Why I Write – Reason #1

fal bed.jpgWhy I Write – Reason #1: So I don’t fall out of bed at night.
At least, that’s my working theory. You see, this month I haven’t had time to write. My mom, who has lived with us for the past three years, has dementia that advanced to the point where we needed to find her a place to live where she could receive professional care. Getting this in place absorbed all my time and energy this month.

As a result, my story brain went into overload. The other night I struggled to free myself from gunmen (in a dream), but discovered my feet bound with a belt. I cut my bonds with a knife, but my legs still wouldn’t move. I had to will my body to roll over to avoid getting shot by my pursuers. The next thing I knew I was on the floor next to our bed with my husband looking down on me, asking if I was okay.

So if I don’t return your call or email right away in the next few weeks, it’s because I’m busy writing so that I won’t fall out of bed at night.

 

 

 

Categories: authors, books, inspiration | 4 Comments

Author Visit to Kennedy Middle School

 
Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 2.46.53 AMLast week I spent a day and a half at Kennedy Middle School in Cupertino  sharing with their  6th grade students (500 of them in groups of 60 at a time!) about my Ancient Elements series of books, The Bronze Dagger, The Alabaster Jarand The Sliver Coin. They also got to see and touch my ancient artifacts. What a sharp and delightful group of students! In sharing about the writing process, I talked about how becoming a writer was always one of my dreams, and compared having a dream or a passion to the process of making a hard boiled egg.  After discussing the comparison, I asked students to put this quote from Carl Sandburg in their own words, “Nothing happens unless first a dream.” One 6th grader said, “It means that when you have a dream about something it’s usually beyond what you think you can do, but if you really want it, having a dream helps you push past the hard things to make it happen.” I then asked students to share some of their dreams. They included becoming one of the fastest runners, becoming an inventor, an engineer, a teacher, and a writer, among other dreams.

chasing_dreams_10-15One student came in wearing this top. She was delighted when she heard one of our topics was about having a dream. I was disappointed I couldn’t take her picture because of privacy issues, but she surprised me when I returned to the school the following day by bringing in the top and letting me take a picture of it without her in it!

 

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A Scout from the 1944 Rising

Marie and Halina 2016

This past Saturday I met Halina Butler at a Polish Festival I was invited to in Martinez, CA. At the festival I shared about my book, Rising Hope, which takes place in Warsaw, Poland during WWII. I learned that Halina was a 15-year-old Girl Guides bicycle messenger during the 1944 Rising in Warsaw, Poland when the Scouts tried to help the Polish Underground Army rid Warsaw of the occupying Germans during WWII.

In Rising Hope I weave the lives of historical people in with fictional characters. I have talked to one Polish Scout from this time period over the phone, but Halina was the first Scout survivor from the Rising I’ve had the privilege of meeting in person. What a precious moment. Her eyes twinkled and she squeezed my hand as I told her daughter about my book. I told her daughter that in all the research I’ve done about the Scouts who survived those dark days, they were always praised as heroes, but when survivors were interviewed they always said, “We only did what had to be done.” Halina squeezed my hand extra hard and my eyes watered as she simply nodded her head and replied, “That’s right. We just did what we had to do.”

Halina extended an invitation for tea at her home at a future date, which I gladly accepted. In my desire to “bring the past to life” for today’s youth, it’s such a wonderful experience when I get to meet someone in person who lived during the time I’m writing about!

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Turkey’s Border Crisis

This week I’ve continued work on the third book of the Ancient Elements series, The Phoenician Coin, as the main character, Sam, nears his goal of finding his Uncle Zim in Tyre. Sam’s father, Dagon, also takes further steps toward his goal of seeking revenge on Sam and Sam’s uncle (Dagon’s brother) for the misfortunes Dagon believes they have caused him. As I completed a chapter that saw Dagon and his Babylonian caravan travel west and then south from the area now known as northern Syria, drawing closer to his destination of Tyre, I included the caravan’s course on this map, as seen below.

