Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Farewell to Brookstone

There comes a moment in the life of a senior when the writing is on the wall. No matter how much you love your home, you realize that you must downsize. The choices are limited. You can try to continue to go it on your own in a smaller apartment or make an even more drastic choice and move to an assisted living facility. 

My husband and I have opted for a self-owned condo in a new apartment complex directly across the street from a shopping mall. The mall has everything we could possibly need: from a Wal-Mart and a giant drug store; to a Best Buy; a Home Depot; a branch of the bank we use; and even a British Columbia Government Liquor Store. We can walk to it all.

A block away is the City Hall, the police station and a public library. Oh, and did I mention the ten different restaurants and fast food outlets also within walking distance. We do feel we have hit the jackpot in retirement living. 

Of course, it means leaving the lovely townhouse in its jeweled setting of forested green space and babbling brooks where we have resided the last twelve years. A place of respite as we both recovered from life threatening illnesses. 

Still even at this age, life is good and we look forward to a few more years of reading and travelling. Not quite ready for the old rocking chair yet.

For the next few weeks, I’m afraid my blogs will be rather spasmodic as we cope with ridding ourselves of years of accumulated “stuff,” the move itself, and a nice cruise we have promised ourselves to recoup from all this trauma.

Wishing you all the best until 2014.

Monday, November 3, 2014

An Excellent Mystery Series Where the Novels 'Stand Alone.'

If you know anything about me, you realize that I am very much interested in researching my family history. It’s an exciting and rewarding hobby and one that often provides an author with some great ideas for historical fiction novels. My own books are based on the few facts I have discovered about my Huguenot ancestors and their lives after fleeing France and settling in England.

Steve Robinson is an author who is also using genealogy as the basis for his books. He has come up with a great protagonist by the name of Jefferson Tayte who does genealogical research for a living. In each book, there is a mystery attached to his historical findings and he goes in search of the answers. Usually it’s where no man has dared to tread before and some of what he digs up puts the genealogist in grave danger. 

“The Lost Empress”  is the fourth genealogical mystery I've read by Steve Robinson. I love the technique he uses in writing these books. There is usually Jefferson‘s own story as he tries to unravel mysteries of the past; and then there are the actual stories of those who came before. The author manages to do an excellent job of interspersing the two. 

Although this book is part of a series, it stands alone just fine. One of Tayte's clients thinks that her recently deceased grandmother may have actually been a woman who supposedly drowned when "The Empress of Ireland" floundered and sank in the St. Lawrence River in 1914. Taking what pictures the granddaughter has given him and what info he can dig up on the internet, Jefferson is off to England once more to speak to the descendants of the lady who drowned. When he is met by definite hostility, he is convinced that the family has a shameful secret they do not want unearthed.

You can't help loving the somewhat overweight and uncoordinated Jefferson with his love of chocolate bars and his timidity of aggressive women. Enjoyed this read and look forward to the next Tayte book.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Good Book that Doesn't "Stand Alone."

I often mention how happy I am when I see that a book I have really enjoyed belongs to a series even though it stands alone. When I'm finished reading, I can choose whether or not to go back and devour all the books that came ahead of the current one I'm reading. 

Sometimes, though, the books is so dependent on everything that came before that it is not so enjoyable. My review today is of "Harbor Island: A Sharpe and Donovan Mystery."  Although it is well written, it doesn't fall into that category.

When Emma Sharpe, Federal Bureau of Investigation agent, gets a call from a woman she has never met to meet her alone on one of Boston Bay's harbour islands, she was very hesitant. But Rachel Bristol was adamant that she had some information on an art thief that Emma has been tracking. So she decided to risk the meeting. After texting her boyfriend, fellow FBI agent, Colin Donovan, she follows her informant's instructions only to find the woman shot dead in a pool of blood.

This sounds like it should be an excellent and suspenseful read and it would have been had I known anything about what came before. "Harbor Island" is the fourth novel in the "Sharpe and Donovan" series written by Carla Neggers. I felt that I would have enjoyed the book much better if I had read the earlier novels. Some sequels can easily stand-alone and still be an enjoyable read but I didn't feel this was one of them. There are too many references to people I haven't met, and incidents that occurred in the other stories without enough explanation. Other than that, the writing is excellent. The characters, once you have them figured out, well drawn, and the descriptions of a variety of settings superb.

