|Posted by susanjmcleod on October 7, 2012 at 11:40 PM||comments (0)|
Tomorrow is the annual Walk Now for Autism Speaks. My sister Charlene and I will be on the team Peter's Pride, led by photographer and volunteer extraordinaire Ann Rumrill. 1 in 88 children are now being diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. That's a staggering number. Autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the U.S. , and funds are needed for research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure. You can visit http://www.autismspeaks.org/about-us for information including a Resource Guide and Tool Kits. It's a wonderful organization.
And speaking of wonderful, I have to mention Uno Chicago Grill. They have given generously every year, donating gift cards and goody bags as well as holding Dough Rai$ers. And they are so nice about it that they make you feel as if you are doing them the favor! I've always loved this restaurant for its great food and all the perks of the Insider's Club. All you have to do is sign up via email and you get coupons, free samples at taste-testings, special events, and a free entrée on your birthday. What more could a person want? Oh yes, a bartender like the irrepressible Gary! He sometimes doubles as a waiter, and he gave Ann and myself different colors of straws and every kind of fruit as a garnish on our non-alcoholic drinks. Such gestures make you feel like you're really important. So thank you Gary, thank you Ann Kabel (who stayed late to talk to us) and thank you Henrietta Uno Chicago Grill!
It's supposed to be a beautiful day tomorrow, 65° and some sun. I'll let you know if Char and I survive the walk. Something tells me that we won't be the first to cross the finish line But who cares, it's for a good cause and it's fun!
|Posted by susanjmcleod on October 7, 2012 at 11:35 PM||comments (0)|
The recent release of the movie Thor and Snow White—or, as some people insist on calling it, Snow White and the Huntsman—has me thinking about fairy tales. Naturally the first one that comes to mind is my own personal happily-ever-after fantasy of Thor helping me find my way through a dark forest. But then I remember my childhood and Fifty Famous Fairy Tales.
This was a book my oldest sister used to read to me at bedtime. It had all of the classics from different cultures. I enjoyed hearing them, but I could never identify with the heroines whose only aim in life was to find their true love, usually in the form of a prince, and settle down to boring bliss. I liked How the Sea Became Salt because it had enchanter’s imps who were addicted to bacon. Now them, I could relate to. But my absolute favorite was The Twelve Dancing Princesses.
I was fascinated by the idea of slipping out every night in a beautiful gown to go and dance in a magic castle. Those girls just wanted to have fun. They tricked all the men and escaped their father to walk through trees with silver and gold branches and diamond leaves. Oh sure, in the end a wounded soldier outwitted them and they all married princes. But they led wild lives until then.
As you might expect from the girl who believed in Lenny the Leprechaun and Indian money, I thought that I could go dancing too. Before bedtime I laid out my prettiest school dress and my best shoes. I was sure that once I fell asleep, I would be magically transported to a castle where I would waltz the night away. Imagine my disappointment the next morning when there was no sign of wear on my shoes and no diamond leaves either. After a few tries, I gave up.
But last week, I had a KDP promo going on and for the first time, I saw myself on the European charts! Soul and Shadow made it into the top fifteen in four categories in the free Kindle store in the UK, Spain and Italy. In Germany and France I was in the top ten. My publisher recently made a deal for distribution in Europe. Imajin Books is growing by leaps and bounds! A company from the Czech Republic expressed interest in the translation rights for Soul and Shadow. And a foreign rights agent expressed interest in me!
No dancing was involved, but I did have dreams come true!
|Posted by susanjmcleod on October 7, 2012 at 11:30 PM||comments (0)|
I am really looking forward to Friday. For the usual reasons, of course. But also because this May 11’th is a special Friday. Dark Shadows is making its premier.
I don’t go to very many movies, much less get excited about them. I rarely even watch T.V. I’d rather be reading a good book. Such was not always the case, however. When I was a child, my favorite shows kept me glued to the screen. And my absolute favorite was Dark Shadows.
It was my first introduction to the paranormal, and it enthralled me. I was both excited and terrified. I lived in Upstate New York and had never seen an ocean before. Collinsport, Maine, the fictional setting for the series, was as exotic as India to me. When the waves of the Atlantic crashed against those rocks and the eerie theme music played, I was transported. The great house at Collinwood! Who wouldn’t want to live in a mansion like that?
I was so jealous that David had his own governess and didn’t have to go to school. David was my first human crush. I had been in love with the cartoon character Johnny Quest, but there wasn’t much future in that. David was real. Yet he caused me much anxiety. His life was difficult, what with ghosts and vampires and all. I noted in my diary on October 1, 1967, “I am worried about David and I can’t be very happy until he is happy too.” (Also a memorable day because “somebody knocked over the offering basket in Sunday School and all the money spilled on the floor.”)
Watching Dark Shadows is mentioned in every entry. I always kept track of whether it was good or bad. Bad was having to sleep with a cross to make sure no vampires could bite me. Good was loving David “more and more every minute.”