Dagon'sRoute

Then, just this morning, I saw the geographic area I’m writing about come to life as I viewed the news. Today’s news took me to a picture from two weeks ago that shows a man carrying a girl as Syrians fled the war in their town of Tal Abyad in northern Syria and tried to pass through a broken down border fence to enter Turkish territory illegally. This occurred near Akcakale’s border crossing (Akcakale forms a divided city with Syria’s Tal Abyad) on June 14 (BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images). If you look at the modern-day map of this area and compare it with Dagon’s caravan route, you can see that the towns of Tel Aybad and Akcakale are just north of Dagon’s route.

Map_of_Akcakale_and_Tell_Abyad

Here’s an image of Syrians from Tal (Tel) Abyad trying to cross over into Turkey two weeks ago

Screen Shot 2015-06-27 at 10.50.11 AM

This morning, I viewed a VOA news clip showing that, as of June 25, these refugees began to return to Tal Abyad, since coalition bombings and fighting from the Kurds and Syrian rebel forces helped to oust ISIS from Tal Abyad. (The pic from the video is not a hot link. Here is the video link: http://www.voanews.com/media/video/syrian-refugees-return-to-tal-abyad/2837176.html).

Syrians returnI miss teaching social studies to middle school students, especially when current events relate to areas covered in the curriculum. Students study ancient civilizations, including this area of Ancient Mesopotamia, during 6th grade social studies. Since I’m not in the classroom anymore unless I get to do an author visit, I relish the opportunity to write books for this age group, such the Ancient Elements series.

If you haven’t read book one of the Ancient Elements series, The Bronze Dagger, we’re having a drawing of three free books July 25 for those who enter below. If you’ve read it, send the link and encourage a friend to enter. Book two, The Alabaster Jar, is now in the design stage as the publisher works on the cover. Hopefully The Alabaster Jar will be out by the end of July. Book three, The Phoenician Coin, should wrap up its writing stage by mid-July, then move on to the editing stage, with a possible publication date by the end of the year. Sign up below to enter the free drawing, and encourage friends to do the same!

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Blog Hop – The Silver Coin

BD height330Ever heard of a Blog Hop? No, it’s not a new dance. I’m joining one today where several writers post 400 words or less from their current, unpublished “work in progress”, and then view and comment positively on several of the posted blogs. Below is mine for this Fiction Friday Blog Hop. It’s from the third and final book in my middle grade historical fiction series, Ancient Elements, titled The Phoenician Coin, set during the time of Hammurabi (1780’s BC). We don’t have a cover designed yet for book three, and book two’s cover is still in the design phase, so I’ll use book one’s cover as a placeholder.

coin_boatBefore long, five men with long hair and short beards descended the ladder. Each had a sword strapped to his waist. Like most of the Phoenician sailors, the Mycenaeans had bare chests and wore kilts.

            The sick Phoenician captain struggled to his feet and approached one of the Mycenaeans. “I am the captain of this ship,” he said. “State your business here.”

            The Mycenaean unsheathed his sword and placed its tip underneath the captain’s chin. “You ain’t the captain here no more,” the short, stocky man said. “We’re pirating this ship and loading all of your goods onto our vessel. If you’re smart, you won’t put up a fight.”

            The young woman cried out. “Are you going to leave us stranded out here on the Great Sea?”

            The Mycenaean laughed and waved his sword in the air. “Oh, no, lady. We have other plans for you. You’ll all soon be slaves of rich Mycenaeans!” The stocky man laughed again and then turned to the other four pirates with him. “Load all of this cargo onto our ship. Make these passengers help. If they give you any trouble, run ‘em through with your blades.”

            Sam and Keret, along with the other passengers and Phoenician crewmen helped the Mycenaean pirates carry the cargo of jars, ivory and crates up the ladder and onto the Mycenaean ship. A heavy fog hung in the air, restricting vision beyond a few yards, but the winds and the rains had stopped.  

            As the last of the cargo and passengers boarded the Mycenaean ship, the stocky Mycenaean shouted to one of his men who still remained on the Phoenician ship. “Burn it all.”

            Sam watched as a clean-shaven Mycenaean torched the Phoenician ship’s sail, its rigging and the wicker railings.