I'm sure if I had read some of the earlier books, I would have found this a 5-star read. Unfortunately I didn't. I suggest that you go back and read the others before you try this one. I'm going to give this series another chance by reading "Declan's Cross," the first in the series.

Just a hint in case you haven't read her other books: in the copy of "Harbor Island" that I have, there is a novella at the end of the book entitled "Rock Point." I think it may be helpful to read that first. It will give you a better understanding of one of the most important characters.

Deer Island, MA
                                Boston Harbor islands from the air

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Did you ever read the novel, "The Good Earth"   by Pearl Buck? I did many years ago, but it is so long ago that I have pretty much forgotten what it was about, except that the setting was 19th century China. Now an unpublished novel written by Pearl S. Buck and titled “The Eternal Wonder”  has recently come to light.  

The hand-written manuscript was discovered in January of 2013, forty years after the 1938 Nobel Prize for Literature winner's death. It was revealed among the contents of a Fort Worth, Texas public storage unit sold for unpaid rent. When the buyer discovered both a handwritten and typewritten document written by Pearl Buck, she alerted the writer's family and after some negotiations, sold it to them. They have authenticated it as her work. Her son, Edgar Walsh, decided to have the novel edited and published even though his mother died before she was able to revise it.  

It is probably a first or second unedited draft, but in spite of the fact that it is far from perfect and not up to Mrs. Buck's usual standard, still the family feels it is important to bring this last novel to the public. This therefore is something a reviewer must take into consideration.

It is a strange tale with rather an oversimplified plot. In fact, it seemed more of a fable than a novel. The hero, Rann Colfax is remarkably and improbably clever. A genius from birth, it would seem. Learning comes so easy to him that he has mastered several languages by the time he is in secondary school. He is much too intelligent for his classmates and teachers, which leads him to wonder about the meaning of life and the part he will play in it.

When his father dies while he is still young, he decides to get his education through books and travel rather than attend a university. In the process of his adventures, he becomes fabulously wealthy through two inheritances. One of them quite improbable.

Throughout the novel, there is a fairy-tale quality. Rather like an Aesop's fable with a lesson that Pearl Buck wanted us to discover and take to heart. The final pages make it clear what this lesson is.

As I read the opening, I wasn't sure that I would like the book at all. But as I continued, it became quite enthralling and in the end, I was left with a great deal to think about. While it isn't in any way up to par with her other works, I find it still gripping enough to deserve four stars

Pearl Buck Birthplace 2

Pearl Buck's Birthplace
By Beeflower (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Little More About My Huguenot Series

The Silk Weaver's Daughter  has been available since 2011 but I just received a lovely review this week. I'd like to share it with you as it explain very nicely what the book is about.

Verified Purchase(What's this?)
What an intriguing and enlightening read! Religious persecution and survival; romance, consequences and redemption add to Ms. Kale's paintbrush of colorful characters and their life changing adventures. I was very surprised and delighted to be caught up in the painted scenes of France and England, and the poignant and captivating story of the Garneau Family and their steadfast or wavering faith as Huguenots. A story that will leave its readers much to think about if their lives were effected to make such life-altering decisions for the sake of belief, love and family devotion. Eager to read more of Ms. Kale's work.

So very nice of JHT and I appreciate it very much.

Now here is the Back Cover pitch for the new book, "Night of the Gypsies " which is the sequel to "The Silk Weaver's Daughter."

Travel in the 18th century is notoriously dangerous, but when a London tea merchant takes his wife and family to Europe it becomes especially challenging. Marc Garneau, a Huguenot refugee, faces bankruptcy and debtor’s prison unless he can retrieve his inheritance from war-torn France. His brother, Philippe, a secret worshiper still living in their small French village, agrees to help him spirit the money into a Dutch bank account. In spite of the dangers to both of them from the French dragoons, they agree to meet in Holland. A European journey in the early part of the 1700s entails perils enough without having an attractive, young daughter of marriageable age in tow. Nevertheless, when an unscrupulous London moneylender threatens his wife and children, Marc decides to take them along on his quest. Arriving in Amsterdam, they discover that, due to a difference in European calendars, his brother has been and gone. Now they must rendezvous at a Hessian castle near the Rhine River. As the tea merchant’s family set off across Europe, both Marc and his daughter, Alice face challenges that will change their lives forever. Part historical adventure and part coming-of-age, "Night of the Gypsies" brings to life the next generation in this French Huguenot family saga.”