October 16 was particularly harrowing. “Things are terrible on Dark Shadows. Dr. Woodard has been killed. He was the one who knew everything and could have solved the mystery. Now he’s dead.”
I don’t remember the details of that mystery or the convoluted plots. But certain images are seared into my brain forever. The Collins family mausoleum. Josette’s ghost removing her veil to show her shattered face. Angelique sticking pins in voodoo dolls. And the portraits. Especially the portraits.
Dark Shadows is the reason I write in the paranormal genre. The love never left me, even after David and I parted ways. When you read Fire and Shadow, you’ll see how my memories inspired me. And I don’t care how different the movie is from the television series. It’s still a return to Collinwood. If it’s good enough for Kathryn Leigh Scott, Lara Parker, and the late great Jonathan Frid to make cameo appearances in, it’s good enough for me. (Not to mention that I would pay to see Johnny Depp read the phone book.) So thank you, Dark Shadows. Something tells me that you are going to live forever.
|Posted by susanjmcleod on October 7, 2012 at 11:30 PM||comments (0)|
How does one become a writer? Is it a talent that you’re born with? Or does it spring from reading so many books that one learns how words should sound, and starts to write them down? Which is more important, knowledge or imagination? How much does your environment or your family history affect you?
In my case, I believe that I became an author because of my Mom and Dad.
Mom read to all of us from a very early age. She was a teacher, and she thought that it would give us a head start in school. She was right. Well, about English, anyway. Apparently there was no aptitude for math in the family tree!
We had a library of Golden Books, Dr. Seuss, Tinker and Tanker, and countless others. Mom had a real talent for making the stories come alive. She sparked a love of books and learning still burning in us today.
My Dad had quite an imagination. He had a knack for making things seem mysterious and exciting. Every visit to a park with him was an adventure. The Seneca were early settlers in our area, and my Dad was always finding “evidence” of them. If we saw a log submerged in a river, it was part of an ancient village that had sunk like Atlantis. If we found a stone that in any way remotely resembled an arrowhead, well, it was an arrowhead all right. And best of all, the Seneca were very careless with their money. We invariably discovered their coins lying just off the path. It never occurred to us that the Seneca did not mint dimes with Franklin Roosevelt on them. Perhaps we were especially gullible children, but my Dad wove a powerful spell.
And speaking of spells…my Dad’s Irish heritage came into play too. My Great-Grandmother had a rival for the affections of a man. Unfortunately, this competitor was a witch or “fiend” as they called her. She conjured up a lizard underneath my Great-Grandmother’s skin. Everyone watched, horrified, as it wriggled up her arm and then disappeared. But my Great-Grandmother still got her man. And that eventually led to me!
We were also lucky enough to have a leprechaun living in our back yard. His name was Lenny and he liked to sit on our fence. Only my Dad could see him, more’s the pity, but he was there!
When we children did not want to eat our vegetables, Dad scared us with a sobering cautionary tale. It seems that he met a man on the street who could barely see, walked with a limp, and was bald. Dad asked him what had happened, and the poor fellow replied, “I never ate any vegetables!” We all took extra helpings that night to avoid his horrible fate!
The combination of gathering knowledge and the magic of story-telling has made me into a person who just had to be a writer! Did your family inspire you?
|Posted by susanjmcleod on October 7, 2012 at 11:25 PM||comments (0)|
Last week, archaeologists made a startling discovery in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings (http://tinyurl.com/7ncusgx). In the first non-royal female burial ever found there, an Egyptian and Swiss team uncovered the tomb of Nehmes Bastet. She was a temple singer nearly three thousand years ago, and she was protected by the cat goddess Bastet. The tomb was not originally intended for her, but had been reused. Her sarcophagus is remarkably well-preserved, and is expected to be opened soon.
Hm. Sounds a little familiar. The mummy of a singer? Questionable tomb? Bastet? All elements in my novel Soul and Shadow. But here’s the really weird thing. Since I discovered this tomb (okay, not personally in Egypt, but on the internet) I have had nothing but good things happen to me.
That night, my ranking on Kindle rose to its highest number ever.
The next day, I was told that I was getting a raise at work. I also received a gift in the mail-a small package shipped from the Metropolitan Museum in New York. It was a lovely Egyptian bangle with a pattern taken from an ancient tomb painting. There was no card to identify the sender. A gift out of the blue! Of course, I had to buy a lottery ticket after that! And...I won!! Two dollars!
No, not enough to pay off the mortgage. But I didn’t lose, did I?
It might not be as catchy as a mummy’s curse, but a mummy’s blessing is a lot more fun! Now, if they discover a magic lotus blossom necklace when they open that coffin, it may be time to rent an apartment- in the Twilight Zone!
|Posted by susanjmcleod on November 12, 2011 at 10:55 PM||comments (0)|
An overflow audience had the pleasure of experiencing a remarkable performance by Irish poet Eavan Boland last Thursday night. The atmosphere was electric as students, faculty, and guests of all ages waited. We knew something special was coming. We knew we were in the presence of a great talent.