            The Mycenaean captain laughed and addressed his prisoners. “This way, there’ll be no record of what happened to you. By the time people realize you’re missing, you’ll all be slaves of Greek merchants or landowners. And I’ll be that much richer!”

            A loud crash, followed by a jolt, interrupted the Mycenaean pirate’s gloating, almost knocking him off his feet. Sam turned to see a warship pulled up alongside the Mycenaean vessel. A large ramming device on the front of the warship had punched a hole through the side of the Mycenaean ship.

Christian Fiction Friday is a weekly blog hop where authors post short (400-word or less) snippets from their current works in progress. It is hosted by Alana Terry and Hallee Bridgeman. – See more at: http://www.hallee.bridgemanfamily.com/#sthash.YrDWdniq.7VOY7TqL.dpuf

To enter a drawing for a free copy of Ancient Elements Book One, The Bronze Dagger, sign up below. Three names will be drawn July 25, 2015.

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Polish Festival in Belmont, CA

AdultDancersPicMark, Mom and I had a great time Saturday at the PolCA Polish Heritage Festival in Belmont, CA. We enjoyed Polish folk dancing, music, and food. I got to meet the Consul General of Poland in LA, Mariusz M. Brymor, who received a copy of Rising Hope, my historical fiction book about the Polish Scouts’ part in helping to overthrow the Germans in Warsaw during WWII.

I was delighted to see that the Polish Society of California had a copy of Rising Hope at their booth, along with other books about Poland in English and in Polish.Anna_Girl_Guide_2015

I especially enjoyed meeting Polish-American Scouts that helped out at the festival, including a leader named Anna. We talked about Scouts that fought in Poland during WWII, and about the current Polish uniforms worn here in the United States. Anna even agreed to let me take a picture of her in her gray uniform. She was delighted to receive a copy of Rising Hope because she is preparing a talk for her group of Polish-American Scouts about the history of Scouting in Poland.

Mom especially enjoyed the Polish band with an accordion because she taught accordion in Milwaukee, WI before we moved to CA in 1963 (she ran a music store in WI from the age of 17). Mark especially enjoyed the food! Last week I made Bigos for the first time, a traditional Polish dish. Can’t wait for my next festival! Enjoy a bit of Polish culture by viewing one or more of the 10 to 50 sec. video clips linked below.

childrenFolkDancing

MusicGpAccdionPicAdultDancersPic

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Free Books for School Libraries

books in library

A friend recently emailed me with this picture taken in her school’s library to show that Rising Hope and The Bronze Dagger were available for their students to check out. I decided to offer a book of one or both titles to the first eight schools that  request them for their school libraries. Just send in a request to sign up for my newsletter and I will contact you to obtain the necessary information.

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Bringing the Past to Life – Attack on the Ancient City of Palmyra

Friday, 5/15/15

A picture taken on March 14, 2014 shows a partial view of the ancient oasis city of Palmyra, 215 kilometres northeast of Damascus. From the 1st to the 2nd century, the art and architecture of Palmyra, standing at the crossroads of several civilizations, married Graeco-Roman techniques with local traditions and Persian influences. AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH EID        (Photo credit should read JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

This morning when I read this news post, I felt like someone punched me in the stomach:

Islamic State fighters on Thursday reached the outskirts of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, one of the most important cultural heritage sites in the Middle East.

“If I.S. enters Palmyra, it will spell its destruction,” Syria’s director of antiquities, Maamoun Abdulkarim, told Agence France-Presse. “If the ancient city falls, it will be an international catastrophe.”

Palmyra lies at the crossroads of several ancient empires, and is packed with the ruins of 1st and 2nd century temples…”

Six months ago, the name Palmyra meant nothing to me, but, since December, I’ve so entrenched myself in researching this area that my visceral reaction took my breath away.

The final book in my Ancient Elements middle grade historical fiction series (The Silver Coin) follows the main character’s adventures from Egypt (the setting for book two, The Alabaster Jar, coming this fall), to Tyre in Phoenicia as he searches for his uncle. In book three, Sam, now fifteen, sails from Egypt to Crete with his friend Keret where they must escape the clutches of King Minos. Sam and Keret then sail to the island of Cyprus and finally on to Tyre. Meanwhile, Sam’s father, Dagon, recently released from a Babylonian jail, joins a caravan traveling to Tyre in hopes of finding his brother, Zim, and his son, Sam. Unknown to Sam, Sam and his uncle hold the keys to a treasure box that promises to make Dagon an extremely rich man.