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Senior Moments With Liz K: Announcing Give Away of "The Silk Weaver's Daughter."

Senior Moments With Liz K: Announcing Give Away of "The Silk Weaver's Daughter."

Announcing Give Away of "The Silk Weaver's Daughter."

To celebrate the release of the new novel in my Huguenot Family Saga series, "Night of the Gypsies," the original book, "The Silk Weaver's Daughter" will be free on Kindle for the next five days (October 1st - 5th) Here is the link: http://goo.gl/uSp5sq

or:  http://www.amazon.com/Silk-Weavers-Daughter-novel-loyalty/dp/1453802576/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1412190806&sr=1-1&keywords=the+silk+weaver%27s+daug

Thank you.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Hundred-Foot Journey - A Great Book I Never Read

This week I'm going to talk about a book that I didn't read and wish I had. However, I did see the movie and I loved it. The story is about an Indian family who, after suffering heartbreaking loss in Mumbai, move to the west to make a new life for themselves.

As Indian culture dictates, Papa is the head of the family and his decisions go. After the mother was killed in a terrible fire at their restaurant in India, they head west, first to England and then to France. After some glitches, Papa discovers the exact spot in a small French village, that he feels is perfect for his Indian style restaurant.

The catch is that it is right across the street from an ultra deluxe Michelin four-star restaurant. Enter the villain, Helen Miron as the owner of this high class establishment.

Since the advent of large, flat home screens, I don't often go out to see a movie. But there is the odd one that absolutely must be seen on the gigantic screen of a theater. The Hundred-Foot Journey  is one of them. The scenery, both in India and in France is superb and deserves to be seen on the really big screen. Helen is perfect as the hoity toity restaurant owner and Om Puri is the strong willed Indian father.  The gorgeous elder son, Hassan, is played by Mannish Davel, an actor who is highly attractive in any culture. I'm sure we will be seeing more of him in the near future.

I don't know how closely the movie follows the original novel, but I intend to give it a read to see for myself. In the meantime, if you see that it's still playing at a theater near you, or even fairly soon on netflix, I highly recommend it.


Monday, September 22, 2014

The Hungarian Gold Train

I have been noticing a definite trend in historical fiction lately for authors to write about the two world wars. Notably, first there are the two series by the writing team of Charles Todd: one staring Inspector Rutledge as a Scotland Yard detective recently returned from World War 1 and their newest series about Bess Crawford who serves as a nursing sister in France as well as sometimes in the Mediterranean war zone. There are other series as well and they will be discussed in the future.

Today’s choice, however, is a new novel entitled “Love andTreasure”  by Ayelet Waldman.

In the aftermath of WWII, Lieutenant Jack Wiseman is stationed in Salzburg, Austria. His assignment is to guard and catalogue the "gold train"--a trainload of treasure stolen by the Nazis from the Budapest Jews during the Holocaust.

He falls in love with a young Jewish woman from Budapest and asks her to marry him, but she is determined to live in Israel and refuses his advances. Suffering a broken heart, he feels compelled to take a small pendant he finds among the jewellery on the train to remind him of her.

The story now skips ahead seventy years to when Jack is dying of cancer. He asks his beloved granddaughter to discover who the owner of the pendant was and to try to trace her descendants. This takes her to Europe where she falls in love with with an unscrupulous art dealer.

The final part of the novel goes back in time and tells the story of how the pendant came into existence. Told from the point of view of a doctor of psychiatry, this section seems to be completely out of place at this point.

The subject of the gold train has been well researched by the author and since it was new to me, I found it fascinating to read about. Both the characters and settings are well developed. However, the plot while intriguing jumps back and forth in time, which tends to stop the flow and makes it feel disjointed. I was never sure what the actual conflict was and, in the end, there didn't seem to be a resolution. It leaves the reader somewhat unsatisfied.

With regard to the language, if this were a movie, I expect it would be rated "R" for very strong language. So if this upsets you, be warned, readers. Personally, I find too much swearing quite irritating. Three stars for this book.

Photo History WWI Hungary - A Hungarian soldier on the Italian front (colored)

A Hungarian Soldier in WWII
By Madboy74 (Own work) [Public domain, GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, September 15, 2014

Billy the Kid's Last Ride

Really good westerns seem to be few and far between these days. But I have a good Facebook friend--a lawyer who lives in New Mexico who knows pretty much everything there is to know about Billy the Kid. Billy's life was not a happy one and rather short lived. Here is my review of my friend, John Aragon's book: "Billy the Kid's Last Ride ." 