Then Ms. Boland got up to speak, and I was struck by the contradiction between my expectations and reality. This is not to say that she disappointed. On the contrary, she surpassed herself. But I was surprised to find that I still had a vestige of an idea of what A Poet should be like. Flamboyant, dramatic, larger than life. Ms. Boland is none of these. She is a woman who immediately puts people at their ease, direct, warm and genuine. These are qualities that Hyam Plutzik also possessed, so there was symmetry to Ms. Boland’s appearance at the Plutzik Reading Series.
She talked about herself a little, and then began with her poem “Quarantine.” I was crying before she was halfway through. It comes from her book Against Love Poetry, but is the most moving testament to love I’ve ever heard. It comes from a true tale of a couple during the Irish Potato Famine. The wife had famine fever, and was too weak to walk, so the husband carried her home from the workhouse. They were both found dead the next day, with the husband holding his wife’s feet to his breastbone in a last, futile attempt to warm her. Boland writes:
“Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.
There is no place here for the inexact
praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body.
There is only time for this merciless inventory:
Their death together in the winter of 1847.
Also what they suffered. How they lived.
And what there is between a man and woman.
And in which darkness it can best be proved.”
Just my opinion, but suddenly Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “How Do I Love Thee?” seemed trivial in comparison.
It is with ordinary life that Ms. Boland concerns herself. Marriage. Family. She told an amusing story about her husband’s books taking over their house. She made a poem about it too; “Thanked Be Fortune,” where in the books on the shelves above their bed
“all through the hours of darkness,
men and women
wept, cursed, kept and broke faith
and killed themselves for love.”
But when she and her husband awake, they lay quietly together and listen to their baby’s crying “as if to birdsong.”
We were also treated to, among others, “The Glass King,” “Amber,” “The Pomegranate,” and “That the Science of Cartography is Limited.”
In her verse, told in a straightforward, almost conversational manner, Eavan Boland encapsulates the human spirit. Her poems are extremely powerful. When she spoke about the violence in Irish history, and how people tried to carry on with their everyday lives as it wreaked its havoc, I heard an echo of Yeats and “that dead young soldier in his blood” from “Meditations in Time of Civil War.” It seems to me, through her writings, that Eavan Boland is building in the empty house of the stare.
|Posted by susanjmcleod on October 26, 2011 at 2:35 AM||comments (0)|
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Mark Twain is my favorite American author and this is his masterpiece.
It is so entertaining that you don't even realize how profoundly it made you think until you're finished. The horror and sin of slavery comes through loud and clear without even the good-hearted characters questioning the institution. Casual observations on breaking up families by selling them and the fact that a free black man can't be stopped by walking around like everybody else until he's been in the state long enough to be seized and sold, sent shivers of horror through me. Twain makes us see how evil this is while maintaining a straightforward narrative. It appears to be an adventure travelogue with plenty of colorful and amusing characters. But there are scathing indictments delivered through the medium of the unlikely hero, a poor boy raised by an abusive father, whose heart bests his conscience in the end. The fued between two families that almost wipes them out, the malicious frauds the Duke and the Dauphin, may be filtered through Huck's more innocent eyes, but we can see clearly them for what they are. I must say the last part of the book is a little silly when Tom Sawyer reappears and instigates a ridiculous melodrama that puts Jim through unnecessary indignity and travail. Then it's wrapped up neatly with a bow on top. But even my least favorite parts of the story hold my interest because the characters are so wonderfully drawn and alive. Mark Twain was very funny and very gifted, but he was a cynic too, and his vast experience and intelligence brought him to despair of humankind. Yet he is a master at telling a human tale.
|Posted by susanjmcleod on January 19, 2009 at 5:18 PM||comments (2)|
It might not be polite to listen to other people's conversation, but as a writer, I just can't help it. They can be a goldmine of information and inspiration. The whole idea for my novel, Soul and Shadow, came about because of a patron's random comment. While attending the exhibit of ancient Egyptian artifacts (including a mummy) this lady gazed on the bandaged unknown and said, "That's why I'm being cremated!" Around that simple observation the whole story grew. And that woman will never know what her remark came to.
Sometimes a whole soap opera can be contained in one conversation. At lunch the other day, the couple at the next table were bemoaning (loudly) their daughter's decision to get married. It seemed that Sophie (not her real name) had passed up a nice young doctor ("Free medical care for life! Think of the prescriptions he could have written!") and chosen instead a mere psychologist ("Not even an MD! He'll be telling us everything we did wrong.") Poor Sophie had never had good judgement. She could have gone to Cornell, but she preferred a state college. Of course, with her condition, maybe that was just as well. I was mentally taking notes all the way through the meal. This was just too good to pass up! I'm already working on the short story.
So next time you're in a public place and pouring your heart out at the top of your voice-look over your shoulder. You never know who might be listening.