Tag Archive for: War and Peace

Lasting Fiction–7 Books That Matter Most to Me

By Kay Kendall

I can’t recall when I wasn’t
surrounded by books, even when my age was in single-digit years. I had a strict
time for lights-out but always wanted to keep reading. One year someone gave me
a small pin-on Santa. It lit up when I pulled a string dangling from Santa’s
beard and provided enough light for reading under the covers. Fortunately,
Santa’s battery lasted for months and months. This made me so happy, although
it’s a miracle I didn’t ruin my eyesight.

These memories illustrate how
important books have been for me, like, forever. I once told my mother
that “books are my friends.” I felt silly saying it, but years later she recounted
my words back to me. Both of my parents were great readers. Unusual for their
generation—the Greatest—both graduated from college. My father continued his quest for learning throughout his life, while my mother devoted herself
to fiction.

A few years ago, I came across my
baby book, bound in pink leather. On one page, space was provided to answer this
was baby’s first statement about religion?

My mother filled in the answer: “At the age of
two years, my daughter asked if Jesus went to college.”

Oh yes indeed, books and book
learning were inculcated early in me.

Like many of us who are inveterate
readers, I’ve encountered many favorite books over the years. I could probably
rattle off one hundred right off the top of my head. Recently I attempted to
winnow the list down to those that have stuck with me—those that left
lasting memories—and boiled that list down to seven. Here are the first five, in
the order that I read them:

Black Beauty by English author Anna Sewell, published 1877
Little Women by American author Louisa May Alcott, published 1868
Jane Eyre by
Charlotte Bronte, published 1847
Anna Karenina by
Russian author Leo Tolstoy, published 1878
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by
British author John le Carré, published 1974

Each of these novels I’ve read at least three times, with the exception of Anna Karenina, read only twice. (After all, it is by far the longest on my list.) Since I adhere to the motto of “so many books so little time,” I rarely reread anything. These five stand out because I devoured each of them many times. And even today, when paging through them,
I stop at passages that astonish me. The words leap off the pages and seem to
shout, “See. See. THIS is why I grabbed you and will never release you from my
clutches. You STILL believe in these things.”

Horse crazy as a young girl, I read many
books about horses, but only Black Beauty
had staying power. Its message of kindness to all creatures great and small was
important in my grade school years. The American classic of Little Women gave me a heroine named Jo
March with whom I could relate. Not her three sisters—they were too sweet or
dazzling or bossy. Then around age eleven, the adventurous Gothic romance of Jane Eyre swept me away.  I never looked for my own Heathcliff—oh no,
not him—but searched instead for my own Mr. Rochester. And I found him, dear
reader, I found him.  
To prepare for my SAT exams and for
college, I read classic literary novels in high school. I tried Anna Karenina then but could not get
past the first twenty pages. In my twenties I tried again, and that time it
took. I also read the great War and Peace,
and it was almost a toss-up for which I loved more, but poor Anna with her sad
tale won out. For anyone who has never read Tolstoy, I recommend that you begin
with something short to see if his precision writing draws you in. Try
The Death of Ivan
, a novella considered a masterpiece of Tolstoy’s late
fiction. What the author sees, understands, and describes is sheer brilliance,
even in translation.
The only
contemporary novel of my first five is my favorite spy story of all time, by my
favorite living author,
le Carré
. On first reading I could scarcely understand
it. There were too many code words and triple dealing and nothing was as it
seemed. I couldn’t even understand the ending—I was that confused. When I
reread it a year later, then I began to “get it.” The depth of deception
on both political and personal levels was astounding, and the puzzles were
dazzling. I have read le
Carré’s  masterwork several
more times for sheer pleasure.
All five of
these works I watch again and again as new versions come out for the screen. I
am particularly picky when I watch Jane
. No actress ever lives up to my vision of the heroine, although there
are some darned good Rochester’s, mind you. Conversely, actresses who play the
role of Anna Karenina have never disappointed me. Well, let’s face it. My
favorite book, ever, is Jane Eyre,
and nothing can compete on the screen with what I see in my own imagination.
Finally, in a somewhat different category
are books six and seven. These are seminal works—ones that contain the seeds of
later development. My own later development, to be exact. One inspired me to
try writing for the first time, and much, much later the other encouraged me to write
historical mysteries. These two are
“A Visit from St. Nicholas” by American
academic Clement Moore, first published anonymously in the Troy, New York Sentinel on December 23, 1823, and