This really is so much more than just about Billy the Kid, although he makes a wonderfully sympathetic, albeit flawed main character. It’s a true saga of the west and is wonderful in its scope.

In spite of the violence, I enjoyed reading John Aragon’s fascinating version of Billy’s life, which provides the reader with a different perspective on what made the young man the bad dude he was. Mr. Aragon, a trial lawyer, is able to take this flawed young man and make him a likeable character who stuck by his friends. He also shows how the circumstances of his life forced Billy off the narrow path and into a life of crime. One has to feel empathy for the lad. As I read, there were so many places where I wished his life had taken a different turn—that  he could have pursued his dream to ride south to Mexico, with the woman he loved, and live peacefully ever after.

I was 15 years old when I first saw the movie “The Outlaw.” starring Jane Russell who was quite famous at the time. The man who played Billy the Kid was a virtual unknown, but he was extremely good looking, and I had a crush on him for a long time. Consequently, although history has often told us that Billy was a bad dude, I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for him.

Mr. Aragon’s wonderfully descriptive narrative transports us into the sun-filled, blue-sky country of southwestern United States. His settings carried me back to the four trips that my husband and I made through Arizona and New Mexico. I remembered how much I loved the terrain of that dry, pinion-studded and mesa filled land. There’s even a special smell to it.

I also liked how the author interweaves the story of the milquetoast, New York reporter, Percival and his search to know Billy as well as his obsession with Rosa. It adds comedy and breaks up the tension of the constant violence in Billy’s life. Without giving too much away, I can tell you that the episodes with the steer outside the outhouse, and the encounter with the rattlesnake while Percival goes about his “business” were hilarious.

Mr. Aragon is a gifted writer and I think we will be seeing more of his work.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Egypt in the Age of Colonialism

Ushabti of Tutankhamun (KV62)

If you have had the opportunity to see the King Tut Treasures exhibit you will really appreciate this story of the discovery and opening of the tomb titled "The Visitors."

Lucy Payne is convalescing from the terrible typhoid that took the life of her mother. In order to regain her health in a favorable climate, a friend of the family takes her to Egypt in the decadent era of the 1920s. She becomes fast friends with Frances Winlock, the young daughter of an American archaeologist. The two are inseparable, which allows Lucy entrance into the exciting world of the colonial society of Luxor during this mesmerizing age of discovery.

This is the first part of the book, and it is fascinating and compelling. For the most part the characterizations are totally engaging and believable. The author has certainly done her research well and both Howard Carter, the archaeologist who discovers the tomb, and his partner, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon are larger than life in this captivating tale. The author holds back none of the scandal surrounding the find and we get an honest look at both these men who have been dead for over 80 years.

An interesting sidelight is that Highclere Castle currently featured in the popular series, “Downton Abbey” is the actual estate of the Earl of Carnarvon and it is said there are many of the Earl's Egyptian treasures stored there. 

The character of Francis Winlock was exceptionally likeable and interesting but I didn’t feel realistic for a girl as young as she would have been at that time. Lucy is eleven and Frances is supposedly three years younger but the way the author portrays her, one gets the impression that she is the eldest and more sophisitcated. In any event, the friends Lucy makes on this trip are her friends for life and that is what the last part of the book deals with; a reminiscence of her life, both during and after the excitement of the discovery of King Tut’s tomb.

I really thought that after Lucy stops talking about her two visits to Egypt, the author could have cut back on much of the rest of her life. While the writing continues to be vivid and beautifully descriptive, there is not much of a plot line from that point on. The novel could have probably ended with the deaths of the Earl and Carter.    

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Coming In September

Hi folks:

Sorry that I have to keep this to a commercial this week. Have been suffering from back spasms since a bad fall last week, which tends to keep me off the computer. However, I am enjoying a good, brand new book that I'll tell you about in a  week or two. In the meantime, don't forget that the second book in my Huguenot Family Saga series will be available on Amazon in September. Here's the pitch:

I'll let you know for sure when it's available on Amazon.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Let's Read About Egypt

Flickr - IDS.photos - Sphinx and pyramid, Cairo (1)

By Ian Sherlock from Puriton, UK (Sphinx and pyramid, Cairo) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve never had the opportunity to visit the country of Egypt, but it has always fascinated me. However, with so much intrigue going on in the Middle East, it’s not a place I’d want to travel around right now. The next best thing is to read about it. Here are two books I’ve read in the last year with Egypt as the setting:

The Hidden by Jo Chumas 


As winner of the Mystery and Thriller segment of the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest, I expected this to be an excellent read. And in many aspects, it was. The writing is well done and the research into Egypt’s history is impeccable.

