all okay.  She had to know.  A glance at the machine told her the report was copied, just needed collating.
     “Tell you what, guys.  Help me gather my stuff and we’re outta here. I can finish at home.” 
She stopped at the desk.  “Woody passed the conference room in a rush. Everybody okay?”
     “Everybody here’s fine.  Something’s going on at Lilly’s though.”
 
Flashes of red, then blue, assaulted Jennie’s senses when she opened the door. She squinted against the dizzying succession of color and tried to get an unobstructed view of the restaurant across the alley. She looked at the kids. “You guys wait inside.”
     Maybe they didn’t hear. She knew that’s what they’d say.  At any rate, both boys darted past her, down the ramp leading to the parking lot. 
     Jennie caught up and grabbed them before they could cross the alley. “Hey, I said, ‘Wait.'”
     Andy, mesmerized by the swirling lights, didn’t comment.
Tommy tried to wiggle free, arguing, “You need us to help carry the stuff.”
      Jennie fought the impulse to rush over and check on Lilly. She glanced at the kids.  Maybe she could leave them at the desk with Karen.  Would they stay put?  Can’t risk it.
     She kept a firm hand on each boy’s shoulder and studied the commotion.
     Emergency personnel were shoving a gurney into an ambulance. A uniformed cop stood between the ambulance and a row of cars snugged against the back of the restaurant.  Across the lot, a Memphis police car blocked the exit. Another officer stood by the vehicle. Dozens of people milled about, alternately watching the activity around the ambulance and darting furtive glances toward the police.
     Jennie scanned faces, searching for Lilly Wainwright, co-owner and manager of the restaurant, and, more important, a close friend.  She spotted Ward Norris, Lilly’s self-appointed protector, but there was no sign of Lilly.  She looked toward the ambulance.  Was Lilly on that gurney?  One of her kids?  I have to find out.
     She kept a tight grip on her boys and approached the entrance to the parking lot.
     The policeman stepped forward, but didn’t speak.  He stood, arms akimbo, shaking his head.
     Jennie tried to explain. “That’s my friend’s restaurant.  I need to know if she’s okay.”
     “Sorry.” He was a squat, burly man, shorter than Jennie’s five foot, seven inches, but somehow managed to convey the feeling he was looking down on her small family.
     Tommy piped up, “What happened?”
     “Nothing that concerns you.”  The cop’s manner alarmed Jennie more than the emergency vehicles.
     A van with a TV station’s familiar blue and yellow logo rolled up.  A petite woman and a large man with an elaborate camcorder hopped out. Jennie recognized reporter Jill Newton.
     Apparently the cop did, too. The would-be Napoleon set his hat straight and tucked in his shirt before he sauntered toward the new arrivals.
     Jennie took advantage of the distraction to edge closer.
     The crowd parted and another gurney rolled out. A substantial female figure kept pace with the emergency workers who were maneuvering the gurney.
      There’s Lilly. Jennie expelled a breath she hadn’t known she was holding. At least it’s not her in the ambulance.  She tried to read the situation by watching Lilly.  She couldn’t make out words, but her friend’s posture and the movement of her hands said plenty.  This is serious.  One of the girls?  Jennie sent up a silent prayer, Please no, and gripped her sons’ hands tighter.
      The thought of Lilly’s daughters prompted Jennie to look toward the living quarters above the restaurant. A wide porch ran along the building’s second story.  Flood lights, directed into the parking lot, left the porch in shadow.  Something in the dim space behind the illuminated area caught her eye. A slender outline passed in front of one of the windows.
      Jasmine?  Probably.  What’s she up to? 
      Jennie used her hand to block the glare of the overheard lights and watched the silhouette glide forward, peer over the railing, move back, hesitate, then inch along, keeping flat against the wall.  At the porch’s edge, the apparition climbed over the railing and disappeared.
      Jennie looked toward the sturdy wooden arbor covering the brick sidewalk that led from the parking lot to the main entrance in front. Her view was blocked, but she could guess what was happening. Jasmine’s sneaking out. Should I tell Lilly?  Jennie hated to do anything to fuel the already fiery relationship between mother and daughter.  On the other hand– If it were my sixteen-year-old—
 
If you’d like to read the rest of the story, you’ll find it here:
Amazon:  http://amzn.to/phrUoW

Why I Read (as if I need a Reason!)

April 14, 2020

Now, during this time of social distancing, I’m grateful that I have a houseful of books and can’t help but reflect on the pleasures (yes, it does have to be plural–there are so many) I derive from reading. The most obvious is the joy of immersing myself in another world via the pages of a book, an experience as sensual as it is intellectual. Ideally, the house is quiet and I’m burrowed deep in my favorite chair with my feet up and a cozy quilt tucked around me. If there’s rain accompanied by a howling wind outside, so much the better. A hostile world outside my window generates a sense of isolation and pushes me deeper into another world–actually two other worlds.