by British author Jacqueline Winspear, published in 2003.
Even when I could read, my grandfather read
the beloved Christmas poem to me every holiday season. When we weren’t together, he read it to me over the phone. To this day I love its language and
can recall most of its lines. When I was seven, I wrote and illustrated my own
version, paying special care to decorate the opening line, “Twas the night
before Christmas when all through the house….” Then for decades I proceeded to
write and write and write some more, but none of it was fiction. Instead I
wrote a graduate thesis and then media releases, annual reports, and the like
for corporations and educational institutions during my PR career. While I sometimes longed to write novels, I didn’t think I had anything worthwhile to say.
Finally in 1998, I began my first attempt, empowered by a seminar for women
leaders in Texas.
While that completed manuscript will stay
hidden in a drawer forever, my next effort was successfully published. My historical
mystery, Desolation Row, was directly
inspired by Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs. That
debut book in her mystery series contains the critical elements I now try to
incorporate in my own mysteries—a tough yet tender female sleuth, an exciting
period of history for the setting, and crimes committed out of deep personal
anguish. . . . So, now that I’ve told you about the books that have lasted for me, do you know which ones did that for you? Please do share your comments below. I would love to know.

Read the first 20 pages of Kay Kendall’s second mystery, RANY DAY WOMEN here! http://www.austinstarr.com/ 
That book won two awards at the Killer Nashville conference in August 2016—for best mystery/crime and also for best book.  Her first novel about Austin Starr‘s sleuthing, DESOLATION ROW, was a finalist for best mystery at Killer Nashville in 2014. Visit Kay on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/KayKendallAuthor

Juliana Aragon Fatula Stands with Standing Rock

Save the Water Save the People

Here is my news: I’ve been selected as a finalist in the High Plains Book Award for Poetry in Billings, Montana. I’m so excited for the road trip. I’ve never been to Montana.

I want to win, of course, claro que si! However, I’m a finalist! I’m thrilled to be one of a handful of regional poets who will battle for the prize.

We should have a dance off and whoever dances the longest and the best, wins. I’d win that contest for sure. I love to dance. I love to sing. I love to stand on stage and quote Shakespeare.

Why can’t I ever play Hamlet. Why do I get to play the maid, the cook, the Indian, the Mexican, the wino, the drug dealer, the homeless woman, the homeless man. Why do directors cast me as the drug addicted, pregnant single parent teenager?

I accepted those roles because I was so thrilled to be doing what I love and getting paid to perform. However, in 1995 that all changed. I toured the world with my friends and we performed for the Department of Defense in los azores, Sicily, diego Garcia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Three Denver, Colorado Chicanos: the Latin Locomotions arrived in Kuwait and shuffled to the exit. We though someone in uniform would be at the airport to collect us, our luggage, and Manuel’s guitars.

The base sent a woman in civilian clothing to retrieve us. She searched the crowd for three Chicagoans. Typo, easy mistake, who knows but we missed our ride.

We suddenly felt panicky. The airport security were dressed in the traditional white from top to bottom.  They were packing M-16s. They looked like Chicanos. We smiled. They remained stoic.

We didn’t speak Arab, we had no Arab money, no telephone number for the base.

We searched for an airport employee who spoke English. We ran into a man who smiled when he saw us. He smiled from ear to ear. He said, “Hello.”

We said, “Help! Please?”

He took us to his office, he gave us water and fruit, and asked us where we were from. He recognized that we were Chicano, not Chicagoans, or Arabs. When we told him we were from Colorado. He slapped his knee and said, “I graduated from Ft. Collins Colorado State University!” He asked what our plans were in Kuwait.

When we told him we were entertainers. We told him we were visiting for Hispanic Awareness month in October and we were performing on base the next day. He became animated and waving his hands in the air. I saw Chicano Theatre in Ft. Collins, Denver, and Pueblo. I loved it. Can you sing some songs for us.

By then the entire office surrounded us and we had our first audience. We called our agent in Denver. She called the base and sent a ride to pick us up.

We said good bye to our new friends and were never so happy to arrive on base and settle in for the night. We slept in the barracks with the soldiers; the showers and toilets were down the walk, five barracks down the walk.

I’ve had some interesting experiences and traveled from the mountains of Colorado to the volcanos in Sicily, to the Mediterranean, to the Persian Gulf and to the Indian Ocean. I learned about other cultures, languages, food, and I experienced the joy of giving back to the men and women who protect us back in the states.

Everywhere we travelled and performed the locals would attend even if they didn’t speak English they enjoyed the music and dancing.

The soldiers both men and women were welcoming, appreciative, and very friendly. We were taken on short site seeing trips during the day and performed every night we weren’t travelling. We had no crew, no techies, nada. The soldiers were our crew. The men and women offered to carry speakers, guitar cases, and stayed to strike after the show.