Azi Ibrahim, a university professor has been mysteriously murdered in the desert outside of Cairo and his young wife, Aimee is determined to find out why. Among his possessions, she finds a diary written by the mother who died shortly after she was born, as well as a picture of a beautiful, exotic dancer.
During her investigations to find out why her husband had the diary and who the woman is, she enlists the help of a mysterious middle-aged journalist. A man who also seems to have information regarding her husband’s death. However, joining forces with this man incriminates her as a pawn in the middle of a revolutionary war against Egypt’s king and places her into an extremely dangerous position. 
There were times when the situations seemed somewhat contrived and you had to wonder, why anyone would be so stupid as to knowingly walk into such danger. As well, I figured out the surprise ending a little over half way through.

However, I didn’t really mind that too much and it was an easy and fun read with exotic locales and two beautiful heroines.

The Cairo Affair by Olen Steinhauer 

Sophie Kohl, the wife of an American diplomat in Hungary is traumatized when her husband is killed sitting across from her in a Budapest restaurant. Especially since, he had just told her that he knew about her illicit affair with a fellow diplomat while stationed in Cairo.

For the sake of her own conscience, she is determined to discover her husband’s killer and the reason behind his premature death. Following the trail back to Egypt and further beyond to their honeymoon in eastern Europe, twenty years earlier, she sets off a chain of reactions that put not only herself in danger, but her husband’s diplomatic associates as well.

The novel delves deep into the world of espionage intrigue and strategy where everyone is living a lie and no one is assured of their safety from one day to the next. It’s a page-turner in the strongest sense of the word and keeps the reader on edge right to the end.

There are many characters and sometimes the plot is difficult to follow, especially with so many Arab names. However, the flashbacks to the war in Croatia were very informative and gave one some incite to the problems the Serbs faced after the breakup of Marshall Tito’s Yugoslavia. It also looks at U.S. intelligence during the time of the “Arab Spring.”

I found the book well written and interesting and a must-read for lovers of political conspiracies.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Another Jane Austin Add On

                              Lydia showing her ring CH51

It rather amazes me that there are so many fans of Jane Austin out there. And so many historical fiction authors that are adding to her words or filling in whatever gaps she may have left. I recently read Longbourn which was on the best sellers list for a long time this spring. Here is my appraisal:  

I’ve seen several versions of “Pride and Prejudice” both on television and in the movies, but have to admit I’ve never read the book. I know it is somewhat sacrilegious to say this, but much as I love her characters and their old-fashioned stories, Jane Austin’s plodding 18th century prose generally stops me cold. 

Nevertheless, after reading “Longbourn” by Jo Baker, I feel I really must settle down and give the original book version a whirl. I need to know more about Mr. And Mrs. Bennet; their five sprightly daughters; and the farm in Hertfordshire.

Even if the author does rather take liberties with the original characters, the servants of Longbourn come miraculously to life under Jo Baker’s skillful literary pen in this parallel telling of their below-stairs, private lives.

Sarah the maid, who has been at the farm since she was orphaned in childhood, is beginning to experience the bloom of youth. She first finds herself drawn to the dusky mulatto footman of the neighboring Bingley household at Netherfield. And he is definitely quite smitten with her young, innocent beauty. But it is when she kisses the Bennet’s mysterious, new hired hand that she begins to realize there is more to life than washing other ladies’ dirty underwear and preparing roast chicken and mashed turnips for her “betters.”

Jo Baker’s characters are extremely well drawn and her settings beautifully described. I found myself easily transported to that time period with no great wish to return to reality. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

I Love a Series

Bobbsey Twins at the County Fair It's always delightful when you discover a series with a character that you can love and want to follow. Since I first discovered "The Bobbsey Twins" and "Nancy Drew" in the fourth grade, I have loved getting involved with a main character of a series.

I'm going to be discussing some of these series in the next few weeks. At present, I'm greatly intrigued with two series by the same author, a mother and son writing team who go by the pen name of Charles Todd.