My outer self luxuriates in the tactile sensation of the book in my hands as my eyes skim over a page covered by a series of funny little squiggles that, through the ages and the ingenuity of man, have been organized into something called writing. Each squiggle is a symbol that represents a sound. Grouped together, they form words. Combined with other words, they convey ideas, thoughts, emotions, knowledge and, in the best of times, wisdom. Surely, this is man’s most important invention. Compared to the written word, the wheel is trivial.

But my inner self takes this amazing accomplishment for granted. It is somewhere else entirely–maybe in the north of France with Emma Bovary, maybe in St. Mary Mead with Miss Marple or it may be in a graphic universe with a comic strip character. Even there, on the pages my brother and I used to call the funny papers, I find people who help me understand what it means to be human. They reassure me that I’m not alone in my frailty. I might be deep within the psyche of someone of a different gender, or with a different skin color. I can inhabit another continent–or another planet. I can live in another century–long past or far in the future. The possibilities are limitless.

In addition to the actual reading, there is the pleasure of shared ideas. There are literally thousands of groups who meet regularly to talk about books. I belong to two such groups, each completely different, both in personality and in our reading selections. Within each group, we read the same book, but when we come together to talk about it, our insights are different–sometimes subtly, sometimes radically. Each member brings a unique perspective to each book and in our discussions we talk about subjects that would never come up in an ordinary conversation. I come away from these discussions enriched. My horizons have expanded. I’ve been exposed to ideas that, were I denied the pleasure of reading and the companionship of my bookish friends, might never have occurred to me.

And yet, for all the practical advantages of reading, that’s not why I read. First and foremost, I read for pleasure–and cannot imagine my life without the joy it gives me.

Finding Peace

April 10, 2020


Caroline Morrow stood for a moment, watching the ebb and flow of the crowd. She couldn’t help being a tad skeptical of such universal good nature. Everyone was smiling and chattering, obviously pleased to be celebrating their heritage. And why not? Pennsylvania has a proud history and Bucks County is perhaps its proudest sector. The cosmos itself seemed to approve, having created a perfect day for the celebration. The concrete walls of the towering castle-like museum glowed in the sun. Bubbles in the old glass of mullioned windows captured light and became iridescent jewels. A cheerful melody in harmony with the bucolic scene floated through the air. A dog barking in the background was the only dissonant note. Except for the dog, everything was going according to plan. But what is it they say about plans? Especially best-laid plans? That dog changed everything.

Caroline tried to ignore the animal. She was usually quick to go to the aid of any creature in distress, but today she was taking a break from the things she usually did. She was tired. Bone tired. Worn out from what she’d begun to fear was a futile quest. She had marched in demonstrations, rung doorbells, made phone calls, signed petitions, camped on her congressperson’s office steps – in short, had devoted her life to the basic tenets of her Quaker faith. Did any of it make a difference? Most of the time she could convince herself that it did. But, last night, watching the news, something inside of her had snapped. From around the globe came story after story of horrors too brutal to comprehend. Life on the streets of her own city–the City of Brotherly Love, no less–was no better: children wielding deadly weapons, grown men shooting each other over a parking place, a wheelchair stolen off a front porch, a teenager delivering a pizza knifed for less than twenty dollars. The list went on. Unable to bear it, she switched off the TV and went to bed, telling herself the world would look brighter in the light of day.

It didn’t.

She ate her usual hearty breakfast, but it did nothing to satisfy the hunger in her soul. She looked ahead to her day and dreaded the bickering she knew would be a part of the Peace Initiative meeting – yes, even there, dissent prevailed. Sometime between washing the breakfast dishes and brushing her teeth, she made a decision. Today there would be no dealing with bureaucrats, no fighting for lost causes, no tiptoeing around oversized egos. Today, the only peace she planned to worry about was her own. She made a phone call, gave no reason, just said, “I’m sorry. I can’t make it today.” That’s how she came to be in a picture-perfect small town, listening to a sweet-faced young woman play country airs on a dulcimer while trying to ignore a barking dog. Not an easy thing, especially when the girl’s finger slipped and the melody went off key.

The dog paused, as though to get his breath, then resumed.

Murmurs rose from the crowd, merging with the bleating of sheep in the shearing area, the laughter of children at the puppet theater, the steady hum of the glassblower’s oven. The juggler dropped a club. The stilt-walker stumbled. But no one moved to help the animal.