That’s where the city of Palmyra comes in. In researching the route I wanted Dagon’s caravan to take, I considered having them travel through the ancient city of Palmyra. I learned that some caravans in 1780 BC took this faster, shorter desert route through Palmyra as they travelled from Babylon to Tyre, but others chose the easier trek that followed the Euphrates River north from Babylonia through the kingdoms of Mari and Yamhad, and then west to the Mediterranean Sea and south to Phoenicia. I opted against the desert trek through Palmyra, but not until I had researched this ancient crossroads from the east to the west. Here’s a map I created of Dagon’s route. Notice Palmyra located in the kingdom of Qatna, an oasis in the desert crossroads between Babylonia and the Phoenician coast.

Dagon'sRoute2

A picture taken on March 14, 2014 shows the sanctury of Baal in the ancient oasis city of Palmyra, 215 kilometres northeast of Damascus. From the 1st to the 2nd century, the art and architecture of Palmyra, standing at the crossroads of several civilizations, married Graeco-Roman techniques with local traditions and Persian influences. AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH EID        (Photo credit should read JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

This morning as I read the article on modern-day Palmyra, I studied the article’s photo of the ancient temple of Baal for several minutes. Having existed for over 3,000 years, historical gems like this may soon be destroyed. Dagon saw these sites as he traveled. The juxtaposition of this current image with what I’ve seen in my mind’s eye while writing The Silver Coin gave me pause. No, it gave me more than pause. That punch in the stomach evidenced the ache I felt for the people who live there now, anger over those who wreak such destruction, and a sense of loss for future generations that may never see these sites in their lifetime. It also pushed me to finish the last few chapters of The Silver Coin so students can read about these places in historical fiction before we humans obliterate such archaeological jewels from the face of the earth.

shot of destruction

 Go to http://www.dw.de/nimruds-cultural-heritage-destroyed/av-18300712 to see the above video showing ISIS members destroying artifacts in Iraq.

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Ancient City of Palmyra

Friday, 5/15/15

SYRIA-CONFLICT-ARCHAEOLOGY-PALMYRA

A picture taken on March 14, 2014 shows a partial view of the ancient oasis city of Palmyra, 215 kilometres northeast of Damascus. From the 1st to the 2nd century, the art and architecture of Palmyra, standing at the crossroads of several civilizations, married Graeco-Roman techniques with local traditions and Persian influences. AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH EID (Photo credit should read JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

This morning when I read this news post, I felt like someone punched me in the stomach:

Islamic State fighters on Thursday reached the outskirts of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, one of the most important cultural heritage sites in the Middle East.

“If I.S. enters Palmyra, it will spell its destruction,” Syria’s director of antiquities, Maamoun Abdulkarim, told Agence France-Presse. “If the ancient city falls, it will be an international catastrophe.”

Palmyra lies at the crossroads of several ancient empires, and is packed with the ruins of 1st and 2nd century temples…”

Six months ago, the name Palmyra meant nothing to me, but, since December, I’ve so entrenched myself in researching this area that my visceral reaction took my breath away.

The final book in my Ancient Elements middle grade historical fiction series (The Silver Coin) follows the main character’s adventures from Egypt (the setting for book two, The Alabaster Jar, coming this fall), to Tyre in Phoenicia as he searches for his uncle. In book three, Sam, now fifteen, sails from Egypt to Crete with his friend Keret where they must escape the clutches of King Minos. Sam and Keret then sail to the island of Cyprus and finally on to Tyre. Meanwhile, Sam’s father, Dagon, recently released from a Babylonian jail, joins a caravan traveling to Tyre in hopes of finding his brother, Zim, and his son, Sam. Unknown to Sam, Sam and his uncle hold the keys to a treasure box that promises to make Dagon an extremely rich man.