A few weeks ago, I reviewed one of the latest books in their "Ian Rutledge" series. Here I'm going to introduce you to their new series called "Bess Crawford Mysteries." Bess was born in India into a military family and now, during the Great War (WWI), she is serving as a nurse in France. She often gets a leave from her front-line duties and manages to discover a murder whenever she does. Once in awhile, something that happens in the front lines gets her involved as well.

"A Question of Honour" is not the first book in the series, but it does take you back to her early years in India, so it's a good one to start with. Here's my review as it appears on Amazon.

English nurse, Bess Crawford serves in World War I tending the wounded in the battlefields of France. Much of her childhood was spent in India where her father. a Colonel in the British army, was stationed. Now, while on a tour of duty, she gets a glimpse of a man she knew years before in India's northwest frontier. A soldier who disappeared when he was accused of killing five people, but whom she remembers as being a very fine person.

As some of the murders took place in England, on one of her leaves, she and her long time friend Sergeant-Major Simon Brandon begin to follow a trail to try to discover whether the subject is actually the killer or a victim of circumstance. A trail that will lead them into danger as they learn the horrific truth behind the murders.

This is the fifth book in this series but the first one that I read. I really liked everything about the novel. The settings, the characters, and the plot were all exceptionally gripping. I'm just as hooked now on Beth as I was on the Todd's Detective Ian Rutledge series.

 fun to

Just discovered that I have won an advanced copy of the above book from Harper Collins. Stay tuned soon for a review of another delightful Bess Crawford Mystery.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Coming to Amazon in September

"London tea merchant, Marc Garneau faces bankruptcy and debtor’s prison unless he can retrieve his inheritance from war-torn France. 

Marc’s brother, a secret Huguenot still living in their small French village, agrees to help him spirit the money into a Dutch bank account. In spite of the dangers to both of them, they agree to meet in Holland. 

Travel in 18th century Europe entails perils enough without having an attractive, young daughter of marriageable age in tow. Nevertheless, when an unscrupulous London moneylender threatens his wife and children, Marc decides to take them along on his quest. As the tea merchant and his family set off for Europe, both father and daughter face challenges that will change their lives forever.

Part historical adventure and part coming-of-age, “Night of the Gypsies” brings to life the next generation in this French Huguenot family saga." 

Monday, July 21, 2014

English History Novalist, Maria Grace was kind enough to do her blog on me this week. I have reposted it here.

Writing superheroes: Liz Kales

  A superhero in purple velvet?  Read on and find out more…

superhero copy
 If you were to write the ‘origin’s episode’ of your writing what would be the most important scenes?
When I was about nine my mother, who had been a teacher, introduced me to Anne of Green Gables. I was immediately hooked and begged for all the other L.M. Montgomery books. By age twelve, I was so into reading that in a two-month period when I was home a lot with a terrible flu, I went through seventy-five books.
All sorts of characters started coming to life in my mind and I thought I would tackle something myself. After listening to an episode of my favorite radio show, Fibber McGee and Molly (is there anyone who still remembers that) I decided to sit down and write a play myself.

What did your early efforts look like? Are they still around to be used as bribes and blackmail material?
As I recall now, I don’t think the play was very long—maybe about fifteen minutes. But apparently, it was quite funny because the school principal decided to produce it and we performed it on stage at a PTA meeting. The audience howled most of the way through it and for about a week, I was the “toast of the town.” Heady stuff for a twelve year old.
Looking back through the mists of time, I’m not sure what happened to our copy of the script and perhaps it is fortunate that my mother didn’t keep it.liz kales

All super heroes have their mild-mannered secret identity, what is yours? I promise we won’t tell.
She’s a little old lady, closer to eighty than seventy. Back in her “Clark Kent” days she wrote television and radio commercials for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation; then moved on to the travel industry where she often wrote articles about her flying trips for newspapers and travel trade journals. It wasn’t until she toured France and the areas where her Huguenot ancestors came from that she discovered the latent talent that could bring them to life.

What kind of training do you do to keep your superpowers in world-saving form?
I read what other writers write. I constantly have books in a variety of genres “on the go.” In fact, I’m an Amazon Vine reviewer, so I have to read every day to keep up with the books they send me. I also read a lot of “How to…” writing books. Because it was late in my life that I recognized I had this embryonic super power, I still need guidance on how to handle it.

Granted, you probably don’t get to wear your superhero costume a lot, but if you did, what would it look like?
Oh, I wear it a lot. Sometimes far into the afternoon. It’s a purple velvet bathrobe that I’ve had for many years. It’s completely loose and allows all the creative juices to flow.