An annoyed voice separated itself from the general restiveness. “Someone should do something.”

“Yes, they should,” Caroline said to no one in particular. “That poor animal needs help.” Unable to leave a task to a vague someone, she headed for the source of the distraction, the shed behind the museum.

The lean-to structure was filled with wagons and carriages from an earlier time. Caroline peered inside. After the brilliance of the summer day, objects in the shaded interior were a blur of indistinct shapes. She squinted and pressed against the rope that protected the antiques from too-curious visitors.

The dog stopped barking and looked at her.

The quiet that ensued seemed to Caroline almost palpable. The dog remained silent, staring at her, and, after a moment, comments from passersby reached her: “Thank goodness.” “It’s about time.” She ignored the voices and focused on the dog, almost lost in the shadows of the shed’s darkest corner.

The dog tilted its head, studying the strange woman.

She leaned over the rope.

The animal yipped a couple of times and put his nose in a basket that sat nearby.

There was a gurgling sound, soft as the flutter of a butterfly’s wings.

Dear God!

Caroline ducked under the rope and scrambled over the bed of a hay wagon to reach the corner where the dog stood guard. She scraped her elbow against the rough timber of the shed wall in her haste to reach the basket.

The dog stood, legs braced, ears at attention, watching.

She inched forward and held her hands near the animal’s muzzle.

He sniffed and moved aside.

Caroline took another step, bent over, and looked down into a small perfect face, wide trusting eyes, as blue as a summer day. A fuzz of rust-colored hair peeked from beneath a lace-trimmed cap. She held her breath and lifted the baby. The cap fell away, exposing tiny flat ringlets. Caroline placed the baby on her shoulder and felt the beating of its heart. She moved her head and savored the tickle of downy hair on the soft flesh under her chin.

A crowd gathered in front of the shed. Whispers became murmurs, then swelled into an excited babble. Someone yelled out: “Call the police.”

Caroline, oblivious, completely mesmerized by the child, lost all sense of time. She was surprised, almost outraged, when a thickset man in uniform appeared and put his hands out to take the baby from her. She half-turned, rotating away from him.

He sidestepped, making the circuit with her. “This your child, Ma’am?”

The dog moved, rigid as a clinched fist, between Caroline and the man.
The man glanced down at the dog, but did not retreat. “We need to check the baby, Ma’am. Make sure everything’s all right.”

The next hours went by in a blur. Caroline, usually the most precise of women, certainly not sentimental, was vague about most of the details. A few remained vivid, carved into her heart as though onto a stone tablet. She never forgot the ride to the hospital in the police car; sitting behind the officer with the baby in her arms; the basket on the seat beside her; and, most of all, the ache she’d felt when she relinquished the child to the doctor.

She recalled examining the contents of the basket while she waited. The small cap was white, made of fine linen. A band around the front was edged in lace and embroidered with daisies. She let her fingers caress the fabric and could tell that it was old. There was a pillow, embroidered with the same pattern as the cap and the words Peace be with you. A silver cup lay on its side near the pillow. It looked recently polished, its surface mirror-bright except for a small smudge. Caroline picked it up and rubbed the spot with her shirttail.

“Hey!” The policeman shouted and lurched toward her. “Don’t do that! There might be fingerprints. You’ll destroy them.”
She managed to wipe the cup clean before he grabbed it from her.

He was indignant. “Don’t you want to know who this baby belongs to?”

The doctor came back with the child before she could answer. “It’s a little girl,” he said. “I’d say she’s about a week old. And perfect.”

Perfect. Something Caroline Morrow already knew. Maybe she couldn’t save the world, but she could rescue this child. She understood all too well the red tape that would be involved: an investigation, forms to fill out, bureaucratic hoops to jump through, a waiting period, but ultimately, she vowed, the child would be hers. She looked down into the basket, at the pillow with its fine embroidery work and knew her daughter’s name: Peace Daisy Morrow. Her Peace.

NOTE: If you’re interested in learning what became of the baby in the basket, her story is continued in LOVE AND NOT DESTROY http://amzn.to/2GrB8yX  It’s on sale for .99 for a limited time.

Happy Independence Day

July 3, 2019


tags: Declaration of ndependenceFounding FathersFourth of July,George WashingtonLiberty BellThomas Jefferson

by Sandra Carey Cody

July 4After basics like food and shelter, I can’t think of anything more precious or more essential to the human spirit than independence. And there’s probably nothing more taken for granted by those who posses it. That’s too bad, a grievous sin. It’s also probably true that we here in the United States are more guilty of this sin than most. However, once a year we at least try to redeem ourselves; we set aside a day to remember our heritage and to celebrate it. Tomorrow is that day: the Fourth of July, the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the document that condenses into six paragraphs the ideals on which our nation was founded.