I learned about the Arabs and the Persians, and Sicilians, and the Portuguese, and the natives of Madagascar. And what I learned is that music is the language that communicates, peace, love, understanding, soul, and fun. The soldiers and the locals danced at our performances. And when we had a night off, they took us dancing in their clubs. I met merchant sailors and Brits in Diego Garcia and fought off their drunken fumbles to get me to dance with them. But never did anyone do anything inappropriate. 

We met people from all over the U.S. but we also met Chicanos from Denver, Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Alamosa, and they were our biggest fans and wanted to thank us for singing corridos and telling cuentos about their people. Hispanic Awareness Month in the military in 1995 during peace time.

Today, we have someone who wants to deport people of color, ban Muslims, and wants to use Nuclear Weapons, water boarding torture and stop and frisk. He wants to divide our country. I say, we unite and show him we are the United States, not the Divided and segregated United States.

Please, hug your neighbor, kiss your children, help your coworkers and begin to see people, human beings, souls.  The differences between cultures makes us interesting, unique, educational. Why fear the unknown? Embrace our otherness.

Don’t build walls and plow through the reservations of the Standing Rock Sioux, stop hating, stop fearing, stop. Just stop and listen to Muslims, Catholics, Atheists, Brown people, Asians, African Americans and learn from one another. And when they tell you what offends them, tell them you didn’t know and apologize.

Time Flies When You’re Having fun

By Evelyn David

I love Mark Twain. I was thinking of writing a blog on
procrastination and found his thoughts on the matter: Never put off until
tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.

Of course, finding clever quotations is one of my favorite
forms of procrastination, so there you have it.

When we first began The Stiletto Gang (five years next
January!), I wrote a blog about playing Free Cell, http://tinyurl.com/freecellblog. It
was all about procrastination, guilt, and the writer’s spirit.

You’ll be glad to know I haven’t played Free Cell in at
least three years.

But have you ever played Lexulous? It’s a Scrabble-type game
and I justify playing it by saying it improves my vocabulary. The problem is I
now know a plethora of new words (and by the way I knew the word plethora
before playing Lexulous) – but I have no idea what they mean. Za? Wo? Xi?

Anyway, I was feeling guilty again (and we all, by all I mean family,
friends, and even complete strangers, agree that Guilt is Marian’s middle name).
Tempus Fugit, etc.

But then I had this conversation with a friend which
suddenly made my playing Lexulous not only perfectly acceptable, but in fact,
part of the creative process. She explained that when she confronted her husband about his playing Backgammon online (and I do think that is a classier game than Lexulous), he said that while he plays, it may look like he’s wasting time, but actually it frees his mind to wander and see things in new, creative ways. She assured me that since I was a “creator,” I too had permission to play Lexulous for hours at a time.
Okay, she didn’t actually suggest that I could play for hours at a time — but it did give me the permission I needed to indulge in a little wordplay. It’s probably how War and Peace got written.
I then got to thinking about the larger issue. Why did I need permission in order to procrastinate? Was I worried that people would think I was a goof off? (And the answer is yes, I was worried about that). But generally speaking I’m not frustrated by the pace of my life. I get the important things done. Sure I’d like to write a new mystery in four weeks, but to a certain extent, I can’t push my whodunnit muse until she’s ready to move. Yes, sometimes it helps to put something down on paper, anything, and then revise. Sometimes it’s just the spark you need to get things underway. But often, you need time, uninterrupted time, to let your mind explore new, exciting ways to create devilish murder and mayhem.
So if you see me tapping away at my computer, it may indeed be the next Brianna or Maggie or Mac mystery — or it could be me letting my mind wander.
What’s your favorite form of procrastination?
Marian, the Northern half of Evelyn David 

Zoned for Murder – Kindle (Exclusive at Amazon this month)
Trade Paperback

Brianna Sullivan Mysteries – e-book series
I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries- KindleNookSmashwords
The Dog Days of Summer in Lottawatah- KindleNookSmashwords
The Holiday Spirit(s) of Lottawatah- KindleNookSmashwords
Undying Love in Lottawatah- KindleNookSmashwords
A Haunting in Lottawatah – KindleNookSmashwords
Lottawatah Twister – KindleNookSmashwords
Missing in Lottawatah – KindleNookSmashwords
Good Grief in Lottawatah – KindleNookSmashwords

The Ghosts of Lottawatah – trade paperback collection of the Brianna e-books
Book 1 – I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries (includes the first four Brianna e-books)
Book 2 – A Haunting in Lottawatah (includes the 5th, 6th, and 7th Brianna e-books)

Sullivan Investigations Mystery
Murder Off the Books KindleNookSmashwordsTrade Paperback
Murder Takes the Cake KindleNookSmashwordsTrade Paperback
Riley Come Home (short story)- KindleNookSmashwords
Moonlighting at the Mall (short story) – KindleNookSmashwords

Love Lessons – KindleNookSmashwords