What is your kryptonite? What are the biggest challenges faced with in your writing?
I think it’s my age. In the past, I was always able to think on my feet and words came to me with ease. Now I often have to wait for the right word to pop into my head. When my mind goes blank like that, I just tell myself to relax and stop thinking so hard. In a moment or two, the word will come to me. But this method definitely slows down the flow. That’s why I can only write a book every two years, so I do suggest that you start writing while you’re still young.

What was the super villain that threatened to stop your latest project and how did you vanquish it?
Fatigue. I was born tired anyhow and that hasn’t improved with age. I have to be totally rested before the voices in my head will wake up. However since I like to write at night between ten and midnight, that means a nice long nap in the afternoon. Since I’m retired, I don’t have to get up very early.

What important lessons have you learned along the way?
I think it’s important to learn the so-called rules of writing fiction and then figure out which ones it is safe to break. Just as an example, when I was taking on-line writing courses, both students and teachers kept repeating the mantra “show don’t tell.” I thought to myself, must you never tell? Seems impossible. I finally found a realistic writing book entitled “Showing & Telling: Learn How to Show & When to Tell.” I learned that there is a place for both and that “telling” is often necessary to speed up the plot.

What has been your most memorable experience along the way?
Two years ago, the city where I lived opened a big, brand new, beautiful library in the center of town. My cousin’s daughter is a librarian there and we got a special invitation to explore it before the actual opening. Imagine my delight and surprise when she showed us the “historical fiction” section and there was my novel, in living colour, on the top shelf. She had convinced her superiors to order the book since they like to spotlight the writing of local authors. I didn’t expect it and it was a great experience.

If you did this, again what would you do differently and what would you not change?
I’d definitely start writing seriously at a much younger age. It takes so many years to get really good at it, and unfortunately, I don’t think that I have that much time left.
I wouldn’t change my chosen genre. I love history and would always want to write about a different time than the one we live in.

What is the best (writing or otherwise) advice you have ever gotten and why.
Don’t write only what you know. Thankfully, my life has been fairly free of conflict and cliff hanging moments, so it wouldn’t make a very interesting book.

Tell us about your new book and why we need to drop everything and get it now.
The new book is the sequel to The Silk Weaver’s Daughter and is probably going to be called “Night of the Gypsies.” **
Although Marc Garneau wasn’t the hero of the first book, many of my readers were fascinated by the handsome Frenchman and wanted to follow his further adventures. When Marc and his family set out to Europe to try to recover the fortune he left behind in France, they run into a band of gypsies. The strange woman they meet in that gypsy camp more or less changes the future of every one of the main characters.
It does stand-alone but I think it might be more interesting if one reads “The Silk Weaver’s Daughter” first.

What’s in store for you in the future? Do you have any other big projects on the horizon?
I have an idea in my mind for a prequel to “The Silk Weaver’s Daughter” about one of the silk weaver’s ancestors who is mentioned in that novel. However, it will take a tremendous amount of research and I’m not young anymore. I always have to face that fact that I could run out of steam. Even superheroes sometimes fade away.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Wikimedia Commons" Bremmerton_and_Port_Orchard_Foot_Ferries.Bremmerton and Port Orchard Foot Ferries

With television and the newspapers being constantly full of sorrowful  and frightening events and television so full of sex and violence, every so often I need to read one of Debbie Macomber’s books.
Macomber lives in Washington State in the beautiful Kitsap Peninsula. By ferry, it’s an easy ride from Seattle and is an area of great beauty. Many of her novels are set in and around Seattle and her latest novels called The Rose Harbor series are truly balm to the soul.   

I had never read a Debbie Macomber book when I picked up the second book in this series titled, “The Inn at Rose Harbour,” but I had noted that she is a very popular author. I chose this book for a summer read a couple of years ago and enjoyed it so much I’ve been following Debbie ever since.

The premise for “The Inn at Rose Harbour” was that after less than a year of marriage, Jo Marie Rose lost the love of her life in a tragic accident in Afghanistan. To try to cure her heartbreak she decides to embark on a new life, using the insurance money to buy a Bed and Breakfast. She finds the perfect spot in the small town of Cedar Cove on the Kitsap Peninsula. The town is probably modeled to some extent after the town of Port Orchard, Washington where Macomber actually lives.