Many of us memorized the Declaration of Independence sometime during our school years and promptly forgot most of it. But some phrases are so powerful and so evocative of what we as a nation hope to be, that they remain locked in the recesses of our brains–phrases like: “decent respect to the opinions of mankind,” “self-evident that all men are created equal” and, of course: “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

I don’t think there’s ever been a time when it’s been more necessary to remember those words. At the moment, our country is so divided that the crack in our Liberty Bell seems ominously appropriate. I believe that differences in opinion are good and even necessary to create a society that embodies the ideals of that brilliant Declaration. If only we could remember the phrase “decent respect to the opinions of mankind” and listen to all opinions, even those with which we disagree. Not just listen, but actually consider that there might be some truth in a viewpoint different from our own. If all men are created equal, shouldn’t all men (and women and children) be allowed to express their opinion? But perhaps not quite so vociferously. A little civility goes a long way.

The times may seem bleak, but history reminds me that this is not new. There has always been conflict among men, especially during periods of change. I understand that even the men we so lovingly call our Founding Fathers lost their tempers and shouted at each other from time to time. The story goes that George Washington wondered if he was witnessing a rising or a setting sun. So, maybe things are not as bad as they seem.

Go forth and celebrate your Life and Liberty. Pursue Happiness.

An Uncertain Path – an excerpt

May 7, 2019

A short excerpt to the second Peace Morrow novel, AN UNCERTAIN PATH:

“Peace had known since she was a toddler that she was adopted and couldn’t remember a time when she hadn’t been curious about her biological roots. She’d grown up part of the Quaker community in Philadelphia, attending the Green Street Meeting on Sundays and, from kindergarten through eighth grade, had gone to their school. She and her classmates were a racially mixed group, her education one that stressed respect for all people and conflict mediation rather than the more aggressive behavior she’d come to know existed in the rest of the world. It was a good life, idyllic in many ways. Peace knew this and was grateful, but it didn’t stop her from wanting a family−a big family with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins−the whole nine yards, as they say. Now, her wish granted, she had a family−and was about to meet them. “Be careful what you wish for.” How often her mother had said that to her and how foolish she’d thought it at the time.

“She remembered Holly’s words: “You’ll like them once you get to know them.”

“But will they like me? She thought of all those smiling faces in the photo album, the elaborate birthday cakes topped with candles, the picnics, the hammock filled with laughing children, and, most of all, the posed shots of multiple generations in front of a Christmas tree. Christmas. Two more weeks. This one promised to be different from others she’d known. Last year, she and Caroline had donated money to purchase a door and a window for a local Habitat for Humanity project. The year before, they’d funded a flock of chickens for Heifer International. This year, at Caroline’s suggestion, they’d be joining Peace’s new-found family in their traditional gift-giving and attending Christmas Eve service at the church that Holly attended. Would Peace fit into this different tradition? Did she want to?”

Maybe you’ve read LOVE AND NOT DESTROY, the book that introduced Peace Morrow. If so, you know how she longed to know more about her roots and how conflicted she was when she discovered the first hints of her biological family. If you want to know what happened when she finally met the family and to travel with her the uncertain path that opened before them, you’ll want to check out AN UNCERTAIN PATH. http://a.co/d/5Vneh02

Let There Be Light

December 10, 2018

Chinese Candle in a temple

This time of year, though the hours of daylight are so few, the world seems filled with extra light. The shops are full of decorations in every shape, color, and configuration imaginable and most of the decorations feature light in some form – and it’s not just the shops. I’m doing my bit with candles in my windows. My neighbor’s window is graced with a menorah–more candles. 

The candles displayed by my neighbor and me are just two examples of the traditions honored at this time of  year as many of us prepare for the celebration of a special day – Christmas–or Hanukkah–or–Kwanzaa–or–Ramadan–or some holiday unknown to me, but precious to someone.  Mid-winter is a time of holidays, each with a distinct set of customs and a unique manner of observance. Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are celebrated with special meals and the giving of gifts. The food served and the gifts given vary according to the tradition being honored, but in each, they are chosen to remind celebrants of a their heritage. 

Ramadan follows the opposite path by observing the special time with fasting instead of feasting. And yet, even in this completely different tradition, there runs a common thread. All of the holidays involve at least some level of introspection. Underlying all the festivities, all the customs, both merry and solemn, there is a call to examine our innermost selves, to find out and declare what it is that makes our tradition unique. Paradoxically, in doing this, we come  face to face with other traditions and the realization that they are important to those who celebrate them and, with that, comes an awareness of the need for understanding.