That’s where the city of Palmyra comes in. In researching the route I wanted Dagon’s caravan to take, I considered having them travel through the ancient city of Palmyra. I learned that some caravans in 1780 BC took this faster, shorter desert route through Palmyra as they travelled from Babylon to Tyre, but others chose the easier trek that followed the Euphrates River north from Babylonia through the kingdoms of Mari and Yamhad, and then west to the Mediterranean Sea and south to Phoenicia. I opted against the desert trek through Palmyra, but not until I had researched this ancient crossroads from the east to the west. Here’s a map I created of Dagon’s route. Notice Palmyra located in the kingdom of Qatna, an oasis in the desert crossroads between Babylonia and the Phoenician coast.

Dagon'sRoute2

A picture taken on March 14, 2014 shows the sanctury of Baal in the ancient oasis city of Palmyra, 215 kilometres northeast of Damascus. From the 1st to the 2nd century, the art and architecture of Palmyra, standing at the crossroads of several civilizations, married Graeco-Roman techniques with local traditions and Persian influences. AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH EID        (Photo credit should read JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

This morning as I read the article on modern-day Palmyra, I studied the article’s photo of the ancient temple of Baal for several minutes. Having existed for over 3,000 years, historical gems like this may soon be destroyed. Dagon saw these sites as he traveled. The juxtaposition of this current image with what I’ve seen in my mind’s eye while writing The Silver Coin gave me pause. No, it gave me more than pause. That punch in the stomach evidenced the ache I felt for the people who live there now, anger over those who wreak such destruction, and a sense of loss for future generations that may never see these sites in their lifetime. It also pushed me to finish the last few chapters of The Silver Coin so students can read about these places in historical fiction before we humans obliterate such archaeological jewels from the face of the earth.

shot of destruction

 Go to http://www.dw.de/nimruds-cultural-heritage-destroyed/av-18300712 to see the above video showing ISIS members destroying artifacts in Iraq.

 

 

Categories: Aleppo, Syria, Omran, current events, books, current events, historical middle grade fiction, social studies | Leave a comment

He Brought the Past to Life for Me

RH_coverMy writing tag is “Bringing the Past to Life”. That’s my passion, and I do it through historical fiction. Last week, however, I got a call from Julian Kulski, a man now well into his eighties, who was a Boy Scout in Warsaw, Poland during WWII and helped fight against the German occupiers of Warsaw at the age of twelve.

Dr. Kulski generously agreed to read my book’s manuscript and comment on it before publication. He was a great help. The book came out last month, so I sent him a copy, and, kind man that he is, called last week to thank me for the book and encourage me in writing the next two books in the planned trilogy. I was so thrilled. Dr. Kulski definitely brought the past to life for me through reaching out and making a personal contact. I want to remember that as a writer. As much as I love historical fiction, personal contacts also play a huge part in bringing the past to life!

You can see a trailer for the book at youtu.be/_AwZhJ9pGBY.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 6.26.20 PMkulski

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ACFW - DFW CHAPTER a.k.a. DFW Ready Writers

"Nothing happens unless first a dream." Carl Sandburg

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Northern California Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers

Letters to Noah

Spoken words are fleeting, but written words last beyond a lifetime.

Sontag Writing Dreams

"Nothing happens unless first a dream." Carl Sandburg

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I make Children's Books

Under His Wings

"Nothing happens unless first a dream." Carl Sandburg

Cathleen Armstrong

"Nothing happens unless first a dream." Carl Sandburg

A Writer's Diary

Author, Educator, Consultant

ACFW - DFW CHAPTER a.k.a. DFW Ready Writers

"Nothing happens unless first a dream." Carl Sandburg

ACFW SFBayArea

Northern California Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers

Letters to Noah

Spoken words are fleeting, but written words last beyond a lifetime.

Sontag Writing Dreams

"Nothing happens unless first a dream." Carl Sandburg

marsha ottum owen

I make Children's Books

Under His Wings

"Nothing happens unless first a dream." Carl Sandburg

Cathleen Armstrong

"Nothing happens unless first a dream." Carl Sandburg

A Writer's Diary

Author, Educator, Consultant