Jo Marie loves her new home and soon makes friends with many of the welcoming residents. When her first two guests arrive with profound problems of their own, Jo Marie throws herself into providing them with a happy sojourn, and in so doing, finds solace for herself.

It's not a page-turner but Ms. Macomber's writing is lovely and descriptive. I found it easy to imagine myself in the setting. It's a soothing sort of read and I'm sure many people would find it enjoyable. So I was happy when this summer, Amazon Vine offered me a copy of her latest novel in the series titled, “Love Letters.”

Since I was already familiar with the setting and the protagonist, Jo Marie Rose, I was happy to see her coming to terms with her new life. Her B&B is in full swing and this book deals with two romances that need the encouragement that a stay at the Rose Inn seems to offer.

Also in this volume, Jo Marie's handyman, Mark Taylor is still in the picture and we are beginning to learn a little more about him. From the ending, it does seem, as though there will be a sequel. So, looking forward to that. Although it helps to have read the earlier ones, the first time reader will still enjoy this novel

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Two Novellas for Pool Side Reading.

A little late, this week but here are two books that are easy beach or pool side reads. Both of them fairly short. Not awe inspiring but fun reads if you are an armchair traveler.

One takes you to the Cote d’Azur of France and the other to the mountains of Colorado. Enjoy

A Rocky Road by Glen Ebisch

After the death of her father, Susan Cantwell hopes to make a new life for herself away from her demanding brothers in New Jersey. Leaving her job as a schoolteacher in the east, she takes a job as a guide with a tour company in Denver, Colorado. She likes the thought of the freedom living in the Wild West hopefully will give her.

However, when one of her guests dies in a mysterious fall down a hotel staircase on the second night of the tour, she wonders if she has taken on more than she bargained for. Especially when the one young handsome passenger on the tour turns out to be a private detective, the company has hired to look out for fraudulent passengers.

Rather a nice little mystery plus a hint of romance all against the gorgeous background of Mesa Verde and Rocky Mountain Park. I always like a book that takes me travelling and this one provides a nice tour through the wonders of Colorado. This is a few pages too long to be considered a novella but it is definitely an easy summer read.

Cliff Palace-Colorado-Mesa Verde NP

By Tobi 87 (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 

The Corsican Caper by Peter Mayle

Although this short novel is written in Peter Mayle's light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek style and chock full of good food and excellent wines, there's really not much to this book. At around 160 pages, it really is a novella.  

A wealthy Russian named Vronsky, who modus operandi is generally to have those who stand in the way of what he wants put out of business. In other words, killed. He never is caught because he's always far away when these murders happen. He is now determined that he must have for himself an impressive Riviera mansion owned by a Monsieur Francis Reboul, who refuses to sell. Enter Mayle’s master sleuth, Sam Levitt, who just happens to be vacationing on the Riviera. (Who wouldn’t if they could?)  

Even though it's a mystery, there's very little in the way of suspense or cliff hanging moments. Just enough of a plot to whet your appetite for a substantial meal. A little disappointing compared to his other books.

Cannes port rotonde

Cannes Harbor by Guy Lebègue (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, June 29, 2014

iPads for the Older and Wiser

If you are a senior who really wants to get a tablet and are thinking about an Apple product, "iPads for the Older and Wiser" is  a great book.

I received it prior to purchasing my iPad mini and the very first chapter saved me from making an expensive mistake. I had thought that the cheapest model would be good enough for me in this learning stage. However, under the section entitled “which generation if iPad to choose” I discovered that the cheaper model did not have a Retina Display. Retina display enables text and images to be much sharper, and high definition videos can be played at their full quality on these models. Not only that, but the camera on the cheaper model is not as good as the one on the iPad mini with Retina Display. So that was important to me.

The book has an excellent selection of chapters dealing with things such as ‘browsing the web,’ ‘adding music and video,’ ‘using apps on your iPad,’ and a very important chapter on ‘finding your way with Maps.’ Apple has replaced Google Maps with its own Apple Maps or you can download the Google Maps App if you prefer. But Apple Maps works with Siri and has a great 3D view section called FlyOver that works as well.

At the end of each chapter is a Summary and a section called Brain Training, which helps to reaffirm all the information in that chapter. As you go through the book, you keep adding to the knowledge and the skills you’ve already acquired. 

As far as I’m concerned, this little manual is the best thing since apple pie. 

By Lilitik22 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Apple pie 182161 04