Many celebrations throughout the year involve light (colored lights, candles, crackling logs, fireworks), but this is especially true of those that come in midwinter when night falls so quickly. Could this be because these holidays are so close to the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, we feel a need to light the darkness? Are our candles really symbols of the light we find when we seek within and our need to proclaim it to the world? I feel sure that they are and it occurs to me that this need to proclaim is akin to the force that compels writers to write, painters to paint, and composers to compose. It’s the artist’s need to illuminate, to direct a beacon that shines so brightly we cannot fail to see it. But I believe it’s more than that. I believe it’s the need of every human being to have his/her special light recognized and acknowledged, a proclamation  of a common humanity that far outweighs superficial differences. 

So, I salute and thank all of you who light candles–whatever type of candle you choose and for whatever reason. Let there be candles – millions of candles of diverse size and shape and color–to celebrate our commonality. Let us put our candles together and keep the darkness at bay.

What I’m Reading Now

December 1, 2018

Actually, I just finished two books (which I read simultaneously, not my usual habit):

THE PEOPLE by Bernard Malamud – This book had been sitting on my TBR shelf for a number years. I put off reading it because I knew there was no ending. It’s the book Malamud was working on when he died of a heart attack in 1986. I found the book at a library book sale and, being a great admirer of his work, I grabbed it. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized it was an unfinished novel. Would I have bought it if I had known that? Probably. As I said, I’m a great admirer of his writing. He tackles important issues of what it means to be human. As such, he’s often dealing with tragedy, but somehow manages to infuse his writing with humor and, for me at least, to show his fellow humans as flawed, but not beyond hope. This novel is set in the nineteenth century and The People referred to in the title are Native Americans. The hero (he did seem a hero to me) is a Jewish peddler who is adopted as their leader and, as such, takes on the suffering of the tribe and has to deal with the brutalities and lies of the government. A number of short stories round out the volume. I haven’t read all of them yet, but the ones I have read confirm my belief in the genius and humanity of Bernard Malamud.

THE FIFTH SEASON (Part 1 of The Broken Earth trilogy) by N. K. Jemisin – This was a completely serendipitous find for me – a gift from an old friend. It’s science fiction/fantasy/dystopian, not my usual genre. My friend recommended it as well-written and thought-provoking (which it is) and challenged me to step outside my comfort zone (which I did). I’m glad I did. By the way, I had to look up DystopianI had only a vague idea of the meaning of the term. A simple definition is opposite of Utopianan apt description of this book. Maybe that’s why I don’t usually choose this genre. However, as I said, I am glad my friend nudged me into reading THE FIFTH SEASON. I tend to be an optimist (despite the current state of our planet) and seeing just how wrong things can go makes me uncomfortable – not a bad thing for a book to do. I found the landscape described in the story disturbing, but not beyond the stretch of my imagination. I always read a book hoping that, no matter bad things are, they will work out in the end. Since I’ve read only the first of the trilogy, I don’t know the ultimate fate of the characters or the world they inhabit but, frankly, it does not look good at this point. I’m putting off reading the other two volumes until after Christmas.

So much for the books I just finished. What am I reading now? I stepped back into my comfort zone with THE BRUTAL TELLING by Louise Penny. It’s part of a series that I love and I don’t understand why I hadn’t already read this book. As always, I’m enjoying time spent in Three Pines – a place where, despite the incidence of murders that take place there, restores my faith in humanity’s innate goodness.

How about you? Anyone care to share what you’re reading? Any recommendations?

Coming Soon – Author Expo

October 24, 2018

Heads-up of a coming event. This is the second Author Expo the Bucks County Library System has sponsored. I participated last year and had  a fun-filled afternoon. I met some new-to-me authors and connected with some dear friends I hadn’t seen for a while. The library was packed with writers eager to talk about stories – those already written and those still emerging – not just their own, but also those of their fellow writers. The range of conversations in which I participated and overheard was astounding – and inspiring.

I’ve always loved libraries. I’ve watched them change and adapt as the times changed. I’m impressed with how modern libraries bustle with activity and creative energy – very different from the libraries of my childhood. Those were quiet, almost reverent, places. I savored their hushed atmosphere. To me, it was as sacred as any church. Do I regret the changes? No. The really important things haven’t changed. The library is still the place to go if you want to immerse yourself in the thoughts and ideas of the greatest minds, the wildest imaginations, the wackiest senses of humor, past and present, that our planet has produced.

So … I hope those of you who are in the Bucks County, PA area will drop by on November 3. Everyone else, I hope you can find time to visit your local library, wherever it may be. There’s sure to be something interesting going on.